WHO Tells Tobacco Industry to Stop Marketing Deadly Nicotine Products to Children

The World Health Organization accuses the tobacco industry of devious tactics to get children and young people hooked on their deadly tobacco and nicotine products.  In advance of World No Tobacco Day (May 31), the WHO is launching a campaign to alert young people to the dangers they face from the industry’s manipulative practices.More than 40 million young people aged 13 to 15 smoke and use other tobacco products. The World Health Organization says the tobacco industry tries to get children and young people hooked on tobacco early in life, knowing this will turn them into life-long smokers.
 
Unfortunately, WHO says many smokers do not live very long.  Every year, it notes millions of people have their lives cut short because of cancers, heart disease and other smoking-related illnesses.
 
Coordinator of WHO’s No Tobacco Unit, Vinayak Prasad, says the tobacco industry invests more than $9 billion a year to advertise its products.  He says much of this huge budget targets young people with attractive promotional campaigns.
 
“At the moment, they are spending a million dollars an hour, which is by the time we finish our press conference, that is a million dollars spent,” said Prasad.  “And, why are they doing it?  They are doing it to find replacements users.  Eight million premature deaths every year.  So, they need to find new replacements.”  WHO says the industry sets its sights on the next generation of users by targeting children and young people in markets where tobacco products are not regulated and they can be manipulated easily.   
 
WHO is launching a new kit for school students aged 13 to 17 to protect them from the tobacco industry’s exploitative practices.  WHO Director of Health Promotion, Ruediger Krech says the kit alerts young people to the industry’s devious tactics and teaches them to say no.
 
“The tool kit exposes tactics such as parties and concerts hosted by the tobacco and related industries, e-cigarette flavors that attract youth in like bubble-gum and candy, e-cigarette representatives presenting in schools, and product placement in popular youth streaming shows,” said Krech.
 
WHO is calling on all sectors of society to prevent the tobacco industry from preying on youth.  To reach a young audience, the agency is spreading its no tobacco message on  TikTok, Pinterest, YouTube and other social media.
 
Health officials urge schools, celebrities and influencers to reject all offers of sponsorship from the industry.  They call on TV and streaming services to stop showing tobacco or e-cigarette use on screen.   
 
They say governments should ban all forms of tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship and should enact strict tobacco control laws.

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Nearly 6 Million Worldwide Infected with Coronavirus

There are more than 5.8 million infections of COVID-19 around the world, with more than 360,000 deaths. Some countries are starting to loosen restrictions initiated to halt the spread of the devastating disease, while the number of cases is skyrocketing in other places. The Americas are the new epicenter of the outbreak.  The U.S. has more than 1.7 million coronavirus infections, followed by Brazil with more than 438,000 cases. Developing nationsUnited Nations chief Antonio Guterres has warned that the pandemic could cause “unimaginable devastation and suffering around the world,” including famine and massive unemployment, unless governments start taking preventative action now.“Developed countries have announced their own relief packages, because they can,”  Guterres told a virtual summit of nearly 50 world leaders. “But we have not yet seen enough solidarity with developing countries to provide them with the massive and urgent support they need.”Fijian Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama suggested that the price of a global post-coronavirus recovery for poorer countries would be a bargain. He said wealthy nations have already dedicated $8 trillion for their own comeback. “Even if the equivalent of one-half of 1% of this was dedicated to all the world’s small island developing states, it would provide us with the vital support we need.”Why does a virus make some people sicker than others?Sorry, but your browser cannot support embedded video of this type, you can
A worker from Bidvest Prestige wearing protective gear, sprays disinfectant in a classroom to help reduce the spread the new coronavirus ahead of the reopening of Landulwazi Comprehensive School, east of Johannesburg, South Africa, May 26, 2020.South African studentsSome South African parents of seventh and 12th grade students are reluctant to allow their children back into schools, set to reopen Monday, saying current disinfection efforts are not enough to convince them that it is safe for their children to return.Boston marathonThe Boston Marathon has been canceled for the first time in 124 years because of the coronavirus.The legendary road race had already been postponed from April, and organizers had said they hoped to be able to run it on September 14.Boston Mayor Marty Walsh said Thursday that date looked “less and less plausible.””There’s no way to hold this usual race format without bringing large numbers of people into close proximity,” Walsh said.The first Boston Marathon was held in 1897 and is the longest running such event in the world.  

