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Nebraska Woman Charged With Helping Daughter Have Abortion

A Nebraska woman has been charged with helping her teenage daughter end her pregnancy at about 24 weeks after investigators obtained Facebook messages in which the two discussed using medication to induce an abortion and plans to burn the fetus afterward.

The prosecutor handling the case said it’s the first time he has charged anyone for illegally performing an abortion after 20 weeks, a restriction that was passed in 2010. Before the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June, states weren’t allowed to enforce abortion bans until the point at which a fetus is considered viable outside the womb, at roughly 24 weeks.

In one of the Facebook messages, Jessica Burgess, 41, tells her then-17-year-old daughter that she has obtained abortion pills for her and gives her instructions on how to take them to end the pregnancy.

The daughter, meanwhile, “talks about how she can’t wait to get the ‘thing’ out of her body,” a detective wrote in court documents. “I will finally be able to wear jeans,” she says in one of the messages. Law enforcement authorities obtained the messages with a search warrant, and detailed some of them in court documents.

In early June, the mother and daughter were only charged with a single felony for removing, concealing or abandoning a body, and two misdemeanors: concealing the death of another person and false reporting. It wasn’t until about a month later, after investigators reviewed the private Facebook messages, that they added the felony abortion-related charges against the mother. The daughter, who is now 18, is being charged as an adult at prosecutors’ request.

Burgess’ attorney didn’t immediately respond to a message Tuesday, and the public defender representing the daughter declined to comment.

When first interviewed, the two told investigators that the teen had unexpectedly given birth to a stillborn baby in the shower in the early morning hours of April 22. They said they put the fetus in a bag, placed it in a box in the back of their van, and later drove several miles north of town, where they buried the body with the help of a 22-year-old man.

The man, whom The Associated Press is not identifying because he has only been charged with a misdemeanor, has pleaded no contest to helping bury the fetus on rural land his parents own north of Norfolk in northeast Nebraska. He’s set to be sentenced later this month.

In court documents, the detective said the fetus showed signs of “thermal wounds” and that the man told investigators the mother and daughter did burn it. He also wrote that the daughter confirmed in the Facebook exchange with her mother that the two would “burn the evidence afterward.” Based on medical records, the fetus was more than 23 weeks old, the detective wrote.

Burgess later admitted to investigators to buying the abortion pills “for the purpose of instigating a miscarriage.”

At first, both mother and daughter said they didn’t remember the date when the stillbirth happened, but according to the detective, the daughter later confirmed the date by consulting her Facebook messages. After that he sought the warrant, he said.

Madison County Attorney Joseph Smith told the Lincoln Journal Star newspaper that he’s never filed charges like this related to performing an abortion illegally in his 32 years as the county prosecutor. He didn’t immediately respond to a message from the AP on Tuesday.

The group National Advocates for Pregnant Women, which supports abortion rights, found 1,331 arrests or detentions of women for crimes related to their pregnancy from 2006 to 2020.

In addition to its current 20-week abortion ban, Nebraska tried — but failed — earlier this year to pass a so-called trigger law that would have banned all abortions when the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.

Facebook spokesperson Andy Stone defended the way the company handled authorities’ request for information in this case after a gag order about it was lifted Tuesday.

“Nothing in the valid warrants we received from local law enforcement in early June, prior to the Supreme Court decision, mentioned abortion,” Stone said. “The warrants concerned charges related to a criminal investigation and court documents indicate that police at the time were investigating the case of a stillborn baby who was burned and buried, not a decision to have an abortion.”

Facebook has said that officials at the social media giant “always scrutinize every government request we receive to make sure it is legally valid.”

Facebook says it will fight back against requests that it thinks are invalid or too broad, but the company said it gave investigators information in about 88% of the 59,996 times when the government requested data in the second half of last year.

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North Korea’s Kim Declares Victory in Battle Against COVID-19

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un declared victory in the battle against the novel coronavirus, ordering a lifting of maximum anti-epidemic measures imposed in May, state media said on Thursday.

North Korea has not revealed how many confirmed infections of the virus it has found, but since July 29, it has reported no new suspected cases with what international aid organizations say are limited testing capabilities.

While lifting the maximum anti-pandemic measures, Kim said North Korea must maintain a “steel-strong anti-epidemic barrier and intensifying the anti-epidemic work until the end of the global health crisis,” according to a report by state news agency KCNA.

Analysts said that although the authoritarian North has used the pandemic to tighten social controls, its victory declaration could be a prelude to restoring trade hampered by border lockdowns and other restrictions.

Observers have also said it may clear the way for the North to conduct a nuclear weapon test for the first time since 2017.

