Lately we’ve been hearing about the nutritional value of eating insects, such as high-protein ants, grasshoppers and crickets. But what about insects in ice cream? A company in South Africa is producing just that, saying the sweet treat may even be better with bugs. VOAs Deborah Block tells us about it.



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Every year astronomers are seeing farther and more clearly into the cosmos than ever before. One of the ways they are doing it is by linking telescopes together to make them more powerful. The Very Large Array in New Mexico supported by the National Science Foundation is one incredible example. VOA’s Kevin Enochs reports.



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Women who get good pre-natal care before they deliver, vastly increase their chances to have healthy babies. But what happens after they give birth? VOA’s Carol Pearson reports a survey of mothers in the U.S. shows they slack off on their own health needs which doesn’t help them with a new baby.



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The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies warns the Ebola epidemic in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo could spread to urban areas and across international borders because of heightened insecurity and a serious shortage of money. DR Congo Ministry of Health reports 1,739 cases of Ebola, including 1,147 deaths, which indicates a 66 percent fatality rate. 

The Ebola epidemic in conflict-ridden North Kivu and Ituri provinces started 40 weeks ago on August 1.  What is particularly frightening about the latest situation report is that 20 percent of overall cases have occurred in just the last three weeks.

The International Red Cross Federation finds this sharp upsurge alarming.  It is urging the international community to redouble its efforts to contain this deadly virus before it escalates further.  

The IFRC’s Director of Health and Care, Emanuele Capobianco, says the Ebola response faces a double jeopardy of insecurity and critical underfunding.  He says the security situation is complex and will require a range of responses.  But he notes the funding situation could be fixed now.

“At the moment, the financial situation for many of the humanitarian organizations is quite dire,” he said. “There is a real need to step up the response.  Otherwise, activities will have to be scaled down and the impact on the future of the epidemic will be extremely serious.”  

People who get infected with the Ebola virus have a very high risk of dying.  Studies from the 2014 historic outbreak in West Africa show that between 60 and 80 percent of Ebola cases were linked to Ebola-infected bodies at traditional burials.

Capobianco says Red Cross efforts to provide communities with safe and dignified burials are meeting with increasing success.

“Up to now, there have been up to 5,000 safe and dignified burials conducted and they are conducted for, as I mentioned before, the people who died either in the community or the Ebola treatment centers of Ebola confirmed,” he said.  Also, for people who may be just suspected of Ebola.  And, that is why the number of 5,000 is so high.  That is a critical part of the work that we have done and which, at the moment is threatened by the lack of funding.”  

Capobianco says the Red Cross has received less than half of the $30 million it needs to carry out its Ebola-control activities across affected parts of DR Congo, as well as preparedness efforts in neighboring Burundi, Rwanda, South Sudan and Uganda.

He warns Red Cross operations will be forced to close within the next two weeks without additional urgent investment.  

 

 

 

 

 



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Oregon is spending $40 million to dramatically expand the federal free breakfast and lunch program, ensuring that more than 60 percent of its 400,000 public school students will be included, the only statewide effort in the country

Oregon is spending $40 million to dramatically expand its federal free breakfast and lunch program, ensuring that more than 60 percent of its 400,000 public school students will be included, the largest statewide effort in the country.

The program is based on providing free meals to any child whose family lives at up to three times the poverty level, which is $75,000 for a family of four.

New tax package 

The meals expansion program is tucked away in a new tax package for schools, a sweeping $1 billion annual investment explicitly dedicated to boosting student performance. It will be paid for through a new half a percent tax on business. 

Chicago and New York City are among some major cities that offer free breakfast and lunch to all students, but this is the only statewide program according to Partners for a Hunger Free Oregon.

“Hungry kids don’t think about education nearly as much as having something in their stomach,” said Sen. Arnie Roblan, a Democrat from Coos Bay who helped craft the legislation. 

Oregon will allow 761 schools to provide free lunch and breakfast to approximately 345,000 students. 

One in seven households is “food insecure,” according to the Oregon Center for Public Policy , meaning that families have trouble putting food on the table and often don’t know where they’ll get their next meal. 

