Global Tech Stories (March 1, 2022)

Here’s what’s going on in the world of technology for this Tuesday.

Nanobots will one day remove heavy metal pollutants from the water ways and oceans. Scientists in Prague developed nanobots that can attract and retain pollutants and be fabricated at large scale with environmentally sustainable components.

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NASA has new ideas for the future of space exploration. The NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts program selected 12 Phase I projects and 5 Phase II projects for further funding, including a project on extended radiation shielding for astronauts, 3-D printed microbots and the development of artificial gravity through rotating structures.

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Researchers at MIT are tackling bias in machine-learning models by teaching machines to different similarity attributes besides a sensitive one. This method is Partial Attribute Decorrelation, and could make technologies like facial recognition fairer.

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For manufacturers, downtime from broken or stalled equipment can be a drain on resources and time, often without the help of experienced employees to help fix the problem. A recently created self-learning assistance system could change that.

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A newly developed wrap blocks both bacteria and viruses.

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The future of bullet resistant armor looks a lot thinner and could one day be warn in hot and cold climates. Researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison have developed a nano-fibrous material that performs better at resisting impact than steel plates and Kevlar fabric.

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Imagine harvesting electricity from radio waves. Researchers in the University of South Florida have developed a metasurface-based antenna that could harvest 100 microwatts- enough to power a simple device.

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Earthworms play a more active role in the health of soil and the nitrogen cycle by secreting nitrogen in their mucus when active, enriching the soil and contributing to crop health.

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Scientists developed a way to turn on dormant genes using a combination of AI and CRISPR technologies. This could help doctors activate genes for fighting illnesses through personalized medicine and general medical treatments.

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Stonehenge may have been a solar calendar.

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Global Affairs Weekly Stories (Week of February 27, 2022)

Here’s what’s going on in the world for the week of Feb. 27, 2022.

Also, while the Russian invasion of Ukraine dominates the news, we should keep in mind that governments are not the people in any country. The actions of Russian president Vladimir Putin are not representative of all Russian people.

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The Russian government has said it will limit access to Facebook after the company refused to stop independently fact checking and labeling content and claims from four state-owned media sites. This comes as the Russian invasion and war in Ukraine sparks anti-war protests and views in country. Facebook has been criticized in the past for allowing Far Right and conspiratorial claims to go without fact checking, an image both the company and parent company Meta are trying to shake.

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The carbon footprint of Bitcoin has increased after restrictions in China over energy use forced Bitcoin mining to other countries such as Kazakhstan and the United States. In these countries, fossil fuels like coal or more likely to be used to fuel mining operations for the crypto currency.

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Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said China is willing to work with the G7 Build Back Better World initiative and open to Washington joining the Belt and Road Initiative and the Global Development Initiative.  

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Americas

Nicaraguan courts have sentenced seven to prison for likely eight to 15 years each. The convicted are mostly presidential candidates and political opponents or critics of the Ortega government, as the president has weaponized the courts and legal system to go after political opposition in the country.

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Argentina, the third largest economy in Latin America, has reached a deal with the International Monetary Fund for 40 billion USD.

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Several Latin American countries have called on Russia to leave Ukraine, while others have criticized Moscow’s invasion of the country.

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Africa

Russian engagement and resumption of ties on the continent has produced a muted response from several nations in Africa to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The history of Russia’s more recent involvement in Africa is a mix of formal and informal with trade and security ties.

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Burkina Faso may take 30 months to transition back to democracy. A panel ordered by the military coup leaders has recommended the time table but has not released many other details other than a proposed transitional government made up of 20 ministers and 51 parliament members.

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The Gambia is asking the International Court of Justice, the United Nations’ top court, to throw out Myanmar’s legal bid to end the case of genocide against the Rohingya. Citing both the legal conventions such as the 1948 Genocide Convention and evidence gathered by international NGOs and fact-finding missions to the country, the Gambia is pushing with the case against Myanmar for the country’s actions targeting the Rohingya minority.

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Europe

Ukraine and Russia to hold talks Monday. In the meantime, Belarus might be sending troops to support Russian forces invading the country, despite many in Belarus and Russia being opposed to the war in Ukraine.

