Posts tagged with "BBC"

Britain’s royal family gathers at Balmoral amid concerns for Queen’s health

September 9, 2022

Just after 12.30 p.m. (7:30 a.m. EDT) in London on Thursday, September 8, Buckingham Palace issued a statement that doctors were concerned about the health of the long-reigning monarch, Queen Elizabeth II, age 96, and were recommending that she remain under medical supervision.

Soon after that, the BBC reports, all of the Queen’s children either had arrived to be with her at Balmoral Castle in Scotland or were on their way.

Prince Charles, Camilla, and Princess Anne were already at Balmoral. Prince William, the Queen’s eldest grandson and second in line to the throne, was flying there; while his wife Kate, Duchess of Cambridge, remained in Windsor, where her children had commenced their first full day of school for the year.

Prince William’s brother, Prince Harry, and his wife, Meghan, had been in the UK in recent days for engagements. They immediately canceled plans so that Prince Harry could be at the Queen’s side.

On Tuesday, September 6, newly appointed UK Prime Minister Liz Truss had, herself, travelled to Balmoral to be appointed by the Queen, in a break with tradition, as the monarch would have normally seen her in London. But the Queen had suffered from mobility issues recently and so the meeting was moved to Balmoral.

At 7:39 a.m. London time, Truss tweeted: “The whole country will be deeply concerned by the news from Buckingham Palace this lunchtime. My thoughts—and the thoughts of people across our United Kingdom—are with Her Majesty The Queen and her family at this time.”

Research contact: @BBC

Editor’s note: The Queen died on September 9. Buckingham Palace announced in an official statement, “The Queen died peacefully at Balmoral this afternoon.” Following the announcement, a rare double rainbow appeared in the sky outside Buckingham Palace.

America bars ‘advanced tech’ firms from building factories in China for ten years

September 8, 2022

The Biden Administration has announced that all U.S. tech companies that receive federal funding will be barred from building “advanced technology” facilities in China for ten years, reports the BBC.

The guidelines were unveiled as part of a $50 billion plan aimed at building up the semiconductor industry. It comes as business groups have pushed for more government support in an effort to reduce reliance on China.

They are faced with a global microchip shortage, which has slowed production, the BBC notes.

“We’re going to be implementing the guardrails to ensure those who receive [Clearing House Interbank Payments System] (CHIPS) funds cannot compromise national security …. They’re not allowed to use this money to invest in China; they can’t develop leading-edge technologies in China … for a period of ten years,” according to U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, who discussed the conditions of the U.S. CHIPS and Science Act—signed into law by President Joe Biden on August 9.

She added, “Companies who receive the money can only expand their mature node factories in China to serve the Chinese market.”

The new law commits $280 billion to high-tech manufacturing and scientific research, amid fears that America is losing its technological edge to China.

The investments include tax breaks for companies that build computer chip manufacturing plants in the USA.

America currently produces roughly 10% of the global supply of semiconductors, which are key to everything from cars to mobile phones—down from nearly 40% in 1990.

The Chinese Embassy in Washington had opposed the semiconductor bill, calling it reminiscent of a “Cold War mentality.”

Some U.S. chipmakers already are experiencing the impact of Washington’s crackdown on selling American technology to China. Earlier this month, Nvidia and AMD were told by U.S. officials to stop the sale of artificial intelligence chips to China.

Dan Ives of Wedbush Securities called the restrictions a “gut punch” for Nvidia.

“This is really a shot across the bow at China and it’s really going to fan those flames in terms of geopolitical (tensions),” Ives had told the BBC.

Research contact: @BBC

Pelosi visit to Taiwan is expected by both Taiwanese and U.S. officials

August 2, 2022

U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is expected to visit Taiwan  as part of her tour of Asia, according to a senior Taiwanese government official and a U.S. official—despite warnings from Biden Administration officials, who are worried about China’s response to such a high-profile visit, reports CNN.

China considers  Taiwan  to be a breakaway province destined for reunification, and strongly objects to all acts that appear to support  Taiwan  as an independent sovereign state, according to the BBC. Already, the People’s Republic has threatened to shoot down Pelosi’s plane, should it navigate into the Taiwan area.

The stop in Taiwan—the first for a U.S. House speaker in 25 years—is not currently on Pelosi’s public itinerary and comes at a time when U.S.-China relations are already at a low point.

The Taiwanese official added that she is expected to stay in Taiwan overnight. It is unclear when exactly Pelosi will land in Taipei.

The U.S. official added that U.S. Defense Department officials are working around the clock on monitoring any Chinese movements in the region and securing a plan to keep her safe.

During a regular foreign ministry briefing Monday, China warned against the “egregious political impact” of Pelosi’s planned visit to the self-governing island that China claims as a part of its territory and reiterated that its military “won’t sit by idly” if Beijing feels its “sovereignty and territorial integrity” is being threatened.

“We would like to tell the U.S. once again that China is standing by, and the Chinese People’s Liberation Army will never sit idly by. China will take resolute responses and strong countermeasures to defend its sovereignty and territorial integrity,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told reporters, adding, “As for what measures, if she dares to go, then let’s wait and see,” Zhao added.

National Security Council coordinator for Strategic Communications John Kirby said on Monday that the Biden Administration will support Pelosi on a trip to Taiwan.

“We want to make sure that when she travels overseas, she can do so safely and securely and we’re going to make sure of that.”

Asked if the United States was prepared for fallout with China over the visit, Kirby said, “… there is no change to our policy. No change to our focus on trying to keep a free and safe and open Indo-Pacific.”

What’s more, he stated, “There is no reason for the Chinese rhetoric. There is no reason for any actions to be taken. It is not uncommon for congressional leaders to travel to Taiwan,” Kirby told CNN’s Brianna Keilar on “New Day.”

“We shouldn’t be as a country—we shouldn’t be intimidated by that rhetoric or those potential actions. This is an important trip for the speaker to be on and we’re going to do whatever we can to support her.”

The issue of Taiwan remains one of the most contentious. President Joe Biden and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping discussed it at length in a two-hour-and-17-minute phone call on Thursday, as tensions mounted between Washington and Beijing.

While Biden has said publicly the US military did not believe it was a good time Pelosi to visit Taiwan, he has stopped short of telling her directly not to go, according to two sources.

Research contact: @CNN

Netflix plans real-life Squid Game reality TV show with $4.56 million prize, no deaths

June 16, 2022

Netflix is recruiting participants for a reality TV show inspired by its most popular series of all time, Squid Game—which was streamed by 111 million users during the first 28 days of its launch—reports the BBC.

However, it will not be life or death that is at stake, as depicted in the South Korean dystopian drama. Instead, 456 recruits from around the world will play games for which “the worst fate is going home empty-handed”— missing out on a $4.56 million (£3.8m) prize.

Netflix also confirmed that the popular series would be renewed for a second season earlier this week.

On Wednesday, June 15, the platform announced that its new ten-episode series—Squid Game: The Challenge—would offer the “largest cast and lump cash prize in reality TV history”.

“As [players] compete through a series of games inspired by the original show—plus surprising new additions—their strategies, alliances, and character will be put to the test while competitors are eliminated around them,” the release added.

Participants must be at least 21 years old. They must speak English  and be available for up to four weeks in early 2023 for filming.

The 456 participants are a nod to the fictional series, which features the same number of players, with its main protagonist Seong Gi-hun also referred to as Player 456.

Director, writer, and executive producer of Squid Game Hwang Dong-hyuk said in a statement on Monday, June 13: “It took 12 years to bring the first season of Squid Game to life last year. But it took 12 days for Squid Game to become the most popular Netflix series ever.”

Research contact: @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