EU Hits Apple with Music Streaming Charge in Boost for Spotify

EU regulators accused Apple on Friday of distorting competition in the music streaming market, siding with Spotify in a case that could lead to a hefty fine and changes in the iPhone maker’s lucrative business practices.   The preliminary findings are the first time Brussels has leveled anti-competitive charges against Apple, although the two sides have had bruising clashes in the past, most notably a multibillion-dollar tax dispute involving Ireland.   Apple, Spotify and other parties can now respond. If the case is pursued, the EU could demand concessions and potentially impose a fine of up to 10% of Apple’s global turnover – as much as $27 billion, although it rarely levies the maximum penalty.   Apple found itself in the European Commission’s crosshairs after Sweden-based Spotify complained two years ago that the U.S. tech giant unfairly restricted rivals to its own music streaming service Apple Music on iPhones.   The EU competition enforcer, in its so-called statement of objections setting out the charge, said the issue related to Apple’s restrictive rules for its App Store that force developers to use its own in-app payment system and prevent them from informing users of other purchasing options.   European Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager said there were clear signs Apple’s App Store rules were affecting music streaming rivals’ business development and affecting app developers more widely.   “They [app developers] depend on Apple App Store as a gatekeeper to access users of Apple’s iPhones and iPads. This significant market power cannot go …

Looming Madagascar Famine Sparks Nutrition Emergency

Famine is looming in southern Madagascar and emergency food aid is needed for hundreds of thousands of people to head off a humanitarian disaster on the African island nation, the U.N. World Food Program warned.Five consecutive years of drought, exacerbated by unexpected sandstorms, have depleted people’s food stocks, forcing them to resort to desperate measures to survive. The WFP senior director of operations in Madagascar, Amer Daoudi, said at least 1.35 million people are suffering from acute hunger, many of whom are living off locusts, raw cactus fruits or wild leaves. He said malnutrition is soaring to alarming levels, putting the lives of many children under age five at risk. While on a diplomatic and governmental tour of the region, he said he saw horrific images of starving, malnourished and stunted children. FILE – Children shelter from the sun in Ankilimarovahatsy, Madagascar, a village in the far south of the island where most children are acutely malnourished, Nov. 9, 2020.”And not only the children,” Daoudi added. “Mothers, parents, and the population in the villages we visited. The situation is extremely, extremely worrisome, scary. They are on the periphery of famine.” The WFP official said most of Madagascar’s southern districts are in a nutrition emergency as acute malnutrition has almost doubled over the last four months. He said people are dying but it is difficult to get an accurate count. “If a child dies, they bury, there is no reporting, there is no official type of reporting to take these numbers,” he said. “Same thing with …

US Aid Arrives as India Grapples with COVID-Triggered Humanitarian Crisis

The first emergency aid of critical medical supplies arrived in India from the United States on Friday, as the country grapples with a humanitarian crisis after being hit with the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.   With the death toll soaring past 200,000, the race to save lives is getting more frantic with India’s health care system virtually crushed under the relentlessly rising numbers.   A U.S. Super Galaxy military transporter brought more than 400 oxygen cylinders and other hospital equipment as well as rapid coronavirus tests to New Delhi.   U.S. officials said that special flights which will also bring equipment donated by companies and individuals, will continue into next week.   President Joe Biden has pledged to support India in its fight against the coronavirus. On Friday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke to Indian Foreign Minister S. Jaishankar “to reaffirm the strength of the U.S.-India partnership in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic,” according to a statement from State Department spokesman Ned Price. “Expressing his appreciation for Indian assistance in America’s time of need, Secretary Blinken reviewed comprehensive ongoing U.S. government efforts in support of the Indian government’s COVID-19 response operations,” said Price. “He also noted the outpouring of support from U.S. industries, non-governmental institutions, and private citizens for COVID-19 relief efforts in India.” Some 40 countries including major powers Russia, Britain, France, Germany and Japan, and smaller countries such as Thailand and Taiwan, have promised to send medical supplies as part of an international aid …

Despite Glitch, NASA Thrilled With Performance of Mars Helicopter

Scientists with the U.S. space agency NASA Friday said the tiny helicopter they sent to Mars has exceeded their expectations, despite a glitch that forced its fourth flight to be rescheduled.   During a virtual news briefing on the Mars mission, scientists and engineers with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory said the Ingenuity helicopter’s first three flights showed them enough capability that they are expanding the operation of the aircraft by 30 days, doubling its originally planned mission time.   NASA had originally described the Ingenuity project as a technology demonstration designed to test flight capability in the thin Martian atmosphere. Project Manager Mi Mi Aung, said it performed so well that it is transitioning from a demonstration to operation phase, in which the craft will be used to show how its unique capabilities can be applied.   Aung told reporters “It’s like Ingenuity is graduating.”NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter unlocked its rotor blades, allowing them to spin freely, on April 7, 2021, the 47th Martian day, or sol, of the mission. (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU)The craft had been scheduled to complete its fourth flight Thursday, but a software glitch prevented it from transitioning to flight mode. If it goes off as planned later Friday, the NASA team hopes to fly it 133 meters from its starting point — more than twice as far as its last flight — taking color pictures of the terrain below before returning to where it started.   Aung said the pictures will be used to put together three-dimensional images …

