even tougher winter next year as natural gas stocks are used up and as new supplies to replace Russian gas, including increased shipments from the United States or Qatar, are slow to come online, the International Energy Agency said in its annual World Energy Outlook, released last week.

Europe’s activity appears to be accelerating a global transition toward cleaner technologies, the I.E.A. added, as countries respond to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine by embracing hydrogen fuels, electric vehicles, heat pumps and other green energies.

But in the short term, countries will be burning more fossil fuels in response to the natural gas shortages.

gas fields in Groningen, which had been slated to be sealed because of earthquakes triggered by the extraction of the fuel.

Eleven countries, including Germany, Finland and Estonia, are now building or expanding a total of 18 offshore terminals to process liquid gas shipped in from other countries. Other projects in Latvia and Lithuania are under consideration.

Nuclear power is winning new support in countries that had previously decided to abandon it, including Germany and Belgium. Finland is planning to extend the lifetime of one reactor, while Poland and Romania plan to build new nuclear power plants.

European Commission blueprint, are voluntary and rely on buy-ins from individuals and businesses whose utility bills may be subsidized by their governments.

Energy use dropped in September in several countries, although it is hard to know for sure if the cause was balmy weather, high prices or voluntary conservation efforts inspired by a sense of civic duty. But there are signs that businesses, organizations and the public are responding. In Sweden, for example, the Lund diocese said it planned to partially or fully close 150 out of 540 churches this winter to conserve energy.

Germany and France have issued sweeping guidance, which includes lowering heating in all homes, businesses and public buildings, using appliances at off-peak hours and unplugging electronic devices when not in use.

Denmark wants households to shun dryers and use clotheslines. Slovakia is urging citizens to use microwaves instead of stoves and brush their teeth with a single glass of water.

website. “Short showers,” wrote one homeowner; another announced: “18 solar panels coming to the roof in October.”

“In the coming winter, efforts to save electricity and schedule the consumption of electricity may be the key to avoiding electricity shortages,” Fingrad, the main grid operator, said.

Businesses are being asked to do even more, and most governments have set targets for retailers, manufacturers and offices to find ways to ratchet down their energy use by at least 10 percent in the coming months.

Governments, themselves huge users of energy, are reducing heating, curbing streetlight use and closing municipal swimming pools. In France, where the state operates a third of all buildings, the government plans to cut energy use by two terawatt-hours, the amount used by a midsize city.

Whether the campaigns succeed is far from clear, said Daniel Gros, director of the Centre for European Policy Studies, a European think tank. Because the recommendations are voluntary, there may be little incentive for people to follow suit — especially if governments are subsidizing energy bills.

In countries like Germany, where the government aims to spend up to €200 billion to help households and businesses offset rising energy prices starting next year, skyrocketing gas prices are hitting consumers now. “That is useful in getting them to lower their energy use,” he said. But when countries fund a large part of the bill, “there is zero incentive to save on energy,” he said.

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More Than 100 Killed as Halloween Crowd Surge Turns Deadly in South Korea

Choe Sang-Hun

Credit…Jung Yeon-Je/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

SEOUL — At least 120 people were killed and another 100 injured after they were crushed in a large Halloween crowd in Seoul on Saturday night, the city’s fire department said. The crowd surge happened during one of the most raucous celebrations of the year in the South Korean capital.

Of those who were confirmed dead, 46 were in the hospital, the fire department said, with the rest taken to a nearby gymnasium.

President Yoon Suk Yeol ordered his government to dispatch urgent help and medical assistance to the scene — in the popular Itaewon nightlife district at the city center — after he was informed of “multiple casualties,” his office said in a statement.

Seoul’s mayor, Oh Se-hoon, who was visiting the Netherlands, was returning to South Korea, his office said.

Photos published by domestic media showed citizens, police officers and emergency medical workers performing cardiopulmonary resuscitation on people sprawled on the pavement. Live footage on MBC-TV, a local broadcaster, showed firefighters carrying what looked like bodies covered with white sheets on stretchers to ambulances.

Local media said the narrow alleys of Itaewon were jam-packed with as many as 100,000 people for the Halloween festivities on Saturday evening. Earlier in the day, large protests had blocked city traffic in the area.