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Putin’s invasion of Ukraine has created a solidarity in much of Europe against him, and may enhance NATO in the future as his actions create a precedent.

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Anti-war protestors in Russia face restrictions and suppression by the government.

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Middle East

Turkey’s foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Ankara will be implementing the 1936 Montreux Convention, which would limit the use of the Dardanelles and Bosphorus straits during a war. He also referred to the Russian attacks in Ukraine as a war. The Montreux Convention does not prevent Russian warships from going to registered bases to refuel, however, Turkish authorities will be wary of attempts to abuse this caveat.

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Saudi-owned Aramco has sold a stake of it’s natural gas pipelines worth 15.5 billion USD to an investor group led by BlackRock Inc. The move is part of the kingdom’s plans to diversify into artificial intelligence and electric vehicles and other emerging industries.

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Iran limiting criticism of Russian aggression in Ukraine is part of a pattern echoed in previous military actions by Russia against other nations such as Georgia.

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Asia

The Taliban is instituting new restrictions on traveling abroad for Afghans after claims of mistreatment and poor living conditions for Afghan refugees in Qatar and Turkey. Since the Taliban took over the country, thousands have fled to other nations as the economy collapsed. Despite promises to change from their prior 1990s style of rule, the Taliban has been reintroducing old laws and ways of governance, causing many to seek asylum abroad, including those associated with the US occupation and anti-Taliban government forces.

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North Korea launched its eighth missile this year as the leadership in Pyongyang is restarting ballistic missile testing.

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China may help Russia economically, but has a complex political and business environment to navigate.

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India also released statements for Russia and NATO to return to dialogue and diplomacy, but stopped short of joining the US and other nations from launching sanctions. Like China, India has a complex relationship with Russia, only the two nations have had strong ties for decades.

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Global Tech Stories (February 15, 2022)

Here’s what’s going on in the world of technology for this Tuesday.

Explainer: What is the Ethereum Swarm?

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The BlackByte group launched attacks that penetrated at least three critical infrastructure sectors and several US and foreign businesses last year.

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In 2021, 74% of all revenue from ransomware attacks went to Russian-affiliated hacker groups.

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The James Webb Space Telescope has taken its first pictures in space. The object was of the star HD 84406 in the constellation of Ursa Major.

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After testing bionic implants to improve eyesight for sheep, Researchers in Australia came one step closer to bionic eyes for humans.

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Researchers from the RIKEN Center for Sustainable Resource Science in Japan developed a way to produce hydrogen using cobalt and manganese.

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Global Affairs Weekly Stories (Week of February 13, 2022)

Here’s what’s going on in the world for the week of Feb. 13, 2022.

Global News

Climate change threatens the ability of some regions of the world to adapt.

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The COVID-19 pandemic is not over yet and more variants are likely according to the World Health Organization’s chief scientist, Soumya Swaminathan.

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Deloitte’s 2022 Global Health Care Outlook highlights the six major issues affecting global health for the coming year. Some of these issues include mental health, access to care, and digital changes and the environment.

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Americas

Canadian police have cleared protestors from Ambassador bridge on Sunday. The bridge accounts for 25% of US-Canadian trade traffic. The majority of Canadians do not support the ongoing protests in Ottawa.

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Fact Check: Canadian protestors and the “Freedom Convoy”.

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Africa

Somaliland foreign minister Essa Kayd told China the country cannot dictate their relationship with Taiwan. Beijing has largely undermined Taiwan’s recognition in Africa, with only eSwatini having full recognition by Taiwan.

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European Union officials are now focusing on assisting African nations with COVID-19 vaccination challenges such as low shelf life, vaccine training, hesitancy and logistics of distribution of the vaccines. However, African nations such as South Africa are also focusing on developing their own capacity to produce vaccines domestically to avoid over-reliance on imported vaccines.

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Women farmers in Sierra Leone are utilizing swamp lands for agriculture through a agricultural collective. The collective is not only using a potentially greater yielding environment for farming, it’s also providing autonomy and economic growth opportunities for the community.

