NASA’s Historic New International Agreements Set Stage for Peaceful and Cooperative Future of Space Exploration

NASA, along with a number of partnering space agencies from around the world, have announced a new set of international agreements that will help to govern a “safe, peaceful, and prosperous future” of space exploration.

The recently-released “Artemis Accords” are the latest development of the Artemis Program, through which the agency vows to send the first woman—and next man—to the moon by 2024.

NASA hopes that the Accords will better allow it to work with international partners to conduct a human mission to Mars as well.

“It’s a new dawn for space exploration!” NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine wrote on Twitter last week. “Today, I’m honored to announce the Artemis Accords agreements—establishing a shared vision and set of principles for all international partners that join in humanity’s return to the Moon. We go, together.”

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The core values enshrined in the Accords expand upon the Outer Space Treaty of 1967. They include the principle that space exploration should be done for peaceful purposes, that the U.S. and its partner nations must be transparent in their practices, and they should strive to build interoperable systems to information that can be exchanged and shared between nations.

The program also aims to protect historic sites and artifacts beyond the bounds of our planet, in much the same way that heritage sites on earth are protected by law. These include the artifacts left behind during the moon landings of the Apollo program of 1969-1972.

“International space agencies that join NASA in the Artemis program will do so by executing bilateral Artemis Accords agreements, which will describe a shared vision for principles, grounded in the Outer Space Treaty of 1967, to create a safe and transparent environment, which facilitates exploration, science and commercial activities for all of humanity to enjoy,” NASA said in a statement.

International partners that have signed on to the Accords include the Canadian Space Agency, European Space Agency, the Russian Space Agency (Roscosmos) and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, according to CNN.

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The Accords mark one of the most significant accomplishments thus far of the largest Artemis program, announced in 2019. The program involves the Orion spacecraft, Gateway and Space Launch Rocket System (SLS). The SLS rocket will be used to send Orion, with astronauts and large cargo on board, to the moon.

Unlike previous spacecraft which only supported short-term missions, the Orion will dock at the Gateway, described by CNN as “a spaceship that will go into orbit around the moon and be used as a lunar outpost. About 250,000 miles from Earth, the Gateway will allow easier access to the entire surface of the moon and potentially deep space exploration.”

Photo by NASA

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Global Greenhouse Gas Emissions Estimated to Fall by 8% in 2020—the Largest Recorded Drop in History

The COVID-19 pandemic represents the biggest shock to the global economy in more than seven decades, but new research says that the outbreaks are likely to result in a record-breaking 8% annual decline in carbon emissions—the largest decrease in history.

A new report released this week by the International Energy Agency (IEA) provides an almost real-time view of the COVID-19 pandemic’s extraordinary impact across all major fuels. Based on an analysis of more than 100 days of real data so far this year, the IEA’s Global Energy Review includes estimates for how energy consumption and carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions trends are likely to evolve over the rest of 2020.

“Only renewables are holding up during the previously unheard-of slump in electricity use,” said Dr. Fatih Birol, the IEA Executive Director. “It is still too early to determine the longer-term impacts, but the energy industry that emerges from this crisis will be significantly different from the one that came before.”

The Global Energy Review’s projections of energy demand and energy-related emissions for 2020 are based on assumptions that the lockdowns implemented around the world in response to the pandemic are progressively eased in most countries in the coming months, accompanied by a gradual economic recovery.

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The report projects that energy demand will fall 6% in 2020—seven times the decline after the 2008 global financial crisis. In absolute terms, the decline is unprecedented—the equivalent of losing the entire energy demand of India, the world’s third largest energy consumer.

Advanced economies are expected to see the biggest declines, with demand set to fall by 9% in the United States and by 11% in the European Union. The impact of the crisis on energy demand is heavily dependent on the duration and stringency of measures to curb the spread of the virus. For instance, the IEA found that each month of worldwide lockdown at the levels seen in early April reduces annual global energy demand by about 1.5%.

Changes to electricity use during lockdowns have resulted in significant declines in overall electricity demand, with consumption levels and patterns on weekdays looking like those of a pre-crisis Sunday. Full lockdowns have pushed down electricity demand by 20% or more, with lesser impacts from partial lockdowns. Electricity demand is set to decline by 5% in 2020, the largest drop since the Great Depression in the 1930s.

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At the same time, lockdown measures are driving a major shift towards low-carbon sources of electricity including wind, solar PV, hydropower and nuclear. After overtaking coal for the first time ever in 2019, low-carbon sources are set to extend their lead this year to reach 40% of global electricity generation—6 percentage points ahead of coal.