North Korea’s official death rate of 74 people is an “unprecedented miracle” compared with those of other countries, KCNA reported, citing another official.

Instead of confirmed cases, North Korea reported the number of people with fever symptoms. Those daily cases peaked at more than 392,920 on May 15, prompting health experts to warn of an inevitable crisis.

The World Health Organization has cast doubts on North Korea’s claims, saying last month it believed the situation was getting worse, not better, amid an absence of independent data.

Pyongyang’s declaration of victory comes despite rolling out no known vaccine program. Instead, the country says it relied on lockdowns, homegrown medicine treatments, and what Kim called the “advantageous Korean-style socialist system.”

The North has said it was running intensive medical checks nationwide, with daily PCR tests on water collected in borderline areas among the measures.

It also said it has been developing new methods to better detect the virus and its variants, as well as other infectious diseases, such as monkeypox.

Kim’s sister, Kim Yo Jong, said the North Korean leader himself had suffered from fever symptoms, and blamed leaflets from South Korea for causing the outbreak, KCNA reported.

“Even though he was seriously ill with a high fever, he could not lie down for a moment thinking about the people he had to take care of until the end in the face of the anti-epidemic war,” she said in a speech praising his efforts.

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Facebook Use Plunges Among US Teens, Survey Finds

U.S. teens have left Facebook in droves over the past seven years, preferring to spend time at video-sharing venues YouTube and TikTok, according to a Pew Research Center survey data out Wednesday.

TikTok has “emerged as a top social media platform for U.S. teens” while Google-run YouTube “stands out as the most common platform used by teens,” the report’s authors wrote.

Pew’s data comes as Facebook-owner Meta is in a battle with TikTok for social media primacy, trying to keep the maximum number of users as part of its multibillion-dollar, ad-driven business.

The report said some 95% of the teens surveyed said they use YouTube, compared with 67% saying they are TikTok users.

Just 32% of teens surveyed said they log on to Facebook — a big drop from the 71% who reported being users during a similar survey some seven years ago.

Once the place to be online, Facebook has become seen as a venue for older folks with young drawn to social networks where people express themselves with pictures and video snippets.

About 62% of the teens said they use Instagram, owned by Facebook-parent Meta, while 59% said they used Snapchat, researchers stated.

“A quarter of teens who use Snapchat or TikTok say they use these apps almost constantly, and a fifth of teen YouTube users say the same,” the report said.

In a bit of good news for Meta’s business, its photo and video sharing service Instagram was more popular with U.S. teens than it was in the 2014-2015 survey.

Meanwhile, less than a quarter of the teens surveyed said they ever use Twitter, the report said.

The study also confirmed what casual observers may have suspected: 95% of U.S. teens say they have smartphones, while nearly as many of them have desktop or laptop computers.

And the share of teens who say they are online almost constantly has nearly doubled to 46 percent when compared with survey results from seven years ago, researchers noted.

The report was based on a survey of 1,316 U.S. teens, ranging in age from 13 years old to 17 years old, conducted from mid-April to early May of this year, according to Pew.

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In Scorched UK, Source of River Thames Dries Up

At the end of a dusty track in southwest England where the River Thames usually first emerges from the ground, there is scant sign of any moisture at all.

The driest start to a year in decades has shifted the source of this emblematic English river several miles downstream, leaving scorched earth and the occasional puddle where water once flowed.

It is a striking illustration of the parched conditions afflicting swaths of England, which have prompted a growing number of regional water restrictions and fears that an official drought will soon be declared.

“We haven’t found the Thames yet,” said Michael Sanders, on holiday with his wife in the area known as the official source of the river.

The couple were planning to walk some of the Thames Path that stretches along its entire winding course — once they can find the waterway’s new starting point.

“It’s completely dried up,” the IT worker from northern England told AFP in the village of Ashton Keynes, a few miles from the source, noting it had been replaced by “the odd puddle, the odd muddy bit.”

“So hopefully downstream we’ll find the Thames, but at the moment it’s gone,” he said.

The river begins from an underground spring in this picturesque region at the foot of the Cotswolds hills, not far from Wales, before meandering for 350 kilometers (215 miles) to the North Sea.

Along the way it helps supply fresh water to millions of homes, including those in the British capital, London.

‘So arid’

Following months of minimal rainfall, including the driest July in England since the 1930s, the country’s famously lush countryside has gone from shades of green to yellow.

“It was like walking across the savanna in Africa, because it’s so arid and so dry,” David Gibbons said.

The 60-year-old retiree has been walking the length of the Thames Path in the opposite direction from Sanders — from estuary to source — with his wife and friends.

