Science & Health

UN Chief: Climate Targets Not on Track 

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres expressed concern Monday that the world is not on track to meet several urgent targets in the fight against climate change.   

“Based on the present commitments of member states, the world is on a catastrophic pathway to 2.7-degrees [Celsius] of heating, instead of 1.5 we all agreed should be the limit,” Guterres told reporters. “Science tells us that anything above 1.5 degrees would be a disaster.”  

To get to 1.5 degrees, the U.N. says wealthier nations need to step up with $100 billion a year between now and 2025.   

Greenhouse gas emissions also need to be cut by nearly half by 2030 to enable nations to reach carbon neutrality by the 2050 target. This includes the difficult job of getting countries to phase out the use of polluting coal plants.   

“Where I believe there is still a long way to go is in relation to the reduction of emissions,” Guterres said.   

Nearly 80% of emissions are from G-20 countries.  

Review conference  

In November, nations will meet in Glasgow, Scotland, for a key climate conference to review progress on commitments since the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement.

On Monday, Guterres co-hosted with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson a small meeting of key countries for one of the final gatherings ahead of the conference. Guterres and Johnson have both raised alarms that the review conference, known as COP26, cannot fail and that ambitious commitments are needed.   

“I think that Glasgow — COP26 — is a turning point for the world,” Johnson told reporters. “It is a moment when we have to grow up and take our responsibilities.”  

The U.N. says half of the annual $100 billion in public climate financing needs to go to adaptation efforts in developing countries.  

Guterres expressed concern that progress on this has not been sufficient. Although he did point to some movement, including new commitments from Sweden and Denmark on Monday.   

“I believe that this 50% might gain traction, but we are still not yet there,” he said.

“It is the developing world that is bearing the brunt of catastrophic climate change in the form of hurricanes and fires and floods, and the real long-term economic damage that they face,” Johnson said. “And yet, it is the developed world that over 200 years has put the carbon in the atmosphere that is causing this acceleration of climate change. And so it really is up to us to help them.”  

Climate action activists say it is not spending the money that is holding back accelerated progress.   

“The pandemic has shown that countries can swiftly mobilize trillions of dollars to respond to an emergency — it is clearly a question of political will,” said Nafkote Dabi, Oxfam International’s Global Climate Policy lead. “Let’s be clear, we are in a climate emergency. It is wreaking havoc across the globe and requires the same decisiveness and urgency.”  


Science & Health

Pfizer-BioNTech Say Their COVID Vaccine Safe, Effective for 5- to-11-Year-Olds

The Pfizer and BioNTech drug companies said Monday that lower dose shots of their two-dose COVID-19 vaccine are safe and effective for five-to-11-year-old children.

The U.S. company and its German partner BioNTech said trials showed the vaccine was well-tolerated and robust, neutralizing antibody responses at the lower dose levels necessary in younger children.

Pfizer said it plans to soon seek U.S., British and European Union authorization for use of the vaccine for the younger age group, which could greatly expand the scope of the U.S. vaccination effort. About 28 million U.S. children fall into the affected age range, although millions of adults have themselves declined to get the jab. 

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that more than 181 million people have been fully vaccinated in the country, but 70 million others 12 and older have so far, for one reason or another, not been inoculated. 

Pfizer said it studied a lower dose — a third of the adult strength — in tests involving more than 2,200 kindergartners and elementary school students, two-thirds of whom were given the vaccine and a third saltwater shots. The company said the children developed antibody levels that were just as strong as exhibited by teenagers and young adults. 

With children now back in school, and the delta variant spreading throughout the U.S., parents in many communities have been anxious for government health officials to approve the vaccine for their children. 

Children are at lower risk than older people of severe illness or death from COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, but more than 5 million children in the U.S. have tested positive for COVID-19 and at least 460 have died, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. 

