Taiwan Pilots, Cabin Crews Bemoan Stringent COVID Restrictions 

The flight crews at one of Taiwan’s main airline carriers have voiced frustration about continued COVID-19 policies that require them to adhere to some of the strictest quarantine and testing requirements in the world.  The policies remain in place even as other parts of the world loosen pandemic restrictions and adapt to a “new normal.”  Upon arrival at destinations overseas, pilots and cabin crews from China Airlines must be taken directly to their hotel rooms and provided with room key cards that work only once — when they leave and embark on their next flights.    One pilot for China Airlines, who wished to remain anonymous, told VOA he was “frustrated” with the current conditions.    “It’s really affected [me]. Whenever I went to work, I felt so frustrated … it means I can’t go home for a period of time, and [I’m] also very tired, because I need to continuously [go] back and forth to Taipei and the U.S. or Europe. So, I have to adjust myself, try to sleep more and be more positive. [Being] stuck in a tiny room for long is really uncomfortable, but I still have to get used to it,” he said.    The first officer has worked for the airline for nearly eight years, and he flies both long- and short-haul trips each month. He said the restrictions were worse in the beginning of the pandemic, as pilots were forced to wear goggles, gloves and face masks while on duty, as well as …

UN Weather Agency Predicts Rare ‘Triple-dip’ La Nina in 2022

The U.N. weather agency is predicting that the phenomenon known as La Nina is poised to last through the end of this year, a mysterious “triple dip” — the first this century — caused by three straight years of its effect on climate patterns like drought and flooding worldwide. The World Meteorological Organization on Wednesday said La Nina conditions, which involve a large-scale cooling of ocean surface temperatures, have strengthened in the eastern and central equatorial Pacific with an increase in trade winds in recent weeks. The agency’s top official was quick to caution that the “triple dip” doesn’t mean global warming is easing. “It is exceptional to have three consecutive years with a La Nina event. Its cooling influence is temporarily slowing the rise in global temperatures, but it will not halt or reverse the long-term warming trend,” WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas said. La Nina is a natural and cyclical cooling of parts of the equatorial Pacific that changes weather patterns worldwide, as opposed to warming caused by the better-known El Nino — an opposite phenomenon. La Nina often leads to more Atlantic hurricanes, less rain and more wildfires in the western United States, and agricultural losses in the central U.S. Studies have shown La Nina is more expensive to the United States than the El Nino. Together El Nino, La Nina and the neutral condition are called ENSO, which stands for El Nino Southern Oscillation, and they have one of the largest natural effects on climate, at times …

Half of the World’s Health Care Facilities are Unhygienic and Infection Incubators

A World Health Organization-UNICEF global study of health care facilities finds half lack basic hygiene services, putting around 3.85 billion people at risk of infection and death. The study is based on data from 40 countries representing 35% of the world’s population. It presents an alarming picture of health facilities that lack water and soap for handwashing, have dirty toilets, and are unable to manage health care waste. It says the lack of safe water, sanitation, and basic hygiene services, known as WASH, in health care facilities can lead to many preventable deaths. Rick Johnston is WHO lead WHO-UNICEF Joint Monitoring Program for WASH. He says sepsis, a major cause of mortality globally, could be prevented by improving WASH services in health care. “It causes about 11 million avoidable deaths each year. And we know that in health care settings, sepsis mortality is linked to poor quality of care, including inadequate WASH… Still today, 670,000 neo-natal deaths occur due to sepsis. So, there is a huge burden that could be improved right there,” he said. Data show the situation tends to be better in hospitals than in smaller health care facilities. The WHO reports the 46 least developed countries lag most behind in hygiene services, with only 32% of health care facilities providing WASH services. Johnston says sub-Saharan Africa is the geographic region with the lowest coverage of basic services, about a third lower than globally. “I mentioned hand hygiene services at 51% globally. It is only 38% in sub-Saharan …

Excitement Builds for Moon Missions Ahead of NASA’s Artemis Launch

NASA’s space shuttle program brought Brenda Mulberry and her husband from Tampa to Florida’s Space Coast in the early 1980s. Since then, Mulberry has operated “Space Shirts,” a space-themed clothing shop not far from Kennedy Space Center. She said business slowed significantly when shuttle launches ended in 2011. But this year is different. “Excitement is over the moon,” said Mulberry, in between helping customers pay for armfuls of souvenirs. People now flock to Mulberry’s store to get anything they can related to NASA’s new Artemis mission. “On a normal day we might see 60 to 70 people in a day in our store,” she told VOA. “We’re seeing hundreds and hundreds and hundreds an hour. It’s a zoo.” Artemis — NASA’s ambitious program to return to the moon — has generated renewed interest in space exploration ahead of the launch of the first unmanned test flight of the SLS, or Space Launch System, rocket and the Orion capsule, which will eventually carry astronauts back to the moon more than 50 years after the last Apollo mission visited the lunar surface. Monday’s first launch date was scrubbed, disappointing throngs of tourists, but added to the anticipation for when the program’s first liftoff occurs. NASA will try again on Saturday. “I call it the Artemis generation. Apollo had a twin sister — Artemis — and this is our generation,” said Branelle Rodriguez, an integration manager for NASA’s Orion capsule that will house astronauts traveling to the moon and back. “I think it’s …