A witness said the stampede happened when a crowd surged down a narrow alleyway.

“People kept pushing down and more people were crushed down​,” the witness wrote on Twitter. “People crushed under the crowd were crying and I thought I would ​be crushed to death too, breathing through a hole and crying for help.”

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Toll of Russian Strikes Mounts, Adding Urgency to Ukraine’s Pleas for Weapons

Credit…Jean-Francois Badias/Associated Press

PARIS — France began pumping natural gas directly to Germany for the first time on Thursday, part of a landmark agreement struck by both governments to help each other confront Europe’s energy crisis as Russia cuts off gas supplies to Europe.

Volumes of gas capable of producing around 31 gigawatt-hours per day of electricity began flowing early on Thursday into Germany, the French network operator GRTgaz said. The connection has a maximum capacity of 100 gigawatt-hours per day, equal to the power output of four nuclear reactors, or about 10 percent of the amount of liquefied natural gas that France imports each day, the company said.

GRTgaz said that months ago it had begun modifying its pipeline networks to be able to send gas to Germany. For years, the German economy has relied on Russian gas exports, but this year Moscow has slashed them in response to Western sanctions for its invasion of Ukraine.

France gets its gas from the Netherlands, Norway and Russia, according to the International Energy Agency, although supplies from Russia were cut off in September. It also receives deliveries of liquefied natural gas from several L.N.G. terminals.

To face the energy crunch, France has been storing gas and getting more of it from its European partners and Qatar. Recently, President Emmanuel Macron has burnished relations with Algeria, a former French colony, which has agreed to sharply increase gas exports to France.

In exchange for the gas from France, Germany has pledged to export more electricity to that country as it grapples with an unprecedented crisis in its nuclear power industry that has reduced power production.

“Germany needs our gas, and we need the electricity produced in the rest of Europe, and in particular in Germany,” President Emmanuel Macron said last month after speaking with the German chancellor, Olaf Scholz, about the agreement. “We will contribute to European solidarity in gas and benefit from European solidarity in electricity.”

“Merci beaucoup,” Klaus Müller, the head of Germany’s federal network agency, wrote in a Twitter message to GRTGaz on Thursday. “The gas deliveries from France, through Saarland, help Germany’s energy security.”

European countries have pledged to work together to get through winter as Russia’s aggression in Ukraine raises the prospect of a prolonged energy crisis. On Thursday, Spain proposed increasing its gas deliveries to France by 18 percent in the coming months, Spain’s ecological transition minister, Teresa Ribera, said.

As Europe’s largest economy and the one most dependent on Russian gas, Germany has been among the countries worst affected by the energy crisis rippling across Europe, where natural gas costs about 10 times what it did a year ago. Both Berlin and Paris have imposed a broad range of conservation measures, including lowering thermostats and hot water heaters, encouraging the use of public transport and requiring public buildings to turn off lights early.

The energy crunch has forced European governments to fall back on less-desirable power sources that they had been trying to phase out in a push to go green. Germany, for instance, has decided to keep coal-fired power plants online and restart several others that had been mothballed.

In addition, Germany decided to keep two of its three remaining nuclear power plants operational as an emergency reserve for its electricity supply, breaking a political taboo and delaying its plans to become the first industrial power to go nuclear-free for its energy.

And in France, the government is facing an energy crisis of its own after half its fleet of nuclear power plants — the largest in Europe — was taken offline earlier this year for inspections and repairs. The electricity shortage has driven prices to record levels, forcing factories to cut production and put tens of thousands of employees on furlough.

Bruno Le Maire, France’s economy minister, warned Thursday that high energy prices continued to pose a “major risk” to French industry and would lead to a 10 percent decline in industrial production this winter.

Berlin this month announced a 200 billion euro (about $196 billion) aid plan for German households, businesses and industries. It includes policies to curb natural gas and electricity prices domestically. And France has already spent around €100 billion since last winter doing the same.

But with Mr. Scholz facing pushback over his government’s decision to keep nuclear plants running, Germany’s ability to uphold its end of the energy-swap deal with France may wind up depending on the French themselves: GRTgaz said that the exported French gas would allow Germany to produce more electricity, which in turn would be sent back to the French grid during peak hours.

