Gourmet Grubs Wriggle Onto American Palate

It may sound gross to some, but edible insects are a great source of high quality protein and essential minerals such as calcium and iron. Edible grubs offer all that, plus high quality fat, which is good for brain development. Insects are part of the diet in many parts of the world. But not in the U.S., where bug phobias mean insect dishes are extremely rare. But that’s starting to change … and some steps are so small, they are micro-sized. From Denver Colorado, Shelley Schlender reports.


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More Than 1 Billion People Risk Hearing Loss from Loud Music

U.N. agencies warn that more than 1 billion people ages 12 to 35 risk losing their hearing from listening to loud music on their audio devices.  The World Health Organization, and the International Telecommunication Union, are launching new international standards to make smartphones and other devices safer for listening.

Listening to music is one of life’s greatest pleasures. U.N. health experts say they do not want to deprive younger people of the enjoyable experience of listening to music regularly on their headphones.  But they warn listening to loud music is unsafe and can cause permanent damage to hearing.  

The World Health Organization says it has no clear evidence that 1.1 billion people are at risk of developing hearing problems. However, WHO technical officer for the prevention of deafness and hearing loss Shelly Chadha said the figure is based on a study conducted four years ago.

That study, she says, focused on the listening habits of young people and the volume of sound to which they were generally exposed.  She said this information has been valuable in working on solutions for preventing hearing loss.

“So, our effort through this standard is really to empower the user to make the right listening choice and decision,  either to practice safe listening or to take the risk of developing hearing loss and tinnitus down the line.

The main recommendations for safe listening include having software on personal audio devices that measures how long and how loudly a user has been listening to music.  They also call for automatic volume reduction systems on smartphones and other devices, as well as parental volume control.

The U.N. agencies say they hope governments and manufacturers will adopt the suggested standards, as disabling hearing loss is set to increase significantly in the coming years.

The WHO and ITU report 466 million people suffer from the disability, most in low- and middle-income countries. It estimates the number will rise to more than 900 million people by 2050. The agencies say half of all cases of hearing loss can be prevented through public health measures.


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Measles Cases Surge Globally Putting Many Lives at Risk

The World Health Organization (WHO) says that measles outbreaks and deaths are surging globally, putting years of progress made in reducing the killer disease at risk. The WHO is calling for urgent action to stop the spread of the highly contagious but fully preventable disease. 

The WHO says a safe, effective vaccine, which has been around for 50 years, has protected millions of children. But WHO Director of Immunization, Vaccines and Biologicals Katherine O’Brien says progress is at risk because of the failure to vaccinate many children in all regions of the world.  

“Measles as a virus is one of the most contagious infections that there is.  For every case of measles that occurs in a setting where people are not immune, nine to 10 additional cases will occur simply because of exposure to that case,” she said.

O’Brien notes measles is spread by respiratory droplets that can live on surfaces for hours. Therefore, it is not necessary to have direct contact with an infected person to get sick.

The WHO says 229,000 cases of measles were reported worldwide last year. But it says the number of reported cases represents less than 10 percent of actual cases.  So, millions of cases are occurring.

Africa is one of the regional hot spots. Katrina Kertsinger, a WHO medical officer in the Expanded Program on Immunization, says there have been measles outbreaks of varying magnitude in all countries in this region.

“Madagascar is currently experiencing an outbreak from a period from 2018 to present.  There is over 66,000 cases that have been reported in that country alone…I personally was in Madagascar several weeks ago.  I can say as a clinician how heartbreaking it is to be in a context where there are measles cases which are entirely preventable,” Kertsinger said.  

The WHO says many children in poor countries are not being vaccinated because they live in marginalized areas where clinics are not easily reached.  

In wealthier countries, it says parents sometimes choose not to have their children immunized because of false claims that the vaccine is dangerous.

 

 


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Bug Appetit!

Edible insects are a great source of high quality protein and essential minerals such as calcium and iron. Edible grubs, insect larvae, offer all that, plus high quality fat, which is good for brain development. Insects are part of the diet in many parts of the world. But not in the US, where bug phobias mean insect dishes are extremely rare. But that’s starting to change . . . and some steps are so small, they are micro-sized. From Denver Colorado, Shelley Schlender reports.


