Johannesburg, Oct 16 (AP/UNB) — The World Health Organization says it is convening a meeting on Wednesday to determine whether Congo's latest Ebola outbreak constitutes a public health emergency of international concern.
Aid organizations have expressed alarm as the rate of new cases has more than doubled this month and community resistance to Ebola containment efforts in some cases has turned violent.
This is Congo's tenth Ebola outbreak but this is the first time the deadly virus has appeared in the far northeast, an area of active rebel attacks that health workers have compared to a war zone.
WHO recently said the risk of regional spread was "very high" as confirmed cases were reported close to the heavily traveled border with Uganda.
Congo's health ministry says there are now 179 confirmed cases, including 104 deaths.
Sydney, Oct 16 (AP/UNB) — A beaming Duke and Duchess of Sussex started the first day of official engagements of a royal tour of Australia on Tuesday with the public focus on the former Meghan Markle's newly announced pregnancy.
Meghan wore a tight-fitting cream dress by Australian designer Karen Gee that barely revealed a royal bump as they were welcomed at an event at the Sydney Harbor-side mansion where the couple are staying.
The news of the pregnancy was announced after Prince Harry and the American former actress arrived in Sydney on Monday and 15 hours before their first public appearance.
Among those taken by surprise were their Sydney hosts, Governor-General Sir Peter Cosgrove and Lady Lynne Cosgrove. The governor general, who represents Queen Elizabeth II, Australia's head of state and Harry's grandmother, sent staff to hastily buy a toy kangaroo with a joey in its pouch and tiny pair of Australian sheep skin boots for their pregnant guest.
"Here's your first gift for the nursery," the governor-general told the couple during the official welcome at his official residence, Admiralty House.
"Thank you, that's so sweet," Meghan said as she received the toy.
The main focus of Tuesday's engagement was to meet Invictus Games representatives from the 18 countries competing in the event that starts Saturday. The sporting event, founded by Harry in 2014, gives sick and injured military personnel and veterans the opportunity to compete in sports such as wheelchair basketball.
Several of the representatives congratulated the couple on their baby news. Meghan replied: "Thank you so much. We are very excited."
The pregnancy has made front-page news across Australia.
The Sydney Morning Herald ran the headline: "A smooth ride to Sydney, but royals reveal bump on the way."
Another Sydney tabloid screamed: "HEIR DINKUM!" — a play on the Australian term "fair dinkum," which is used to emphasize the genuineness or truth of something.
Darwin's irreverent NT News chose the headline: "Ginger Pregs" — a play on a long-running Australian comic strip about a mischievous red-head boy called "Ginger Megs."
Harry, dressed in navy blue suit, smiled proudly as the couple held hands on their tour through Admiralty House.
The couple are on 16-day visit to Australia, Fiji, Tonga and New Zealand.
The announcement of the pregnancy confirms weeks of speculation from royal watchers about why Meghan was not joining Harry on his Sydney Harbor Bridge climb set for Friday.
Harry, 34, and Meghan, 37 — along with Prince William and his wife, Kate, the duchess of Cambridge — have stepped to the fore in the last year as the 92-year-old queen slightly reduces her public schedule.
Harry has become immensely popular in Britain, in part because of his military service and tireless work on behalf of wounded soldiers, and he has spoken often in recent years of his desire to settle down and start a family.
Meghan, with her American roots and successful acting career, has been seen as a modernizing influence on the sometimes stodgy royal family, and she is credited by many for bringing happiness to Harry, who has long struggled to cope with the early death of his mother, Princess Diana.
Mchenry, Oct 15 (AP/UNB) — Wildlife officials in Maryland tracked a black bear cub for three days in order to tranquilize it and remove a bucket that had gotten stuck on its head.
The Cumberland Times-News reported Sunday the 100-pound cub was freed near the Wisp Resort in McHenry during an annual autumn festival.
The Wildlife and Heritage Service of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources said in a Facebook post that a crowd of onlookers at the resort was giddy to see the cub returned to the nearby woods.
London, Oct 7 (AP/UNB) — Screenwriter Ray Galton, who co-wrote the landmark British comedy series "Hancock's Half Hour" and "Steptoe and Son," has died at 88.
Galton's family said Saturday that he died Friday evening after a "long and heart-breaking battle with dementia."