Electricity generation from wind and solar PV continues to increase in 2020, lifted by new projects that were completed in 2019 and early 2020. An additional report from energy research group BloombergNEF says that wind and solar power are now the cheapest sources of new energy development for two-thirds of the world’s population.

This trend is affecting demand for electricity from coal and natural gas, which are finding themselves increasingly squeezed between low overall power demand and increasing output from renewables. As a result, the combined share of gas and coal in the global power mix is set to drop by 3 percentage points in 2020 to a level not seen since 2001.

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Coal is particularly hard hit, with global demand projected to fall by 8% in 2020, the largest decline since the Second World War. Following its 2018 peak, coal-fired power generation is set to fall by more than 10% this year.

After 10 years of uninterrupted growth, natural gas demand is on track to decline 5% in 2020. This would be the largest recorded year-on-year drop in consumption since natural gas demand developed at scale during the second half of the 20th century.

Renewables are set to be the only energy source that will grow in 2020, with their share of global electricity generation projected to jump thanks to their priority access to grids and low operating costs. Despite supply chain disruptions that have paused or delayed deployment in several key regions this year, solar PV and wind are on track to help lift renewable electricity generation by 5% in 2020, aided by higher output from hydropower.

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“This crisis has underlined the deep reliance of modern societies on reliable electricity supplies for supporting healthcare systems, businesses and the basic amenities of daily life,” said Dr. Birol. “But nobody should take any of this for granted—greater investments and smarter policies are needed to keep electricity supplies secure.”

As a result of these trends—mainly the declines in coal and oil use—global energy-related CO2 emissions are set to fall by almost 8% in 2020, reaching their lowest level since 2010. This would be the largest decrease in emissions ever recorded—nearly six times larger than the previous record drop of 400 million tonnes in 2009 that resulted from the global financial crisis.

“Resulting from … economic trauma around the world, the historic decline in global emissions is absolutely nothing to cheer,” said Dr Birol. “But governments can learn from [the 2008 crisis] by putting clean energy technologies—renewables, efficiency, batteries, hydrogen and carbon capture—at the heart of their plans for economic recovery. Investing in those areas can create jobs, make economies more competitive and steer the world towards a more resilient and cleaner energy future.”

Reprinted from the International Energy Agency

This is just one of many positive stories and updates that are coming out of the COVID-19 news coverage this week. For more uplifting coverage on the outbreaks, click here.

File photo by rabiem22, CC

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Swiss Village Has Been Projecting World Flags Onto One of Their Tallest Mountains in Solidarity of Pandemic

Rather than raising a flag up on a flag pole, the nation of Switzerland is paying homage to their international neighbors struggling against COVID-19 by projecting different world flags onto the front of one of their most iconic Alpine mountains.

Light artist Gerry Hofstetter was commissioned to illuminate the famous Matterhorn mountain in Zermatt with different national flags to show solidarity towards countries that have been hit hardest by the novel coronavirus.

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Now on every night since March 24th, the Matterhorn has displayed the flag of France, the US, India, Japan, Germany, the UK, Portugal, Spain, and many others.

“With this light projection, Zermatt wants to give people a sign of hope and solidarity in these difficult times,” reads the Zermatt Matterhorn tourism website. “The village shows solidarity with all the people who are currently suffering and is grateful to all those who are helping to overcome the crisis.”

Americans have been particularly touched by the gesture since the Zermatt website published a photo of the Star-Spangled Banner on the front of the 14,690-foot tall mountain with a caption reading: “As it stands, the USA is the country that has been most impacted by the COVID-19 crisis with the highest number of confirmed cases. Our thoughts are with all American people at this unprecedented time.

“May our message convey solidarity and give you hope and strength,” they added. “We look forward to meeting again at the foot of the Matterhorn. We are all in this together.”

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If you want to check out additional photos of the light displays or watch the livestreams of the illuminations, check out the Zermatt Matterhorn website.

This is just one of many positive stories and updates that are coming out of the COVID-19 news coverage this week. For more uplifting coverage on the outbreaks, click here.

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Russia Sends Cargo Plane of Medical Supplies to US: ‘There is no alternative to working together’

The Russian government has reportedly deployed their largest cargo plane filled with medical supplies bound for the United States as a means of helping curb national shortages amidst the COVID-19 outbreaks.

According to Reuters, the AN-124 Russian plane carrying face masks, medical gowns, and hospital equipment left Moscow yesterday evening.

Although the gesture of assistance has generated mixed political feedback as a result of ongoing strains between Russia and the US these last few years, the Russian Embassy in Washington, D.C. quoted the Russian president’s press secretary Dmitry Peskov saying: “Being aware of the serious epidemiological situation in America, the Russian side offered medical equipment and protective gear as assistance.