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Europe

Finland, a non-NATO member sharing a border with Russia, has bought dozens of F-35 stealth aircraft and surface-to-surface missiles from Lockheed Martin. This is part of the country’s ongoing work to improve their military and not related to current tensions between Russia, Ukraine and NATO.

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A former senior general has called for Putin to resign over the Ukraine crisis and other issues related to Putin’s rule of the country.

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Leaders from several political parties met to work on a government after Erdogan, including former members of the current President’s own party.

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Explainer: Putin’s negotiation strategy over Ukraine, according to analysts.

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Middle East

Israel is working on a systemic integration of AI and digital technologies throughout all branches of the military.

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Daesh remains a transnational threat despite prior losses in territory and leadership.

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Protestors have continued for a fifth day in the Syrian city of Sweida, despite government forces being sent in to patrol the streets. The protesters are upset over the living conditions and loss of government supports, in a nation where 90% of the population lives in poverty according to the United Nations.

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Asia

Indonesia is testing a domestic COVID-19 vaccine, the “Merah Putih” or “Red and White”, on human subjects as part of an effort to improve vaccination rates in the largest South East Asian nation. If successful, the government plans to increase domestic vaccination rates and donate the vaccine to other nations.

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The Quad alliance is seeking new “dialogue members” as the organization creates a united front against authoritarian regimes. Initially set up to counter increasing aggressiveness from Beijing, the Quad is also working on efforts to combat COVID-19 and how to work better with organizations like Association of South East Asian Nations.

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The International Labor Organization released a report detailing continued abuses of Uighur and other Turkic and Muslim minority groups in Xinjiang, China, by Beijing. While denying the allegations, Beijing continues to claim the local government is promoting vocational training, language studies and “de-extremism” despite ongoing allegations from locals and human rights groups and international agencies. As covered in an earlier study posted on Global Affairs Weekly, some of the Uighur militants who crossed into Northern Afghanistan did so in response to Beijing’s activities, and some Jihadist groups are also citing the CCP’s policies and actions in Xinjiang as a rallying cry for regional militants.

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Global Tech Stories (February 8, 2022)

Here’s what’s going on in the world of technology for this Tuesday.

MIT scientists created a new material that is as light as plastic and with a yield strength twice that of steel. This new material can be produced in large quantities and impermeable to gases.

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The University of Delaware has developed a hydrogen powered carbon filtration and capture device that captures 99% of carbon dioxide from the air. The device could scale for different applications such as cars, spacecraft, submarines and other machines.

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A new form of targeted medicine has been developed in a collaborative between Australian Centre for Blood Diseases at Monash University and TU Graz (Austria). The metal-organic framework antibody-drug delivery system is a crystal that latches onto a targeted cell and dissolves, exposing only the targeted cell to the drug or chemical.

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A new AI coding program, AlphaCode, could perform almost as well as a human in writing code. However, AI is still not ready to replace human coders.

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Patients with spinal cord injuries may walk again in the next few years with personalized implants. Researchers at Tel Aviv University’s Sagol Center for Regenerative Biotechnology developed 3-D spinal cord tissue that can be implanted and restore walking ability to lab models with long-term chronic paralysis with an 80% success. For lab models with acute paralysis, the implants were successful in restoring walking abilities 100% of the time.

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Global Affairs Weekly Stories (Week of February 6, 2022)

Here’s what’s going on in the world for the week of Feb. 6, 2022.

Global News

Hackers stole 320 billion USD worth of cryptocurrencies from Solona and Ethereum. They accomplished this by exploiting the bridge of Solona and used counterfeit Ethereum coins, which were used to exchange for real coins.

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Coral reefs may die out even if the world limits global warming to Paris Accord pledge levels due to marine heat waves. If global temperatures rise even 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre industrial levels, an estimated 99% of coral reefs unable to recover from marine heat waves, while 2 degrees will affect all coral reefs. It usually takes 10 years for coral to recover, assuming nothing else happens to them, from these heat waves. But climate change and increased carbon levels in the ocean is increasing the number of such heat waves and rapidity of their occurrence.

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The future of the Winter Olympics might be one of indoor artificial snow, as climate change makes winters warmer.