“If we did not have European solidarity,” Mr. Macron said in a televised interview on Wednesday, “we would have serious problems.”

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On Portugal’s ‘Bitcoin Beach,’ Crypto Optimism Still Reigns

LAGOS, Portugal — The Bam Bam Beach Bitcoin bar, on an uncrowded beach in southwestern Portugal, is the meeting place.

To get there, you drive past a boat harbor, oceanside hotels and apartment buildings, then park near a sleepy seafood restaurant and walk down a wooden path that cuts through a sand dune. Yellow Bitcoin flags blow in the wind. The conversations about cryptocurrencies and a decentralized future flow.

“People always doubt when to buy, when to sell,” said Didi Taihuttu, a Dutch investor who moved to town this summer and is one of Bam Bam’s owners. “We solve that by being all in.”

melted down, and crypto companies like the experimental bank Celsius Network declared bankruptcy as fears over the global economy yanked down values of the risky assets. Thousands of investors were hurt by the crash. The price of Bitcoin, which peaked at more than $68,000 last year, remains off by more than 70 percent.

But in this Portuguese seaside idyll, confidence in cryptocurrencies is undimmed. Every Friday, 20 or so visitors from Europe and beyond gather at Bam Bam to share their unwavering faith in digital currencies. Their buoyancy and cheer endure across Portugal and in other crypto hubs around the world, such as Puerto Rico and Cyprus.

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In beach towns like Ericeira and Lagos, shops and restaurants show their acceptance of digital currencies by taking Bitcoin as payment. Lisbon, the capital, has become a hub for crypto-related start-ups such as Utrust, a cryptocurrency payment platform, and Immunefi, a company that identifies security vulnerabilities in decentralized networks.

“Portugal should be the Silicon Valley of Bitcoin,” Mr. Taihuttu said. “It has all the ingredients.”

news outlets covered his family’s story, Mr. Taihuttu’s social media following swelled, turning him into an influencer and a source of investment advice. A documentary film crew has followed him on and off for the past 18 months. This summer, he settled in Portugal and quickly became something of an ambassador for its crypto scene.

He has goals to turn Meia Praia, the beach where Bam Bam is located, into “Bitcoin Beach.” He is shopping for property to create a community nearby for fellow believers.

“You prove that it is possible to run some part of the world, even if it’s just one,” said Mr. Taihuttu, with a Jack Daniel’s and Coke in hand. He has shoulder-length black hair and wore a tank top that showcased his tan and tattoos (including one on his forearm of the Bitcoin symbol).

Ms. Bestandig was among those who Mr. Taihuttu drew to Portugal.

collapse of Mt. Gox, a Tokyo-based virtual currency exchange that declared bankruptcy in 2014 after huge, unexplained losses of Bitcoin.

If cryptocurrency prices do not recover, “a lot of them will have to go back to work again,” Clinton Donnelly, an American tax lawyer specializing in cryptocurrencies, said of some of those gathered at Bam Bam.

Even so, Mr. Donnelly and other bar regulars said their belief in crypto remained unshaken.

Thomas Roessler, wearing a black Bitcoin shirt and drinking a beer “inspired by” the currency, said he had come with his wife and two young children to decide whether to move to Portugal from Germany. He first invested in Bitcoin in 2014 and, more recently, sold a small rental apartment in Germany to invest even more.

Mr. Roessler was concerned about the drop in crypto values but said he was convinced the market would rebound. Moving to Portugal could lower his taxes and give his family the chance to buy affordable property in a warm climate, he said. They had come to the bar to learn from others who had made the move.

“We have not met a lot of people who live this way,” Mr. Roessler said. Then he bought another round of drinks and paid for them with Bitcoin.

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Dutch students devise carbon-eating electric vehicle

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Sept 14 (Reuters) – The sporty all-electric car from the Netherlands resembles a BMW coupe, but is unique: It captures more carbon than it emits.

“Our end goal is to create a more sustainable future,” said Jens Lahaije, finance manager for TU/ecomotive, the Eindhoven University of Technology student team that created the car.

Called ZEM, for zero emission mobility, the two-seater houses a Cleantron lithium-ion battery pack, and most of its parts are 3D-printed from recycled plastics, Lahaije said.

