SpaceX Launches 60 More Mini Satellites for Global Internet

SpaceX launched 60 mini satellites Monday, the second batch of an orbiting network meant to provide global internet coverage.The Falcon rocket blasted into the morning sky, marking the unprecedented fourth flight of a booster for SpaceX. The compact flat-panel satellites – just 575 pounds (260 kilograms) each – will join 60 launched in May.SpaceX founder and chief executive Elon Musk wants to put thousands of these Starlink satellites in orbit, to offer high-speed internet service everywhere. He plans to start service next year in the northern U.S. and Canada, with global coverage for populated areas after 24 launches.Last month, Musk used an orbiting Starlink satellite to send a tweet: “Whoa, it worked!!”Employees gathered at company bases on both coasts cheered when the first-stage booster landed on a floating platform in the Atlantic.”These boosters are designed to be used 10 times. Let’s turn it around for a fifth, guys,” company’s launch commentator said.This also marked the first time SpaceX used a previously flown nose cone. The California-based company reuses rocket parts to cut costs.SpaceX employees work on the Crew Dragon spacecraft that will astronauts to and from the International Space Station, from American soil, as part of the agency’s commercial crew Program, in Hawthorne, Calif., Thursday, Oct. 10, 2019.Stacked flat inside the top of the rocket, the newest satellites were going to maneuver even higher following liftoff, using krypton-powered thrusters. SpaceX said there was a potential problem with one of the 60 that could prevent it from moving beyond its initial 174 mile-high (280 kilometer-high) orbit. In that case, the faulty satellite will be commanded to re-enter and burn up harmlessly in the atmosphere.Each satellite has an autonomous system for dodging space junk. In September, however, the European Space Agency had to move one of its satellites out of the way of a Starlink satellite. SpaceX later said it corrected the problem.SpaceX is among several companies interested in providing broadband internet coverage worldwide, especially in areas where it costs too much or is unreliable. Others include OneWeb and Jeff Bezos’ Amazon.According to Musk, Starlink revenue can help SpaceX develop rockets and spacecraft for traveling to Mars, his overriding ambition.

Pneumonia Kills One Child Every 39 Seconds, Health Agencies Say

Pneumonia killed more than 800,000 babies and young children last year — or one child every 39 seconds — despite being curable and mostly preventable, global health agencies said Tuesday.In a report on what they described as a “forgotten epidemic,” the United Nations children’s fund UNICEF, the international charity Save The Children and four other health agencies urged governments to step up investment in vaccines to prevent the disease and in health services and medicines to treat it.”The fact that this preventable, treatable and easily diagnosed disease is still the world’s biggest killer of young children is frankly shocking,” said Seth Berkley, chief executive of the GAVI vaccines alliance.Pneumonia is a lung disease that can be caused by bacteria, viruses or fungi. Its victims have to fight for breath as their lungs fill with pus and fluid.It can be prevented with vaccines, and treated with antibiotics and — in severe cases — with oxygen, but in poorer countries, access to these is often limited.Nigeria, India, Pakistan, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Ethiopia accounted for more than half the children who died of pneumonia last year — most of them babies who had not reached their second birthday.”Millions of children are dying for want of vaccines, affordable antibiotics and routine oxygen treatment,” said Kevin Watkins, chief executive of Save the Children. “This is a forgotten global epidemic that demands an urgent international response.” The report said pneumonia causes 15% of deaths in children younger than 5, but accounts for only 3% of spending on research into infectious diseases, lagging far behind other diseases such as malaria.