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New Study Shows Rapid Decline in Insect Populations

Insects are the most biodiverse group of living things on the planet. And it is a good thing there are so many of them because they are responsible for many of the fundamental processes that allow life on earth, from pollination to decomposition. But a new report suggests they are disappearing, and that could be catastrophic. VOA’s Kevin Enochs reports.


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Mars Rover’s Mission Finally Over, NASA Says

“I declare the Opportunity mission is complete,” NASA official Thomas Zurbuchen said Wednesday of the U.S. Mars rover mission that outlasted its projected life span by more than 14 years.  

 

The Opportunity rover succumbed to a Martian dust storm and lost contact with Earth nearly eight months ago. NASA finally gave up on it after more than 800 attempts to re-establish contact. 

Zurbuchen, associate administrator for science at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, said at a news conference at the space agency’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., that he shared the news “with a deep sense of appreciation and gratitude.”

Opportunity was launched in 2003 and reached Mars a year later, close on the heels of its “twin,” a rover named Spirit. Both rovers, roughly the size of golf carts, were tasked with activities that would last about 90 days, but both far outlasted their original missions, spending years exploring the planet’s rocky terrain while using solar panels for engine power.

First to fall silent

Spirit got stuck in 2009 and stopped communicating with NASA a year later. It is believed to have shut down for good during the harsh Martian winter.

Opportunity continued to explore until last year when a dust storm consumed the entire planet and blocked communication with Earth.

NASA scientists said they had hoped the wind would eventually clear debris off Opportunity’s solar panels and allow it to power up and re-establish contact. But repeated attempts to reach the rover failed.

Late Tuesday, NASA scientists made one last try to reach it. By Wednesday, the agency announced the long mission was finally over.

“It was an incredibly somber moment,” NASA scientist Tanya Harrison told The New York Times.  

At the end, the rover had covered a distance of 45.16 kilometers (28.06 miles) — a little longer than a marathon. 

But NASA’s work on Mars continues. The rover Curiosity has been exploring another part of the planet since 2012.

Next year, two more rovers — one from China and one from a combined effort by Russia and the European Union — are expected to begin their own voyages to the Red Planet.  


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3D Heart Gives Surgeons Early Look at Patients

It’s a stretch but with Valentine’s Day just around the corner, we thought we’d talk about the heart, but with a tech twist. Each heart is different, and that can make surgery challenging. VOA’s Kevin Enochs reports on new technology that creates a 3D model of a specific patient’s heart to help a doctor prepare for surgery.


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US Lawmakers Give Mixed Reviews to Ambitious Green New Deal Proposal

The climate is not only changing globally, it’s changing in Washington. With Democrats in control of the House of Representatives, climate change is on the agenda again. Some Democrats are proposing what they call the Green New Deal, an ambitious and controversial program to transform the nation’s energy supply. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.


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NASA About to Pull Plug on Mars Rover, Silent for 8 Months

NASA is trying one last time to contact its record-setting Mars rover Opportunity, before calling it quits.

The rover has been silent for eight months, victim of one of the most intense dust storms in decades. Thick dust darkened the sky last summer and, for months, blocked sunlight from the spacecraft’s solar panels.

NASA said Tuesday it will issue a final series of recovery commands, on top of more than 1,000 already sent. If there’s no response by Wednesday — which NASA suspects will be the case — Opportunity will be declared dead, 15 years after arriving at the red planet. 

Team members are already looking back at Opportunity’s achievements, including confirmation water once flowed on Mars. Opportunity was, by far, the longest-lasting lander on Mars. Besides endurance, the six-wheeled rover set a roaming record of 28 miles (45 kilometers.)

Its identical twin, Spirit, was pronounced dead in 2011, a year after it got stuck in sand and communication ceased.

Both outlived and outperformed expectations, on opposite sides of Mars. The golf cart-size rovers were designed to operate as geologists for just three months, after bouncing onto our planetary neighbor inside cushioning air bags in January 2004. They rocketed from Cape Canaveral a month apart in 2003.

It’s no easier saying goodbye now to Opportunity, than it was to Spirit, project manager John Callas told The Associated Press.

“It’s just like a loved one who’s gone missing, and you keep holding out hope that they will show up and that they’re healthy,” he said. “But each passing day that diminishes, and at some point you have to say ‘enough’ and move on with your life.”

