Nobel Prize Season Arrives Amid War, Nuclear Fears, Hunger 

This year’s Nobel Prize season approaches as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has shattered decades of almost uninterrupted peace in Europe and raised the risks of a nuclear disaster. The secretive Nobel committees never hint who will win the prizes in medicine, physics, chemistry, literature, economics or peace. It’s anyone’s guess who might win the awards being announced starting Monday. Yet there’s no lack of urgent causes deserving the attention that comes with winning the world’s most prestigious prize: wars in Ukraine and Ethiopia, disruptions to supplies of energy and food, rising inequality, the climate crisis, the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic. The science prizes reward complex achievements beyond the understanding of most. But the recipients of the prizes in peace and literature are often known by a global audience, and the choices — or perceived omissions — have sometimes stirred emotional reactions. Members of the European Parliament have called for Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and the people of Ukraine to be recognized this year by the Nobel Peace Prize committee for their resistance to the Russian invasion. While that desire is understandable, that choice is unlikely because the Nobel committee has a history of honoring figures who end conflicts, not wartime leaders, said Dan Smith, director of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. Smith believes more likely peace prize candidates would be those fighting climate change or the International Atomic Energy Agency, a past recipient. Honoring the IAEA again would recognize its efforts to prevent a radioactive catastrophe at the …

Cholera Surging Globally as Climate Change Intensifies

Cholera is surging around the globe, the World Health Organization warns. Flareups of the deadly disease have been reported in 26 countries in the first nine months of this year. In comparison, fewer than 20 countries reported cholera outbreaks per year between 2017 and 2021. In addition to greater frequency, the WHO reports the outbreaks themselves are larger and more deadly.  While poverty and conflict are major triggers of cholera, climate change is a growing threat.  Philippe Barboza, WHO team lead for Cholera and Epidemic Diarrheal Diseases, said climate change presents an additional layer of complexity and creates the conditions for cholera outbreaks to explode.  “This is what we have seen in southern Africa with the succession of cyclones that affected the eastern part of the African Coast,” Barboza said. “The drought in East Africa is driving population movements, reducing access to water, which is already needed. So, of course, it is a key factor, which is fueling the outbreak. And the same in Sahel and other places.”    Fifteen of the 26 cholera-infected countries are in Africa, according to the WHO.  Barboza said massive climate-induced floods in Southeast Asia also have resulted in large outbreaks of cholera in Pakistan and Bangladesh. Many countries that have made significant progress in controlling cholera are now back to square one, he added.    Cholera is an acute diarrheal disease caused by contaminated food or water. It can kill within hours if left untreated. Cholera outbreaks can be prevented by ensuring access to …

FBI Joins Australian Hunt for Data Hackers

Australia has asked the American FBI to help catch computer hackers responsible for one of Australia’s biggest data breaches. Personal details, including home addresses, driver license and passport numbers, of more than 10 million customers of the Singapore-owned telecom giant Optus were stolen. A massive amount of personal information about Optus customers in Australia was stolen and an extortion threat made to the company. But then there was an apparent twist. An apology was issued on an online forum by an account that investigators believe belonged to the alleged hacker, who had been unnerved by the attention the case had generated. “Too many eyes,” it read. “We will not sale (sic) data to anyone. Sorry to 10.2m Australians whose data was leaked. Ransom not paid but we don’t care anymore.” The Australian government has blamed Optus, one of the biggest telecommunications companies in the country, for the breach. Australia’s cybersecurity minister, Clare O’Neil, said the company had made it easy for hackers to get in. “What is of concern for us is how what is quite a basic hack was undertaken on Optus,” she said. “We should not have a telecommunications provider in this country which has effectively left the window open for data of this nature to be stolen.” But Optus Chief Executive Officer Kelly Bayer Rosmarin denied the company’s cyber defenses were inadequate. She said the data was encrypted and there were multiple layers of protection. But for many Optus customers, there is deep anxiety that their personal …

Challenges and Hope as India Makes Home for African Cheetahs

Eight cheetahs have been brought from Africa to India this month to conserve a species that became extinct in the South Asian country seven decades ago. While the project is hugely challenging, conservationists say the benefits go beyond conserving the world’s fastest land animal – if successful, it could help save neglected ecosystems such as grasslands. Anjana Pasricha report from New Delhi. …

New Asteroid Strike Images Show Impact Much Bigger Than Expected

The James Webb and Hubble telescopes on Thursday revealed their first images of a spacecraft deliberately smashing into an asteroid, as astronomers indicated that the impact looks to have been much greater than expected. The world’s telescopes turned their gaze toward the space rock Dimorphos earlier this week for a historic test of Earth’s ability to defend itself against a potential life-threatening asteroid in the future. Astronomers rejoiced as NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) impactor slammed into its pyramid-sized, rugby ball-shaped target 11 million kilometers (6.8 million miles) from Earth on Monday night. Images taken by Earth-bound telescopes showed a vast cloud of dust expanding out of Dimorphos — and its big brother Didymos, which it orbits — after the spaceship hit. While those images showed matter spraying out over thousands of kilometers, the James Webb and Hubble images “zoom in much closer,” said Alan Fitzsimmons, an astronomer at Queen’s University Belfast involved in observations with the ATLAS project. James Webb and Hubble can offer a view “within just a few kilometers of the asteroids and you can really clearly see how the material is flying out from that explosive impact by DART,” Fitzsimmons told AFP. “It really is quite spectacular,” he said. An image taken by James Webb’s Near-Infrared Camera (NIRCam) four hours after impact shows “plumes of material appearing as wisps streaming away from the center of where the impact took place,” according to a joint statement from the European Space Agency, James Webb and Hubble. Hubble …