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Travel Disruptions Challenge Global Transplant Deliveries

Over the past two months, as air travel ground to a halt, Mishel Zrian has crisscrossed the Atlantic and the United States dozens of times, sleeping in empty airports and unable to return home to see his family in Israel, all in a race against time to deliver life-saving transplants.
Zrian is a courier hired by Israel’s Ezer Mizion bone marrow donor registry, which has had to perform logistical acrobatics to get its transplants to their destinations amid the travel disruptions caused by the pandemic. The nonprofit, as well as others involved in coordinating transplants around the world, has been tested by the shortage of flights and restrictions on travel, forced to find creative solutions or risk the health of patients.
“It’s been a struggle the entire time but at the back of our minds always is that the patient must receive this transplant or else he will die,” said Bracha Zisser, director of Ezer Mizion, the world’s largest Jewish bone marrow donor registry.  
With the coronavirus upending air travel and countries shutting down borders to prevent the influx of infected travelers, airlines have been forced to drastically cut services, leaving those who still rely on commercial flights scrambling for ways around the logjam.  
For those in need of a bone marrow transplant — usually cancer patients — finding the right DNA match is difficult and often requires the help of international donors.
Timing is critical. At the start of the transplant process, the patient’s own bone marrow is removed; if the transplant is not provided within 72 hours, the patient could die.
Ordinarily, delivering a bone marrow transplant to a far-flung destination is simple. But according to the World Marrow Donor Association, donor registries and transplant centers around the world have been grappling with how to navigate the new rules under coronavirus restrictions.
In one case, an Italian military plane was called up to deliver a transplant from Turkey to a 2-year-old patient in Rome. Germany, Italy and the U.S. set up special exchange points at military bases to allow couriers to drop off and pick up transplants there rather than have them enter the country by way of civilian airports.
As flights to Israel became scarce, Ezer Mizion’s transplants were sent to Europe via Belgium by cargo flights and then driven to their final destination. A daily commercial flight out of Israel to the U.S. has allowed the organization to continue its deliveries, but within the confines of the chaos wrought by the pandemic.
Zrian, the nonprofit’s main U.S.-bound courier, left Israel for what was supposed to be a brief journey in mid-March, only to be told upon his return that he would need to remain in quarantine for 14 days, according to Israeli rules on all incoming travelers.
At that point, Ezer Mizion appealed to the Israeli Health Ministry and the National Security Council, and managed to secure Zrian special entry to the country, as long as he didn’t leave the airport.
He is allowed to sleep in an airport lounge between flights and receive his deliveries without being forced to quarantine. With airport restaurants closed, Zrian subsists on fast food while in the U.S. When he returns to Israel, he gets to have more lavish meals at the airport lounge.
But he can’t go home.  
The 47-year-old hasn’t seen his two teenage sons in more than 70 days, and his wife was only granted one airport visit during that time. In the U.S., he has been given special clearance to enter on the grounds that he is an essential worker.
Zrian, who works for courier company Royale International, has flown with his precious cargo more than 50 times since mid-March, often the only passenger on the plane and landing at deserted airports. While he sometimes sleeps at his destination, his life moves to the beat of his deliveries. He recently spent six straight nights on flights. He’s been wearing the same pair of jeans for weeks, he said, washing them in hotel bathtubs when he gets the chance.
“I miss my family,” he said. “But I always carry the transplant with me and I know I am doing the right thing.”
In one delivery, destined for Oslo, Zrian boarded a cargo flight to Belgium, where another courier was set to drive the transplant 14 hours to Norway. When pilots he encountered offered him a seat on a direct flight to Oslo, which would save several crucial hours, he jumped at the chance.
But with flights from Europe to Israel nearly at a standstill, Zrian had to make a roundabout journey through Frankfurt and then New York to be able to get back to Israel.
The drop in flights has also affected the U.S., where kidneys, the most common transplant in America, are often flown across the country and need to reach patients within 30 hours. The longer a kidney is out of a body, the more its condition deteriorates. Other organs typically travel on private planes.
According to Dorry Segev, a professor of transplant surgery at Johns Hopkins University, the travel disruption is likely leading to delays, which affects the quality of the kidney and could prompt some patients to postpone the care they need.
“We don’t have our commercial flight infrastructure in the United States, which kidney transplantation rides on the back of,” he said. “It’s very chaotic.”
Rick Hasz, of the Philadelphia-based Gift of Life Donor Program, said kidneys were still reaching their destinations, although with different preservation techniques and additional planning.
Zisser, of the Israeli nonprofit, said none of the dozens of deliveries made over the past two months has missed its deadline.
“The idea of saving a life was always in our hearts,” she said, “and we were willing to do everything for that.”