As the group members reached their destination, in a rural area of narrow country roads dotted with stone-built houses, Gibbons recounted the range of wildlife they had encountered on their journey.

The Thames, which becomes a navigable, strategic and industrial artery as it passes through London and its immediate surroundings, is typically far more idyllic upstream and a haven for bird watching and boating.

However, as they neared the source, things changed.

“In this last two or three days, [there’s been] no wildlife, because there’s no water,” Gibbons said. “I think water stopped probably 10 miles away from here; there’s one or two puddles,” he added from picturesque Ashton Keynes.

Andrew Jack, a 47-year-old local government worker who lives about 15 kilometers (9 miles) from the village, said locals had “never seen it as dry and as empty as this.”

The river usually runs alongside its main street, which boasts pretty houses with flower-filled gardens and several small stone footbridges over the water.

But the riverbed there is parched and cracked, the only visible wildlife were some wasps hovering over it, recalling images of some southern African rivers during the subcontinent’s dry season.

‘Something’s changed’

There will be no imminent respite for England’s thirsty landscape.

The country’s meteorological office on Tuesday issued an amber heat warning for much of southern England and eastern Wales between Thursday and Sunday, with temperatures set to reach the mid-30s Celsius.

It comes weeks after a previous heat wave broke Britain’s all-time temperature record and breached 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit) for the first time.

Climate scientists overwhelmingly agree that carbon emissions from humans burning fossil fuels are heating the planet, raising the risk and severity of droughts, heat waves and other such extreme weather events.

Local authorities are reiterating calls to save water, and Thames Water, which supplies 15 million people in London and elsewhere, is the latest provider to announce forthcoming restrictions.

But Gibbons was sanguine.

“Having lived in England all my life, we’ve had droughts before,” he said. “I think that it will go green again by the autumn.”

Jack was more pessimistic as he walked with his family along the dried-up riverbed, where a wooden measuring stick gauges nonexistent water levels.

“I think there are lots of English people who think, ‘Great, let’s have some European weather,’ ” he said. “But we actually shouldn’t, and it means that something’s changed and something has gone wrong.

“I’m concerned that it’s only going to get worse and that the U.K. is going to have to adapt to hotter weather as we have more and more summers like this.”

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Race for Semiconductors Influences Taiwan Conflict 

China has blocked many of Taiwan’s exports in retaliation for U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan on August 2, but certain goods including semiconductors and high-tech products have been spared because of China’s reliance on those products from Taiwan, experts say.

“It is unlikely that Beijing will take serious trade actions against electronic exports from Taiwan. Doing so would be China shooting itself in its own foot,” Dexter Roberts, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council, told VOA.

Taiwan makes 65% of the world’s semiconductors and almost 90% of the advanced chips.

By comparison, China produces a little over 5% while the U.S. produces approximately 10%, according to market analysts. South Korea, Japan, and the Netherlands are the other sources of the product, which is at the heart of many electronic devices and machinery.

Though China produces some semiconductors, it depends heavily on supplies from Taiwan for advanced chips. Taiwan’s TSMC makes most of the advanced chips in the world and counts Advanced Micro Devices, Apple and Nvidia among its customers.

Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corp. (SMIC) in China, which has 5% of the global fabrication market, produces 14-nanometer chips. There is also evidence that SMIC has 7-nm technology, according to a TechInsights blog. These are considered less advanced than the 3-nm chips produced by TSMC.

Beijing may not block the flow of semiconductors even if the military confrontation escalates, analysts say.

“Taiwan-based TSMC is the biggest world producer of chips, and China and the rest of the world need TSMC semiconductors. Hence, I don’t expect China to target electronic exports,” said Lourdes Casanova, Gail and Rob Canizares director of the Emerging Markets Institute at Cornell University.

Though China’s People’s Liberation Army says it is rehearsing to impose a military blockade around Taiwan, it will be careful not to hurt semiconductor companies like TSMC, Casanova said.

“The stoppage of supply of TSMC semiconductors would be the worst scenario for China and for many other countries. TSMC’s semiconductors are used by Foxconn, another Taiwanese firm, which is the main manufacturer of the iPhone in plants based in China and elsewhere,” she said.

Fear of invasion

A military invasion of Taiwan could disrupt supplies of semiconductors and seriously hamper dozens of high-tech companies that depend on them. TSMC Chairman Mark Liu voiced that fear when he said a military invasion would make TSMC factories inoperable.

“Our interruption would create great economic turmoil in China — suddenly their most advanced component supply disappears. It is an interruption, I must say, so people will think twice on this,” Liu said.