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Americas

Native American tribes will receive $590 million from Johnson & Johnson and three other US drug manufacturers based on a settlement reached last Tuesday. The settlement is the latest in ongoing efforts to hold drug companies in the United States accountable for the opioid crisis, which has hit Native communities the hardest.

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The Colombian Amazon rain forest is under threat from deforestation and wildfires, which risks the country’s efforts to fight climate change.

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Argentina is joining the Belt and Road Initiative in exchange for trade and investment and recognition of the Falkland Islands by China.

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Africa

The French ambassador to Mali has been given 72 hours to leave the country in retaliation for criticism and remarks by French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian about the Malian transitional government. Originally the military junta agreed to have elections this year, but went back on its agreement with France by scheduling elections for 2025. The junta is also relying on Russian mercenaries to fight domestic Jihadists, a move criticized by Western nations and some West African countries, as mentioned in stories from last week’s edition of Global Affairs Weekly.

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The European Union has slapped targeted sanctions against members of the Malian military and transitional government over their involvement in coup against the prior Malian government and breaking the deal to hold elections in February by moving elections to 2025.

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Afrigen is the first African company to produce a local COVID-19 vaccine on the continent. Starting with the Moderna mRNA sequence, the company’s scientists developed their own processes and made a different vaccine as part of their research into next generation vaccines that will be locally produced, have longer shelf life, do not need refrigeration and could attack the virus at both the genetic level and on the protein spikes the virus uses to latch on and infect cells, as referenced in last week’s edition of Global Affairs Weekly.

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Europe

Explainer: What does Putin want in Ukraine and what might be driving him.

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Russia and China have inked a deal worth 117.5 billion USD equivalent to ship more natural gas and oil to the world’s largest energy consumer, giving Moscow more connections to Beijing and decreasing dependence on the European market. However, the energy resources in this deal are not connected to energy resources headed for Europe and come from a different part of Russia geographically.

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Turkey’s President Erdogan has tested positive for COVID-19.

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Middle East

Recreational use of cannabis is gaining acceptance among the youth of the Middle East, despite authorities cracking down on it.

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Syrian opposition parties held talks in Qatar to work on developing a unified opposition to Syrian President Bashir al-Assad. While they might not have strength enough to oust Assad from power, these different parties may create the framework for democratic transition someday, assuming they still retain relevance to the Syrian people.

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Tunisia’s Supreme Judicial Council has been dissolved according to Tunisian President Kais Saied, despite lacking the legal authority to do so.

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Asia

India’s national budget plan for 2022 will focus heavily on infrastructure, housing, a spectrum auction of 5G mobile and 5G services rollout. The government also proposed a digital rupee and a 30% tax on profits made from cryptocurrency trading and nonfungible token exchanges.

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A year after the military took over in Myanmar following a coup, the country is on the edge of economic collapse. Almost half of the population is in poverty according to the International Labor Organization, with the economy being 30% smaller than it would have been without the coup and COVID-19 pandemic according to the World Bank.

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A journalist in the Indian-controlled Kashmir has been arrested under India’s anti-terror laws. The authorities cited “publishing anti-national content” without specifying what that content actually was.

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Global Affairs Weekly Stories (Week of January 30, 2022)

Here’s what’s going on in the world for the week of Jan. 30, 2022.

Global News

Where we are with the hyped Metaverse, and what challenges companies and governments will need to surmount to actually make the Metaverse work.

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A subvariant of the Omicron variant of the COVID-19 virus has been detected. While better at evading the body’s defenses, its unknown how severe or infectious the new subvariant actually is. The subvariant was found mostly in cases Denmark and has spread to the UK and parts of Asia.

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The Asteroid-impact Last Alert System (ATLAS), funded by NASA, can now scan the entire night sky every 24 hours. This system can now give up to a full days’ warning for a 20-meter-wide asteroid and up to three weeks’ warning with 100-meter-wide asteroids.

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Americas

The International Monetary Fund is requesting the government of El Salvador remove Bitcoin as legal tender for the country’s bonds and currency due to the high risks and volatility of the currency.