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Report Warns of Dangers From Deep-Sea Mining

Scientists and environmentalists are urging an international moratorium on deep-sea mining after releasing a report indicating its impact on the Pacific Ocean and island states would be severe, extensive and last for generations.The report also said mining for polymetallic nodules, potato-sized lumps found in the seabed that contain metals used in battery manufacturing and high-tech industries, would cause “essentially irreversible damage” to the region, including Kiribati the Cook Islands, Nauru, Tonga, Papua New Guinea and Tuvalu.Entitled “Predicting the Impacts of Mining Deep Sea Polymetallic Nodules in the Pacific Ocean,” the 52-page report represents a scientific consensus based on 250 peer-reviewed articles, and 80 NGOs are now calling for a moratorium as a result.“There’s the removal of the nodules themselves and the sediment that will be stirred up and also the waste that’s going to be discharged from the mining process,” said Helen Rosenbaum, coordinator for the Deep Sea Mining Campaign.“At this point we don’t know what’s going to be in that sediment, what kind of heavy metals might be there, how bio-available they are, that is how readily they might be taken up in the food chain.”Exploration licensesIncreased demand for the metals — cobalt, nickel, copper and manganese — has bolstered deep-sea mining for polymetallic nodules.The International Seabed Authority, an intergovernmental organization based in Kingston, Jamaica, has issued about 30 exploration licenses – 25 in the Pacific Ocean, and 18 of those in the Clarion Clipperton Zone, which stretches from Kiribati to Mexico, where DeepGreen — a Canadian mining company that plans to mine these metals with an eye toward electric vehicles — hopes to be the first to begin operations by 2024.DeepGreen Chief Executive Officer Gerard Barron was unimpressed by the report, saying deep-sea mining offers the best alternative to surface mining, which has a long history of pollution and the destruction of forests, habitats and wildlife.“I think it was a bias, narrow view, which doesn’t address any the issues, by a group of people that have their hearts set on trying to stop the progress of this industry,” he said.He added, though, that severe shortfalls in metals used in high-tech industries are emerging. Some were available under rainforests in countries such as Indonesia but extracting those metals would exact an enormous toll on the local environment, he said.“The argument should be what has the lowest impact from an environmental and a societal perspective,” he said, adding the Clarion Clipperton Zone contained “enough nickel and cobalt there to electrify a billion electric vehicles.”“We have a choice to continue to go into these biodiverse areas and destroy these biodiverse habitats.“Or we can ramp up ocean science studies and say: ‘Look if ever Mother Nature was to put a large abundant resource somewhere out of harm’s way, 4,000 meters below sea level, a thousand miles from the nearest land mass would seem to be a pretty good place.'”Unrealistic financial expectationsHowever, environmentalists remain skeptical, warning cash-strapped island states – already feeling the effects of climate change – against unrealistic financial expectations from mining and the poor track record of surface miners in the region.That includes a nine-year war fought on Bougainville which emerged from a dispute over a copper mine, extensive damage to the Fly River system in Papua New Guinea caused by the Ok Tedi open pit gold mine and long-running disputes over phosphate mining on Nauru.Last year Canadian company Nautilus Minerals went bankrupt, abandoning its deep sea mining ambitions, which cost PNG about $120 million.“We don’t know if there’s going to be other toxic substances such as processing agents in the mine-ways,” Rosenbaum added. “One thing we know is, it’s going to be constant plume of sediment and whatever the sediment is carrying for the life of the mine.”The report found sperm whales, whale sharks, Leatherback turtles and bird life could be at as much risk from nutrient enrichment and metal toxicity as commercial fish such as tuna.“Also, local communities in the Pacific are worried about their way of life being disrupted because they’re very connected to the ocean environment,” she said.Emeline Siale Ilolahia, executive director of the Pacific Islands Association of Non-Governmental Organizations, echoed her sentiments.“For me it was really like, ban the whole system from any mining until we have more scientific information available for our decision makers,” Ilolahia said.“We are now in a situation of COVID-19 and we see in our countries are struggling to have funds to support the response in-country and then you always question in your mind, thinking; where has the money coming from mining gone?” she said. 

