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Wed, 02/24/2021 - 21:00

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Wed, 02/24/2021 - 21:00

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Wed, 02/24/2021 - 21:00

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Wed, 02/24/2021 - 21:00

Rocker Springsteen Fined $500 for Drinking at Beach; Drunk Driving Charge Dropped

Wed, 02/24/2021 - 20:09

Bruce Springsteen was fined $500 Wednesday after the rock 'n' roll legend pleaded guilty to a charge of consuming alcohol at a federally run New Jersey beach in November, and prosecutors dropped drunk driving and reckless driving charges.
Springsteen, 71, who has made his home state of New Jersey and its shore scene a staple of his career of more than 50 years, entered his plea in an online arraignment before U.S. District Court Magistrate Judge Anthony R. Mautone in Newark.
Appearing on an online hearing, Springsteen admitted to downing two shots of tequila on November 14 at Sandy Hook beach, part of the National Park Service's Gateway National Recreation Area, where alcohol consumption is prohibited.
Mautone also imposed $40 in court fees on the rock star, who said he would pay the $540 total immediately.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Adam Baker said the government was dropping the driving-while-intoxicated and reckless driving charges because it did not believe it could meet its burden of proving them in court.
Springsteen initially had pleaded not guilty to all three charges.

VOA Newscasts

Wed, 02/24/2021 - 20:00

VOA Newscasts (2 Minute)

Wed, 02/24/2021 - 20:00

Truck Crashes Into Train in Texas

Wed, 02/24/2021 - 19:48

A truck crashed into a train in Texas, causing a derailment and explosion, Tuesday, February 23.

Five of the impacted train cars carrying gasoline caught fire after the crash. 

Neither the truck driver nor the train crew were injured in the collision. (REUTERS) 

Biden Orders Review to Shore Up Supply Chain Resiliency

Wed, 02/24/2021 - 19:45

President Joe Biden will sign an executive order on Wednesday to formally order a 100-day government review of global supply chains and potential U.S. vulnerabilities in key industries including computer chips, electric vehicle batteries, pharmaceuticals and critical minerals used in electronics.
The order aims to avoid repeating the severe lack of personal protective gear such as face masks and gloves that the country experienced during the early months of the coronavirus pandemic last year. It comes as American automakers grapple with a shortage of semiconductors, critical elements in navigation and entertainment systems in modern vehicles.
"The COVID-19 pandemic has underlined the need for resilient supply chains and robust domestic manufacturing, so all Americans have access to essential goods and services in times of crisis," White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters on Thursday.
On Wednesday, a senior White House official speaking on background told reporters that “President Biden committed last year to directing the U.S. to take a comprehensive approach to securing supply chains, and the executive order that the president will sign tomorrow afternoon kicks off that process.”
On top of the 100-day review of the four key industries, Biden’s order will also direct yearlong reviews for six sectors: defense, public health, information technology, transportation, energy and food production.

FILE - An employee works on a production line manufacturing drugs at the Yangtze River Pharmaceutical Group in Taizhou, Jiangsu province, China, Sept. 3, 2019.

According to the official, the reviews will be modeled after the Defense Department’s process to evaluate and strengthen the defense industrial base and may include the president’s invocation of the Defense Production Act or other financial incentives. The DPA is the primary source of presidential authorities to expedite and expand the supply of materials and services from the U.S. industrial base needed to promote national defense.
Supply chain experts welcome the administration’s move.
“We could talk about buying American all we want but if we have not ensured the supply chain is functioning, we're going to continue to have shortages and stock outs,” said Nada Sanders, a professor of supply chain management at Northeastern University.
While most of the work to ensure supply chains are resilient happens at the firm level, federal support to look at the problem holistically is seen as critical to help U.S. companies to invest strategically and become more agile at reacting to fluctuations of supply and demand in times of crisis.
“The key is particularly with dramatic change or rapid change, you've got to do a good job of forecasting and you got to think holistically, you got to look at the entire sort of lifecycle of the operation,” said Scott Miller, senior adviser on the global economy at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
The Trump administration also pushed for investment in shoring up supply chains, mostly through tax cuts incentivizing businesses to bring manufacturing back to the U.S. In April 2020, then President Donald Trump invoked the Defense Production Act to clear up supply-chain issues encountered in the manufacturing of ventilators and production of N95 face masks.

