Virgin Galactic Plans to Build Next Generation Supersonic Commercial Aircraft

Entrepreneur Richard Branson’s aerospace company, Virgin Galactic, announced Monday that it is working with British engine manufacturer Rolls-Royce to develop an aircraft that can travel three times the speed of sound.According to a release, Virgin Galactic says its new aircraft will be designed to carry between 9 and 19 people and will be able to “integrate into existing airport infrastructure.”  The company released images of designs of the aircraft, which is fashioned similarly to the Concorde supersonic aircraft, which Rolls-Royce also worked on in the 1960s.  Concorde was retired in 2003.Virgin Galactic said it completed its Mission Concept Review (MCR) and received authorization from the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) Center for Emerging Concepts and Innovation. The MCR describes a plane that can travel more than 3,700 kilometers per hour at altitudes higher than 18,000 meters, literally to the edge of space.Earlier this year, Virgin Galactic signed what it called “a space act” agreement with the U.S. space agency, NASA, to encourage commercial orbital space flight to the International space station, and to collaborate on high speed technology for lower orbit travel.  The company says it is also working on developing “sustainable” aviation fuel for the aircraft.

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EU to Investigate Google’s Proposed Fitbit Deal

European Union antitrust regulators announced Tuesday they’ll launch an investigation into Google’s plan to buy Fitbit.Google, a U.S. tech giant owned by Alphabet, is hoping to break into the wearable technology market, and hopes to buy Fitbit for $2.1 billion. Fitbit makes wearable watch-like fitness devices. A variety of groups advocating for privacy and consumer rights want to block the deal because of antitrust and privacy concerns.The EU and many other groups say they are concerned the deal will increase the amount of data to which Google has access, making it increasingly difficult for other companies to compete effectively in the online advertising space.The EU’s executive commission stated “the proposed transaction would further entrench Google’s market position in the online advertising markets by increasing the already vast amount of data that Google could use for personalization of the ads it serves and displays.”EU competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager added that the “investigation aims to ensure that control by Google over data collected through wearable devices as a result of the transaction does not distort competition.”Google’s senior vice president for devices and services, Rick Osterloh, countered that “this deal is about devices, not data,” and he added that “we’ve been clear from the beginning that we will not use Fitbit health and wellness data for Google ads.”The EU antitrust enforcer said this promise alone was not adequate.Fitbit was one of the first companies to market wearable fitness devices, which are used to monitor physical activities, heart rates, sleep patterns, and a variety of other factors. Fitbit has more than 28 million active users, and upwards of 100 million devices have been sold.  

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‘Generational Catastrophe’ Possible as Pandemic Creates Education Crisis