At least 174,000 children have limited access to food, more than the population of Oregon’s second largest city, Eugene. 

Hunger-Free Kids Act

At least 62% of students attend a school with high federal poverty rates. These schools can get federal assistance to provide free meals to all their students no matter their income levels under the 2011 Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, a policy championed by former first lady Michelle Obama. 

But even though these schools may qualify for assistance, not all of them take advantage of it because of low federal reimbursement rates. The reimbursement rate is different for each school, depending on the school’s poverty level.

Schools with lower reimbursement rates often choose to provide free meals only to students living about two times above the federal poverty level. For a family of four, that would require an income up to $50,000.  

Around a third of food insecure students in Oregon, however, live above that poverty threshold meaning they’re ineligible for free meals under the federal program, according to data from Feeding America . 

Tim Sweeney, a superintendent in Oregon’s impoverished South Coast, said that his district runs a deficit because it chooses to take on the cost of feeding all its students. Many students are completely dependent on schools for food, he said.

But even with federal assistance, it costs around $25,000 a year to provide free breakfast and lunches, money Sweeney said could have gone to textbooks.

“Poverty is a huge deal here and so many students rely on schools to provide them with food and a warm place for shelter,” he said. “Food service may not be a winning game, but we know it means the world to these kids.” 

Gov. Brown signs package

Gov. Kate Brown signed the school funding tax package, but it’s likely to be referred to the voters to decide in 2020, thanks to Oregon’s robust referendum process.  

 Republicans, who make up the minority of the Legislature, sought to block the package by refusing to show up to the Capitol to vote, shutting down all business for a week. They returned Monday at which point the measure was swiftly approved.

Although the tax package was partisan, Roblan says this is the one provision that was never up for debate.

“This is a big buy for our state,” he said. “But there was no hesitation. This is the right thing to do.”



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The U.S. state of Alabama has passed a law that criminalizes abortion in nearly all cases, including pregnancies resulting from rape or incest. Tough abortion laws were earlier adopted in the states of Ohio, Georgia, Kentucky and Mississippi. A growing number of other states hostile to abortion could follow suit. The trend is raising fears that conservatives will seek to make abortion illegal across the country, forcing women to opt for unsafe methods to end unwanted pregnancies.



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Soil gets tired as repeated farming slowly robs it of nutrients. In the past, farmers would be forced to keep their fields empty for a season while the soil recharged, or plant crops like peanuts that put nutrients back into the soil. But UK researchers are adding garbage to their dirt as a way to keep it healthy. VOA’s Kevin Enochs reports that the project is important because so much of the world’s topsoil is degraded.



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A team at the University of Washington has invented a smartphone app that, when used with a paper funnel, is able to detect ear infections in children, helping parents decide whether a trip to the doctor is warranted.

The app, which was described in the journal Science Transnational Medicine on Wednesday, plays a sound akin to a bird chirp into a child’s ear canal via a simple funnel the parents put together.

It plays for 1.2 seconds and then uses the phone’s mic to listen in: If fluids or pus have accumulated behind the eardrum, in the middle ear, the sound pattern of the returned echo will indicate an infection.

“The way to think about it is almost like a wine glass,” said Shyam Gollakota, head of the lab that developed the project.

“And if you tap on the wine glass, you’re going to get a different sound depending on the level of liquid in the wine glass.”

It had a success rate of 85 percent when tested on around a hundred cases and, according to Gollakota, is more accurate than a visual inspection by a doctor.

If an infection is detected, parents will need to go to a doctor anyway for confirmation and to get a prescription. 

Gollakota likened its utility to that of a thermometer, which helps people decide whether a visit to a doctor is appropriate.

Other apps

The ear infection app is just one of several ideas being developed by the lab at the intersection of mobile technology and health.

The goal is to resolve some of the biggest health issues that people face today at lower costs.

Gollakota’s team has also built another application to detect sleep apnea, and another that warns the relatives or friends of a person taking opioids if they appear to be overdosing.

He hopes to obtain regulatory approval for the ear infection app by the end of the year and have it available in the market by early 2020.



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