Cholesterol Levels Dropping in US, but Many Still Need Care

Some good health news: Americans’ cholesterol levels are dropping, and more people at especially high risk are getting treatment.Researchers say Monday’s report suggests a controversial change in recommendations for cholesterol treatment may be starting to pay off.”It is very heartening,” said Dr. Pankaj Arora of the University of Alabama at Birmingham, who led the study. “But there is more to do.”Heart disease is the world’s leading killer and high cholesterol is a key risk factor — but not the only one. Doctors long treated patients based mostly on their level of so-called “bad” cholesterol, whether they had other risks or not. In 2013, national guidelines urged them instead to focus more on people’s overall heart risk, by taking into account age, blood pressure, diabetes and other factors. Those at highest risk would get the most benefit from cholesterol-lowering statin drugs.The Alabama team examined records from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that tracked cholesterol information from more than 32,000 adults between 2005 and 2016.Among people taking cholesterol medication, the average level of that “bad” cholesterol — what’s known as LDL cholesterol — dropped 21 points over the study period, the researchers reported in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology. It was declining even before the 2013 guidelines but continued to inch down afterward.Total cholesterol levels and another fat known as triglycerides likewise decreased.”These are surprisingly impressive results” that together predict a 15% to 20% reduction in risk of heart attacks and strokes, said Dr. Michael Miller, preventive cardiology chief at the University of Maryland Medical Center, who wasn’t involved with the study.High-risk groupsMoreover, there was an uptick in statin use by people with diabetes over the study period, from less than half to over 60% getting one. Diabetics are particularly vulnerable to heart attacks and tend to have poorer outcomes.”It’s very important for those with a diagnosis of diabetes to not get that first heart attack,” said Dr. Neil J. Stone, a cardiologist at Northwestern University. He led development of the 2013 guidelines from the American College of Cardiology and American Heart Association, and he co-authored an update last year.Arora cautioned that other high-risk groups haven’t seen an increase in treatment — and that still too many Americans don’t know if they have a cholesterol problem.The advice for consumers? If you haven’t had a cholesterol check recently, get one, Miller said.Testing is easier than ever, as fasting no longer is required. Especially if you have additional risk factors, high cholesterol should spark a frank conversation about diet, exercise, and the pros and cons of statins.

Plastic Waste Transformed Into Building Blocks for Africa’s Schools

Ecologists are urging creative solutions to clean up plastic waste choking waterways and threatening ecosystems across the globe. The United Nations Children’s Fund partnered with a Colombian company to turn piles of plastic into the building blocks of education in Africa. VOA’s Arash Arabasadi takes us to school.

  Blanket of Smog Covers India’s Capital   

A blanket of smog has once again enshrouded India’s capital after a weekend of clearer air and  better weather. The morning air quality index Monday at the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi was 497.AQI between 301 and 500 is considered “hazardous” for all population groups.  It is not measured past 500.Air quality is considered good when the AQI is below 50 and satisfactory when it is under 100.The Press Trust of India is reporting the capital’s AQI will be “severe” by Tuesday. New Delhi, ranked the world’s most polluted city by Greenpeace and AirVisual, routinely gets more polluted at this time of the year. The air quality gets noticeably worse as winter approaches and farmers clear their fields by burning scrub. “We should stop stubble burning,” said Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kerjriwal.  “People are suffering immensely.” FILE – A policewoman wears a mask to protect herself from air pollution on a smoggy morning in New Delhi, Nov. 4, 2019.Drivers in the city of 20 million residents and 8.8 million registered motor vehicles have been asked to follow the odd-even road rationing plan until November 15. Under the plan, cars will only only drive on odd and even dates that correspond with the last digit of the license plate number. Environmental experts say to clean up its air,New Delhi needs permanent action to reduce the massive fleet of vehicles clogging its roads by scaling up public transportation. 

Plastic Waste Turned to Plastic Bricks to Build Schools

Ecologists are urging creative solutions to clean up plastic waste choking waterways and threatening ecosystems across the globe. The United Nations Children’s Fund partnered with a Colombian company to turn piles of plastic into the building blocks of education in Africa. VOA’s Arash Arabasadi takes us to school.

Ethical AI Learns Human Rights Framework

Artificial intelligence or AI, is broadly defined as the technology that allows machines to do tasks that only humans have done in the past. However, as that technology continues to advance there is a growing conversation about ensuring that machines aren’t just making decisions, but making ethical decisions.

High-end Choppers Move Into the Life Saving Business

The first successful organ transplant surgery was performed in 1954 in Boston, MA, and since then millions of such operations have been done. Yet despite the revolution in this sphere of medicine, one challenge remains – how to get the new organ to the patient faster, because at times a handful of hours is all doctors can afford. A New York City company called Blade may have an answer by providing helicopters that serve as air taxis to deliver very precious cargo to donor recipients in just minutes. Anna Nelson has the story narrated by Anna Rice. 

