New Satellite Monitors Rapidly Changing Earth

A newly launched satellite gives researchers near-real-time clues about climate conditions on Earth. Plus, a look at this week’s spaceflight history, and a slightly more affordable way to experience weightlessness. VOA’s Arash Arabasadi brings us The Week in Space.

Ivory Coast Enlists New Tool Against Counterfeit Medicines

In Ivory Coast, there’s a new tool in the fight against counterfeit pharmaceuticals. A start-up company now helps pharmacies digitally trace the sale of drugs to their customers. Yassin Ciyow has more in this report narrated by Lionel Gahima.

US Jobless Benefit Claims Edge Higher Again

First-time claims for U.S. unemployment compensation edged higher again last week, the Labor Department reported Thursday, as the delta variant of the coronavirus continues to play havoc with the world’s largest economy.

A total of 362,000 jobless workers filed for assistance, up 11,000 from the revised figure of the week before, the third straight week the figure moved higher. The increase last week was at odds with projections of economists, who had predicted a declining number.

Still, the claims figures for the last month have been on the whole the lowest since the pandemic swept through the U.S. in March 2020, although they remain well above the 218,000 average in 2019.

The increase in unemployment compensation claims comes as the U.S. government in early September ended extra $300-a-week payments to jobless workers on top of often less generous state benefits.

The jobless claims total has fallen steadily but unevenly since topping 900,000 in early January. Filings for unemployment compensation have often been seen as a current reading of the country’s economic health, but other statistics are also relevant barometers.

Even as the U.S. said last month that its world-leading economy grew by an annualized rate of 6.6% in the April-to-June period, in August it only added a disappointing 235,000 jobs, a figure economists said was partly reflective of the surging delta variant of the coronavirus inhibiting job growth. The September jobs figure is due out in a week.

The August total was down sharply from the more than 2 million combined figure added in June and July. The unemployment rate dipped to 5.2%, which is still nearly two percentage points higher than before the pandemic started in March 2020.

About 8.7 million workers remain unemployed in the U.S. There are nearly 11 million available jobs in the country, but the skills of the available workers often do not match what employers want, or the job openings are not where the unemployed live.

The size of the U.S. economy – nearly $23 trillion – now exceeds its pre-pandemic level as it recovers faster than many economists had predicted during the worst of the business closings more than a year ago. Policy makers at the Federal Reserve, the country’s central bank, have signaled that in November they could start reversing the bank’s pandemic stimulus programs and next year could begin to increase its benchmark interest rate.

How fast the U.S. economic growth continues is unclear, with the delta variant of the coronavirus posing a threat to the recovery. In recent weeks, about 120,000 or more new cases have been identified each day in the U.S. and on some days more than 2,000 people have been dying from COVID-19.  

Political disputes have erupted in numerous states between conservative Republican governors who have resisted imposing mandatory face mask and vaccination rules in their states at schools and businesses, although some education and municipal leaders are advocating tougher rules to try to prevent the spread of the delta variant.

U.S. President Joe Biden has ordered workers at companies with 100 or more employees to get vaccinated or be tested weekly for the coronavirus. In addition, he is requiring 2.5 million national government workers and contractors who work for the government to get vaccinated if they haven’t already been inoculated.

Many companies imposed their own vaccination mandates before Biden acted and are now starting to fire workers who have balked at getting vaccinated.

Nearly 67% of U.S. adults have now been fully vaccinated against the coronavirus, and overall, 55.5% of the U.S. population of 332 million, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.


New Holographic Technology Provides Transportive Experience

A company in suburban Washington, D.C., is using cutting-edge technology to create lifelike video avatars to drop into music and training videos, games and other immersive environments. It’s an entry point to the so-called metaverse, as VOA’s Arzouma Kompaoré discovered while touring Avatar Dimension’s new studio.

Australian State Blames Illegal Parties For COVID-19 Surge

COVID-19 infections have hit a new record in the Australian state of Victoria. Authorities blame rule-breakers for the latest surge in cases.