Dr. William Gruber, a pediatrician and Pfizer senior vice president, told The Associated Press that by the end of the month, the company would apply for emergency use of the vaccine for five-to-11-year-olds in the U.S. and shortly thereafter in Britain and Europe. 

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration said it would then evaluate Pfizer’s data, a process that could take a few weeks. 

 U.S. vaccine maker Moderna also is studying its shots for young children. Both Pfizer and Moderna are studying use of the vaccine for children as young as six months old, with results expected later this year. 

In Britain, the COVID-19 vaccination campaign for children between the ages of 12 and 15 began Monday at schools around the country.

Meanwhile, some private hospitals in Kolkata, India, bracing for a possible surge in pediatric COVID-19 cases, have enhanced their facilities and provided additional training for health care professionals.

A new study published by the CDC revealed that roughly one in three people who has tested positive for COVID-19 still reported symptoms several weeks after the fact.  

The CDC reported that rates were even higher in women, Black people, those older than 40, and those with preexisting conditions. The CDC describes people with “long COVID” as experiencing symptoms more than one month after a positive test result.  

The U.S. has more COVID-19 cases than any other country, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center, with more than 42 million infections. Around the world, there have been more than 228 million cases and 4.7 million deaths, according to the data.   

Singapore reported more than 1,000 new cases Sunday, the highest rate for the country since April 2020. Even with 80% of its population fully vaccinated against the coronavirus, Singapore has paused further reopening.    

Some information for this report came from The Associated Press.  



(Some information for this report came from the Associated Press.)

Science & Health

Australia Warned Dementia Cases Will Double Within 40 Years

Within 40 years, more than 800,000 Australians — twice as many as now — will be living with dementia, unless a cure is found, according to a new government-sponsored report. 

Dementia is the second leading cause of death in Australia.  

A new study by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, a government agency, has forecast that 1.1 million Australians will live with dementia by 2058, unless major new treatments are discovered.  

Dementia is a broad term for a number of conditions that impair the functions of the brain.  

In 2019, $2.1 billion was spent in Australia on residential and community-based services, and hospital care for dementia patients, two-thirds of whom are women.  

The release of the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare study has coincided with a new awareness campaign by Dementia Australia, a non-profit organization. 

Its chief executive, Maree McCabe, says exercise and a sensible diet can offer protection against several types of dementia. 

“The main type is Alzheimer’s disease but there are about 100 different types and about 60% of people with dementia have Alzheimer’s disease. But there’s types such as frontotemporal dementia, dementia with lewy bodies, vascular dementia, just to name a few. We can definitely reduce our risk of developing dementia by ensuring that we eat well, that we exercise our body and our brain,” McCabe said.

The World Health Organization has said there are currently more than 55 million people living with dementia globally.  

Almost 10 million new cases are diagnosed every year. About a quarter of those are detected in China, the world’s most populous country. 

It is estimated that 10 million people currently suffer from the degenerative brain disorder in China. As its population ages, that number is forecast to rise to 40 million by 2050, according to a study by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.  

The study warned that the annual economic costs to China from dementia could reach $1 trillion in medical expenses and lost productivity as caregivers leave the workforce. 

Dementia support groups warn that worldwide, both patients and caregivers face discrimination because of a lack of understanding about the disease that currently has no cure. 

Arts & Entertainment/Economy & business

‘Ted Lasso,’ ‘The Crown,’ Win Top Emmy Awards on Streaming Heavy Night

Royal drama “The Crown” and feel good comedy “Ted Lasso” nabbed the top prizes at television’s Emmy awards on Sunday on a night dominated by streaming shows, British talent and rare wins by women. 

Chess drama “The Queen’s Gambit” was named best limited series and tied with “The Crown” for the most wins overall at 11 apiece.  

The best drama series win for “The Crown” gave Netflix its biggest prize so far, while Apple TV+ entered streaming’s big league with the best comedy series win for “Ted Lasso.” Neither Netflix nor Apple TV+ had previously won a best comedy or best drama series Emmy. 