The London-born Galton was diagnosed with life-threatening tuberculosis as a teenager. In a sanatorium, he met another sick teen, Alan Simpson, and the pair became long-term writing partners.
Manager Tessa Le Bars called them "the fathers and creators of British sitcom."
Galton and Simpson wrote "Hancock's Half Hour" for popular post-war comedian Tony Hancock. Their biggest hit was "Steptoe and Son," a sitcom about father-and-son junk dealers, which ran between 1962 and 1974. Producer Norman Lear adapted it into the U.S. sitcom "Sanford and Son."
Simpson died last year at 87.
San Carlos, Oct 4 (AP/UNB) — Brandon Alexander would like to introduce you to Angus, the farmer of the future. He's heavyset, weighing in at nearly 1,000 pounds, not to mention a bit slow. But he's strong enough to hoist 800-pound pallets of maturing vegetables and can move them from place to place on his own.
Sure, Angus is a robot. But don't hold that against him, even if he looks more like a large tanning bed than C-3PO.
To Alexander, Angus and other robots are key to a new wave of local agriculture that aims to raise lettuce, basil and other produce in metropolitan areas while conserving water and sidestepping the high costs of human labor. It's a big challenge, and some earlier efforts have flopped. Even Google's "moonshot" laboratory, known as X, couldn't figure out how to make the economics work.
After raising $6 million and tinkering with autonomous robots for two years, Alexander's startup Iron Ox says it's ready to start delivering crops of its robotically grown vegetables to people's salad bowls. "And they are going to be the best salads you ever tasted," says the 33-year-old Alexander, a one-time Oklahoma farmboy turned Google engineer turned startup CEO.
In this Thursday, Sept. 27, 2018, photo bok choy is seen growing in the foreground at Iron Ox, a robotic indoor farm, in San Carlos, Calif.
Iron Ox planted its first robot farm in an 8,000-square-foot warehouse in San Carlos, California, a suburb located 25 miles south of San Francisco. Although no deals have been struck yet, Alexander says Iron Ox has been talking to San Francisco Bay area restaurants interested in buying its leafy vegetables and expects to begin selling to supermarkets next year.
The San Carlos warehouse is only a proving ground for Iron Ox's long-term goals. It plans to set up robot farms in greenhouses that will rely mostly on natural sunlight instead of high-powered indoor lighting that sucks up expensive electricity. Initially, though, the company will sell its produce at a loss in order to remain competitive.
During the next few years, Iron Ox wants to open robot farms near metropolitan areas across the U.S. to serve up fresher produce to restaurants and supermarkets. Most of the vegetables and fruit consumed in the U.S. is grown in California, Arizona, Mexico and other nations. That means many people in U.S. cities are eating lettuce that's nearly a week old by the time it's delivered.
There are bigger stakes as well. The world's population is expected to swell to 10 billion by 2050 from about 7.5 billion now, making it important to find ways to feed more people without further environmental impact, according to a report from the World Resources Institute .
Iron Ox, Alexander reasons, can be part of the solution if its system can make the leap from its small, laboratory-like setting to much larger greenhouses.
The startup relies on a hydroponic system that conserves water and automation in place of humans who seem increasingly less interested in U.S. farming jobs that pay an average of $13.32 per hour, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Nearly half of U.S. farmworkers planting and picking crops aren't in the U.S. legally, based on a survey by the U.S. Department of Labor.
The heavy lifting on Iron Ox's indoor farm is done by Angus, which rolls about the indoor farm on omnidirectional wheels. Its main job is to shuttle maturing produce to another, as-yet unnamed robot, which transfers plants from smaller growing pods to larger ones, using a mechanical arm whose joints are lubricated with "food-safe" grease.
It's a tedious process to gently pick up each of the roughly 250 plants on each pallet and transfer them to their bigger pods, but the robot doesn't seem to mind the work. Iron Ox still relies on people to clip its vegetables when they are ready for harvest, but Alexander says it is working on another robot that will eventually handle that job too.
Alexander formerly worked on robotics at Google X, but worked on drones, not indoor farms. While there, he met Jon Binney, Iron Ox's co-founder and chief technology offer. The two men became friends and began to brainstorm about ways they might be able to use their engineering skills for the greater good.
"If we can feed people using robots, what could be more impactful than that?" Alexander says.