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Taiwan’s vice president, William Lai, is traveling to Honduras to shore up ties with the government following the election of Xiomara Castro. Castro had floated the idea of reestablishing ties with China but recently walked those ideas back.

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 Anti-vaccine protestors marched in Ottawa on Saturday, desecrating the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in the process. The Canadian Trucking Alliance believes many of the protestors have no connection to trucking as the majority of the Alliance’s members are already vaccinated.

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Africa

South Africa is building out an indigenous vaccine production site that will produce both foreign and domestically created vaccines for COVID and other pathogens and distribute them throughout the continent within the next few years. Other countries on the continent are in various stages of developing sites for local vaccine production.

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Almost 40% of the population of Tigray is suffering extreme hunger according to the World Food Programme. The Amhara and Afar regions are also suffering from severe hunger.

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Burkina Faso has been suspended from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) after a recent coup in the country removed democratically elected president Roch Marc Christian Kabore, citing his failure to stem ongoing violence in the country. Delegations will meet with the military coup leaders later next week.

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Europe

Explainer: Ukraine Crisis and NATO.

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U.S. president Joe Biden is sending some troops to Eastern Europe to bolster NATO forces in the region in the event of a Russian invasion of Ukraine.

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The EU is bringing a case against China to the World Trade Organization. Beijing retaliated economically against Lithuania for the country allowing Taiwan to open a diplomatic outpost in Vilnius.

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Middle East

Thailand and Saudi Arabia reestablished diplomatic ties.

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Iraq could lose 1/3 or arable land and 20% of the nation’s water resources by 2050 due to climate change.

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Lebanon will not disarm Hezbollah but has pledged not to allow the country to be used as a safe haven for groups to launch attacks or activities that harm other Arab states in the region. Neighbors have called on Lebanon to help fight the regional drug trade.

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Asia

Indian company BrahMos Aerospace inks deal with the Philippines government for the sale of BrahMos shore-based anti-ship supersonic missiles. Indonesia, Vietnam and Thailand are also in various stages of engagement with the company regarding missile deals.

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Almost a year since the military of Myanmar overthrew the democratically elected government.

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According to an investigation by the New York Times, the Modi Administration purchased Pegasus spyware from the Israeli NSO group in 2017 to spy on civilians.

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Global Tech Stories (January 25, 2022)

Here’s what’s going on in the world of technology for this Tuesday.

Social Media company Meta plans on developing a powerful AI supercomputer by mid-2022. Meta plans to use this super computer to train their systems, such as content moderation and machine learning.

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A new firmware-based implant malware has been discovered recently by Kaspersky. This malware is the most advanced of its variety so far discovered.

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Researchers at the University of Michigan and Northeastern University developed a topological optimization algorithm that promises not only to cut down time and resources in finding the best designs for architecture, but to reshape the world.

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Self-powered soft temperature sensors have been developed and can lead to the development of smart clothing and soft robotics.

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Banana peels and apple cores may one day fuel your car, fertilize crops and create valuable components to electrical devices. A way to make biofuel, fertilizer, and electrodes out of organic waste material has been created.

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An atomic level layer of graphene could provide protection for next-generation accelerators.

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Global Affairs Weekly Stories (Week of January 23, 2022)

Here’s what’s going on in the world for the week of Jan. 23, 2022.

Global News

A tax on pollution aimed at companies might incentivize companies to actually invest in cleaner energy and green production methods according to new research.

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The Catholic Church will now formally recognize women for lay roles of catechist and lector. These roles had long been performed by women informally despite being officially reserved for men, but Pope Francis recently announced they would be formally recognized by the Church.

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How much electricity is produced by renewable energy sources will vary, but this infographic gives some of the latest estimates and helps clarify the challenges the world faces in transitioning to clean electricity.

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Americas

Fish exports from Brazil is making major gains in China, but a lack of regulation in Brazil threatens local communities and risks overfishing. The parts of the fish being exported are normally thrown away, but in China they’re valued for medical uses.

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The Canadian Trucking Alliance, an organization representing truckers across Canada, spoke out against planned protests scheduled for Jan. 29 at the nation’s capital. The protests target the cross-border vaccine travel mandate by Canada and the United States, which requires truckers to be fully vaccinated.