FILE - Workers produce face masks for export, at a factory in Nantong, in China's eastern Jiangsu province, May 14, 2020.

Officials said Biden’s strategy to protect the supply chain is different than Trump’s protectionist approach. “This work will not be about America going it alone,” said Sameera Fazili, Deputy Director of the National Economic Council in a briefing to reporters “We are committed to working with partners and allies to reduce the vulnerabilities.”
China focus
Biden’s executive order will not mention any particular country and look at U.S. reliance on foreign suppliers overall.
“One of the vulnerabilities we are looking at is where we might be excessively dependent on competitors in Asia, obviously including China,” the senior administration official said.
The U.S. is dependent on China in a range of critical industries from pharmaceuticals to defense, in part because American firms rely on cheap Chinese exports.
“The corporate quest over the past 25 years to cut supplier costs, with insufficient concern for resilience, has saddled the nation with gaping strategic vulnerabilities in the supply chains for certain critical materials, medications and technology inputs,” said authors of a 2020 study by the Center for Energy Studies at Rice University and the U.S. Naval War College’s China Maritime Studies Institute.
Being dependent on an adversary is not a good spot to be in said Northeastern University’s Sanders. “Having said that, this policy really looks at a really broad picture in terms of U.S. production, manufacturing, economy," she added. "So, it's not just China.”

FILE - People look at semiconductors made by Tsinghua Unigroup on display at the China Beijing International High Tech Expo in Beijing, Sept. 19, 2020.

Rare Earth
China is reportedly looking into curbing exports of rare earth minerals that are crucial to U.S. defense contractors that manufacture military weaponry.
"The government wants to know if the U.S. may have trouble making F-35 fighter jets if China imposes an export ban," said a Chinese government adviser as reported by the Financial Times last week.
China is the world’s dominant producer of rare earths, a group of 17 minerals used in electric vehicles, consumer electronics and military equipment.
“While we call them rare earths as a share of the Earth's crust, they're not particularly rare,” said Miller pointing to a U.S. Geological Survey report of American states that have rare earth mineral deposits.
Pini Althaus, CEO of USA Rare Earth, a company developing a U.S.-based supply chain for the minerals, is lobbying the government to expand domestic mining and processing.
“There is already surging demand for lithium and EV battery materials, and U.S. manufacturers will need new sustainable supply to meet near term goals this decade,” Althaus said.
Rare earth minerals are processed using toxic chemicals and produce air emissions with harmful elements, such as fluorine and sulfur, and wastewater that contains excessive acid, and radioactive materials.
Despite the significant environmental concerns, Miller said the U.S. should look into expanding this sector, particularly if there is a national security need.
“There's activity in this space,” Miller said. “The question is ... what's [the federal government's] role in accelerating or stabilizing the market?”


Straight Talk Africa

Wed, 02/24/2021 - 19:30

International Edition

Wed, 02/24/2021 - 18:05

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Wed, 02/24/2021 - 18:00

VOA Newscasts

Wed, 02/24/2021 - 18:00

New Study Suggests Atlantic Ocean Circulation System Could Collapse

Wed, 02/24/2021 - 17:37

A study suggests a key environmental system that affects how water circulates in the Atlantic Ocean and effects the climate could be on the verge of collapse due to the rapid melting of glaciers and sea ice.

The study, published Tuesday in the scientific journal Proceedings of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) used a global ocean model to study the effects of melting ice on the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC), a large system of ocean currents that carry warm water from the tropics northward into the North Atlantic.  

The system includes the Gulf Stream, of the eastern U.S. coast, which carries warm tropical water north and helps moderate temperatures in much of Europe, considering its high latitude.  The current has been under intense scrutiny in recent years because cold, fresh water from melting Greenland glaciers has essentially been causing the current to slow down, though not stop completely.

Researchers from the University of Copenhagen - who conducted the study – said their model indicates the AMOC could reach a “tipping point” or, crucial threshold, sooner than earlier predicted because of the speed at which glacial ice is melting.  