Jason Sudeikis, the star and co-creator of “Ted Lasso,” was named best comedy actor.  

The show also brought statuettes for Britons Hannah Waddingham and Brett Goldstein for their supporting roles in the tale of a struggling English soccer team that won over TV fans with its folksy humor during the dark days of the coronavirus pandemic.  

“This show is about family. This show’s about mentors and teachers and this show’s about teammates. And I wouldn’t be here without those three things in my life,” Sudeikis said on Sunday. 

Despite a nominees list that boasted the strongest showing in years for people of color, only a handful emerged as winners.  

They included Britain’s Michaela Coel, who won for writing the harrowing sexual assault drama “I May Destroy You” in which she also starred and directed; RuPaul, host of the competition show “RuPaul’s Drag Race;” and the cast of hip-hop Broadway musical “Hamilton,” which won the Emmy for variety special after it was filmed for television. 

Dancer, singer and actor Debbie Allen was given an honorary award celebrating 50 years in show business. “It’s taken a lot of courage to be the only woman in the room most of the time,” Allen said. 

It was a good night for women, and for Britons. “Write the tale that scares you, that makes you feel uncertain, that isn’t comfortable,” said Coel, who dedicated her Emmy to sexual assault survivors. 

Lucia Aniello got a rare directing win for a woman for the comedy series “Hacks” about a fading female comedian. She also was one of the winning co-writers. Britain’s Jessica Hobbs took home a directing Emmy for “The Crown.” 

“Not a lot of women have won this award so I feel like I am standing on the shoulders of some really extraordinary people,” Hobbs said. 

Seven of the 12 acting awards went to Britons, including Olivia Colman and Josh O’Connor for playing Queen Elizabeth and heir to the throne Prince Charles in a fourth season of “The Crown” that focused on the unhappy marriage of Charles and Princess Diana. 

“We’re all thrilled. I am very proud. I’m very grateful. We’re going to party,” said Peter Morgan, creator of “The Crown,” at a gathering in London for the cast and crew. 

An exuberant Kate Winslet won for her role as a downtrodden detective in limited series “Mare of Easttown,” while Ewan McGregor was a surprise winner for playing fashion designer “Halston.” 

Concerns over the Delta variant of the coronavirus forced Sunday’s ceremony to move to an outdoor tent in downtown Los Angeles, with a reduced guest list and mandatory vaccinations and testing but a red carpet that harked back to pre-pandemic times. 

Science & Health

India Expected to Ease COVID-19 Vaccine Export Restrictions

There is growing optimism that India could resume exports of COVID-19 vaccines as production expands at a rapid pace, putting the country on track to immunize its adult population in the coming months

“We had put a target of 1.85 billion doses for ourselves. That has been organized by the end of December and thereafter the government will be able to allow vaccine exports,” N.K. Arora, head of the national technical advisory group on immunization told VOA. “We will have several billion doses available next year.”

India, a vaccine powerhouse, was expected to be a major supplier of affordable COVID- 19 vaccines to developing countries.

However, after supplying 66 million doses to nearly 100 countries, New Delhi halted exports in April following a deadly second wave of the pandemic, slowing inoculation programs of countries from Africa to Indonesia.

There is no official comment on a timeline for resumption of exports, with officials stressing that for the time being, the focus is on India’s domestic rollout.

“First, all of our adults will have to be immunized, we have to take care of our own people,” Arora said.

The issue of vaccine supplies is expected to figure in the summit meeting of the Quad nations —  the United States, Japan, India and Australia — Friday in Washington.

Public health experts say India will likely wait to restart exports until the country’s festive season ends in November to ensure it does not have to grapple with a third wave. Currently authorities are racing to administer at least one dose to all adults.

India has given one shot to roughly two thirds of its population but only 20% of its approximately 900 million adults have been fully inoculated.

In April, as a ferocious surge in infections took a heavy toll, the government had faced criticism for exporting vaccines when most of its own population was not inoculated.