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The Biden Administration introduced new rules to help attract talent from foreign students by introducing rules to help international students spend up to 36 months in academic training. The Department of Homeland Security also introduced 22 new fields to a program that provides three years of training with employers and another initiative aimed at connecting domestic employers with trained international students.

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Africa

An explainer on why the military is in mutiny in Burkina Faso.

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Enset, a traditional staple in the diets of communities in South and Southwest Ethiopia, could provide millions with food security as climate change changes rain patterns and threatens crops.

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COVID vaccines will need a shelf-life of three to six months to be effectively distributed by recipient countries, according to the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention. Many of the received vaccines have expired due to logistical challenges and storage requirements.

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Europe

Protestors in Istanbul protest against the hosting of the Olympics in China, citing human rights abuses and allegations of genocide against the Uighur population.

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Ukrainian government officials are treating the claims about Moscow attempting a coup to install a sympathetic government in Kyiv as credible. The claims were made by the U.K. foreign office, allegedly based on US intelligence but have not provided evidence yet.

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A Taliban delegation headed to Norway on Sunday probably to convince The US and Western nations to unfreeze financial assets to the tune of $10 billion. The delegation will meet for three days with delegations from the US, Western government officials, human rights and women’s rights advocates, and members of the Afghan community in Norway.

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Middle East

An Israeli company developed a drone capable of firing sniper rifles or standard rifles while flying. The drone is in advanced stages of development and not yet ready for deployment, but the system is based on existing technology used against Hamas.

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Iran may be voting in the United Nations General Assembly soon after South Korea paid off the country’s outstanding dues. The funds were obtained from frozen Iranian assets in South Korea, and in active coordination with the United Nations Secretariat, US Treasury Office of Foreign Assets Control and other agencies.

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Due to COVID-19, the League of Arab States will be rescheduling their annual meeting. While no agenda has been set, there are many issues for the group to focus on.

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Asia

Chinese investment causes trouble in Serbia.

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Afghan women graduates of Code to Inspire are turning to crypto currencies to receive aid and money from abroad as Taliban rule has left the economy in ruins. The organization, based in Herat, taught women how to code before the Taliban took over, and these women had taught others how to set up wallets to receive and transact in crypto currencies as a way to get around the frozen financial system and limits on cash withdrawals at local banks.

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Eighty-four percent of the population of Tonga has been affected by ashfall and a tsunami as a result of the recent volcanic eruption. Limited communications and Internet have been restored and aid is coming from New Zealand and Australia, while aid has been promised from Japan, China, The Asian Development Bank and World Bank.

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Global Tech Stories (January 18, 2022)

Here’s what’s going on in the world of technology for this Tuesday.

Scientists developed a new way to speed up the growth of antibiotic resistance in bacteria, allowing for both the mapping out of routes to resistance and the discovery of these strains before they occur in nature. This effectively allows scientists to discover antibiotic resistance in targeted bacteria in the lab before it develops in nature and develop treatments that can target specific routes to antibiotic resistance before they develop.

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A vision of how the metaverse works with crypto-based assets. While the metaverse is not ready for the world, here’s how the economics of metaverse shopping might work, as well as moving between the different realms of the metaverse.

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Problems like traffic jams and the supply chain crisis could be problems of the past with a new artificial neural network created in Germany.

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Indonesia is planning on following Germany and Japan in creating green hydrogen through power-to-X technology, or P2X technology. With the creation of a green industrial park in North Kalimantan, the government hopes to utilize renewable energy sources to produce chemicals and synthetic fuels.

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Researchers at Georgia Tech developed a class of catalysts for green hydrogen production that require fewer noble metals. This breakthrough lowers the cost of green hydrogen and could make it more common in future energy mixes.

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An AI platform that can analyze potentially cancerous lumps and show doctors the reason it determines whether the lumps are cancerous or not.

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In-Memory computing would allow data to be stored and analyzed in the memory network, but has been very difficult for MRAM (Magnetoresistive Random Access Memory) based systems. Samsung just did it. This is the next step in lower energy consuming AI semiconductor chips.

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The next place for a cyberattack could be the EV charging station, according to new research.

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