In an interview, one of the study’s authors, Johannes Lohmann, said it has been predicted, based on previous climate models, the AMOC could reach its tipping point when a certain level of freshwater flowed into the North Atlantic from ice melt in Greenland. He said those models were based on a very slow melting of ice.

Lohmann said, “In reality, increases in meltwater from Greenland are accelerating and cannot be considered slow.” He said that faster rate could mean the circulation system could be reached much sooner than earlier predictions.

Lohmann and other researchers say the study’s findings are not conclusive and more study is needed. But he said the possibility of a rapid AMOC collapse should be a warning to policymakers.

He said, “Due to the potentially increased risk of abrupt climate change in parts of the Earth system that we show in our research, it is important that policymakers keep pushing for ambitious short- and mid-term climate targets to slow down the pace of climate change, especially in vulnerable places like the Arctic.”

Africa 54

Wed, 02/24/2021 - 17:30

On this edition of Africa 54, Niger’s ruling party candidate Mohamed Bazoum is declared the winner of the recent presidential election; Guinea started an Ebola vaccination campaign as authorities race to contain the first resurgence of the virus there since the world's worst outbreak in 2013 to 2016; The U.S. Senate confirms career diplomat Linda Thomas-Greenfield as the United States Permanent Representative to the United Nations.

A54 Technology: A54 Technology: COVID-19 is having a devastating impact on small businesses in Nigeria and young entrepreneurs are developing ways to help using new technology. Africa 54’s Technology correspondent Paul Ndiho, speaks to Vivienne Belonwu, a communications strategist, about the needs.

Sonny Side of Sports

Wed, 02/24/2021 - 17:30

Protests Over Rapper’s Jailing Test Spain’s Democratic Principles

Wed, 02/24/2021 - 17:20

Barcelona, Madrid and other cities in Spain have been shaken by protests over the imprisonment of rapper Pablo Hasél, who was sentenced to nine months in prison for glorifying terrorism and insulting the monarchy on Twitter and in his music.  In this story narrated by Jon Spier, Alfonso Beato reports from Barcelona.

Producer: Marcus Harton

Fruit-Shaking Tractor Shakes Trees in Valencia

Wed, 02/24/2021 - 17:16

Each year, in January and February, tractors roam the streets of Valencia, Spain, shaking trees and catching oranges in plastic nets. 

There are 12,000 trees across the city and between 350 and 400 tons of oranges are taken each year. 

These bitter oranges are not fit for human consumption and eventually will be composted. (REUTERS) 

Africa News Tonight

Wed, 02/24/2021 - 17:05

10 Killed in Suspected Boko Haram Attack in Nigeria 

Wed, 02/24/2021 - 17:01

Officials in Nigeria's Borno state say 10 people have died from explosions around the northeast city of Maiduguri. Residents in affected areas have fled their homes. Local officials suspect Islamist militant group Boko Haram was behind the blasts. 
There was relative calm on Wednesday and residents who fled their homes last night returned to the affected areas of Adam Kolo, Gwange, and Kaleri.  

FILE - Babagan Umara Zulum, governor of Nigeria's Borno state, is seen in Maroua, Feb. 20, 2021. (Moki Edwin Kindzeka/VOA)

The Borno state governor, Babagana Zulum, visited two hospitals in the morning and confirmed in a statement that 10 people were killed in the attack, including children who were playing in a field. He said 47 others were injured. 
No one has claimed responsibility, but Maiduguri resident Sani Adam blamed the blasts on the group Boko Haram.  

"The deaths was as a result of projectiles fired by Boko Haram which landed in three different locations," said Adam.

Maiduguri is the capital of Borno state, the epicenter of the Boko Haram insurgency. For years, the group has carried out bloody raids and suicide bombings here. The last one until Wednesday occurred one year ago. 

Governor Zulum said authorities are taking measures after the explosions. He said the military has repelled the insurgents. 

But Maiduguri resident Andy Rufi said he heard multiple explosions and was terrified. 
"When I came back from work, I started hearing the explosions which was close to my area. Later there was gunshots and multiple bomb blasts, more than ten,” he said.
The Borno state health ministry says it is taking care of all the injured people. 
An estimated 36,000 people have been killed since the Boko Haram insurgency started in 2009. Boko Haram has been fighting to create an Islamic state based in Nigeria.