Posts tagged with "BBC"

Putin ominously warns Sweden of Russian ‘response’ if it joins NATO alongside Finland

May 17, 2022

Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson said on Monday, May 16, that her nation will formally apply to join NATO; in unity with Finland, which had stated its intentions the day before.

Her announcement came shortly after Russian President Vladimir Putin warned that there will be consequences that “could be nuclear” if both countries join forces with the North Atlantic alliance, reports Forbes.

Andersson confirmed Sweden’s NATO bid a day after Finnish President Sauli Niinisto  announced  his country’s intention to join the alliance.

Speaking at a meeting in Moscow earlier Monday with several Kremlin-aligned leaders, Putin said Sweden and Finland joining NATO would “certainly provoke our response” according to Reuters’ translation  of his comments.

According to Forbes, Finland and Sweden’s NATO bids break a long history of neutrality for the Nordic countries in a move that would add a significant land border between Russia and the military alliance—and represent a major fallout from Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine, which Putin said was due to NATO’s increasing eastern presence.

Putin did not specify on Monday what Russia may do, should its Nordic neighbors join NATO, saying Russia “will see what threats are created for us,” according to Reuters.

Although Putin didn’t say Monday, the Kremlin has previously suggested it may respond to Finland and Sweden’s NATO potential accession with nuclear weapons.

Last month, Dmitry Medvedev, Russia’s former president and the deputy chairman of Russia’s Security Council, said Russia may deploy nuclear weapons in the Baltic Sea, should Finland and Sweden join NATO—and a presenter on the state-run Russia-1 television station said on May 15 that Russia will have “no choice” but to deploy nuclear weapons to “neutralize” the threat, according to the BBC’s translation.

Putin said Monday he has “no problem” with Finland and Sweden and that the two joining NATO doesn’t pose a “direct threat” to Russia, The New York Times reported.

Putin’s statement strays from the Kremlin’s prior comments about the countries’ NATO bids, as the Russian Foreign Ministry said last week that the move would threaten to upend the “stability and security” of Northern Europe, indicating the Russian government is on its back foot following the historic applications from Finland and Sweden.

Research contact: @Forbes

America faces baby formula ‘crisis’ as shortage worsens

May 11, 2022

Major U.S. pharmacies recently have restricted sales of baby formula in response to a spiralling shortage of the special milk. CVS and Walgreens are among the big pharmacy chains to have imposed limits on how many cans of baby formula customers can buy at a time, reports the BBC.

The shortages intensified after Abbott— which makes top brand Similac—shut a key factory and issued a recall in February after finding contamination in its supply.

Pressure is building on the Biden Administration to respond to the issue. Republicans—among them, Senator Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas)—have called it a “national crisis” that the White House must address.

Democratic Representative Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut said she was concerned that the Food and Drug Administration , which regulates formula makers, had responded “far too slowly” to the issue; and to the reports of problems at the Abbott factory in Michigan, which remains closed.

Abbott—the main supplier of baby formula to many of the state government programs for low-income women and children—said it was working with regulators to get the plant re-opened.

The company has been sending extra shipments from a plant in Ireland to try to address the problem—expecting shipments from the country to double this year, it added.

“We know that our recent recall caused additional stress and anxiety in an already challenging situation of a global supply shortage,” the company said in a recent statement.

“We are working hard to help moms, dads and caregivers get the high-quality nutrition they need for their babies.”

As of 24 April, the average out-of-stock rate across the country had jumped to 40%, up from just 30% a few weeks earlier—and 11% in November, according to Datasembly. There were 26 states with out-of-stock rates higher than 40%—compared to just seven states three weeks earlier, it said.

Due to increased demand and various supplier challenges, infant and toddler formulas are seeing constraint across the country,” the major pharmacy chain Walgreens said in a statement, adding, “We continue to work diligently with our supplier partners to best meet customer demands.”

Walgreens has limited families to buying three cans at a time—similar to other retailers. A 12.4 ounce can of formula typically lasts for about 15 bottles—or just a few days’ worth of supply.

Companies that produce items like baby formula—for which demand is typically steady over time—have trouble catching up when there is disruption, said Rudi Leuschner, director of the Masters in Supply Chain Management program at Rutgers Business School.

