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Sydney's wildfire smoke declared a 'public health emergency'

The Japan Times

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA – The smoke blanketing Sydney is a "public health emergency," according to a coalition of Australian doctors and researchers who say climate change has helped fuel the wildfires that have produced the unprecedented haze. Air pollution across Australia's most-populous city and parts of the eastern state of New South Wales have reached levels as much as 11 times higher than what is considered the threshold for "hazardous" conditions, the group said. It called on state and Australian government officials to "implement measures to help alleviate the health and climate crisis." Climate change is worsening many extreme weather events, including drought and heat waves that can predispose devastating wildfires, according to the coalition of 22 health and medical bodies, which includes the Royal Australasian College of Physicians and Public Health Association of Australia. At least 2.7 million hectares (6.7 million acres) of New South Wales bush land have burned in the past few weeks, while a blistering heat wave across Western Australia has precipitated dozens of wildfires across the state.


Documents: Youth care worker sexually abused immigrant boys

FOX News

PHOENIX – Federal authorities allege that a former youth care worker at a Phoenix-area facility for immigrant youths sexually abused eight teenage boys, one of several cases brought to light in recent weeks as thousands of immigrant children have been detained around the country. Court documents show Levian Pacheco faces several charges stemming from incidents that allegedly took place between August 2016 and July 2017 at a Southwest Key facility in Mesa. The case was first reported by ProPublica. Authorities charge that Pacheco performed sex acts on two boys and touched six others, all between ages 15 to 17 at the time. Court documents also state that Pacheco is HIV-positive and that some of the teens opted to be tested for the virus.


Captive audience: Locked down Australians tune into zoo life

Al Jazeera

Melbourne, Australia - Every year, millions of visitors head to zoos across Australia to look at the animals stuck in their enclosures, but with many people now in lockdown themselves, animals are missing their human admirers, and zoos and wildlife parks are losing crucial income. Strict government measures to control the coronavirus pandemic have forced shops, restaurants and entertainment venues across Australia to close, so zookeepers have been going the extra mile for the animals in the absence of visitors. Sticking to daily routines is important for the animals, zoo owners say, so exhibitions and shows have been continuing on schedule in many zoos despite empty seats. "The animals love and miss our zoo visitors," said Terri Irwin, owner of Australia Zoo on Queensland's Sunshine Coast. "They are used to large groups of people admiring them and telling them that they are beautiful and amazing."


Rocket Lab postpones next mission due to coronavirus pandemic – TechCrunch

#artificialintelligence

Rocket Lab is the latest new space company to feel the impact of the global coronavirus pandemic: The small satellite launcher announced on Tuesday that it would be suspending its next launch, a mission called'Don't Stop Me Now' that was set to take-off from Rocket Lab's Launch Complex 1 on New Zealand's Mahia peninsula on March 30. The launch is a rideshare mission that includes satellites from a range of customers, including NASA, as well as the US. National Reconnaissance Office (NRO), and a communications and tech demonstration satellite built by the University of New South Wales, Canberra Space and the Australian government. Rocket Lab says that it has "the full support of [its] customers in pausing operations," and that it will be working with the New Zealand government and health officials, as well as its customers, in figuring out a new timeframe for the mission, with the launch vehicle and systems on the ground set to "remain in a state of readiness for launch" for the time being. Rocket Lab said in its statement about the delay that it made this decision in light of the New Zealand government's March 23 announcement that it would be escalating its COVID-19 response to Level 4 as of Wednesday March 25, which means everyone is expected to effectively stay at home, while all non-essential businesses are closed and events are cancelled.


AI-created flu vaccine starts testing in US

#artificialintelligence

The flu vaccine is getting a boost from AI. The flu vaccine isn't perfect, but Australian scientists are trying to make it work better. Researchers at Flinders University in South Australia have developed a way to use artificial intelligence to create a "turbocharged" flu vaccine. A vaccine created with the computer program -- Smart Algorithms for Medical Discovery, or Sam for short -- started clinical trials in the US about a week ago, Flinders University Professor Nikolai Petrovsky said in an email to CNET. Petrovsky told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation that Sam can be trained and can then learn to create new drugs.