More than 1,400 new daily locally acquired cases of COVID-19 were reported in Victoria Thursday. Five more people have died.

The numbers have soared despite some of Australia’s strictest stay-at-home orders. Melbourne, the Victorian state capital, has become the third-most locked-down city in the world according to the city’s mayor. Residents have endured more than 235 days of lockdown since the pandemic began. Household visits are banned.

Victorian authorities have said illegal gatherings and house parties over a public holiday long weekend the last weekend in September were behind the sharp rise in COVID-19 infections in the state. Officials also said many people had ignored lockdown directives to be with friends and family to watch the Australian Rules Football grand final on television, one of the country’s most popular sporting events.

Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews said when rules are broken, infections increase.

“They go up faster, of course, if people do not follow the rules,” he said. “They go up faster if people are out visiting each other in their homes. That is not a sense of blame. If people continue to visit each other in their homes, they will bring the virus with them, they will spread the virus. Many of these cases were completely avoidable.”

A recently discovered delta variant cluster is causing concern in Queensland state, while 941 new infections and six deaths were reported Thursday in neighboring New South Wales.

Millions of Australians remain in lockdown in Melbourne, Sydney, Canberra and other parts of eastern Australia.

Despite a surge in cases, authorities are pressing ahead with plans to ease lockdowns as vaccination rates increase.

In New South Wales, lockdown restrictions will end for fully immunized residents when rates hit 70%. They currently stand at 64%.

Federal authorities have said Australia’s international borders, which have been closed to most foreign nationals since March 2020, should reopen by Christmas.

A total of 102,700 coronavirus cases have been detected in Australia since the pandemic began, 1,278 people have died. 


5 Ways US Debt Default Would Echo Through Global Economy

U.S. lawmakers have less than three weeks to avert a default on the country’s sovereign debt by raising the limit on the amount of money the Treasury Department can borrow. Failure to do so would result in the United States purposely defaulting on its debts for the first time in history. 

By now, the extent of the damage that economists predict the U.S. economy would suffer in the event of default triggered by bitter conflict between Congressional Democrats and Republicans has been widely reported.

An estimate from Moody’s Analytics earlier this month predicted that in a prolonged default scenario, the U.S. would slide into recession, with the Gross Domestic Product falling by almost 4%. Some six million jobs would be lost, driving the unemployment rate up to 9%. The resulting stock market sell-off would erase $15 trillion in household wealth. In the short term, interest rates would spike, and in the long term, they would never fall back to pre-default lows. 

But the damage from a U.S. default would not be contained to the United States itself. Securities issued by the U.S. have been so trustworthy for so long that they are treated as essentially risk-free in financial markets, and are used to underpin a vast number of financial contracts worldwide. 

“The U.S. Treasury market is the world’s anchor asset,” said Jacob Kirkegaard, a senior fellow with the Peterson Institute for International Economics. “If it turns out that that asset is not actually risk free, but that it can actually default, that would basically detonate a bomb in the middle of the global financial system. And that will be extremely messy.” 

Immediate fallout 

In the event of a default, it is generally assumed that there would be a broad sell-off of Treasury securities, known as Treasuries. This would happen for multiple reasons — from individual investors being spooked by the default, to companies that had collateralized loans with Treasuries being forced to replace them with something the lender sees as more secure. 

The sell-off would make it more expensive for the U.S. to borrow in the future, driving up interest rates in the United States and driving down the value of the dollar against other world currencies. 

Here are five ways those effects would echo through the global economy. 

Reduced global trade 

If a default drove the U.S. into recession, U.S. consumers and businesses would reduce the amount of goods and services they purchase from outside the country. 

While this would impact virtually all countries to some extent, emerging market countries that rely on exports to the United States for much of their income would be particularly hard-hit. 

The expected devaluation of the dollar would have a similar impact — making it more expensive for U.S firms to purchase supplies overseas, resulting in trade being reduced even further. 