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres says with schools being forced to shut their doors because of the coronavirus pandemic, the world is facing a “generational catastrophe.” Guterres made the comments Tuesday during a video briefing to launch a new U.N. campaign dubbed In this file photo taken on Feb. 8, 2020, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres speaks during a press conference at the African Union headquarters.The head of the world body said that as of mid-July, more than 1 billion children in at least 160 countries are missing out on formal studies, while at least 40 million children have missed out on pre-school.  Guterres said disabled students, members of minority or disadvantaged communities, as well as refugees and displaced persons, are among those at highest risk of being left behind. The secretary-general noted the world was already in a “learning crisis” before the pandemic, with 250 million children worldwide out of school.  “Now we face a generational catastrophe that could waste untold human potential, undermine decades of progress, and exacerbate entrenched inequalities,”  he said.FILE – Fairfax County Public School buses are lined up at a maintenance facility in Lorton, Va., July 24, 2020.Guterres said getting students back in classrooms “must be a top priority” once the COVID-19 outbreak has been brought under control.  He also called for greater investment in education, with low- and middle-income countries facing an annual funding gap of $1.5 trillion prior to the pandemic, including investments in “digital literacy and infrastructure.” The U.N. chief also said education initiatives must be geared towards those at greatest risk of being left behind.  FILE – Students wear face masks as a preventive measure against the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus in their classroom at the Jean Benoit College in Yaoundé, Cameroon, on June 1, 2020.With the number of confirmed cases around the world, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center, now past 18.2 million — and the number of deaths nearing the 700,000 mark — the director of the World Health Organization has warned there may never be a “silver bullet” for stopping the spread of the coronavirus. WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom told reporters Monday that while a number of vaccines are now in late-stage trials, all countries and individuals should employ a  “do it all” strategy — listing testing, contact tracing, social distancing and wearing masks — as some of the necessary things that must continue to be done to stop the spread of the virus.      “A number of vaccines are now in phase three clinical trials and we all hope to have a number of effective vaccines that can help prevent people from infection. However, there’s no silver bullet at the moment and there might never be”-People line up to enter a supermarket hours before a citywide curfew is introduced in Melbourne, Australia, Aug. 2, 2020.Health officials reported 429 new infections and 13 deaths Monday in Victoria state, which includes Melbourne.  Victoria state Premier Daniel Andrews declared Melbourne a COVID-19 disaster on Sunday.     In addition to closing most stores, other industries such as construction and meat production will have to limit their operations starting Friday.   FILE – Police stop drivers at a checkpoint, set up in response to the state of Victoria’s surge in coronavirus disease cases and resulting suburb lockdowns, in Melbourne, Australia, July 2, 2020.Victoria state Premier Daniel Andrews said Tuesday that an additional 500 military personnel will be deployed to the state this week to help local authorities enforce the new stay-at-home orders, including a strict dusk-to-dawn curfew.  Andrews also said anyone caught violating the orders will face more than $3,500 in fines.  Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Monday that workers in Victoria who do not have paid sick leave and have to isolate themselves will be eligible to receive a payment of about $1,000.     Parents and students arrive in their vehicles for health screenings and temperature checks before moving into residence halls at West Virginia State University campus, July 31, 2020, in Institute, West Virginia.In the United States, which has about one-fourth of the world’s confirmed coronavirus cases, negotiations between the White House and congressional Democrats failed again on Monday to reach agreement on a new aid package that would include federal money to help the millions of people who are unemployed.      Many Americans have lost their jobs during the pandemic, due to lockdown restrictions and new consumer habits that have badly hurt the economy. A previous round of federal aid that provided $600 a week to the unemployed expired last week.      The talks come as the United States deals with an ongoing surge in cases that began in June and pushed leaders in some states to reinstate some of the restrictions they had lifted in hopes that economic activity could return without a resurgence of the virus.     President Donald Trump holds up a signed Executive Order on hiring American workers, during a meeting with U.S. tech workers, in the Cabinet Room of the White House, Aug. 3, 2020, in Washington.U.S. President Donald Trump told reporters Monday a “permanent lockdown” policy is not a “viable path forward” in combating the coronavirus pandemic. He noted that other countries have seen a resurgence in cases after lockdowns.  The president lashed out earlier Monday at Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House’s coronavirus response coordinator, who said the U.S. had entered a “new phase” of the pandemic during an interview the day before on the U.S. cable news network, CNN.  Trump said Dr. Birx’s comments  that the coronavirus is spreading uncontrollably were meant to appease House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who has criticized the administration’s handling of the crisis.  The president tweeted that Birx “took the bait” and called her “pathetic.”  So Crazy Nancy Pelosi said horrible things about Dr. Deborah Birx, going after her because she was too positive on the very good job we are doing on combatting the China Virus, including Vaccines & Therapeutics. In order to counter Nancy, Deborah took the bait & hit us. Pathetic!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) FILE – White House coronavirus response coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx listens as Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Dr. Anthony Fauci, left, speaks at the White House, April 29, 2020, in Washington.Fauci said Birx was referring to “community spread,” meaning the virus is spreading randomly instead of being concentrated in one spot.   “When you have community spread, it’s much more difficult to get your arms around that and contain it,”  Dr. Fauci said.    Richard Green, Megan Duzor, Chris Hannas    contributed to this report.     

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Voters Cast Primary Ballots in 5 US States