“Importantly, when offering assistance to the American colleagues, President Putin is guided by the following consideration: when US manufacturers of medical equipment gain momentum they will be able to reciprocate if need be,” he continued. “Now, when the current situation affects each and every one and can be characterized as global, there is no alternative to working together in the spirit of partnership and mutual help.”

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This is not the first time Russia has sent supplies to the U.S. during times of emergency. They were one of the first countries to offer assistance in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, sending multiple jets with special evacuation gear, medical equipment, a water-cleansing system, a rescue helicopter, and six tons of drinking water.

The U.S. has received other international aid shipments during the novel coronavirus pandemic; Taiwan reportedly donated 100,000 masks to America’s shores earlier this month. Furthermore, European Union member nations have been exchanging a number of supplies and services between countries in need over the course of the last month.

This is just one of many positive stories and updates that are coming out of the COVID-19 news coverage this week. For more uplifting coverage on the outbreaks, click here.

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Another Roundup of Positive Updates on the COVID Outbreaks From Around the World

Last week, we published a list of ten positive updates on the COVID-19 outbreaks from around the world.

Since the article has been viewed millions of times, we thought we would go ahead and publish another round-up of optimistic occurrences to keep your spirits up.

So here is another list of reasons why the global situation is not as bad as the mainstream media might have you think.

1) World Health Organization (WHO) Officials Say There Are Now 20 Coronavirus Vaccines in Development

Although there are still a number of logistical and financial hurdles that will need to be overcome in the race to deliver a COVID-19 vaccine to the public, WHO representatives say they are working with scientists around the world to test and develop 20 different vaccines.

“The acceleration of this process is really truly dramatic in terms of what we’re able to do, building on work that started with SARS, that started with MERS and now is being used for COVID-19 ,” Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove, the technical lead for WHO’s emergencies program, said at a press conference in Geneva last week, according to CNBC.

The collective body of research is particularly “remarkable” since the vaccines are in development just 60 days after a number of international scientists decoded the virus’s genetic sequence and shared it with the rest of the world.

One of the vaccines—which is already being tested on a number of American volunteers in Seattle—has already illustrated the “unprecedented speed” with which the medical community is working together to develop a vaccine.

2) From Individuals to Countries and World Governments–Everybody is Sharing Face Masks

Not only is this French fashion designer making her own face masks and giving them away for free, she is showing how other people can make their own as well. In North Carolina, a textile mill is gearing up to start making 10 million masks per week. A number of international fashion companies have also redirected their manufacturing teams to produce face masks as well.

Multiple businesses and schools have donated their recently rediscovered face mask treasure troves to hospitals in need. Other major tech companies such as Facebook and Apple are donating millions of masks and medical supplies to US healthcare facilities. Chinese companies are passing on their own stashes of face masks to European countries newly impacted by the virus. Taiwan is reportedly donating 100,000 masks to the United States.

Even medical TV shows have donated their medical supply props to North American hospitals in need.

File photo by Senior Airman Nancy Hooks

3) As American Cities Close Up Amidst Outbreaks, Pollution Plummets

The United States is now benefiting from the same environmental silver lining to the pandemics as China and Italy: as cities encourage self-isolation, air pollution is plummeting.

Over the course of the last few weeks, satellite imaging has revealed significant reductions in air pollution—particularly across California, Seattle, and New York City.

According to CNN, environmental scientists are estimating that the improvement in air quality could collectively save as many as 75,000 people from dying prematurely.

Photo by Descartes Labs

4) As Physicians Worry About Potential Ventilator Shortages, Researchers Develop Several Low-Cost Solutions

In a stroke of genius, one scientist from the University of Minnesota says he went “full-on MacGyver” to build a makeshift ventilator in a matter of hours. Although his team has revised his design over the course of several prototypes with the hopes of eventually submitting it for FDA approval, he says that the inexpensive ventilator is one that he “would be comfortable with someone [using to] take care of me in an ICU or in an operating room.”

The compassionate medical research continues in Italy as a pair of engineers have taken it upon themselves to 3D-print free respirator parts for their local hospitals. As of last week, the Isinnova startup engineers told Forbes that they had successfully printed more than 100 parts.

Meanwhile, MIT scientists are publishing open-source instructions and research on how to build inexpensive ventilators.

“We are releasing this material with the intent to provide those with the ability to make or manufacture ventilators, the tools needed to do so in a manner that seeks to ensure patient safety,” they wrote. “Clinicians viewing this site can provide input and expertise and report on their efforts to help their patients.”

Isinnova’s Christian Fracassi and Alessandro Romaioli—Photo by Isinnova

5) Communities and Countries Opening Up New Lanes of Free Entertainment for the Masses

In addition to Italians singing songs and playing music together from their balconies, homeowners have begun projecting classic films onto building fronts for the neighbors to enjoy.