“Nobody can control TSMC by force … because it is a sophisticated manufacturing facility that depends on the real-time connection with the outside world,” such as Europe, the U.S. and Japan, for materials, chemicals and engineering software, he said.

Even with China’s ban on certain imports from Taiwan, analysts said, Taiwan is unlikely to retaliate because it is heavily dependent on Beijing in terms of trade and investment.

“Companies like TSMC are deeply reliant simultaneously on both the U.S. and China markets. Unless the situation in the Taiwan Strait badly deteriorates and turns to outright open hostilities, Taiwan will try to avoid taking any drastic action which would be cutting off chips to China,” said Roberts, author of The Myth of Chinese Capitalism.

 

China’s domestic manufacturing

China has been pushing to boost its domestic semiconductor manufacturing capacity. Beijing has pledged $150 billion to expand the industry and be more self-reliant. Plans are in place for new semiconductor factories.

Just last year, China’s chip manufacturing grew by 33.3%, according to China’s National Bureau of Statistics.

“China’s rapid growth in semiconductor chip sales is likely to continue due in large part to the unwavering commitment from the central government and robust policy support in the face of deteriorating U.S-China relations,” the Semiconductor Industry Association said in a blog.

Much of what will be produced in China is expected to be chips containing more mature technologies, analysts say.

US action

Under President Joe Biden, the U.S. has intensified efforts to strengthen its chip-making capabilities and reduce the reliance on external sources.

On Tuesday, Biden signed the much-awaited CHIPS and Science Act, which allocates around $52 billion to promote the production of microchips, the powerful driver for high-end electronics used in a wide range of products, including smartphones, electric vehicles, aircraft and military hardware.

Biden said the legislation would help “win the economic competition in the 21st century.”

U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo said last month that it was necessary to reduce the dependence on supplies from Taiwan.

“Our dependence on Taiwan for chips is untenable and unsafe,” she said on July 22. “This is a Sputnik moment for America,” Raimondo said, referring to the CHIPS Act. “I mean that very sincerely. And this is a project we’re working on.”

Taiwan’s TSMC website states it is building a fabrication plant in the U.S. state of Arizona with the aim of starting production in 2024. It will produce semiconductor wafers using 5-nm technology.  During her recent controversial visit to Taiwan, Pelosi met TSMC’s Liu. TSMC is expected to be one of the beneficiaries of the $52 billion CHIPS and Science Act.

The U.S. is also countering China’s semiconductor industry in different ways. It recently broadened its ban on sales of chip-making equipment to China, according to Tim Archer, the chief executive officer of Lam Research Corp., a California supplier of silicon wafer fabrication gear.

The restriction would affect the shipment of machinery to produce 14 nm chips in China. This is an extension of the earlier ban, which prevented the supply of machinery for making advanced technology nodes of 10 nanometers. The idea is to cover a wider range of semiconductor equipment going to China.

South Korea, a U.S. ally, has indicated it would also cut off the chip supply to China in case Washington imposed global sanctions on it. Cutting off supplies would put China and Russia at a major technological disadvantage and hamper their manufacture of advanced military hardware. 

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Polio Spreading in London, Booster Campaign Launched for Kids Under 10

Britain is launching a polio vaccine booster campaign for children in London aged below 10, after confirming that the virus is spreading in the capital for the first time since the 1980s. 

The UK Health Security Agency has identified 116 polioviruses from 19 sewage samples this year in London. It first raised the alert on finding the virus in sewage samples in June.  

The levels of poliovirus found since and the genetic diversity indicated that transmission was taking place in a number of London boroughs, the agency said on Wednesday. 

No cases have yet been identified but, in a bid to get ahead of a potential outbreak, GPs will now invite children aged 1-9 for booster vaccines, alongside a wider catch-up campaign already announced. Immunization rates across London vary, but are on average below the 95% coverage rate the World Health Organization suggests is needed to keep polio under control. 

Polio, spread mainly through contamination by faecal matter, used to kill and paralyse thousands of children annually worldwide. There is no cure, but vaccination brought the world close to ending the wild, or naturally occurring, form of the disease. It paralyses less than 1% of children who are infected. 

The virus found in London sewage is mainly the vaccine-like virus, which is found when children vaccinated with a particular kind of live vaccine — now only used overseas — shed the virus in their feces. This harmless virus can transmit between unvaccinated children, and while doing so, can mutate back into a more dangerous version of the virus, and cause illness. 

Last month, the United States found a case of paralytic polio outside New York in an unvaccinated individual, its first for a decade. The UKHSA said the case was genetically linked to the virus seen in London.  

Britain is also expanding surveillance for polio to other sites outside London to see if the virus has spread further. The risk to the wider population is assessed as low because most people are vaccinated even if rates are below the optimal levels to prevent spread. 

