July 19 - 26 Weekly News


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   July 26, 2021


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Naomi Osaka lights flame to open Tokyo Olympics 

Tennis superstar Naomi Osaka lit the 2020 Tokyo Olympics flame. The Games officially started, albeit a year late. A possible fifth wave of Covid-19 has put in doubt whether or not they would go ahead. The pandemic has greatly affected the event. There are no fans and several athletes have withdrawn after testing positive. Japan hopes the Games will showcase its culture to the world. The Opening Ceremony ended at midnight with a spectacular fireworks show.

Only 950 people attended the opening ceremony, in a venue with a capacity of 68,000. Japan's Emperor Naruhito declared the Games officially open. The IOC president said it is different from what we had imagined, but we should "cherish this moment because finally we are all here together". He called the Games "a moment of hope". Naomi Osaka said lighting the flame was: "The greatest athletic achievement and honour I will ever have in my life."


Woodland gives city kids better mental health  

Woodland in cities gives children better mental health. Researchers say children who visit and experience the great outdoors every day also have better thinking skills. Researchers from University College London looked at how woodland benefits city children. They said their research helped their understanding "of the natural environment as an important protective factor for [a child's] cognitive development and mental health". They added that seeing and hearing the sounds of nature provides psychological benefits for children, especially those in cities.

In their four-year study, researchers studied 3,568 children at 31 schools in London. They looked at how the natural environment affected thinking skills and mental health. They calculated how woodland, parks, and "blue space" like rivers, lakes and the sea, affected children's health. The children took memory-based tests. Those who visited woodland every day scored higher on the tests and had a 17 per cent lower risk of behavioural problems. A researcher said all children should experience "forest bathing". This is enjoying "the sights, sounds and smells of a forest".


Germany's Merkel warns floods highlight climate dangers 

Germany's Angela Merkel is worried about climate change after the flooding in Europe. She is horrified by the damage across large parts of the continent. She visited hard-hit areas in Germany and listened to local residents. She said: "It's shocking. I can pretty much say that the German language does not have words to describe the destruction." Ms Merkel said: "We have to be faster in the fight against climate change."

Torrential rain caused many rivers to burst their banks. This caused flash floods that washed away houses, roads and bridges across Germany, Belgium and other countries. The death toll is now 190 and many people are missing. Towns are covered in debris and are unrecognisable. Ms Merkel said it was "surreal". The clean-up operation will take years. A politician questioned Germany's preparedness for floods and the effectiveness of flood defences.


U.K. considers tax on sugary and salty snacks  

The UK government wants to help people eat more healthily. It asked a food expert to come up with some ideas. The expert, Henry Dimbleby, created the National Food Strategy and presented it to the government. The strategy has two main ideas. One is a tax on food with salt and sugar. The media called this a "snack tax". The second one is to give poorer people free vegetables. Mr Dimbleby warned that what we eat, and how it is produced, is doing "terrible damage" to the environment and our health. Poor diet leads to many deaths and puts a lot of pressure on hospitals.

The UK's Prime Minister Boris Johnson is not happy with the strategy. He does not like the idea of "extra taxes on hard-working people". He said the strategy could increase the price of snack food by up to 13 per cent. He added that the best way to tackle obesity was for people to exercise and eat less junk food. Mr Dimbleby said: "With the right leadership from government, it is well within our power to change the system so it makes both us and the planet healthier." He added that the country had to build a better food system "for our children and grandchildren".


Scientists Identify Moon-Forming Disk Around Planet Outside Solar System

Scientists say they have clearly identified for the first time a moon-forming area around a planet beyond our solar system. The ring-shaped area surrounds an exoplanet called PDS 70c. An exoplanet is a planet that orbits a star outside our solar system. The identified region is known as a circumplanetary disk. This is an area surrounding a planet where moons and other satellite objects can form. The disk is made up of gas and dust. Researchers from the ALMA observatory, which operates from Chile’s Atacama desert, made the discovery. ALMA is the largest radio telescope in the world.

Astronomers had previously found signs of moon-forming disks around this exoplanet and others. They say, however, that in the past they were not able to clearly differentiate the disk from the surrounding environment. The team says the new finding may help scientists better understand how moons and planets form in young star systems. The results were recently published in a study in The Astrophysical Journal Letters. Myriam Benisty is a researcher who helped lead the study for the University of Grenoble in France and the University of Chile. “Our work presents a clear detection of a disk in which satellites could be forming,” she said in a statement. 


Sailors Stuck at Sea, Supply Threatened During Pandemic

Captain Tejinder Singh has not set foot on dry land in more than seven months. He is not sure when he will go home. Singh is among tens of thousands of ship workers stuck at sea as the coronavirus spreads on land. He said sailors like him are not valued. He added, "We are forgotten...” Singh and most of his 20-person crew have traveled from India to the United States then on to China. He spoke to the Reuters news service from the Pacific Ocean as his ship now heads to Australia.

They are among about 100,000 ship workers stuck at sea, says the International Chamber of Shipping, or ICS. Many sailors have been on their boats much longer than their usual 3 to 9 month work periods. Another 100,000 workers are stuck on land and unable to work and earn a living. The Delta variant of the coronavirus is spreading very quickly in parts of Asia— home to many of the world’s 1.7 million ship workers. That has led many countries to restrict land access to visiting workers. Some workers have even been barred from medical treatment. The ICS estimates that just 2.5 percent of ship workers have been vaccinated.


Renewed Attention on Historically Black Colleges, Universities

Hannah-Jones is the Pulitzer Prize-winning writer who created The New York Times’ 1619 Project. She was recently offered a job at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, UNC. The school is one of the top national universities. The offer came without tenure, a lifetime appointment for a professor. The decision brought criticism and protests. In early July, UNC leaders changed their minds and voted to award tenure to Hannah-Jones. But instead, she accepted a teaching position at Howard University, an HBCU in Washington, D.C.

On the same day, Howard also announced the appointment of best-selling writer Ta-Nehisi Coates. Coates wrote about his experience as a young Black man growing up in Baltimore, Maryland. His 2015 book Between the World and Me won a National Book Award. Howard is one of more than 100 Historically Black Colleges and Universities recognized by the U.S. Department of Education. HBCUs started as a place to educate African-Americans as they continued to be barred from most universities after the Civil War.


10,000 Amazon Plants, Animals Could Disappear Forever, Scientists Say

A new report says that more than 10,000 kinds of living things could disappear forever because of the Amazon rainforest’s destruction. The rainforest surrounding South America’s Amazon River is the world’s largest. The report said 35 percent of the rainforest has been destroyed or damaged. The report is by the Science Panel for the Amazon. The project brought together 200 international scientists through the United Nations Sustainable Development Network. It is a detailed study of the Amazon rainforest and its importance to the world’s climate.

Reducing deforestation and forest destruction to zero in less than 10 years "is critical," the report said. The scientists also called for replanting trees that were destroyed. The rainforest stores large amounts of carbon and is extremely important in fighting climate change. The report said that the plants and soil of the Amazon hold 200 billion metric tons of carbon. That is 400 percent of the world's yearly carbon dioxide emissions. The continued destruction of the Amazon rainforest also threatens more than 8,000 plants and 2,300 animals, the report added.


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