Johnson and Johnson cuts price of anti-TB tablets

GENEVA, Switzerland (AFP) — US pharmaceutical giant Johnson and Johnson announced Monday an immediate cut in the price of its tuberculosis treatment course — a move NGOs have long been calling for. Bedaquiline, sold under the brand name Sirturo, was approved for medicinal use in the United States in 2012, becoming the first new tuberculosis drug in 40 years to be given the green light. Johnson and Johnson said it would make its bedaquiline tablets […]

China steps up precautions after bubonic plague case

BEIJING, China (AFP) — Authorities in China’s northern Inner Mongolia region have stepped up precautions after a herdsman was confirmed at the weekend to have the bubonic plague. The man was in stable condition at a hospital in Bayannur, the city health commission said in a statement. The commission has forbidden the hunting and eating animals that could carry plague — particularly marmots — until the end of the year, and urged people to report […]

BioNTech, Pfizer report progress in coronavirus vaccine trial

WASHINGTON, United States (AFP) — BioNTech of Germany and the US pharmaceutical giant Pfizer reported positive preliminary results on Wednesday from a joint project to develop a coronavirus vaccine. Known as BNT162b1, it produces antibody responses at or above the levels seen in any convalescent serum — blood from people who have recovered — at relatively low doses, according to BioNTech CEO Ugur Sahin. The preliminary data come from a so-called phase 1/2 trial that […]

Botswana reports mysterious deaths of hundreds of elephants

GABORONE, Botswana (AFP) — Hundreds of elephants have died mysteriously in Botswana’s famed Okavango Delta, the head of the wildlife department said Thursday, ruling out poaching as the tusks were found intact. The landlocked southern African country has the world’s largest elephant population, estimated to be around 130,000. “We have had a report of 356 dead elephants in the area north of the Okavango Delta and we have confirmed 275 so far,” Cyril Taolo, the […]

Brazilian Amazon sees worst June in 13 years for forest fires

RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil (AFP) — Amazon forest fires in Brazil increased by 19.5 percent in June compared to the same month last year, making it the worst June in 13 years, authorities revealed on Wednesday. June marks the start of the dry period and there were 2,248 recorded fires, leaving analysts expecting a worse year for the rainforest than the devastating 2019, which provoked anger throughout the world. The National Institute for Space Research […]

Ancient Australian Aboriginal sites discovered underwater

SYDNEY, Australia (AFP) — Archaeologists have for the first time found Aboriginal artefacts on the seabed off Australia, opening a door to the discovery of ancient settlements flooded since the last ice age, they reported Thursday. Hundreds of ancient stone tools made by Australia’s Indigenous people at least 7,000 years ago were discovered two metres underwater off the remote Western Australia coast, the research published in the PLOS ONE journal said. A second site nearby […]

China eyes July 20-25 launch for Mars rover

BEIJING, China (AFP) — China’s first Mars rover should launch later this month, authorities said Wednesday, as the country races to catch up with the US dominance of space. The Tianwen-1 Mars rover is scheduled to blast off from Hainan island, off China’s south coast, between July 20 – 25, according to the Xichang Satellite Launch Center. It will be China’s first interplanetary mission, and takes place shortly before the next US Mars rover — […]

Japan begins charging for plastic bags

TOKYO, Japan (AFP) — Retailers in Japan began charging for plastic bags Wednesday, a move aimed at curbing Japanese consumers’ love for packaging and finally bringing the country in line with other major economies. Shops including the ubiquitous convenience stores can decide how much to charge customers for the bags, with a common price being three yen (around three US cents). The new rule seemed to be having some effect, with one shopper telling public […]

UK ‘increasingly likely’ to see +40C temperatures

by Kelly MACNAMARA Agence France-Presse PARIS, France (AFP) — Temperatures in Britain could exceed 40 degrees Celsius every three or four years by 2100 if greenhouse gas emissions continue unabated, research published Tuesday has found, as climate change increases the likelihood of scorching heat waves. The modelling study by Britain’s Meteorological Office found that emissions are dramatically increasing the likelihood of extremely warm days in the UK, particularly in the southeast. Without climate change, a […]

Nepal offers locust bounty as swarms threaten crops

KATHMANDU, Nepal (AFP) — Nepal is offering farmers cash rewards for catching desert locusts to limit the damage caused by the destructive swarms that have ravaged harvests in India and Pakistan. South Asia is experiencing its worst infestation in decades, with the plague of locusts devastating agricultural heartlands and are now entering Nepal. “Our decision is aimed at encouraging people to catch the insects instead of using pesticides which might be harmful to the environment,” […]

A vanishing way of life in Danube Delta’s natural paradise

by Mihaela RODINA / Ionut IORDACHESCU Agence France-Presse SFANTU-GHEORGHE, Romania (AFP) — As the “last rower” left in one of the villages dotting Romania’s Danube Delta, Iosif Acsente is all too aware of how the traditions and vistas of the region are slowly disappearing — an issue brought into sharper relief by the coronavirus pandemic. Acsente has been plying the Delta with his wooden boat for more than four decades now from his home village […]

Senegal capital fights shoreline developers

by Emmet LIVINGSTONE Agence France-Presse DAKAR, Senegal (AFP) — It took one morning in late May to cut a large chunk from the side of a seaside volcanic hill in Senegal’s capital Dakar, to make way for a hotel. A man had turned up with permits and diggers got to work, according to Mamadou Mignane Diouf, an official from a local campaign group called Forum Social, who fought against the development. “No one should build here,” […]