As a means of keeping self-isolated people amused during global shutdowns, many online services have made their services free to the public as well.

For starters, Amazon has unlocked more than 40 new children’s shows for all of their customers to watch for free, regardless of Prime membership. Audiobook platform Audible has also released a number of free audiobooks for users to stream from their devices.

“For as long as schools are closed, we’re open. Starting today, kids everywhere can instantly stream an incredible collection of stories, including titles across six different languages, that will help them continue dreaming, learning, and just being kids,” reads the Audible website. “All stories are free to stream on your desktop, laptop, phone or tablet. Explore the collection, select a title and start listening. It’s that easy.”

More than 2,500 art museums and galleries have also partnered with Google to offer free virtual tours and displays of their collections to art lovers around the world.

If you prefer cuter online content, then you can check out this handy list of zoos and aquariums offering livestreams of their animal residents.

6) More Than 100,000 People Have Already Recovered From the Virus Worldwide

According to research from Johns Hopkins University, more than 100,000 COVID-19 patients have already made full recoveries from the infection—and that number may very well climb ever higher as more and more potential treatments are tested around the world.

If that’s not enough, patients as old as 90 have managed to recover from the virus as well.

As Chinese cities gradually reopen to the public now that they have gotten the virus under control with less than 10 new infections reported each day, other countries are expected to experience similar recoveries during the coming months.

7) Nobel Prize Winner Who Correctly Predicted COVID-19 Trends Says ‘We’re Going To Be Fine’

According to a recently-published interview with the Los Angeles Times, Nobel laureate and Stanford biophysicist Michael Levitt has been “remarkably accurate” in predicting China’s recovery from the virus since he began researching the infection rates back in January.

Levitt, who won the 2013 prize for developing complex chemical models of calculation, says that as long as countries continue to practice safe self-isolation measures, the numbers show that they are already beginning to experience slow signs of improvement.

“What we need is to control the panic,” he told the news outlet. “We’re going to be fine.”

© Nobel Media AB. Photo: A. Mahmoud

8) Celebrities and Businesses Have Contributed Millions Towards Feeding and Caring for At-Risk People

From Michelin-starred Chef José Andrés to the Bill Gates Foundation—millions of dollars are being donated to novel coronavirus research and charities feeding families amidst the shutdowns.

It’s hard to quantify just how many resources are being contributed to the cause, but suffice it to say that it’s a lot—in fact, here’s just a quick list of celebrities giving back to their communities that we published last week.

9) No Matter Where You Look, People Are Being Kind to Each Other

People and small businesses are delivering groceries to their elderly neighbors in self-isolation; kids are caring for the homeless; social media users are setting up “caremongering” groups to support each other and share helpful information; people are sharing their toilet paper with community members.

There are even more stories of kindness and compassion being reported from around the world every day—so remember to keep your chin up during the weeks ahead and remind yourself that this situation might not be as terrible as your social media feed might have you believe.

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10 Positive Updates on the COVID-19 Outbreaks From Around the World

If it seems that your news feed has been flooded with nerve-wracking updates on the COVID-19 outbreaks, have no fear—there are also plenty of positive updates on the pandemic as well.

So without any further ado, here is a list of 10 hopeful headlines on the coronavirus response from around the world.

File photo by Pan American Health Organization, CC

1) US Researchers Deliver First COVID-19 Vaccine to Volunteers in Experimental Test Program

Scientists at the Kaiser Permanente Washington Research Institute in Seattle delivered the first rounds of a potential coronavirus vaccine to several dozen optimistic volunteers earlier this week.

One 43-year-old vaccine recipient is Jennifer Haller, who is a mother to two teenagers.

She was all smiles afterward, telling AP reporters she was “feeling great” as she was leaving the clinic.

“This is an amazing opportunity for me to do something,” she added.

2) Distilleries Across the United States Are Making Their Own Hand Sanitizers to Give Away for Free

Amidst national shortages of hand sanitizers, alcohol distilleries in Atlanta, Portland, rural Georgia, and North Carolina have begun using their facilities to make their own sanitation products.

Since the World Health Organization (WHO) says that cleaning your hands with an alcohol-based rub can help to kill viruses on your hands, many of the distilleries say they hope to continue producing their bootleg sanitizers until the virus has been properly contained.

3) Air Pollution Plummets in Cities With High Rates of Quarantine

Satellite readings of air pollution levels over China and Italy show that the regions hit hardest by the COVID-19 have also caused air pollution levels to decline dramatically.

Photo by NASA

Some reports estimate that China’s quarantine has saved more than 100 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions from entering the atmosphere—which is about the equivalent of what Chile produces in a year.