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The target is to minimize carbon dioxide emitted during the car’s full lifespan, from manufacturing to recycling, he added.

Battery electric vehicles emit virtually no CO2 during operation compared with combustion-engine vehicles, but battery cell production can create so much pollution that it can take EVs tens of thousands of miles to achieve “carbon parity” with comparable fossil-fueled models. read more

ZEM uses two filters that can capture up to 2 kilograms (4.41 lb) of CO2 over 20,000 miles of driving, the Eindhoven team estimated. They imagine a future when filters can be emptied at charging stations.

The students are showing their vehicle on a U.S. promotional tour to universities and companies from the East Coast to Silicon Valley.

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Reporting by Dan Fastenberg and Hussein al Waaile in New York; Writing by Paul Lienert in Detroit; Editing by Richard Chang

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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U.S. Unveils $2B In Additional Military Aid For Europe

By Associated Press

and Newsy Staff
September 8, 2022

Pending approval from Congress, about $1 billion will go to Ukraine and the rest will be divided among 18 neighboring countries.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken made an unscheduled visit to Kyiv on Thursday as the Biden administration announced major new military aid worth more than $2 billion for Ukraine and other European countries threatened by Russia.

In meetings with senior Ukrainian officials, Blinken said the Biden administration had notified Congress of its intent to provide $2 billion in long-term Foreign Military Financing to Ukraine and 18 of its neighbors, including NATO members and regional security partners, that are “most potentially at risk for future Russian aggression.”

Pending expected congressional approval, about $1 billion of that will go to Ukraine and the rest will be divided among Albania, Bosnia, Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Georgia, Greece, Kosovo, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia, the State Department said.

It will go to help those countries “deter and defend against emergent threats to their sovereignty and territorial integrity” by enhancing their military integration with NATO and countering “Russian influence and aggression,” the department said.

Foreign Military Financing, or FMF, allows recipients to purchase U.S.-made defense equipment, often depending on their specific needs.

The financing comes on top of a $675 million package of heavy weaponry, ammunition and armored vehicles for Ukraine alone that Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin announced earlier Thursday at a conference in Ramstein, Germany.

That package includes howitzers, artillery munitions, Humvees, armored ambulances, anti-tank systems and more.

Austin said that “the war is at another key moment,” with Ukrainian forces beginning their counteroffensive in the south of the country. He said that “now we’re seeing the demonstrable success of our common efforts on the battlefield.”

“The face of the war is changing and so is the mission of this contact group,” Austin told the meeting of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group, which was attended by NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg and Ukraine’s defense minister as well as officials from allied countries.

Germany and the Netherlands will provide training in demining to Ukrainian soldiers as well as demining equipment, the countries’ defense ministers said on the sidelines of the meeting with Austin. The training will be carried out in Germany. The two countries previously joined forces to send howitzers to Ukraine.

Thursday’s contributions bring total U.S. aid to Ukraine to $15.2 billion since President Biden took office. U.S. officials said the new commitments were intended to show that American support for the country in the face of Russia’s invasion is unwavering. 

Additional reporting by The Associated Press.

Source: newsy.com

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How Different Sex Education Methods Affect Students Around The World

Gaps in sex ed in the U.S. can leave students in the dark, while other countries have programs that positively affect student health and knowledge.

Across the nation, students have vastly different experiences learning about a somewhat taboo but super important health topic: sexual health education, or sex ed.

According to Sex Ed for Social Change, or SIECUS, 29 states and D.C. mandate sex ed as of July 2022. But 17 of those states require that abstinence be stressed, and only 11 of them require the curriculum to be medically accurate. Some states choose to leave discussions around healthy relationships, contraception and sexual orientation out of the conversation entirely.  

“Due to the lack of guidance and policy implementation at the federal level, the United States has a patchwork of laws that vary, which determine what and if sex education is being taught,” said Michelle Slaybaugh, director of social impact and strategic communications at SIECUS. “When it comes to education, policy, decisions have largely been left to local control, So we’re talking very local at the school board level, not even the city or state level. It’s very, very local.” 

Currently at the federal level, SIECUS is one group working to get the Real Education and Access for Healthy Youth Act passed. This legislation promotes comprehensive sex ed, which means giving young people the knowledge and skills they need to make healthy choices about their sexual lives, and the act makes sure access to this education is protected.