UN: Food Loss, Waste Exacerbate Global Hunger, Climate Change

U.N. agencies are calling for an end to food loss and waste as the United Nations marks the International Day of Awareness of Food Loss and Waste Thursday. A U.N. Environment Program report says over 930 million tons of food waste were generated in 2019. The chief of UNEP’s energy and climate branch, Mark Radka, said that represents about 20% of available food. “There is evidence that household food waste is generated at a similar per capita level in all countries, regardless of country income level,” he said. “So, households, on average generate about 74 kilograms per person, per year in food waste.”   It has serious implications, given the U.N.’s latest estimates that 828 million people globally are going hungry. Food and Agriculture Organization findings indicate 14% of the world’s food is lost after harvest. An estimated 17% is wasted in retail and at the consumption stage. FAO Senior Enterprise Development Officer Rosa Rolle calls food loss and waste a global problem that has significant impact on climate, food security, and the sustainability of agri-food systems. “Over the past two years, agri-food systems across the globe have been disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change and the war in Ukraine, pushing millions of people into food insecurity, with hunger and malnutrition on the rise,” she said. The FAO says food waste and loss accelerate climate change and harm the environment. It says about 31% of total greenhouse gas emissions, which lead to global warming, are attributable to the agri-food system.   …

Uganda Fights Deadly Ebola Outbreak as President Assures It’s Under Control

Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni has assured the country that an Ebola outbreak is under control and that no restrictions on movement are needed. The country’s health officials confirmed cases of a deadly Sudan ebolavirus with six reported deaths out of 31 confirmed cases. Uganda’s medical association says some of its members are critically ill and has threatened to join a strike by medical interns over what they say is inadequate personal protective equipment.  In an address to the nation Wednesday night, President Yoweri Museveni urged Ugandans to avoid coming in contact with body fluids such as blood, feces and vomit from infected people. Even though the source for the Sudan ebolavirus, a strain for which the World Health Organization says cross-protection of vaccine for other Ebola strains has not been established, Museveni warned Ugandans against eating meat from monkeys, chimpanzees and gorillas. “I want to reassure Ugandans and all residents that the government has the capacity to control this outbreak as we have done before. Therefore, there’s no need for anxiety, panic, restriction of movement or unnecessary closure of public places like schools, markets, places of worship etc. as of now,” he said. The 31 Ebola cases confirmed so far include six health care workers, including four doctors, one anesthesiologist and one medical student who was exposed to the first case in the district of Mubende, Kyegegwa and Kassanda. Museveni who cautioned Ugandans against shaking hands also says Uganda is still discussing a vaccine for the Sudan ebolavirus that was …

Nations Must Work Together to Fight Online Fraud, UN Official Says

A top U.N. official last week said the syndicates running Asia’s massive online fraud industry will rotate operations among lawless areas of Southeast Asia unless governments cooperate to bring them down, after Cambodia said it was cracking down on cybercrime compounds. The networks have swindled hundreds of millions of dollars, regional police have told VOA, setting up fake profiles offering romance, moonshot investment schemes with huge returns or posing as police officers to solicit payoffs. They target residents of countries from China to Taiwan, Vietnam, Thailand, the United States and Australia. “The response needs to be strategic and regional, because today it might be a location in Cambodia but tomorrow a group uproots under pressure and shifts to Myanmar, Laos or the Philippines,” Jeremy Douglas, the Bangkok-based regional representative of the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime told VOA. “Until governments across the region address, disrupt and police the places organized crime groups are using to run online casinos, scams and other illicit businesses, and in particular special economic zones and autonomous regions, the situation won’t fundamentally change,” he said. Compounds for industrial-scale scamming in are operated in converted casinos in Sihanoukville, Cambodia, as well as special economic zones in Myanmar and Laos by Chinese gangsters who dominate regional gambling but lost their main income source during the pandemic, according to Douglas and victims who spoke to VOA. The foot soldiers of the operations are young Chinese and Southeast Asians. Some joined willingly, many others thought they had obtained high-paying …

Rohingya Seek Reparations from Facebook for Role in Massacre

With roosters crowing in the background as he speaks from the crowded refugee camp in Bangladesh that’s been his home since 2017, Maung Sawyeddollah, 21, describes what happened when violent hate speech and disinformation targeting the Rohingya minority in Myanmar began to spread on Facebook. “We were good with most of the people there. But some very narrow minded and very nationalist types escalated hate against Rohingya on Facebook,” he said. “And the people who were good, in close communication with Rohingya. changed their mind against Rohingya and it turned to hate.” For years, Facebook, now called Meta Platforms Inc., pushed the narrative that it was a neutral platform in Myanmar that was misused by malicious people, and that despite its efforts to remove violent and hateful material, it unfortunately fell short. That narrative echoes its response to the role it has played in other conflicts around the world, whether the 2020 election in the U.S. or hate speech in India. But a new and comprehensive report by Amnesty International states that Facebook’s preferred narrative is false. The platform, Amnesty says, wasn’t merely a passive site with insufficient content moderation. Instead, Meta’s algorithms “proactively amplified and promoted content” on Facebook, which incited violent hatred against the Rohingya beginning as early as 2012. Despite years of warnings, Amnesty found, the company not only failed to remove violent hate speech and disinformation against the Rohingya, it actively spread and amplified it until it culminated in the 2017 massacre. The timing coincided with …