US Health Officials Make ‘Breakthrough’ in Mysterious Vaping Illness

U.S. health officials say they have found the likely cause of a mysterious illness in people who smoke e-cigarettes, describing the findings as a “breakthrough.”Anne Schuchat of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Friday that a compound known as vitamin E acetate is a “very strong culprit” in the search for the cause of the mysterious lung disease.Schuchat, who is the CDC’s principal deputy director, said the compound was found in fluid samples taken from the lungs of 29 patients across the country who were diagnosed with the vaping illness.”We are in a better place in terms of having one very strong culprit,” she said.Schuchat cautioned that more work needs to be done to confirm that vitamin E acetate causes lung damage when inhaled, and said there could still be other toxic substances in e-cigarettes that lead to lung disease.More than 2,000 Americans who smoke e-cigarettes have gotten sick since March, and at least 40 of them have died.File – In this Aug. 28, 2019, file photo, a man exhales while smoking an e-cigarette in Portland, Maine.
Health officials say that vitamin E is safe as a vitamin pill or to use on the skin, but that inhaling it can be harmful.  The compound is sometimes used as a thickener in vaping fluid, especially in black market vape cartridges and those containing THC — the component of marijuana that gets people high.E-cigarettes have been available in the United States for more than a decade. They work, in general, by using a battery to heat a liquid nicotine solution and turn it into an inhalable vapor.While e-cigarettes contain nicotine, which is addictive, they have been considered safer than traditional cigarettes because they do not contain tar or many of the other substances in traditional cigarettes that make them deadly.Advocates of e-cigarettes say they are a powerful tool to help adult smokers quit smoking traditional cigarettes.However, critics say that e-cigarettes are making a new generation addicted to nicotine. They also point out that the long-term health consequences of vaping are not known, and say that e-cigarettes could contain other potentially harmful substances, including chemicals used for flavoring and traces of metals.

Trump to Pursue Higher Sales Age for E-Cigarettes

President Donald Trump said Friday his administration will pursue raising the age to purchase electronic cigarettes from 18 to 21 in its upcoming plans to combat youth vaping. Trump told reporters his administration will release its final plans for restricting e-cigarettes next week but provided few other details. 
“We have to take care of our kids, most importantly, so we’re going to have an age limit of 21 or so,” said Trump, speaking outside the White House.President Donald Trump speaks to reporters on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, Nov. 8, 2019.Currently the minimum age to purchase any tobacco or vaping product is 18, under federal law. But more than one-third of U.S. states have already raised their sales age to 21. 
A federal law raising the purchase age would require congressional action.Administration officials were widely expected to release plans this week for removing virtually all flavored e-cigarettes from the market. Those products are blamed for soaring rates of underage use by U.S. teenagers. 
However, no details have yet appeared, leading vaping critics to worry that the administration is backing away from its original plan.Trump resisted any specifics on the scope of the restrictions.”We’re talking about the age, we’re talking about flavors, we’re also talking about keeping people working — there are some pretty good aspects,” Trump said.Mint flavorUnderage vaping has reached what health officials call epidemic levels. In the latest government survey, 1 in 4 high school students reported using e-cigarettes in the previous month.FILE – A woman buys refills for her Juul at a smoke shop in New York, Dec. 20, 2018.Fruit, candy, dessert and other sweet vaping flavors have been targeted because of their appeal to underage users. 
On Thursday, Juul Labs, the nation’s largest e-cigarette maker, announced it would voluntarily pull its mint-flavored e-cigarettes from the market. That decision followed new research that Juul’s mint is the top choice for many high school students who vape.With the removal of mint, Juul only sells two flavors: tobacco and menthol. 
Vaping critics say menthol must be a part of the flavor ban to prevent teens who currently use mint from switching over.’Tobacco 21′ lawJuul and other tobacco companies have lobbied in support of a federal “Tobacco 21” law to reverse teen use of both e-cigarettes and traditional tobacco products. The effort also has broad bipartisan support in Congress, including a bill introduced by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.The logic for hiking the purchase age for cigarettes and other products is clear: Most underage teens who use e-cigarettes or tobacco get it from older friends. Raising the minimum age to 21 is expected to limit the supply of those products in U.S. schools.Delaying access to cigarettes is also expected to produce major downstream health benefits, with one government-funded report estimating nearly 250,000 fewer deaths due to tobacco over several decades. 
Still, anti-tobacco groups have insisted that any “Tobacco 21” law must be accompanied by a ban on flavors, which they say are the primary reason young people use e-cigarettes.