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COVID-19 Experts Urge Australians to Wear Masks Even as Latest Omicron Wave Passes

Australian health officials say there are encouraging signs that a wave of COVID-19 omicron variant infections is in decline. However, more than 4,000 Australians are hospitalized with the virus and an unknown number of others are suffering the effects of long COVID.

COVID-19 no longer makes the headlines as it once did in Australia. Strict public health measures, including lockdowns, curfews, mask mandates and international border closures that were imposed during the pandemic have come to an end.

The country is doing its best to live with the virus.

More than 95% of Australians older than 16 have received two doses of a coronavirus vaccination, according to government data. More than 70% of the eligible population — 14 million  have had three or more doses.

But the virus persists. Officials have said omicron variants have fueled a recent wave of infections that has coincided with winter in the southern hemisphere. It appears to be weakening. Still, dozens of deaths and thousands of infections are being reported every day.

Leading epidemiologists at the Burnet Institute, a Melbourne-based medical facility, have released new research showing how many lives could be saved if more Australians wore masks.

The institute’s chief executive Brendan Crabb said face coverings continue to be an important defense against the disease.

“We have to change from a high COVID strategy to a low COVID one. We have done modeling with mask use and increasing mask use to say that if that happened even from July that many cases, up to 20% of cases, 20% of hospitalizations, and 14 percent of deaths between July and October could be averted,” said Crabb.

Australia had some of the world’s toughest disease-control measures. Most foreign nationals were banned from Australia for more than two years after March 2020. Australian citizens needed government permission to leave the country. The military was deployed to enforce lockdowns and vaccine mandates were imposed on some key workers.

The country’s coronavirus strategy now relies on individuals making their own decisions about vaccines, masks, hygiene and distancing. However, experts say that the return of personal freedoms has come at a cost.

Australia has recorded 12,400 deaths from coronavirus since the start of the pandemic. More than half of the fatalities occurred in 2022 when restrictions were scrapped.

Government data Wednesday has shown that 9.6 million COVID-19 cases have been diagnosed in Australia during the pandemic. 270,000 active cases are reported across the country.

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Famed Japanese Fashion Designer Issey Miyake Dies at 84

Issey Miyake, who built one of Japan’s biggest fashion brands and was known for his boldly sculpted pleated pieces as well as former Apple CEO Steve Jobs’ black turtlenecks, has died. He was 84.

Miyake died August 5 of liver cancer, Miyake Design Office said Tuesday.

Miyake defined an era in Japan’s modern history, reaching stardom in the 1970s among a generation of designers and artists who reached global fame by defining a Japanese vision that was unique from the West.

Miyake’s origami-like pleats transformed usually crass polyester into chic. He also used computer technology in weaving to create apparel. His down-to-earth clothing was meant to celebrate the human body regardless of race, build, size or age.

Miyake even detested being called a fashion designer, choosing not to identify with what he saw as a frivolous, trend-watching, conspicuous consumption.

Again and again, Miyake returned to his basic concept of starting with a single piece of cloth — be it draped, folded, cut or wrapped.

Over the years, he took inspiration from a variety of cultures and societal motifs, as well as everyday items — plastic, rattan, “washi” paper, jute, horsehair, foil, yarn, batik, indigo dyes and wiring.

He sometimes evoked images of Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin or collaborated with Japanese painter Tadanori Yokoo in images of monkeys and foliage in vibrant, psychedelic hues.

He also collaborated with furniture and interior designer Shiro Kuramata, photographer Irving Penn, choreographer and director Maurice Bejart, pottery maker Lucie Rie and Ballet Frankfurt.

In 1992, Miyake was commissioned to design the official Olympic uniform for Lithuania, which had just gained independence from the Soviet Union.

Born in Hiroshima in 1938, Miyake was a star as soon as he hit the European runways. His brown top, which combined the Japanese sewn fabric “sashiko” with raw silk knit, was splashed on the cover of the September 1973 issue of Elle magazine.

Miyake was also a pioneer in gender roles, asking feminist Fusae Ichikawa in the 1970s — when she was in her 80s — to be his model, sending the message that garments must be comfortable and express the natural beauty of real people.

Although he made clothes that went beyond the mundane, appearing to reach for the spiritual, he made a point to never get pretentious, always approving of the T-shirt-and-jeans look.

“Designing is like a living organism in that it pursues what matters for its well-being and continuity,” Miyake once wrote in his book.

His office confirmed a private funeral had been held and other ceremonies will not be held in accordance with Miyake’s wishes. Miyake kept his family life private, and survivors are not known.

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