Five U.S. states are holding primary elections Tuesday, with a Republican battle for a Senate seat representing Kansas among the key races. A total of 11 candidates are competing for the chance to be on the November general election ballot as voters make their pick to fill the seat of retiring Republican Senator Pat Roberts. Roberts has endorsed Congressman Roger Marshall, who also has the backing of other Republican leaders. Former Kansas secretary of state Kris Kobach and plumbing company founder Bob Hamilton are the other top contenders. Kobach lost a 2018 bid to be the governor of Kansas. The last time a Republican candidate lost an election for a Senate seat representing Kansas was 1932. The Republican who wins Tuesday will likely be favored in November, but Democratic candidate Barbara Bollier has raised more money thus far than any of the Republicans and her party is pushing to regain a majority in the Senate. Heading into the November election day, Republicans hold a 53-47 Senate advantage, while Democrats have the majority in the House of Representatives. In the House, there is a Republican primary Tuesday for the 2nd congressional district in Kansas with incumbent Congressman Steve Watkins battling a challenge from State Treasurer Jake LaTurner. LaTurner has said felony illegal voting charges against Watkins, which Watkins denies, make him vulnerable to losing the seat to a Democrat in November. Watkins has campaigned as a staunch conservative who backs President Donald Trump. President Donald Trump talks with Republican candidate for Kansas’ 2nd Congressional District Steve Watkins during a campaign rally at Kansas Expocentre, Oct. 6, 2018 in Topeka, Kan.In the state of Michigan, focus Tuesday will be on the 13th congressional district where Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib is facing a Democratic primary challenge from Detroit City Council president Brenda Jones. Tlaib finished 900 votes ahead of Jones in a six-person race in the party’s 2018 primary.  This time it will just be those two candidates on the ballot. Republicans are also battling for the chance to fill the seats of two retiring congressmen representing Michigan districts. In the 3rd congressional district, five Republicans are competing for the seat currently held by Congressman Justin Amash, who left the Republican party a year ago. Three Republicans are on the ballot in the race for the party’s nomination in the 10th district, which is currently represented by retiring Republican Congressman Paul Mitchell. Voters in the state of Arizona are casting primary ballots to pick candidates for a special election to fill the remaining two years of the late Senator John McCain’s term. Republican Martha McSally was appointed to the seat in 2018 and is facing a challenge from businessman Daniel McCarthy.  In the Democratic race, former astronaut Mark Kelly is heavily favored over a write-in candidate. Voters are also casting primary ballots for House seats in Arizona, as well as Missouri and Washington. The general election is November 3, and winners will take office in January. 

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Should Mothers with COVID Breastfeed Their Babies?

The World Health Organization says mothers’ milk is best for babies and that even goes for mothers who are infected with the novel coronavirus.  As the world celebrates World Breastfeeding Week (August 1 to 7), health agencies are encouraging women to breastfeed their babies for a healthier planet.    Breastfeeding advocates are concerned that support services for new mothers are being interrupted because of COVID-19.  They say social distancing rules are making it more difficult for them to receive the support and encouragement to nurse their babies.   Lawrence Grummer-Strawn, head of a WHO unit focused on food and nutrition in healthcare systems, says WHO and U.N. Children’s Fund are calling for increased investment to ensure women breastfeed their babies.    “That is particularly important at this time because we have documented through modeling that about 820,000 children’s lives are lost every year because of the lack of breastfeeding.  And, economically, there are losses of about $300 billion per year in economic productivity lost because of the lack of breastfeeding,” he said.    Health agencies say breastfeeding protects children against diarrhea, the top killer in low-income countries.  It protects babies against respiratory infections, leukemia and childhood obesity.  It also protects mothers against breast and ovarian cancers and type-2 diabetes.   Grummer-Strawn tells VOA women sick with COVID-19 should not be afraid of breastfeeding their newborns.  He says their babies will be safe.  He adds mothers who breast feed their infants exclusively for six months will give them the best start in life.     “The reason for that is that the risks of transmission of the COVID-19 virus of a COVID-positive mother to her baby seem to be extremely low,” he said.  “We have never documented anywhere around the world any transmission through breast milk.  That does not mean that it could not be possible somewhere, but it would appear to be extremely rare.”   Grummer-Strawn says the WHO is very concerned about what he calls the underhanded practices of the baby formula industry.   He says companies bribe health care workers to encourage mothers to bottle-feed their babies and provide free samples to mothers to get them hooked on their product.     In the context of COVID-19, he says, many companies present themselves as experts that can provide mothers with advice and support in these difficult times.  He says doctors appearing on their websites offer advice about baby care in the time of COVID-19, which carry negative messages about breastfeeding.    

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UN Chief Warns of ‘Generational Catastrophe’ as COVID-19 Pandemic Creates Crisis in Education