Astronaut Details NASA’s Ambitious Artemis Program

VOA’s Kane Farabaugh spoke with NASA Astronaut Victor Glover ahead of Monday’s scheduled Artemis launch from Cape Canaveral, Florida. While the launch was postponed, NASA’s quest to return to the moon and eventually send humans to Mars remains a priority for the U.S. space agency. A former military aviator, Glover has taken part in a SpaceX mission, spent time aboard the International Space Station, completed 168 days in orbit and participated in four spacewalks. He is a candidate for future Artemis missions. This interview has been edited for length and clarity. VOA: “So Victor, tell me what it’s like to sort of be here right now in this moment?” NASA ASTRONAUT VICTOR GLOVER: “It’s unreal. I mean it sounds a little cliche but to be at the place where the Apollo missions launched from all those shuttle launches happened from, and I actually launched from that next door neighbor launch pad right there just under two years ago. But it’s still surreal to be here. This is one of my favorite places on the planet, and that’s just any day of the week, but when there’s a big rocket like SLS or Orion sitting over there, it’s just the buzz here, the energy. It’s really special. And my favorite part about this is the excitement of all the NASA employees who have worked hard for years to make this happen.” VOA: “What is that excitement like? What is it [excitement level] at right now? I mean, you weren’t born when …

Musk Cites Whistleblower as New Reason to Exit Twitter Deal

Elon Musk and Twitter lobbed salvos at each other Tuesday in the latest round of legal filings over the billionaire Tesla CEO’s efforts to rescind his offer to buy the social media platform.  Musk filed more paperwork to terminate his agreement to buy Twitter, this time based on information in a whistleblower complaint filed by Twitter’s former head of security. Twitter fired back by saying his attempt to back out of the deal is “invalid and wrongful.”  In an SEC filing, Musk said his legal team notified Twitter of “additional bases” for ending the deal on top of the ones given in the original termination notice issued in July.  In a letter to Twitter Inc., which was included in the filing, Musk’s advisers cited the whistleblower report by former executive Peiter Zatko — also known by his hacker handle “Mudge.”  Zatko, who served as Twitter’s head of security until he was fired early this year, alleged in his complaint to U.S. officials that the company misled regulators about its poor cybersecurity defenses and its negligence in attempting to root out fake accounts that spread disinformation.  The letter, addressed to Twitter’s Chief Legal Officer Vijaya Gadde, said Zatko’s allegations provide extra reasons to end the deal if the July termination notice “is determined to be invalid for any reason.”  Billionaire Musk has spent months alleging that the company he agreed to acquire undercounted its fake and spam accounts, which means he doesn’t have to go through with the $44 billion deal. …

WHO Director in Asia Accused of Racism, Abuse Put on Leave

The World Health Organization’s top director in the Western Pacific, Dr. Takeshi Kasai, has been indefinitely removed from his post, according to internal correspondence obtained by The Associated Press. Kasai’s removal comes months after an AP investigation revealed that dozens of staffers accused him of racist, abusive and unethical behavior that undermined the U.N. agency’s efforts to stop the coronavirus pandemic in Asia. WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told staff in the Western Pacific in an email on Friday that Kasai was “on leave” without elaborating further. Tedros said Deputy Director-General, Dr. Zsuzsanna Jakab, would be arriving Tuesday in Manila, WHO’s regional headquarters, to “ensure business continuity.” Two senior WHO officials who asked not to be identified because they were not authorized to speak to the press, said Kasai had been put on extended administrative leave after internal investigators substantiated some of the misconduct complaints. In a statement, WHO said it was unknown how long Kasai would be away. The U.N. health agency said the investigation into him was continuing and that it was believed to be the first time a regional director had been relieved of their duties. Kasai did not respond to requests for comment but previously denied he used racist language or acted unprofessionally. In January, the AP reported that more than 30 unidentified staffers sent a confidential complaint to senior WHO leadership and members of the organization’s Executive Board, alleging that Kasai had created a “toxic atmosphere” in WHO’s offices across the Western Pacific. Documents and …