India has been urged to resume exports as the country’s vaccination program gains momentum and the supply of vaccines increases.

The World Health Organization told a press briefing in Geneva Tuesday that it has been assured that supplies from India will restart this year. Officials said that discussions in New Delhi have emphasized the importance of ensuring that India is “part of the solution for Africa.”

African countries have struggled to inoculate their populations — only about 3% of the continent’s population is vaccinated.

“Given the successful ramp-up of domestic production and the diminishing intensity of its own outbreak, we hope that India will ease its restrictions,” a spokesman for the Gavi alliance, co-leading the global vaccine sharing platform COVAX, told VOA.

The Serum Institute of India, the world’s largest producer of the AstraZeneca vaccines, has said that exports could resume as India nears a level where sufficient stocks are available for its inoculation drive.

“In the next two months, we do expect slow easement of exports. But you have to also check with the government; ultimately it is their decision,” SII chief executive Adar Poonawalla said on Friday.

The institute was to be one of the major suppliers of affordable vaccines to COVAX, but the vaccine-sharing platform’s ability to get sufficient doses for low- and middle-income countries took a hit when India shut down exports.

“Countries with a low level of vaccination can breed variants and if the world does not cover those people there is an opportunity for mutants to rise and creep into other countries, making it harder control the pandemic,” K. Srinath Reddy, president of the Public Health Foundation of India, said.

Eyes will also be on the Quad summit next week to see how it makes headway on the vaccine initiative announced in March under which the four countries had decided to produce 1 billion doses in India by 2022 with financial backing from the United States and Japan.

“The summit will be a good opportunity to take stock and expedite that initiative. Some conversations have happened, let us see what progress is made,” an official in India’s Ministry of External Affairs, who did not want to be named, said.

Vaccines produced under the Quad initiative were meant for countries in the Indo-Pacific region. These and other developing countries have turned to China, which has supplied over a billion doses, while Western countries are seen to have lagged in their efforts to vaccinate developing countries.

However, hopes are rising that India will emerge as a major global supplier as new production facilities are set up and the basket of vaccines expands.

The SII for example is set to ramp up production to 200 million doses next month –nearly three times its output in April when India halted exports. Indian companies are also set to make millions of doses of both domestically developed vaccines and those developed overseas, such as the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, and Russia’s Sputnik V.

“It may look like a presumptuous statement, but we will immunize many countries next year, and these will be with affordable shots. There is no confusion in that. India is committed to it and I see no difficulty at all,” Arora said. 

Science & Health

‘Compassion Fatigue’ Hitting US Doctors, Report Says

A report in The Guardian says U.S. physicians treating unvaccinated patients are “succumbing to compassion fatigue” as a fourth surge of COVID-19 cases sweeps across the country.

Dr. Michelle Shu, a 29-year-old emergency medicine resident, said medical school did not prepare her to handle the misinformation unvaccinated patients believe about the vaccine, calling the experience “demoralizing.”

“There is a feeling,” Dr. Mona Masood, a psychiatrist in Philadelphia told The Guardian, “that ‘I’m risking my life, my family’s life, my own wellbeing for people who don’t care about me.’”

The U.S. has more COVID-19 cases than any other country, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center, with over 42 million infections.

India’s health ministry said Sunday that it had recorded 30,773 new COVID-19 cases in the previous 24-hour period and 309 deaths. Johns Hopkins reports that only the U.S. has more infections than India, which has over 33 million.

Johns Hopkins has recorded more than 228 million global COVID-19 cases and 4.6 million global deaths. Almost 6 billion vaccines have been administered, according to Johns Hopkins.

Meanwhile, in the southern U.S. state of Alabama on Friday, Dr. Scott Harris, Alabama’s state health officer, said that 2020 was the first year in the history of the state that it had more deaths than births – 64,714 deaths and 57,641 births. The state “literally shrunk,” he said. Alabama is headed in the same direction for 2021, Harris said, with the current rate of COVID deaths.