Not only have similar effects been reported across Italy, the canals and waterways of Venice are reportedly cleaner than ever with the waters shining crystal clear in the absence of diesel-powered boats and gondoliers.

4) Johns Hopkins Researcher Says That Antibodies From Recovered COVID Patients Could Help Protect People At Risk

The vaccine being tested in Seattle isn’t the only potential treatment for the disease—an immunologist from Johns Hopkins University is reviving a century-old blood-derived treatment for use in the United States in hopes of slowing the spread of the disease.

The technique uses antibodies from the blood plasma or serum of people who have recovered from COVID-19 infection to boost the immunity of newly-infected patients and those at risk of contracting the disease.

5) South Korean Outbreak Finally Abating as Recoveries Outnumber New Infections for Three Days in a Row

File photo by Valentin Janiaut, CC

According to Reuters, South Korea recorded more COVID-19 recovery cases on March 6th than new infections for the first time since the nation experienced the largest Asian outbreak outside of China.

Since the novel coronavirus outbreak was first reported in South Korea back in January, the nation reached a peak of 909 new infections on February 29th. Now, however, Reuters reports that the declining rate of infection has continued to fall with less than 100 new cases reported for several days in a row.

6) China Celebrates Several Milestones of Recovery After Temporary Hospitals Close and Parks Reopen

Crowds of medical staffers and discharged patients were filmed celebrating the closure of all 14 temporary hospitals that opened in Wuhan to treat COVID-19 patients during the worst of the outbreak.

Authorities told the South China Morning Post this week that the virus had finally passed its peak as the nation’s mainland experienced only 11 new cases on March 13th, most of which were from international travelers.

As the outbreak is finally brought under control, parks and tourist attractions are slowly beginning to reopen to the public under careful moderation.

7) Australian Researchers Testing Two Drugs as Potential ‘Cures’ for the Virus

Professor David Paterson, director of the University of Queensland Centre for Clinical Research and infectious disease physician at the RBWH.

At the University of Queensland Centre for Clinical Research, scientists have found that two different medications—both of which are registered and available in Australia—have completely wiped out traces of the disease in test tubes.

Not only that, the drugs were given to some of the nation’s first COVID-19 patients, which resulted in “disappearance of the virus and complete recovery from the infection,” researchers told News.com.au.

The university is now looking to conduct a nationwide trial with the drugs to evaluate the efficacy and tolerance of each drug administered separately and together.

8) Uber Eats is Supporting the North American Restaurant Industry By Waiving Delivery Fees for 100,000 Restaurants

As restaurants across Canada and the United States are forced to temporarily shut down amidst COVID-19 outbreaks, Uber Eats has announced that they will be waiving delivery fees for independent restaurants.

“We know the success of every restaurant depends on customer demand,” the company said in a statement. “That’s why we’re working urgently to drive orders towards independent restaurants on Eats, to help make up for the significant slowdown of in-restaurant dining.

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“As more customers are choosing to stay indoors, we’ve waived the Delivery Fee for the more than 100,000 independent restaurants across US and Canada on Uber Eats. We will also launch daily dedicated, targeted marketing campaigns—both in-app and via email—to promote delivery from local restaurants, especially those that are new to the app.”

9) Dutch and Canadian Researchers Are Reporting Additional Breakthrough Research on Treating the Virus

Photo by Sunnybrook University

Scientists from Canada and the Netherlands have also made medical breakthroughs of their own. In Toronto, a team of researchers managed to isolate the agent responsible for the ongoing outbreak of COVID-19, which will help researchers around the world develop better diagnostic testing, treatments, and vaccines.

“Researchers from these world-class institutions came together in a grassroots way to successfully isolate the virus in just a few short weeks,” said Dr. Rob Kozak, clinical microbiologist at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre. “It demonstrates the amazing things that can happen when we collaborate.”

Meanwhile, Dutch researchers have submitted a scientific paper for publishing on how they have identified an anti-body for the virus—and it could be a world-first.

10) Here Are a Bunch of Other Ways That People and Businesses Are Supporting Each Other Throughout the US Outbreak

File photo by Martha Heinemann, CC

Dollar General has announced that they will be devoting their opening hour of shopping time to elderly customers. Athletes and sports teams are pledging to pay the wages of arena employees during the shutdown. Utility companies, landlords, automakers, and internet providers are waiving a number of late fees and payments to ease the financial burden of the shutdown. School districts across the country are still opening their doors to serve meals to kids and families.

All in all, the pandemic situation may seem grim, but these are just a few examples of how businesses and individuals are still looking out for each other during times of trouble.