Dollarized economies would suffer 

The U.S. dollar is a common currency in much of the world. Some countries have adopted it as the official currency, while in others it exists side-by-side with a local currency that is often “pegged” to the dollar to keep its value stable. 

In the event that a default drove down the value of the dollar, countries with highly dollarized economies would see the buying power of existing currency stock diminished.

“Emerging markets would suffer greatly from this, because they wouldn’t have a domestic currency that’s very credible,” said Kirkegaard. 

Business contracts affected 

Around the world, many cross-border transactions carry requirements that they be settled in U.S. dollars. In ordinary times, this is seen as a practical way to be sure that sudden swings in the value of a local currency don’t dramatically disadvantage one party in a transaction that is to be settled in the future. 

A sudden and sharp decline in the value of the dollar would mean that individuals and companies anticipating payment on existing contracts in dollars would effectively be receiving less than they had expected for their goods and services. 

More sophisticated trade contracts may contain anti-default clauses that require agreements to be renegotiated in the event of a default that drives down the value of a reserve currency. While this would keep both parties to a contract whole, it would also complicate and likely slow down many transactions. 

Capital flows away from the U.S. 

One of the economic advantages the United States has long enjoyed is that it is a magnet for global capital. When the global economy is strong, investors seeking growth funnel money to U.S. firms. When times are bad, investors seek shelter in U.S. Treasuries. Either way, global markets are directing capital into the U.S. 

But when interest rates go up for the wrong reason — because investors don’t trust the U.S. government to pay its debts — that system is broken. 

The result is that to some degree, investors seeking shelter would be more cautious about assuming that Treasury securities are the go-to investment to protect the value of their assets. The logical move would be for them to begin directing at least some of their investments to securities issued by other governments and denominated in different currencies. 

New reserve currency 

A side effect of those new capital flows could be a challenge to the dollar as the world’s “reserve currency.” 

A reserve currency is money held by a country’s central bank and large financial institutions in order to facilitate global trade for domestic companies, to meet international debt obligations, and to influence domestic currency exchange rates, among other reasons. 

The stability of the dollar has made it the dominant global reserve currency since the end of World War II. This has generated constant global demand for dollars, making it possible for the U.S. government to borrow at lower interest rates than other large nations.

The United States’ global competitors, including China and Russia — but even allies, like the European Union — have for years suggested that it would be better if the dollar’s dominance were not as complete as it is. 

There has been little movement to unseat the dollar in recent decades, but a shock like a default on U.S. debts could persuade some countries to hedge their bets by taking on other currencies, like the euro or renminbi, as additions to their reserve holdings. 

“If you are China or, for that matter, the euro area, you have been wanting to replace or supplant the dollar’s dominant role in the global economy with either the renminbi or the euro,” said Kirkegaard. “You couldn’t ask for a better thing.” 


US Opioid Overdose Deaths Soar

In the shadows of Washington’s government office buildings, Gary Hayes searches for another dose of heroin, chasing a high that will last only a few hours before he wants more.

“It’s hard to stop using when you are living on the streets and there’s no treatment help,” Hayes told VOA. The 28-year-old Black man, who lives in a homeless tent encampment in the nation’s capital, has struggled with substance abuse disorder for a decade.

“I overdosed twice in the last year, but I know several people who died,” Hayes said, reflecting on the deadly opioid epidemic playing out during another health tragedy, the coronavirus pandemic.

More than 93,000 Americans died from drug overdoses in 2020, the highest number on record, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) statistics released in July. U.S. health officials attribute the rise in deaths to powerful synthetic opioids such as fentanyl, which can be up to 100 times more potent than morphine.

Overdose deaths: Black vs. white

In the District of Columbia, more than 400 people died from opioid overdoses last year, and most were African American. The medical examiner’s office reported that fentanyl or fentanyl analogs were present in many cases.