In March, Congress passed the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2022, but funding for comprehensive sex ed programs is not included.

On the state level, according to the SIECUS mid-year report, the number of bills introduced this year aimed at restricting sex ed was almost equal to the number of bills introduced advancing sex ed. But more regressive bills were passed in states this legislative session than progressive ones.

“I think there is this big myth that if we teach young people about sex, that they’re going to go and have it,” Slaybaugh said. “The evidence does not show that. Additionally, I think it is very important for us to understand that age appropriate or developmentally appropriate sex education is key.”

A Georgetown University study shows that sex ed helps with a lot of things, like preventing unplanned pregnancy, maternal death, unsafe abortions and sexually transmitted diseases. But a survey from the Public Religion Institute found that nearly a quarter of millennials were not taught sex ed in middle or high school.

There is also a big gap in sex ed that’s inclusive and talks about LGBTQ+ identities. Less than 10% of LGBTQ+ students say their school’s sex ed is inclusive. When talking about gender identity and orientation, this is sometimes where curriculum can become “medically inaccurate.” 

“Medically accurate sex education is vital to promoting long term health outcomes, and a part of that, which I think is really where we’re seeing the rub, is this idea of gender norms, gender stereotypes and orientation,” Slaybaugh said. 

Florida in particular has become a bit of a hotspot when it comes to sex ed and what can or should be taught. New laws there, like what critics dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, limits discussion of sexuality and gender identity for some elementary students.

Katie Lagrone, a correspondent at Newsy’s sister station in Tampa, Florida explains a confusing mix of standards on whether the new laws are altering old policies on sex ed.

“In Florida, while laws mandate health education include teen dating and disease control, we discovered there’s actually no statewide curriculum for sex education,” Lagrone said. “What and how students are taught about sexual and reproductive health is left to individual school boards who approve policies, principals who interpret them and instructors who ultimately drill it down for students. What’s more… we found about a one-third of Florida’s 67 school districts are teaching students, even high schoolers, abstinence only.”

Studies show abstinence-only instruction doesn’t prevent teens from having sex. In fact, a 2019 study by the CDC found by the 12th grade, more than half of Florida teens surveyed have already engaged in sexual intercourse, with some STD rates among teens in Florida being four times higher than the national average.

In some counties that have adopted this abstinence-only teaching method in Florida, teen birth rates are actually higher. One district spokesperson told Newsy these limits are because they “are respectful of parents rights.”

Elsewhere in the world, some countries have been recognized for comprehensive sex ed programs that help combat these issues, especially in Europe.

In the Netherlands, it’s required by law that all primary school students are taught sex ed. It starts as early as 4-years-old, but they’re not talking about the full birds and the bees at that age. They are simply covering the basics of healthy relationships.

In the U.S., some people argue that that is too young to be teaching sex ed, but three decades of research shows that sex ed can help prevent child abuse.

On average, teens in the Netherlands are also waiting longer to have sex when compared to Europe or the U.S. Researchers found that most young people in the Netherlands had “wanted and fun” first sexual experiences, while many American teens said they wished they waited longer to have sex for the first time.

The Netherlands has one of the lowest teen pregnancy rates in the world. Dutch teens are some of the most likely to use birth control pills, though part of that could be because contraception is easily accessible.

The Netherlands also works to educate parents on how to talk to their kids about sex to help get everyone on the same page.

In Denmark, for a long time, their sex ed program emphasized preventing unplanned pregnancy and promoting safe sex. In 2015, the country’s birth rate fell below the rate necessary to maintain population, and Danish officials went as far as actually encouraging people to have babies at a younger age. At the time, only point 5% of teen girls in Denmark had a baby. That rate was six times higher in the United States.

In recent years, the birth rate has started to rise again. While neither Denmark nor any country has a perfect system, they experienced some outcomes that other places could learn from.  

This highlights good models for comprehensive sex ed, but there are also other countries, like the U.S., where it isn’t widely taught, there are inconsistencies or it’s not available at all. Experts stress the importance of making sure students have the information necessary to live healthy lives.  