And as parents rush to buy as stories of empty shelves spread, that only makes the problem worse, he warned. “It’s not a situation where you can just snap out of it,” he said. “It was designed to run at one speed.”

While this year’s formula shortage may expose the fragility of the supply chain, it may not be enough to make a business case for backup inventories, Professor Leuschner added.

Overall, birth rates are falling, reaching the lowest point on record in the United States in 2020. Studies also have found that consumption of infant formula has been declining in favor of breast milk.

Research contact: @BBC

Netflix cancels Meghan Markle’s animated series, ‘Pearl’

May 4, 2022

Netflix has cancelled development of “Pearl,” an animated series created by Meghan Markle, in its move to cut costs. The show, which was announced last year, is one of several projects being dropped by the streaming giant, reports the BBC.

Last month, Netflix revealed a sharp fall in subscribers and warned millions more are set to quit the service. That wiped over US$50 billion off the company’s market value as experts warned it faced a struggle to get back on track.

Archewell Productions, the company formed by the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, announced last year that Meghan would be an executive producer of Pearl. The series was planning to center on the adventures of a 12-year-old girl, who is inspired by influential women from history.

Netflix did, however, confirm that it will continue to work on a number of projects with Archewell Productions, including a documentary series called Heart of Invictus. The series will focus on athletes competing in the Invictus Games for injured veterans, an event founded by Prince Harry, in The Hague in 2022.

Archewell Productions did not immediately respond to a BBC request for comment.

Research contact: @BBC

Want to be happy? Stop trying so hard!

April 29, 2022

All humans want to realize satisfaction and enjoyment in their lives, but is the avid pursuit of happiness actually creating a society of sad, selfish, and solitary creatures?

In his book, Happiness By Design (Avery, August 2014), Paul Dolan of the London School of Economics has made a case for two types of happiness—the first, derived from feelings of purpose (or meaning and fulfilment); the second, from  feelings of pleasure (such as joy and excitement).

However, he warns that when we consciously seek joy, we run up against two major roadblocks, reports the BBC’s Science Focus magazine. The first is that the pure pursuit of happiness can make us narcissistic and selfish. The second is that, paradoxically, focusing on happiness can end up making us miserable.

What this means, Dolan believes, is that we should not be pursuing happiness directly. Instead, he says, we should focus outside ourselves. When happiness is defined by feelings of both pleasure and purpose, it becomes easy to see why helping others engenders joy. We get a warm glow from helping other people, which comes in large part from the purpose we feel when we do so. Charitable giving and volunteering have both been shown to make people happier. Doing good is entirely consistent with feeling good.

This definition of happiness also explains why being productive at work, or learning a new skill, feels good—not only because it is fun, but because it feels fulfilling.

Thus, we should each seek to find the right balance between pleasure and purpose—both in our actions and from the people we spend time with.

For example, getting totally lost in the zone when you work and achieving a state of flow is less likely to occur if you pay attention to how it is making you feel. Concentrating on the feelings merely takes you out of that immersion in the activity. You will be happier when you are not constantly being distracted by thoughts of whether you are, in fact, happy.

So, we do need to spend some time working out what brings us pleasure and purpose and the right balance between them. But once we have conducted that audit, we need to pay attention to the activities themselves rather than to how those activities make us feel.

We might also worry about becoming so obsessed with being happy in itself that we forget to enjoy how things feel along the way. But if you pay attention to the activities that make you feel good, you will be happier without even having to think about it. And who wouldn’t want that?

Research contact: @sciencefocus

Luxury cars up in smoke after ship catches fire

February 21, 2022

Thousands of Porsches and Volkswagens have been abandoned, after the cargo ship carrying the vehicles caught fire in the Atlantic Ocean en route to the United States, reports the BBC.

The ship, named Felicity Ace, was travelling from Emden in Germany before it caught ablaze off the coast of Portugal’s Azores islands.

German newspaper Handelsblatt reported that the vessel was carrying 3,965 vehicles, which also included Audis, Lamborghinis and a small number of Bentleys.