US Aid Arrives in India Amid COVID-Triggered Humanitarian Crisis

The first emergency aid of critical medical supplies arrived in India from the United States on Friday, as the country grapples with a humanitarian crisis after being hit with the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.   With the death toll soaring past 200,000, the race to save lives is getting more frantic with India’s health care system virtually crushed under the relentlessly rising numbers.   A U.S. Super Galaxy military transporter brought more than 400 oxygen cylinders and other hospital equipment as well as rapid coronavirus tests to New Delhi.   U.S. officials said that special flights which will also bring equipment donated by companies and individuals, will continue into next week.   President Joe Biden has pledged to support India in its fight against the coronavirus.   Some 40 countries including major powers Russia, Britain, France, Germany and Japan, and smaller countries such as Thailand and Taiwan, have promised to send medical supplies as part of an international aid effort to address the shortage of critical oxygen and medicine. China, with whom India’s ties are strained, has also offered to send aid.   “We are facing an unprecedented second wave of the pandemic,” Indian Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla said on Thursday. For ordinary citizens that “unprecedented” situation means waging a desperate battle to save loved ones. The anguished appeals for oxygen, hospital beds, intensive care units, medicines and even wood to cremate the dead continue to dominate social media. At its overburdened crematoriums, grieving people wait into …

NASA Mars Helicopter Fails to Respond for 4th Flight

The U.S. space agency NASA said the experimental Mars helicopter Ingenuity, after three successful flights, failed to respond to commands to lift off for a fourth flight Thursday. Scientists with the Ingenuity team at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in southern California say a software problem similar to one that delayed the experimental craft’s initial flight 11 days ago prevented the helicopter from transitioning to “flight mode.” The scientists plan to try again Friday. The 1.8-kilogram aircraft arrived on the planet packed away on NASA’s Perseverance rover when it landed on Mars in February. It was unfolded and dropped from the rover a little more than three weeks ago, and each of the three flights it has made so far have been successively more ambitious. After first simply rising three meters off the Martian surface, hovering, and landing again, Ingenuity’s second flight saw it rise to five meters, travel two meters to the east of its position, execute three turns, and return. On its third trip, it rose to five meters and traveled 50 meters, flying at a top speed of about two meters a second. NASA scientists have planned the fourth flight to be the most ambitious yet. After rising to five meters, they plan to send the helicopter south, switch on its downward-facing navigation camera, and collect images of the surface every 1.2 meters until it travels a total of 133 meters. Ingenuity will then hover, take images with its color camera, and return to its original position.  …

Alarm Grows in Africa as it Watches India’s COVID-19 Crisis

Africa is “watching with total disbelief” as India struggles with a devastating resurgence in COVID-19 cases, the continent’s top public health official said Thursday, as African officials worry about delays in vaccine deliveries caused by India’s crisis.The African continent, with roughly the same population as India and fragile health systems, “must be very, very prepared” since a similar scenario could happen here, John Nkengasong, director of the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told reporters.An Indian man sleeps next to a sign urging people to stay at home as a precaution against coronavirus in the premises of a hospital in Hyderabad, India, April 29, 2021.”What is happening in India cannot be ignored by our continent,” he said, and urged African countries to avoid mass gatherings including political rallies. “We do not have enough health care workers, we do not have enough oxygen,” he warned.Africa’s vaccine supply heavily relies on India, whose Serum Institute is the source of the AstraZeneca vaccines distributed by the global COVAX project to get doses to low- and middle-income countries. India’s export ban on vaccines “has severely impacted the predictability of the rollout of vaccination programs and will continue to do so for the coming weeks and perhaps months,” Nkengasong said.”We are living in a world that is extremely uncertain now,” he added.Just 17 million vaccine doses have been administered across the African continent for a population of some 1.3 billion, according to the Africa CDC.The situation in India is “very sad to observe,” the …

India’s Daily COVID Count Is Almost 400,000

The daily tally of COVID-19 cases in India continues to climb toward the 400,000 mark. Friday, the health ministry reported 386,452 new infections. The daily toll of new cases has been over 300,000 for nine consecutive days. Indian media are reporting that some public health experts believe that the actual tally of new infections may be at least five times higher than the official count.Aid from the U.S. and other countries arrived in India on Friday. U.S. assistance includes oxygen supplies, rapid diagnostic tests, and vaccine manufacturing materials.The second wave of the coronavirus has pushed India’s health care system to the brink of collapse, with hospitals at full capacity and an acute shortage of oxygen aggravating an already desperate situation. Many parks and parking lots have been converted into makeshift crematories that are working day and night to burn dead bodies.Indian public health experts have blamed the spread on more contagious variants of the virus, plus the easing of restrictions on large crowds when the outbreak appeared to be under control earlier this year.Hans Kluge, the World Health Organization’s European regional director, warned Thursday that “It is very important to realize that the situation in India can happen anywhere … when personal protection measures are being relaxed, when there are mass gatherings, when there are more contagious variants and the vaccination coverage is still low. This can basically create a perfect storm in any country.”Only the U.S. has more COVID cases than India. The U.S. has more than 32 million …

NASA Astronaut Collins Remembered for ‘Carrying the Fire’

NASA Astronaut Michael Collins, who made history as part of the 1969 Apollo 11 crew to first land a person on the moon, has died at age 90.  In interviews with VOA’s Kane Farabaugh, Collins reflected on the importance of the mission and the contributions of the astronauts of his era, while keeping a focus on the future of crewed spaceflight and exploration.Producer and camera: Kane Farabaugh.  …