Arts & Entertainment/Economy & business

‘Change the Game’: Supermodel Halima Aden Reinvents Modest Fashion

Halima Aden, the first supermodel to wear a hijab and pose in a burkini, has ripped up her lucrative contracts in an industry she feels lacks “basic human respect” and entered the world of modest fashion design instead.

For the Somali-American who was born in a refugee camp in Kenya, it was a matter of preserving her self-worth and well-being in a fast and loose sector that increasingly clashed with her Muslim values.

“Since I was a little girl, this quote — ‘don’t change yourself, change the game’ — has gotten me through so much in life,” she told AFP in an interview in Istanbul.

“When I took the decision to quit, that is exactly what I did,” she said. “So I am very, very proud.”

Aden’s departure last November delivered a shock to fashionistas and Muslim influencers who have admired her trailblazing career.

Aden, who turns 24 on Sunday, broke ground in Minnesota, where she became the first contestant to wear a hijab and a burkini — a full-body swimsuit whose appearance has stirred controversy on some European beaches — in a U.S. state beauty pageant in 2016.

She posed in them again for Sports Illustrated’s annual swimsuit issue when her fame was spreading in 2019.

But personally, Aden felt increasingly boxed in — sometimes literally.

“I was always given a box, a private place to change in, but many times I was the only one given the privacy,” she said.

“I got to see my fellow young women having to undress and change in public, in front of media personalities, cooks and staff, designers and assistants,” she recalled.

“To me, it was very jarring,” she said. “I couldn’t be in an industry where there is no basic human respect.”


Aden sounded liberated when she announced her decision to abandon photo shoots and catwalks last year. She is becoming a designer instead.

“Wow this is actually the most RELIEF I felt since I started in 2016. Keeping that in was literal POISON!” she said on Instagram.

She felt her traditions, starkly different from those of most other supermodels, were caricatured and turned into a gimmick by some brands.

One, American Eagle, replaced a headscarf with a pair of jeans on her head in a 2017 campaign.

“But… this isn’t even my style??” she protested on Instagram at the time.

“I got to a place where I couldn’t recognize my hijab the way I would traditionally wear it,” Aden told AFP.

Aden looked far more at ease in Istanbul, surrounded by Middle Eastern fashionistas while attending an event organized by Modanisa, her new home.

She will be designing collections exclusively for the Turkish online brand, which is one of the biggest names in the modest fashion industry, valued at $277 billion in 2019.

It already makes up more than a tenth of the $2.2 trillion global fashion industry, with plenty of room to grow, according to DinarStandard, an advisory firm specializing in emerging Muslim markets.

‘Taste of the world’

World capitals as diverse as Moscow, Riyadh and London have staged modest fashion shows in the past few years.

The trend is particularly strong in Iran, Saudi Arabia and Turkey, where Aden rejoices at the melee of cultures on the streets.


“What I love the most about Turkey, especially Istanbul, is that it is very diverse, you see women who don’t wear the hijab right alongside women who wear the hijab,” she said.

“You get a taste of the world in Istanbul.”

The industry has taken off in the past decade, thanks in part to the modelling careers of women such as Aden.

Soft-spoken but smiley, Aden sounds confident in modest fashion’s ability to withstand crises like the coronavirus pandemic and changing fads.

“It is the oldest fashion staple, it’s been around for hundreds of years, it will continue to be around for hundreds of years,” she said.

Islam and fashion “are 100% compatible because there’s nothing in our religion that says you can’t be fashionable,” she said.

Luxury brands such as DKNY and Dolce & Gabbana have already picked up on the trend, creating collections catered to modest women.

But Aden hit out at “a lot of tokenism, especially in the fashion industry, where they want our money but they don’t want to support us in the issues that we are faced with.”

“I think fashion needs to do a greater job,” she said. “You are representing your clients who are Muslims, it is important to speak up when they are faced with injustices.”