“In some communities, we’ve seen deaths among African Americans eclipse the death rates among whites over the past several years,” said Dr. Caleb Alexander, a professor of epidemiology and medicine at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, Maryland. “Many people who have died from the opioid epidemic or otherwise developed addiction are African American or other people of color living in urban areas.”

Opioid overdose deaths among African Americans have been on the rise since 2013, according to a study published in the journal Addiction. Simultaneously, opioid use among white Americans leveled off for the first time since the 1990s, when doctors began overprescribing the opioid painkiller that sparked the health crisis.

“Historically, the opioid epidemic has at times been painted as an epidemic of rural white working-class families, but opioids don’t discriminate,” Alexander told VOA. “The addiction that one develops looks just the same, regardless of the color of your skin.”

Pandemic’s impact

According to the CDC, between 1999 and 2019, nearly 500,000 lives in the U.S. were lost to overdoses involving opioids, both prescription and illicit types. The epidemic has impacted many communities, and U.S. health officials believe the crisis has worsened since the pandemic started.

While overdose deaths were already increasing in the months preceding the COVID-19 outbreak, the latest data show a sharp rise in overdoses during the pandemic.


“It’s gone from being called the opioid crisis to the overdose crisis,” said harm reduction activist Britt Carpenter, director of the Philly Unknown Project, a group that advocates for the homeless. He says the pandemic has reversed progress made in reducing opioid addiction in recent years.

Carpenter walks the streets of the Kensington neighborhood in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, trying to help the homeless people he sees using opioids. “It’s been a younger demographic of users from the suburbs in their 20s, coming into the city to live on the streets and use drugs,” Carpenter told VOA. “In the last 18 months, some of the neighborhood streets have become overwhelmingly filled again with people.”

In August, Philadelphia city workers and police cleared out two large homeless encampments in Kensington, where, according to officials, hundreds of people had been living and several drug overdoses had been reported. “The outreach and recovery world have their hands full now,” Carpenter said.

In Philadelphia County, illicit fentanyl was present in more than 80% of drug overdose deaths in 2020, according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). In September, the DEA issued a public safety alert warning Americans of an alarming increase in the lethality and availability of fake prescription pills containing fentanyl and methamphetamine.

“Drug traffickers, both here and abroad, are increasingly using counterfeit pills to package and distribute the poison that illicit fentanyl is,” said Thomas Hodnett, acting special agent in charge of the DEA’s Philadelphia Division. Law enforcement officials say most of the counterfeit pills coming into the United States are produced in Mexico and China.

Opioid vaccine?

U.S. health officials believe the pandemic lockdowns and the availability of potent drugs last year dramatically increased overdoses and addiction rates.

“I know a lot of people who had made progress in their recovery, then relapsed,” Arman Maddela, a recovering addict, told Reuters. Maddala, who lives in San Diego, California, lost his sobriety and began using heroin and fentanyl last year. “Being alone and isolated in your living space without any reason to leave the house is enough for someone struggling with addiction to relapse and dig themselves into a hole,” he said.

Harm reduction advocate Carpenter agrees. “One trait of addiction is isolation. The pandemic lockdowns made it hard for people to attend support group meetings in person or visit their therapists.”

With the easing of many pandemic restrictions this year, more drug counseling programs reopened in-person services. At the same time, U.S. medical researchers are working to develop new treatments for opioid addiction with further hopes of reducing fatal drug overdoses.

Clinical trials are under way for the first vaccine to be tested in the U.S. for opioid abuse disorder. The vaccine would create antibodies that prevent opioids such as oxycodone from reaching the brain and later impairing a person’s breathing. The serum could be given in combination with other opioid-based medications used to treat addiction.

“A vaccine that lasts for several months could help many more people beat their addiction and potentially protect them from an overdose death if a patient relapses,” said Sandra Comer, a professor of neurobiology at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons, where the research is being conducted.

With billions of dollars being spent on the coronavirus pandemic, some health care specialists are calling on the government to allocate more money for comprehensive addiction prevention and treatment programs.