“We really need to push for something that is rooted in age-appropriate, medically-accurate and affirming content that is taught by trained educators to be able to deliver the most comprehensive and age-appropriate education around sexuality as possible,” Slaybaugh said.

Source: newsy.com

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Russia’s Unfounded Claims of Secret U.S. Bioweapons Linger On and On

The United States secretly manufactured biological weapons in Ukraine. It trained birds to carry pathogens into Russia. It created Covid-19. It operated laboratories in Nigeria that engineered this year’s outbreak of monkeypox.

Of the many falsehoods that the Kremlin has spread since the war in Ukraine began more than six months ago, some of the most outlandish and yet enduring have been those accusing the United States of operating clandestine biological research programs to wreak havoc around the globe.

The United States and others have dismissed the accusations as preposterous, and Russia has offered no proof. Yet the claims continue to circulate. Backed at times by China’s diplomats and state media, they have ebbed and flowed in international news reports, fueling conspiracy theories that linger online.

international treaty that since 1975 has barred the development and use of weapons made of biological toxins or pathogens, gives member nations the authority to request a formal hearing of violations, and Russia has invoked the first one in a quarter-century.

the origins of Covid-19 has.

“The message is constantly about these labs, and that will erode confidence in that infrastructure and the work that’s being performed,” said Filippa Lentzos, an expert on biological threats and security at King’s College London. “And it will significantly undermine global biosafety and biosecurity efforts, so it does have consequences.”

Russia added the outbreak of monkeypox to its list of American transgressions in April. Gen. Igor A. Kirillov, the head of the Russian Army’s radiological, chemical and biological defense force, insinuated that the United States had started the latest outbreak because it supported four research laboratories in Nigeria where the epidemic began to spread.

In the months after the general’s comments, there were nearly 4,000 articles in Russian media, many of them shared on Twitter, Facebook and other social media platforms, according to research conducted by Zignal Labs for The New York Times.

For evidence of a conspiracy, some of the Russian reports pointed to a simulation in 2021 at the Munich Security Conference, an annual gathering of defense officials and experts from around the world. The simulation, intended to test how well countries would contain a new pandemic, posited a hypothetical monkeypox outbreak that began in a fictional country called Brinia and caused 270 million deaths.

a statement in May trying to tamp down any misconception.

routinely amplifies Russian claims about the war with Ukraine and about secret biological weapons research, as part of its own information battle with the United States that began with the debate over the spread of Covid-19.

China’s heavily censored internet, which aggressively stifles unwelcome political opinions, has also freely circulated conspiracy theories about a possible American role in the spread of monkeypox, as Bloomberg reported.

Russia’s efforts to push the claims about biological weapons come from an old Russia propaganda playbook, adapted to the age of social media.

Researchers at the RAND Corporation called the Russian strategy a “fire hose of falsehood,” inundating the public with huge numbers of claims that are designed to deflect attention and cause confusion and distrust as much as to provide an alternative point of view.

died on Tuesday, that it would hurt newly warming relations with the West.

Russia’s propaganda model today has been adapted to take advantage of “technology and available media in ways that would have been inconceivable during the Cold War,” according to the RAND study.

Despite “a shameless willingness to disseminate partial truths or outright fictions” and a disregard of consistency, the strategy can often be persuasive to some, especially those who have preconceived biases, one of the authors, Christopher Paul, said in an interview.

“There are still people who believe the C.I.A. caused AIDS in Africa, even though that idea has been thoroughly debunked,” Mr. Paul said. “Not many, but some.”

Like many disinformation campaigns, Russia’s accusations on occasion have a passing relationship to facts.

Even before the war in Ukraine, Russia raised alarms about U.S. efforts to establish closer defense and research ties with several of Russia’s neighbors, including other former republics of the Soviet Union.

invoked a special session was in 1997, when Cuba accused the United States of spraying a plume of insects over the country’s crops, causing a devastating infestation.

The proceedings were not public, but several nations later submitted written observations about Cuba’s claims and the United States’ rebuttal. Only North Korea supported Cuba’s claim. Eight countries — Australia, Canada, Denmark, Germany, Hungary, Japan, the Netherlands and New Zealand — concluded there was no link. China and Vietnam said it was impossible to determine. (Russia submitted no response.)