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This Week’s Space News

The United States almost sent two astronauts into orbit from American soil for the first time in nearly a decade.  Circumstances on the ground and in the skies changed flight plans for the public-private partnership between NASA and commercial flight company, SpaceX.  VOA’s Arash Arabasadi spoke with NASA to understand what happened and what happens next in This Week in Space.Camera: NASA/AP/REUTERS/SpaceX/SKYPEProducer: Arash Arabasadi

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UN warns of Latin America Hunger Crisis Amid COVID-19 Pandemic

The U.N. World Food Program (WFP) is warning that at least 14 million people could go hungry in Latin America, with the COVID-19 outbreak continuing to rise as jobs and economies decline under the weight of the pandemic.The WFP Latin America regional director, Miguel Barreto, has dubbed COVID-19 the “hunger pandemic. He said social protection networks are now necessary for people who normally didn’t need it.Many governments across Latin America are providing food assistance for the most vulnerable groups.While insisting the government do more, many people in poor communities are organizing soup kitchens, sharing what they have to try and sustain themselves.Pan American Health Organizations say the hunger situation is a major concern as Latin America becomes the epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic.Brazil leads the region with more than 400,000 confirmed cases. Other Latin America countries struggling to contain the virus include Mexico, Peru and Chile. 

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Larry Kramer Focused World’s Attention on AIDS Through Protests, Writing

Larry Kramer, the grandfather of fierce protests demanding action to fight the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s and ’90s, died Wednesday at age 84. The author and activist founded the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power, known as ACT UP, in 1987.ACT UP mounted dramatic and angry demonstrations credited with raising awareness of the plight of those suffering from Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome. They were also aimed at pressuring the U.S. government to devote resources to stop the spread of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, and to find an effective treatment for the disease. AIDS primarily struck gay men in America, an often-reviled group with little political clout before Kramer launched his unique brand of unapologetically confrontational activism.Tributes have poured in for Kramer, including from those with whom he had a stormy relationship, such as Dr. Anthony Fauci, who served as the first director of the U.S. government’s Office of AIDS Research.Kramer granted his last on-camera media interview to VOA’s Carolyn Presutti in April, when his health was failing. Here are selected clips, in Kramer’s words, recorded as he struggled to hold his cellphone to speak.Larry Kramer: The first cases included several of my friends who died. So I was involved then [from the beginning] with AIDS activism really since 1981.ACT UP was one of the most successful grassroots organizations that was ever founded. It was enormously successful. We never stopped working and fighting, and moving and doing all kinds of things to call the world’s attention to AIDS. You have to remember that Ronald Reagan, who was president, never even said the word AIDS. So we were operating “on our own” to bring the world the message that we were dying from this mysterious virus.Fauci was someone we were very angry with because he wasn’t doing anything.VOA: Larry, Fauci is actually quoted as saying, “You can divide medical research into before Larry and after Larry.”Kramer: I know he said that and that was very nice of him. I certainly had a lot of fights with him, as did ACT UP, to get him to the point where he paid attention to us. Now we are all buddy-buddy.VOA: Why was it so hard to get him and the government to pay attention?Kramer: Because it was happening mostly to gay people.VOA: Going back to the battles then, the battles of the ’90s, do you feel like you won that battle?Kramer: No. We still don’t have a cure. We have some drugs that keep us alive longer. They cost a good bit of money if you don’t have insurance. The fight is never, ever over.

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NASA Postpones 1st Commercial Space Flight

NASA postponed Wednesday’s scheduled launch of a Space X rocket ship, the first manned commercial space flight in history.NASA canceled the launch 16 minutes before takeoff because of the threat of lightning near the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.NASA will try again Saturday to send the Crew Dragon spacecraft to the International Space Station.The launch will be the first time since the space shuttle fleet was retired in 2011 that Americans will fly into space from U.S. soil. Astronauts have been using Russian Soyuz spacecraft to travel to the space station.Led by veteran NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken, the flight marks a new era in piloted space flight.Space X will join Gemini, Apollo and the space shuttle in space aviation history. The difference is that those rockets were built by U.S. government contractors.Space X was built by Tesla CEO Elon Musk and is the first time any space agency anywhere in the world used a private commercial company to fly humans into space.“We’re doing it differently than we’ve ever done it before,” NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine said. “We’re transforming how we do space flight in the future.”Speaking on NASA’s livestream, Musk said, “This is a dream come true, I think for me and everyone at SpaceX. This is not something I ever thought would happen. When starting SpaceX in 2002, I really did not think this day would occur.”NASA’s aim is to have a cost-effective and safe system to send crews to space. Boeing also has a spacecraft in the testing phase for crewed missions. For cargo deliveries, both SpaceX and Northrop Grumman have sent multiple spacecraft to the ISS in recent years. 

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