“We need to be sure these treatments are available and that individuals with addiction have unfettered access because it can reduce the risk of dying by as much as 50%,” said Alexander. “We know this can be done because there are millions of Americans living healthy successful lives in recovery today.” 








US Trade Officials Delay Decision on New Solar Tariffs

The U.S. Commerce Department on Wednesday asked a group of anonymous domestic solar manufacturers for additional information before it would consider a request to impose duties on panels produced in three Southeast Asian countries.

The move delays the department’s decision, which had been expected this week. The case is the latest dispute between the U.S. solar project builders that rely on cheap imports for most of their supplies and the tiny domestic manufacturing sector that says it can’t compete effectively with the flood of low-priced imports from Asia.

U.S. solar project developers have lobbied forcefully against any Commerce investigation into new tariffs, saying the probe alone would spook the foreign solar producers they rely on and cripple a sector that is critical to meeting the nation’s climate change goals.

The anonymous group seeking the tariffs last month asked the Commerce Department to investigate whether imports from Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam were unfair. It accuses Chinese producers of shifting manufacturing to those nations to avoid U.S. duties on solar cells and panels made in China.

On Wednesday, the Commerce Department sent the group’s attorney, Timothy Brightbill, a letter that set an Oct. 6 deadline for the so-called American Solar Manufacturers Against Chinese Circumvention to respond to a series of questions.

One question asks members of the group to identify themselves. The group said in filings with Commerce that its members wished to remain anonymous because they feared retribution in the marketplace, a claim the department has also asked it to explain.

The department said it would issue a decision within 45 days of receiving a response.

Brightbill did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The U.S. Solar Energy Industries Association, the trade group that opposes the tariff request, said that it was disappointed the department did not dismiss the group’s petition outright, but that the additional information would show that the petitioners “have no case.” 


YouTube Will Ban All Content Containing What it Calls Vaccine Misinformation

YouTube will ban any video that claims vaccines are ineffective or dangerous, including those that question vaccines for measles and chickenpox, the company announced Wednesday.  

“Specifically, content that falsely alleges that approved vaccines are dangerous and cause chronic health effects, claims that vaccines do not reduce transmission or contraction of disease, or contains misinformation on the substances contained in vaccines will be removed,” the Google-owned company said in a blog post announcing the new enforcement measures.

The company said “vaccines in particular have been a source of fierce debate over the years, despite consistent guidance from health authorities about their effectiveness.”  

“Today, we’re expanding our medical misinformation policies on YouTube with new guidelines on currently administered vaccines that are approved and confirmed to be safe and effective by local health authorities and the WHO.”

The company said it “will continue to allow content about vaccine policies, new vaccine trials and historical vaccine successes or failures.”  

YouTube’s COVID-19 vaccine policy has met with some backlash for being overly aggressive.

On Tuesday, the company removed Russian state-backed broadcaster RT’s German-language channels, saying they violated the company’s COVID-19 policy.

On Wednesday, Russia threatened to block YouTube, calling the channel removals “unprecedented information aggression.”

YouTube said it has removed over 130,000 videos over the past year for violating its COVID-19 policies.

Some information in this report comes from Reuters.


South Korean Fisherman Allege Chinese Fleet Sweeps Up Marine Life

China is the world’s largest seafood consumer, and its fleet often fishes waters claimed by South Korea. When South Korean authorities try to enforce international regulations, they often meet fierce resistance. Seung Hyuk Park filed this report with information provided by Hyungjin Kim in Seoul.

TikTok Tics: Social Media May Be Causing Tourette-Like Symptoms

Doctors around the world have seen an unusual rise in Tourette-like tic disorders over the past year. Matt Dibble reports on how social media may be the trigger.