The ship’s crew have been rescued. Portugal’s Navy said no one was hurt by the fire, which broke out on Wednesday, February 16.  The 22 crew members were taken to a hotel after the Navy, four merchant ships sailing in the area, and the Portuguese Air Force completed the evacuation.

“The owner of the ship Felicity Ace is in contact with the logistic agent in order to draw up a plan for the towing of the ship,” the Navy said in a statement.

“So far, no source of pollution has been recorded.”

Volkswagen did not confirm the number of cars on board, but Porsche said it had about 1,100 of its models on the ship. The company said it was “aware of an incident involving a third-party cargo ship transporting Volkswagen Group vehicles across the Atlantic.”

Bentley confirmed that 189 of its cars also were onboard the ship.”We are working with the shipping company to find out further information,” said a spokesperson.

The ship was travelling to a Volkswagen factory in Davisville, Rhode Island, according to the website Marine Traffic.

Research contact: @BBC

Spell check: Souvenirs commemorate Queen’s Elizabeth’s reign with ‘Platinum Jubbly’ misprint

February 3, 2022

On February 6, Queen Elizabeth II will become the first British monarch in history to celebrate a Platinum Jubilee. Seven decades have passed since she acceded to the throne at the age of 25 following the death of her father, George VI.

However, a spelling mistake on thousands of pieces of Platinum Jubilee merchandising—calling it the “Platinum Jubbly”—is proving a challenge for souvenir sellers, reports the BBC.

Not fazed in the least, Wholesale Clearance website boss Karl Baxter told the BBC that he plans to pitch them as “collectors’ items.”

“What could be more unique than our limited-edition misprinted crockery?” he said, adding, “This could be your chance to get your hands on a novelty souvenir for a fraction of the price.”

He claims to be offering a 90% discount, noting, “There’s a market for everything.”

The Platinum Jubilee will be marked with a four-day holiday in June, featuring concerts, parties, pageants— and maybe some Jubilee bubbly.

Research contact: @BBC

TikTok ousts Google to become world’s favorite online destination

December 29, 2021

Move over Google; TikTok now is the world’s most popular online destination. The viral video app gets more hits than the American search engine, according to Cloudflare, a U.S.-based IT security company.

The rankings show that TikTok knocked Google off the top spot in February, March, and June of this year, and has held the number one position since August, reports the BBC.

Last year Google was first, and a number of sites—among them, TikTok, Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Microsoft, and Netflix—were in the top ten.

Cloudfare said it tracks data using its tool Cloudflare Radar, which monitors web traffic. The company surmises that one of the reasons for the surge in Tiktok’s popularity is the ongoing worldwide COVID pandemic—as lockdowns meant people were stuck at home and looking for entertainment.

By July this year, TikTok had been downloaded more than three billion times, according to data company San Francisco-based Sensor Tower.

The social network, which is owned by a Chinese company called Bytedance, headquartered in Beijing, now has more than one billion active users across the world, and that number continues to grow.

In China, to comply with the country’s censorship rules, the app is called Douyin, and runs on a different network. Douyin originally was released in September 2016. This year, China ruled that users under the age of 14 would be limited to 40 minutes a day on the platform.

Research contact: @BBC

Biden nominates Jerome Powell to remain U.S. Federal Reserve chair

November 23, 2021

Jerome Powell has been nominated by President Joe Biden to serve a second term as chair of the U.S. Federal Reserve, reports the BBC.

Powell is set to stay in the role, which includes managing inflation and regulating the financial system, for another four years. He initially was appointed by former President Donald Trump and started his first term in 2018.

The 68-year-old Republican has been praised for his management of the economy during the pandemic. The other front-running candidate, Lael Brainard—a current member of the Fed’s Board of Governors—was favored by progressives on the left of the Democratic Party; who, the BBC says, have criticized Powell for not doing enough to tackle climate change and poverty and say he has weakened regulation of financial institutions.

Brainard—who , prior to her appointment to the board in 2014, served as an under secretary of the U.S. Department of the Treasury from 2010 through 2013—has been nominated as vice chair.

Announcing the nominations, Biden said: “While there’s still more to be done, we’ve made remarkable progress over the last ten months in getting Americans back to work and getting our economy moving again.