“There’s a big silent majority that just wants to sit on the fence,” Dr. Lentzos said. “They don’t really want to take a side because it could hurt their interests either way. And so the big question is not ‘Do these guys believe it, or not?’ It’s to what extent are they motivated to act on it and speak out.”

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Its Largest Lake Is So Dry, China Digs Deep To Water Crops

By Associated Press
August 23, 2022

High temperatures have sparked wildfires in southwest China, and factories have cut production as hydroelectric plants reduce their output.

With China’s biggest freshwater lake reduced to just 25% of its usual size by a severe drought, work crews are digging trenches to keep water flowing to one of the country’s key rice-growing regions.

The dramatic decline of Poyang Lake in the landlocked southeastern province of Jiangxi had otherwise cut off irrigation channels to nearby farmlands. The crews, using excavators to dig trenches, only work after dark because of the extreme daytime heat, the official Xinhua News Agency reported.

A severe heat wave is wreaking havoc across much of southern China. High temperatures have sparked mountain fires that have forced the evacuation of 1,500 people in the southwest, and factories have been ordered to cut production as hydroelectric plants reduce their output amid drought conditions. The extreme heat and drought have wilted crops and shrunk rivers including the giant Yangtze, disrupting cargo traffic.

Fed by China’s major rivers, Poyang Lake averages about 1,400 square miles in high season, but has contracted to just 285 square miles in the recent drought.

As determined by water level, the lake officially entered this year’s dry season Aug. 6, earlier than at any time since records began being taken in 1951. Hydrological surveys before then are incomplete, although it appears the lake may be at or around its lowest level in recent history.

Along with providing water for agriculture and other uses, the lake is a major stopover for migrating birds heading south for the winter.

China is more accustomed to dealing with the opposite problem: seasonal rains that trigger landslides and flooding every summer. Two years ago, villages and fields of rice, cotton, corn and beans around Poyang Lake were inundated after torrential rains.

This year, a wide swath of western and central China has seen days of temperatures exceeding 104 Fahrenheit in heat waves that have started earlier and lasted longer than usual.

The heat is likely connected to human-caused climate change, though scientists have yet to do to the complex calculations and computer simulations to say that for certain.

“The heat is certainly record-breaking, and certainly aggravated by human-caused climate change,” said Maarten van Aalst, director of the Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre in the Netherlands. “Drought is always a bit more complex.”

The “truly mind-boggling temperatures roasting China” are connected to a stuck jet stream — the river of air that moves weather systems around the world — said Jennifer Francis, a climate scientist at the Woodwell Climate Research Center in Falmouth, Massachusetts. 

She said an elongated area of relatively high atmospheric pressure parked over western Russia is responsible for both China’s and Europe’s heat waves this year. In China’s case, the high pressure is preventing cool air masses and precipitation from entering the area.

“When hot, dry conditions get stuck, the soil dries out and heats more readily, reinforcing the heat dome overhead even further,” Francis said.

In the hard-hit city of Chongqing, some shopping malls have been told to open only from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. to conserve energy. Residents have been seeking respite in the cool of air raid shelters dating from World War II.

That reflects the situation in Europe and elsewhere in the Northern Hemisphere, with high temperatures taking a toll on public health, food production and the environment.

Additional reporting by The Associated Press. 

Source: newsy.com

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Polio In U.S., U.K. And Israel Reveals Rare Risk Of Oral Vaccine

Since 2017, there have been 396 cases of polio caused by the wild virus, versus more than 2,600 linked to the oral vaccine, according to the WHO.

For years, global health officials have used billions of drops of an oral vaccine in a remarkably effective campaign aimed at wiping out polio in its last remaining strongholds — typically, poor, politically unstable corners of the world.

Now, in a surprising twist in the decades-long effort to eradicate the virus, authorities in Jerusalem, New York and London have discovered evidence that polio is spreading there.

The original source of the virus? The oral vaccine itself.

Scientists have long known about this extremely rare phenomenon. That is why some countries have switched to other polio vaccines. But these incidental infections from the oral formula are becoming more glaring as the world inches closer to eradication of the disease and the number of polio cases caused by the wild, or naturally circulating, virus plummets.

Since 2017, there have been 396 cases of polio caused by the wild virus, versus more than 2,600 linked to the oral vaccine, according to figures from the World Health Organization and its partners.