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Watch Celebrations Erupt After Nation’s Last Ebola Patient is Discharged From Treatment Center

This woman officially became the last Ebola patient in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) after she was released from medical care and provided with an official bill of health last week.

Medical teams have been fighting to control the Ebola outbreak since it began in August 2018, making it the nation’s second-worst outbreak with more than 2,000 deaths. Since Masika Semida was the last patient treated for Ebola, healthcare workers cheered and danced in celebration as she was discharged from their treatment center in Beni.

Officials have been closely monitoring several dozen people who were in contact with Semida prior to her treatment—but with no new Ebola cases reported within the last two weeks, UN officials believe the outbreak may have finally come to an end.

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“I applaud the tireless efforts that have been made to respond to this outbreak and I’m truly encouraged by the news that the last Ebola patient has left the treatment centre healthy,” said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, the World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Director for Africa.

The end of the outbreak can only be officially confirmed once there have been no new reported infections 42 days after the last reported case has tested negative. However, all the aspects of the Ebola response remain in place to ensure that any new cases are detected quickly and treated.

According to WHO, surveillance, pathogen detection and clinical management are ongoing, including validating alerts, monitoring the remaining contacts, supporting rapid diagnostics of suspected cases and working with community members to strengthen surveillance on deaths in the communities.

(WATCH the video below) – Photo by ABC News

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Hundreds of Endangered Languages Are Being Preserved Thanks to This Guy and His Army of Volunteers

Out of the 7,000 languages that are spoken around the world, 500 of them are at risk of being forgotten and lost to the annals of history.

Thankfully, Daniel Bögre Udell has created an online library to preserve them all.

Udell is the co-founder of Wikitongues—a nonprofit dedicated to saving the world’s endangered languages from extinction.

More than 1,000 international volunteers contribute to the Wikitongue language library by interviewing people in their native languages.

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Some of the participants use their mother tongue to talk about their culture and language—others simply use their video interviews to talk about themselves; regardless of the topics, all of the video interviews are catalogued and documented through the Wikitongue website.

When Great Big Story interviewed Udell back in April, he said the organization’s volunteers had recorded more than 435 languages from 70 countries ranging from Aruan Malay to Finnish sign language—and that number is increasing every day.

(WATCH the video below) – Photo by Great Big Story

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Cherokee Nation First U.S. Tribe to be Invited to Preserve Their Heirloom Species in Global Seed Vault

With close to 1 million samples from nearly every country on earth, the Svalbard Global Seed Vault in the remote Svalbard Island, between Norway and the Arctic, contains the largest collection of seeds and other plant specimens in the world.

Last week, the Cherokee Nation became the first Native-American tribe to receive an invitation to contribute seeds of their own heirloom crops and join the effort to ensure biodiversity and food security in the uncertain centuries ahead.

“This is history in the making,” said a Cherokee Nation press release. “It is such an honor to have a piece of our culture preserved forever. Generations from now, these seeds will still hold our history and there will always be a part of the Cherokee Nation in the world.”

The tribal office of the Secretary of Natural Resources collected nine samples of Cherokee heirloom crops to send to the Global Crop Diversity Trust, including Cherokee White Eagle Corn, the tribe’s most sacred corn, which is typically used during cultural activities, and three other varieties of corn grown for consumption in distinct locations to keep the strains pure.

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Other seeds sent to the Svalbard seed bank include Cherokee Long Greasy Beans, Cherokee Trail of Tears Beans, Cherokee Turkey Gizzard black and brown beans, and Cherokee Candy Roaster Squash.

These heirloom species predate the arrival of Europeans on the American continents, and their preservation offers a chance to secure critical biodiversity for the central North American region in case of crop shortages or other disasters that could result in flora extinction events.

Svalbard Global Seed Vault, Tiq, CC license

It also ensure that the proud history of the Cherokee will live on through the ages.

In 2019, after being interviewed by National Public Radio about the Cherokee Nation’s own heirloom seed bank program, their Senior Director of Environmental Resources, Pat Gwin was contacted by the Global Crop Diversity Trust.

“He sent me an email and said they would be honored to have the tribe’s seeds in the seed vault,” said Gwin. “…Knowing the Cherokee Nation’s seeds will be forever protected and available to us … is a quite valuable thing indeed.”

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CO2 Emissions Stopped Rising Last Year Says IEA, Thanks to Growth in Renewables, Shunning of Coal

An exciting new study calculated that, contrary to expectations, global carbon dioxide emissions did not continue their increase in 2019, but actually flatlined as renewable energy sources, efficiency, and other factors, chipped away at worldwide CO2 levels.

The research, conducted by the International Energy Agency (IEA) and published earlier this week, found that global emissions were unchanged at 33 gigatons in 2019 even as the world economy expanded by 2.9% over 2018.