Camera: Matt Dibble, Deana Mitchell

Produced by: Matt Dibble

Malawi Court Hands Lengthy Prison Term to Chinese Wildlife Trafficker

A Malawi Magistrate’s Court in the capital, Lilongwe, has sentenced a Chinese national, described by some as one of the biggest African wildlife trafficking kingpins, to 32 years in prison after convicting him on three wildlife crimes. The court, however, said the sentences will run concurrently for 14 years and then there is a plan to deport him. But the convict is looking to appeal the sentence.

Judge Justice Violet Chipao on Tuesday sentenced Lin Yunhua to 14 years in prison for trading in rhino horn, 14 years for possession of rhino horn and an additional six years for money laundering. Justice Chipao however said the sentences will run concurrently, meaning that Lin will serve a total of 14 years. 

Lin, a Chinese national and the leader of wildlife trafficking syndicate Lin-Zhang gang — named after the husband-and-wife leaders — has been operating out of Malawi for at least a decade. Malawi’s authorities arrested him in August 2019 following a three-month manhunt. 

Prosecution lawyer, Andy Kaonga says Lin would face another punishment after completing the sentence. 

“Once he serves the sentence, our colleagues at the DPP [Director of Public Prosecution] office will probably take it to the minister of homeland security and then start the process of his deportation because the court has recommended that he should be deported from the country,” he said.  

The sentencing of Lin brings the number of wildlife trafficking syndicate members sent to prison to 14. These include four Malawian and 10 Chinese nationals, including Lin’s wife currently serving an 11-year prison term. Lin’s daughter was also arrested in December 2020 for alleged money laundering offences. Her trial is ongoing. 

Brighton Kumchedwa, Malawi’s director of the Department of National Parks & Wildlife, warned that the crackdown on members of the Lin-Zhang gang should send a message to other wildlife trafficking syndicates. 

“We are now starting to deal with the sponsors, the king pins. My message to these syndicates is ‘they should watch out; Malawi is not a playing ground. We eventually will get to them. So, they better stop,” he said.

Kumchedwa says the crackdown is a result of new strategies the government put in place toward combating wildlife crimes. 

“From 2015 thereabout we changed completely the game of handling wildlife crimes. So, we used [our] own intelligence combined with police intelligence. We also used sniffer dogs in the process. So, it’s different strategies that have seen us going this far,” he said. 

Mary Rice is the executive director of the London-based Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), an organization campaigning against environmental crimes and abuse. Speaking to VOA via a messaging app from London, Rice says the crackdown shows Malawi’s commitment to bring high-level wildlife criminals to justice,

“It was not an easy road. But the tenacity and resilience of the investigators, the lawyers and the judge who made some very, very interesting comments in the sentencing, they are all to be applauded for their work. We know there have been many, many obstacles along the way. So, I think it’s a great result,” she said.

Defense lawyer Chrispine Ndalama told VOA Tuesday his client is considering appealing against the sentence. 

“Of course, over the phone, the client indicated that he would want to appeal but I will have to look at the judgment first, to see and understand the reasoning of the court so that I can advise my client properly as to whether we need to appeal or not,” he said.

Ndalama says he expected the court to give Lin a lesser sentence because he pleaded guilty to charges of possession of wildlife products. 

The court has given the defense 30 days to appeal the sentence. 

New Technologies Aim to Reduce Carbon in Atmosphere

A bunch of new technologies are popping up that could help bring global energy-related carbon dioxide emissions to net-zero by 2050, and all need investment. Governments worldwide are having to decide which one suits their geography and how much they can spend on a given technology. More with VOA’s Mariama Diallo.

Produced by: Kimberlyn Weeks    

Massive North Sea Wind Farm Could Power Denmark, Neighbors

Weeks before a high-profile climate summit in Glasgow, Scotland, Danish officials are talking up an ambitious program to develop the world’s largest offshore wind energy complex, with the potential to provide enough green energy to power not just Denmark, but some of its neighbors as well. 

The complex, to sit on and around an artificial North Sea island about 80 km off Denmark’s coast, would span an area up to the size of 64 soccer fields and support thermal storage facilities, HVDC converters, a heliport, and a research and visitor center.