Deputy project scientist Abigail Fraeman was a 16-year-old high school student when Opportunity landed on Mars; she was inside the control center as part of an outreach program. Inspired, Fraeman went on to become a planetary scientist, joined NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, and ended up deputy project scientist for Opportunity. 

“It gives you an idea just how long this mission has lasted,” she said. “Opportunity’s just been a workhorse … it’s really a testament, I think, to how well the mission was designed and how careful the team was in operating the vehicle.”

Rather than viewing the dust storm as bad luck, Callas considers it good luck that we skirted so many possible storms over the years. Global dust storms typically kick up every few years, and “we had gone a long time without one.”

Unlike NASA’s nuclear-powered Curiosity rover still chugging along on Mars, Opportunity and Spirit were never designed to endure such severe weather.

Cornell University’s Steve Squyres, lead scientist for both Opportunity and Spirit, considers succumbing to a ferocious storm an “honorable way” for the mission to end. 

“You could have lost a lot of money over the years betting against Opportunity,” Squyres told the AP Tuesday. 

The rovers’ greatest gift, according to Squyres, was providing a geologic record at two distinct places where water once flowed on Mars, and describing the conditions there that may have supported possible ancient life.

NASA last heard from Opportunity on June 10. Flight controllers tried to awaken the rover, devising and sending command after command, month after month. The Martian skies eventually cleared enough for sunlight to reach the rover’s solar panels, but there was still no response. Now it’s getting colder and darker at Mars, further dimming prospects.

Engineers speculate the rover’s internal clock may have become scrambled during the prolonged outage, disrupting the rover’s sleep cycle and draining on-board batteries. It’s especially frustrating, according to Callas, not knowing precisely why Opportunity — or Spirit — failed. 

Now it’s up to Curiosity and the newly arrived InSight lander to carry on the legacy, he noted, along with spacecraft in orbit around Mars.

As for Opportunity, “It has given us a larger world,” Callas said. “Mars is now part of our neighborhood.”

 

 


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Heading South: Warming to Change How US Cities Feel in 2080

The climate in New York City in 60 years could feel like Arkansas now. Chicago could seem like Kansas City and San Francisco could get a Southern California climate if global warming pollution continues at the current pace, a new study finds.

In 2080, North Carolina’s capital, Raleigh, could feel more like Florida’s capital, Tallahassee, while the nation’s capital will have a climate more akin to just north of the Mississippi Delta, if the globe stays on its current carbon pollution trend. Miami might as well be southern Mexico and the beautiful mornings in future Des Moines, Iowa, could feel like they are straight out of Oklahoma.

That’s according to a study Tuesday in the journal Nature Communications that tries to explain climate change better.

“The children alive today, like my daughter who is 12, they’re going to see a dramatic transformation of climate. It’s already under way,” said study lead author Matt Fitzpatrick. He’s an ecology professor at the University of Maryland’s Center for Environmental Sciences in Frostburg, Maryland, which won’t quite measure up to its name with climate more like current day southern Kentucky.

But if the world cuts back on its carbon dioxide emissions, peaking around 2040, then New York’s climate can stay closer to home, feeling more like central Maryland, while Chicago’s climate could be somewhat like Dayton, Ohio’s.

Fitzpatrick looked at 12 different variables for 540 U.S. and Canadian cities under two climate change scenarios to find out what the future might feel like in a way a regular person might understand. He averaged the climate results from 27 different computer models then found the city that most resembles that futuristic scenario.

He put the results on a website that allows people to check how their nearest city could feel.

“Wow,” said Northern Illinois University climate scientist Victor Gensini, who wasn’t part of the study. “The science here isn’t new but a great way to bring impacts to the local scale user.”

Biggest change

The 540 cities on average move 528 miles (850 kilometers) to the south climate-wise, if carbon emissions keep soaring. If the world cuts back, the cities move on average 319 miles (514 kilometers).

The city that moves the most is Wasilla, Alaska, which if emissions aren’t cut back could feel like eastern Wisconsin, 11 degrees warmer in the summer. It’s a change of about 2,720 miles (4,379 kilometers).

“Visualizations that tap into our own lived experiences make a lot of sense,” said Oregon State University climate scientist Kathie Dello, who wasn’t part of the study and doesn’t like what it shows for her region. “Telling people in historically mild Portland that the climate in the late 21st century will be more like the hot Central Valley of California is jarring.”


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