“That success is a testament to the economic agenda I’ve pursued and to the decisive action that the Federal Reserve has taken under Chair Powell and Dr Brainard to help steer us through the worst downturn in modern American history and put us on the path to recovery.”

The nominations need to be confirmed in the Senate, before Powell and Brainard take up their posts in February 2022.

Research contact: @BBC

Australian farmer herds sheep to form a heart in honor of his late aunt

August 30, 2021

Recently, an Australian farmer herded his sheep into a huge,” heartfelt” valentine shape—photographed from above by a drone—in order to pay tribute to his aunt after she died, People magazine reports.

Indeed, Ben Jackson recently lost his aunt Debby, according to the BBC—but he was prevented from attending her funeral by COVID-19 restrictions Down Under. Jackson was 400km (248 miles) away in New South Wales when his Aunt Debby lost her two-year cancer battle in Queensland—and regulations forbade him from travelling to Brisbane to be present at her last rites.

So, in an effort to participate and show his love, Jackson posted a video on social media on Tuesday, August 24. In it a drone captures the moment when hundreds of his sheep are released into a pasture to form a huge heart by following a trail of grain laid out for them.

Jackson told the BBC it took a few attempts to form the heart and that he got the exact pattern down after a “bit of guesswork.” 

“There was no way I could get up there and see her, say cheerio, or go to the funeral,” he told the outlet, “So I felt hopeless, helpless—I didn’t really know what to do. But because I was doing a bit of feeding already, I just decided to do a massive heart in the ground, which in all earnest, pales in comparison to hers.”

The farmer’s family received the video ahead of Aunt Debby’s funeral and played the sweet clip at the service while Jackson watched on through a live stream.

Jackson told BBC he had done other “sheep artworks” in the past and his aunt, an “incredibly giving” woman, was a fan of the animals’ designs. The video of Jackson’s tribute to his aunt has gone viral since the clip appeared on Twitter.

“She would be proud as punch to see so many people smiling and enjoying the heart I’ve made for her,” he said. “It’s just love. Love’s sensational.”

In an interview with the Associated Press, Jackson shared that he started experimenting with shapes and spelling out his favorite bands’ names by leaving trails of feed for his sheep amid Australia’s drought last year.

“It certainly lifted my spirits back in the drought,” he told the outlet.

Speaking about the reaction people have had on social media to the sheep shape, the farmer said, “This heart that I’ve done for my auntie, it certainly seems like it’s had a bit of an effect across Australia. Maybe we all just need to give ourselves a big virtual hug.”

Research contact: @people

Sicker than a dog: Bearded men carry more germs than their ‘best friends’

May 22, 2019

Based on results of a survey performed in 2016 among a cohort of over 8,500 women by researchers in Australia, the fair sex prefers men who exhibit pronounced male secondary sexual traits, such as facial hair. Indeed, a light stubble was judged the most attractive overall; and full beards were deemed the sexiest by women looking for long-term relationships.

But, although facial hair increases the appearance of masculinity and social dominance—and may help a guy to attract a mate—it actually may not be healthy for either partner!

In fact, a more recent study out of Switzerland suggests that bearded men actually carry more germs than a dog’s fur, The Huffington Post reports.

Researchers at the Hirslanden Clinic near Zurich, Switzerland, wanted to determine whether evaluating humans and dogs in the same MRI scanner would be hygienic.

They did so by comparing the bacterial load in colony-forming units (CFU) of human-pathogenic microorganisms in specimens taken from 18 bearded men and 30 furry dogs.

The researchers also compared the extent of bacterial contamination of an MRI scanner used by both dogs and humans with two other MRI scanners used exclusively by humans.

What did they find? It turns out all the bearded bros showed high microbial counts, The Huffington Post reports, compared with only 23 out of 30 dogs. In fact, seven of the men had so much beard bacteria they were at risk of getting sick, according to the BBC.

The jointly used scanner also had significantly lower bacteria counts than the scanners used only by humans.

“On the basis of these findings, dogs can be considered as clean, compared with bearded men,” study author Andreas Gutzeit told the BBC.

The study was published in February in Eur Radiol.

Research contact: andreas.gutzeit@hirslanden.ch