Energy Island Envisioned by Denmark

“You can have hundreds of wind turbines around this island,” said Dan Jorgensen, Denmark’s climate and energy minister, during a visit to Washington this month. His government calculates that the energy island could yield up to 10 gigawatts of electricity — enough for 10 million households. 

“Since we’re only 5.8 million people in Denmark, that’s far more electricity than we’ll need for ourselves, so we want to find other countries to be part of this,” Jorgensen said, adding that Denmark is in talks with other European countries. 

The 10-gigawatt estimate is at the high end of what might finally be built. Current planning allows for a range of from three to 10 gigawatts, according to Jorgensen. But even at the low end, the energy island would dwarf the largest existing offshore wind farm — Britain’s Walney Extension Offshore Wind Farm in the Irish Sea that has a capacity to generate 0.66 gigawatts and provide power to 600,000 homes. 

The world’s largest wind farm of any kind is a 10-gigawatt complex completed this summer and based in the northwestern Gansu province of China. The next largest of any kind is a 1.6-gigawatt wind farm in Jaisalmer, India. 

“It’s the biggest infrastructure investment in the history of my country, but we foresee it will be a good business model,” Jorgensen told VOA. 

“There will be some initial costs there, but we’re willing to bear them because this will also mean that we will get the project itself, but also the development know-how, the skills, and the expertise that we want.” 

The project is remarkable not just for its size but also for its innovative approach to some of the most difficult obstacles to weaning the world off fossil fuels. These include finding an effective way to store energy generated from wind turbines, and a way to transform the electricity into fuels to power transportation systems. 

Denmark’s plan is to transform the electricity into hydrogen, which can be used directly as an energy source or turned into fuels for use “in ships, planes and trucks,” as Jorgensen put it. 

“This sounds a bit like science fiction, but actually it’s just science; we know how to do it,” he said. 

While talks between the Danish government, industry, scientists and potential investors are still in the early stage, one decision has already been made, Jorgensen said. 

“We want at least 50.1% of the island to be publicly owned,” he said, calling the island “critical infrastructure because it’ll be such a huge part of our energy supply.” He added that the actual wind turbines will be owned by investors. 

“So far we have seen interest from Danish companies and investment funds; we’ve also seen interest from the governments of several European countries. We expect, of course, this will also mean interest from companies from other countries, definitely European, but probably also others.” 

Jacob F. Kirkegaard, a Danish economist based in Brussels, says the ambitious plan is plausible in light of Denmark’s track record in developing green energy. 

“There are already many days in which Denmark gets all its electrical power from wind energy, so rapid electrification is coming as are further rapid expansions of offshore wind farms,” he told VOA in an exchange of emails. 

He said he has “no doubt” that Denmark will achieve full decarbonization by 2050, “probably even considerably before” that date, thanks to broad public support, especially from the young. 

According to the Danish embassy in Washington, more than 50% of Denmark’s electrical grid is already powered by wind and solar energy, and the government projects that renewables will meet 100% of the nation’s electricity needs by 2028. 

Pakistani University Manufactures Stents for Heart Patients

According to the Pakistani government, over 45,000 angioplasty operations are conducted in Pakistan each year; an operation in which a small mesh tube is inserted into a blocked artery to allow blood to flow through it. Up until recently Pakistan had to import these medical devices, but now they’re being manufactured in country. VOA’s Asim Ali Rana files this report narrated by Bezhan Hamdard.

Camera: Wajid Hussain Shah  Produced by: Asim Ali Rana 


Student Program Cultivates Environmental Leaders

A student program that teaches organic gardening skills started in Los Angeles and has spread across the United States and 26 other countries. Mike O’Sullivan reports its projects impart an environmental message. 

Camera: Roy Kim, Mike O’Sullivan 


Arlington, Virginia, Starts Its First Scrap Food Collection Service

Arlington County, which is across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C., is now the first county in Virginia to collect food scraps from single-family households. The aim is to reduce household waste ending up in landfills, as Liliya Anisimova tells us in this story, narrated by Anna Rice. Camera – David Gogokhia.