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres says with schools being forced to shut their doors because of the coronavirus pandemic, the world is facing a “generational catastrophe.” Guterres made the comments Tuesday during a video briefing to launch a new U.N. campaign dubbed In this file photo taken on Feb. 8, 2020, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres speaks during a press conference at the African Union headquarters.The head of the world body said that as of mid-July, more than 1 billion children in at least 160 countries are missing out on formal studies, while at least 40 million children have missed out on pre-school.  Guterres said disabled students, members of minority or disadvantaged communities, as well as refugees and displaced persons, are among those at highest risk of being left behind. The secretary-general noted the world was already in a “learning crisis” before the pandemic, with 250 million children worldwide out of school.  “Now we face a generational catastrophe that could waste untold human potential, undermine decades of progress, and exacerbate entrenched inequalities,”  he said.FILE – Fairfax County Public School buses are lined up at a maintenance facility in Lorton, Va., July 24, 2020.Guterres said getting students back in classrooms “must be a top priority” once the COVID-19 outbreak has been brought under control.  He also called for greater investment in education, with low- and middle-income countries facing an annual funding gap of $1.5 trillion prior to the pandemic, including investments in “digital literacy and infrastructure.” The U.N. chief also said education initiatives must be geared towards those at greatest risk of being left behind.  FILE – Students wear face masks as a preventive measure against the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus in their classroom at the Jean Benoit College in Yaoundé, Cameroon, on June 1, 2020.With the number of confirmed cases around the world, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center, now past 18.2 million — and the number of deaths nearing the 700,000 mark — the director of the World Health Organization has warned there may never be a “silver bullet” for stopping the spread of the coronavirus. WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom told reporters Monday that while a number of vaccines are now in late-stage trials, all countries and individuals should employ a  “do it all” strategy — listing testing, contact tracing, social distancing and wearing masks — as some of the necessary things that must continue to be done to stop the spread of the virus.      “A number of vaccines are now in phase three clinical trials and we all hope to have a number of effective vaccines that can help prevent people from infection. However, there’s no silver bullet at the moment and there might never be”-People line up to enter a supermarket hours before a citywide curfew is introduced in Melbourne, Australia, Aug. 2, 2020.Health officials reported 429 new infections and 13 deaths Monday in Victoria state, which includes Melbourne.  Victoria state Premier Daniel Andrews declared Melbourne a COVID-19 disaster on Sunday.     In addition to closing most stores, other industries such as construction and meat production will have to limit their operations starting Friday.   FILE – Police stop drivers at a checkpoint, set up in response to the state of Victoria’s surge in coronavirus disease cases and resulting suburb lockdowns, in Melbourne, Australia, July 2, 2020.Victoria state Premier Daniel Andrews said Tuesday that an additional 500 military personnel will be deployed to the state this week to help local authorities enforce the new stay-at-home orders, including a strict dusk-to-dawn curfew.  Andrews also said anyone caught violating the orders will face more than $3,500 in fines.  Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Monday that workers in Victoria who do not have paid sick leave and have to isolate themselves will be eligible to receive a payment of about $1,000.     Parents and students arrive in their vehicles for health screenings and temperature checks before moving into residence halls at West Virginia State University campus, July 31, 2020, in Institute, West Virginia.In the United States, which has about one-fourth of the world’s confirmed coronavirus cases, negotiations between the White House and congressional Democrats failed again on Monday to reach agreement on a new aid package that would include federal money to help the millions of people who are unemployed.      Many Americans have lost their jobs during the pandemic, due to lockdown restrictions and new consumer habits that have badly hurt the economy. A previous round of federal aid that provided $600 a week to the unemployed expired last week.      The talks come as the United States deals with an ongoing surge in cases that began in June and pushed leaders in some states to reinstate some of the restrictions they had lifted in hopes that economic activity could return without a resurgence of the virus.     President Donald Trump holds up a signed Executive Order on hiring American workers, during a meeting with U.S. tech workers, in the Cabinet Room of the White House, Aug. 3, 2020, in Washington.U.S. President Donald Trump told reporters Monday a “permanent lockdown” policy is not a “viable path forward” in combating the coronavirus pandemic. He noted that other countries have seen a resurgence in cases after lockdowns.  The president lashed out earlier Monday at Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House’s coronavirus response coordinator, who said the U.S. had entered a “new phase” of the pandemic during an interview the day before on the U.S. cable news network, CNN.  Trump said Dr. Birx’s comments  that the coronavirus is spreading uncontrollably were meant to appease House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who has criticized the administration’s handling of the crisis.  The president tweeted that Birx “took the bait” and called her “pathetic.”  So Crazy Nancy Pelosi said horrible things about Dr. Deborah Birx, going after her because she was too positive on the very good job we are doing on combatting the China Virus, including Vaccines & Therapeutics. In order to counter Nancy, Deborah took the bait & hit us. Pathetic!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) FILE – White House coronavirus response coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx listens as Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Dr. Anthony Fauci, left, speaks at the White House, April 29, 2020, in Washington.Fauci said Birx was referring to “community spread,” meaning the virus is spreading randomly instead of being concentrated in one spot.   “When you have community spread, it’s much more difficult to get your arms around that and contain it,”  Dr. Fauci said.    Richard Green, Megan Duzor, Chris Hannas    contributed to this report.     

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