“We are basically replacing the wild virus with the virus in the vaccine, which is now leading to new outbreaks,” said Scott Barrett, a Columbia University professor who has studied polio eradication. “I would assume that countries like the U.K. and the U.S. will be able to stop transmission quite quickly, but we also thought that about monkeypox.”

The latest incidents represent the first time in several years that the vaccine-connected polio virus has turned up in rich countries.

Earlier this year, officials in Israel detected polio in an unvaccinated 3-year-old, who suffered paralysis. Several other children, nearly all of them unvaccinated, were found to have the virus but no symptoms.

In June, British authorities reported finding evidence in sewage that the virus was spreading, though no infections in people were identified. Last week, the government said all children in London, ages 1 to 9, would be offered a booster shot.

In the U.S., an unvaccinated young adult suffered paralysis in his legs after being infected with polio, New York officials revealed last month. The virus has also shown up in New York sewers, suggesting it is spreading. But officials said they are not planning a booster campaign because they believe the state’s high vaccination rates should offer enough protection.

Genetic analyses showed that the viruses in the three countries were all “vaccine-derived,” meaning that they were mutated versions of a virus that originated in the oral vaccine.

The oral vaccine at issue has been used since 1988 because it is cheap, easy to administer — two drops are put directly into children’s mouths — and better at protecting entire populations where polio is spreading. It contains a weakened form of the live virus.

But it can also cause polio in about two to four children per 2 million doses. (Four doses are required to be fully immunized.) In extremely rare cases, the weakened virus can also sometimes mutate into a more dangerous form and spark outbreaks, especially in places with poor sanitation and low vaccination levels.

These outbreaks typically begin when people who are vaccinated shed live virus from the vaccine in their feces. From there, the virus can spread within the community and, over time, turn into a form that can paralyze people and start new epidemics.

Many countries that eliminated polio switched to injectable vaccines containing a killed virus decades ago to avoid such risks; the Nordic countries and the Netherlands never used the oral vaccine. The ultimate goal is to move the entire world to the shots once wild polio is eradicated, but some scientists argue that the switch should happen sooner.

“We probably could never have gotten on top of polio in the developing world without the (oral polio vaccine), but this is the price we’re now paying,” said Dr. Paul Offit, director of the Vaccine Education Center at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. “The only way we are going to eliminate polio is to eliminate the use of the oral vaccine.”

Aidan O’Leary, director of WHO’s polio department, described the discovery of polio spreading in London and New York as “a major surprise,” saying that officials have been focused on eradicating the disease in Afghanistan and Pakistan, where health workers have been killed for immunizing children and where conflict has made access to some areas impossible.

Still, O’Leary said he is confident Israel, Britain and the U.S. will shut down their newly identified outbreaks quickly.

The oral vaccine is credited with dramatically reducing the number of children paralyzed by polio. When the global eradication effort began in 1988, there were about 350,000 cases of wild polio a year. So far this year, there have been 19 cases of wild polio, all in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Mozambique.

In 2020, the number of polio cases linked to the vaccine hit a peak of more than 1,100 spread out across dozens of countries. It has since declined to around 200 this year so far.

Last year, the WHO and partners also began using a newer oral polio vaccine, which contains a live but weakened virus that scientists believe is less likely to mutate into a dangerous form. But supplies are limited.

To stop polio in Britain, the U.S. and Israel, what is needed is more vaccination, experts say. That is something Columbia University’s Barrett worries could be challenging in the COVID-19 era.

“What’s different now is a reduction in trust of authorities and the political polarization in countries like the U.S. and the U.K.,” Barrett said. “The presumption that we can quickly get vaccination numbers up quickly may be more challenging now.”

Oyewale Tomori, a virologist who helped direct Nigeria’s effort to eliminate polio, said that in the past, he and colleagues balked at describing outbreaks as “vaccine-derived,” wary it would make people fearful of the vaccine.

“All we can do is explain how the vaccine works and hope that people understand that immunization is the best protection, but it’s complicated,” Tomori said. “In hindsight, maybe it would have been better not to use this vaccine, but at that time, nobody knew it would turn out like this.”

Additional reporting by The Associated Press.

Source: newsy.com

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