Australia Divided Over Future of Mighty Coal Industry

Australia is under growing international pressure to commit to net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, but the policy is fiercely dividing its center-right government.

Australia is one of the world’s major exporters of coal and gas. Coal is mined in every state. Most exports go to countries in Asia, including China, Japan and South Korea. 

In 2020, exports were worth about $39 billion. Trade has almost doubled in the past decade. But China’s informal import restrictions on Australian coal saw the value of exports fall sharply, although prices have started to recover. Coal also generates about 70% of Australia’s electricity. Coal-fired power makes it the most carbon polluting nation per capita in the world. 

Prime Minister Scott Morrison is planning to eventually shift his country’s reliance on coal and gas in favor of clean energy technologies, a shift from his time as a treasurer in 2017. In support of the mining industry, then-treasurer Morrison brought a piece of coal to Parliament to argue the need to continue producing coal in a famous scene. 

“This is coal,” he said. “Don’t be afraid. Don’t be scared. It’s coal that has delivered prosperity to Australian businesses and has ensured that Australian industry has been able to remain competitive on a global market.” 

Clean energy is still an issue that deeply divides his center-right governing coalition. 

Some members of the National Party — the junior alliance partner — are adamant that Australia’s coal industry is too valuable to lose and insist it will thrive for decades. Many regional communities depend on it. There is also disagreement about committing to a target of reaching net-zero emissions by 2050. The prime minister said he wants to achieve net zero emissions “as soon as possible” but has not outlined any measures to do so. 

But government lawmaker Trent Zimmerman said Australia must join the global push to reduce emissions.

“We need both the target and the plan that matches it,” Zimmerman said. “It is very hard to divorce the two and obviously much of the international community has moved in that direction. In fact, eighty percent of global emissions or thereabouts are covered by pledges that relate to reaching net-zero. So, it is important for Australia that we are part of that because it is the right thing to do.”

Morrison has said he is yet to decide whether he will attend the Glasgow Climate Change Conference, also known as COP26, in November. He told a newspaper that he wanted to oversee Australia’s eventual emergence from COVID-19 lockdowns. His critics insist he is “too embarrassed” by his government’s climate change policies to attend the summit in the Scottish capital. 

Opinion polls by the Australia Institute, an independent public policy think tank based in Canberra, have shown that most Australians want stronger measures to curb emissions. A United Nations climate change report recently warned that global warming will inflict more severe and frequent droughts, storms, heatwaves and bushfires in Australia.

However, those surveys reported by the Sydney Morning Herald newspaper also revealed support for the coal industry. Less than half of Australians believe that coal power should be phased out within a decade. Australia’s addiction to fossil fuels might be hard to give up, according to the survey. 

World Bank Forecasts Slow Economic Growth for East Asia and Pacific Region Due to COVID-19

The World Bank is predicting slower economic growth for developing nations in the East Asia and Pacific regions due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

A report issued by the bank Tuesday said while China’s economy is expected to grow by 8.5% in 2021, the rest of the region will only expand by 2.5%, down from its April forecast of 4.4%. 

Manuela Ferro, the World Bank’s vice president for East Asia and Pacific, says the region’s economic recovery from the pandemic “faces a reversal of fortune.” 

The report says the persistence of COVD-19 will likely hurt growth and increase inequality throughout the region.

The bank is urging governments to enhance testing and tracing to contain the spread of the virus, increase regional production of vaccines and strengthen their health systems. 

The Manila-based Asian Development Bank issued a separate report last week predicting the region’s developing economies will likely grow at a slower-than-expected pace in 2021 due to lingering COVID-19 outbreaks and the slow pace of vaccination efforts. 

The ADB also predicted that economies in Southeast Asia would grow by just 3.1% this year. It also had predicted 4.4% growth back in its economic outlook back in April.