This was primarily due to declining emissions from electricity generation in advanced economies, thanks to the expanding role of renewable sources (mainly wind and solar), shutting down coal plants, and higher nuclear power generation. Other factors included milder weather in several countries (to require less cooling or heating), and slower economic growth in some emerging markets.

“We now need to work hard to make sure that 2019 is remembered as a definitive peak in global emissions, not just another pause in growth,” said Dr. Fatih Birol, the IEA’s Executive Director. “We have the energy technologies to do this, and we have to make use of them all. The IEA is building a grand coalition focused on reducing emissions—encompassing governments, companies, investors and everyone with a genuine commitment to tackling our climate challenge.”

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A significant decrease in emissions in advanced economies in 2019 offset continued growth elsewhere. The United States recorded the largest emissions decline on a country basis, with a fall of 140 million tons, or 2.9%. US emissions are now down by almost 1 gigaton from their peak in 2000.

Emissions in the European Union fell by 160 million tons, or 5%, in 2019 driven by reductions in the power sector. Natural gas produced more electricity than coal for the first time ever, meanwhile wind-powered electricity nearly caught up with coal-fired electricity.

Japan’s emissions fell by 45 million tons, or around 4%—the fastest pace of decline since 2009, as output from recently restarted nuclear reactors increased.

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Emissions in the rest of the world grew by close to 400 million tons in 2019, with almost 80% of the increase coming from countries in Asia where coal-fired power generation continued to rise.

Across advanced economies, emissions from the power sector declined to levels last seen in the late 1980s, when electricity demand was one-third lower than today. Coal-fired power generation in advanced economies declined by nearly 15% as a result of growth in renewables, coal-to-gas switching, a rise in nuclear power and weaker electricity demand.

“This welcome halt in emissions growth is grounds for optimism that we can tackle the climate challenge this decade,” said Dr. Birol. “It is evidence that clean energy transitions are underway—and it’s also a signal that we have the opportunity to meaningfully move the needle on emissions through more ambitious policies and investments.”

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The Agency will also hold an IEA Clean Energy Transitions Summit in Paris on July 9th, bringing together key government ministers, CEOs, investors and other major stakeholders from around the world to promote and support more real-world solutions.

Reprinted from the International Energy Agency – File photo by TVA Cumberland Power Plant, CC

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Homicide Rates Around the World Continue to Fall to Record-Low Levels Year After Year

Despite having different languages, cultures, and gun laws, homicide rates across much of the world have been falling since the 90s—and those rates are continuing their positive trajectories into 2020.

Between 1990 and 2015, the number of homicides per 100,000 people fell by 46%, with countries in Oceania experiencing a 22% drop over the same period, and 36% in Asia.

Asia and Western Europe, where one is already the least likely to become a victim of a homicidal act, saw the most significant decreases over that period of time.

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Homicide in Eastern Europe also fell by 18% over that time period, which is remarkable when you remember the Soviet Union collapsed with the Berlin Wall just a year before this period began, and many East European countries were facing governmental collapses, war, and economic depressions, and even genocide throughout the 90s.

According to crime statistics released by the FBI in September, large cities that had experienced an uptick in murders during 2015-2016 had fewer killings in 2018. In Chicago, the murder rate declined substantially, by 14 percent, and in Baltimore by 9 percent. in cities with populations of more than a million people, it fell by an average of 8.5 percent in 2018.

The less than optimistic news in the UK was reversed during 2019.

According to BBC, the majority of UK police forces saw a fall in homicides compared with 2018 which was the highest year of the decade. This includes reported homicides in West Yorkshire, Merseyside, Greater Manchester, the West Midlands, West Mercia, Devon and Cornwall, Sussex and Cheshire.

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Scottish police said homicides fell by 11% from the previous year, including in Glasgow. 2016-2017 was the second lowest year on record, a triumph in a 15-year downward trend for the Scottish city.

Growing up in Glasgow, there were places “you absolutely didn’t venture,” Humza Yousaf, Scotland’s justice secretary, told The Washington Post. “[Now]… there’s not a place in Glasgow that I wouldn’t go to”.

Multiply The Good By Sharing The Positive News With Your Friends On Social Media – File photo by Vvillamon, CC

More Than 200 Volunteer Firefighters From US and Canada Have Deployed to Help With Australian Bushfires

Back in 2018 when wildfires were raging through California, 138 firefighters from Australia and New Zealand flew into the United States so they could help combat the blazes.

According to the National Park Service, “the Australian and New Zealand personnel filled critical needs during the peak of the western fire season for mid-level fireline management, heavy equipment, helicopter operations, and structure protection”—and now, the US is repaying the favor.

For the first time since 2010, the US federal government has deployed a team of 100 American firefighters to help with the emergency response crews in Australia—and they are deploying several dozen more volunteer firefighters this week, according to The Los Angeles Times.

Due to extended drought combined with hot and dry weather conditions, Australia has been experiencing devastating bushfires—particularly in the states of New South Wales, Queensland, and Victoria—since August.

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The US firefighters—many of whom were part of the firefighting teams in California— have been deployed in several separate teams over the course of the last 30 days. The international relief mission is part of the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC), the nation’s support center for wildland firefighting. Based out of Boise, the coalition is made up of eight different agencies and organizations including, the Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Indian Affairs, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Park Service, U.S. Forest Service, National Weather Service, U.S. Fire Administration, and the National Association of State Foresters.

“We’re sending a contingent from several federal agencies that reflects decades of fire management experience,” said U.S. Forest Service Fire Director Shawna Legarza. “We face many of the same firefighting challenges in each country. We’ve utilized their expertise in the past and welcome the opportunity to reciprocate.”

The US is not the only country sending aid to Australia, either—Canada has also sent several teams of wildfire specialists as well, bringing their total amount of volunteers to 87.

According to CBC, this is the first time that Canada has deployed firefighting assistance to Australia, although Canada also benefitted from the firefighting teams of Down Under during the devastating British Columbian wildfires in 2017 and 2018.

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In Just 20 Years, Over 220 Million Children Have Been Saved From Marriage, Labor, and Violence

As English political philosopher Thomas Hobbes famously stated in his treatise On Commonwealth, life without the commonwealth was “nasty, brutish, and short”.

In commemoration of its founding 100 years ago, Save the Children has released its third Global Childhood Report—and it contains figures that would make Hobbes blush.

In Hobbes’ day, the average male life expectancy was about 35 to 45 years at birth in England; now the chances for a child—even in rural Africa—of reaching adulthood unmarried, nourished, and educated education, are getting stronger and stronger.

Success by Numbers

“In the year 2000,” reads the report, “an estimated 970 million children were robbed of their childhoods due to … ill-health, malnutrition, exclusion from education, child labor, child marriage, and early pregnancy.

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Just two decades later, Save the Children reports that number has been reduced by one-third. 115 million more children are being sent to school, 11 million young girls have been saved from marriage, 3 million girls are saved from bearing children in their young age, there has been a decrease of 94 million child laborers, and 4.5 million children have been saved from violent deaths around the world.

Nations across all 5 major continents have worked hard, sometimes in the face of corruption and even war, to achieve these remarkable results, including Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Colombia, the Philippines, Mexico, and Ethiopia.

Across every major geographical zone on earth, Save the Children’s “End of Childhood Index Score” has increased, including west, central, east, and southern Africa.

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Sierra Leone, once a Mad Max-style country of blood diamonds and civil war, has cut their rates of infant mortality, child labor, and child marriages by half since 2000.

25 years after the genocide, Rwanda’s score is 744 out of 1000 after cutting infant mortality rates by 80% and teen pregnancy by 60%.

What Accounts for this Dramatic Improvement?

In the Global Childhood Report 2020, Save the Children lists some of the ways in which these outstanding goals have been achieved.

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One of the primary drivers for reductions in things like child marriage, child labor, teen pregnancy, and school absence has been a global drive for equality between the sexes worldwide—not just in western nations.

“As this report shows, rising education rates among women and girls have been critical to improvements in child health in Bangladesh and child protection in Afghanistan and India,” the report reads.

“Investing in education programs for girls and increasing the age at which they marry can return $5 for every dollar spent. Investing in programs improving incomes for women can return $7 dollars for every dollar spent.”

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The first 5 of the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals which so many bilateral development projects attempt to adhere to include Gender Equality and Quality Education.

The MDG (Millennium Development Goals) put down in the year 2000, targeted the eradication of poverty in all its forms by the end of the century.

“A recent Brookings Institution study found as many as 19 million extra child lives – most of them in Africa—were saved because of MDG-accelerated action,” reads the report.

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Finally, the advances in technologies like smartphones, social media, medical instruments, vaccines and drugs, have changed the face of the world in ways that especially benefit the developing world. Nearly all (96%) of the humans on earth have access to the internet, up from nearly half (58%) in 2001.

Mobile phones are being used to register births, improve early diagnosis of HIV in infants, monitor malnutrition in children, and to educate individuals about family planning, adolescent health and prenatal care.

If this is what nations can achieve in 20 years, another 20 years of pursuing development goals could mean that another 300 million children worldwide could enjoy their childhoods in relative peace and security before entering adulthood as educated, nourished, and independent members of society—which is quite an encouraging thought to have as we enter this bright new decade.

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