Israel’s NSO Under Fire for Spyware Targeting Journalists, Dissidents

There is growing international criticism of Israel following allegations that software from the private security company NSO was used to spy on journalists, dissidents, and even political leaders around the world. A group of American lawmakers is urging the U.S. government to take punitive action against the company, which denies any wrongdoing. In Israel, some experts are calling for better regulation of cyber exports. Linda Gradstein reports for VOA from Jerusalem.

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Big Tech Companies to Allow Only Vaccinated Employees into US Offices

Big tech companies are making it mandatory for employees in the United States to get COVID-19 vaccinations before entering campuses, as the highly infectious delta variant of the coronavirus drives a resurgence in cases.Alphabet Inc.’s Google and Facebook Inc. said on Wednesday all U.S. employees must get vaccinated to step into offices. Google is also planning to expand its vaccination drive to other countries in the coming months.According to a Deadline report, streaming giant Netflix Inc. has also implemented a policy mandating vaccinations for the cast and crew on all its U.S. productions.Apple Inc. plans to restore its mask requirement policy at most of its U.S. retail stores, both for customers and staff, even if they are vaccinated, Bloomberg News reported.Apple and Netflix did not immediately respond to requests for comments.Many tech companies, including Microsoft Corp. and Uber, have said they expect employees to return to their offices, months after pandemic-induced lockdowns forced them to shift to working from home.In April, Salesforce said it would allow vaccinated employees to return to some of its offices.Google also said on Wednesday it would extend its global work-from-home policy through Oct. 18 due to a recent rise in cases caused by the delta variant across different regions.”We’ll continue watching the data carefully and let you know at least 30 days in advance before transitioning into our full return-to-office plans,” the company said.   

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‘Hubris’ and ‘Mendacity’: US Watchdog Unloads on US Efforts in Afghanistan 

Current and future attempts by the United States to use its military might abroad could very well meet the same fate as the country’s nearly two-decade-long war in Afghanistan, a U.S. government watchdog warned, citing the repeated failure of top officials to learn from their mistakes.

U.S. Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction John Sopko unleashed the blunt assessment Thursday during a discussion with reporters, accusing wave after wave of top-ranking defense officials and diplomats of lying to themselves, as well as the American public.

“We exaggerated, overexaggerated,” Sopko said in response to a question from VOA. “Our generals did. Our ambassadors did. All of our officials did, to go to Congress and the American people about ‘We’re just turning the corner.’

“We turned the corner so much, we did 360 degrees,” he said. “We’re like a top.”

Sopko said that while there were “multiple reasons” the U.S. failed to create a more effective and cohesive Afghan military, some of it was “this hubris that we can somehow take a country from that was desolate in 2001 and turn it into little Norway.”

But another key factor, he said, was “mendacity.”

Top ranking U.S. military leaders “knew how bad the Afghan military was,” Sopko said, adding that they tried to keep such problems hidden.

‘We changed the goal posts’

“Every time we had a problem with the Afghan military, we changed the goal posts,” he said. “The U.S. military changed the goal posts and made it easier to show success. And then, finally, when they couldn’t even do that, they classified the assessment tool.”

Sopko cautioned that part of the problem with setting up Afghanistan for success also hinged on Washington’s refusal over almost 20 years to plan for long-term success.

“We’ve highlighted time and again we had unrealistic timelines for all of our work,” he said, pointing to a series of reports by his office during the past 12 years.

“Four-star generals, four-star military, four-star ambassadors forced the USAID [U.S. Agency for International Development] to try to show success in short timelines, which they themselves knew were never going to work,” Sopko said. “These short timelines, which have no basis in reality except the political reality of the appropriations cycle or whatever, whatever is popular at the moment, are dooming us to failure.

“That unfortunately is a problem not just with Afghanistan,” he added. “I think you find it in other countries where we’ve gone in.”

Sopko’s critique Thursday came just after the release of his office’s most recent report, which described the situation on the ground in Afghanistan as “bleak” and warned that the Afghan government could be facing an “existential crisis.”

Pentagon and State Department officials did not immediately respond to Sopko’s criticism, but they repeatedly have defended U.S. efforts in Afghanistan and elsewhere.

Last week, America’s most senior military officer, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman General Mark Milley, said Afghan forces were well trained and well equipped, even though the Taliban had “strategic momentum.”

Milley also has defended the U.S. model known as “train, advise and assist,” calling it “the best approach” to counterterrorism.

 

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US Car Dealers Struggle to Find Inventory Amid Semiconductor Shortage

As the U.S economic recovery continues, many Americans want to buy new cars and trucks. But finding them is hard amid a global semiconductor shortage. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more on how COVID-19 continues to affect supply and demand in the automotive industry.

Producers: Kane Farabaugh, Adam Greenbaum. Videographer: Kane Farabaugh.

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Face Masks Are Back for Many Americans 

Face mask requirements are returning to the United States in some communities and workplaces, along with directives for mandatory coronavirus vaccinations, in a new push to curb the easily transmissible delta variant of the infection that has already killed more than 611,000 Americans.

On the Independence Day holiday earlier this month, U.S. President Joe Biden heralded the strides the country had made in combating the coronavirus. But now he said he was seriously considering requiring that the more than 2.1 million federal workers be vaccinated, and that he would adhere to face mask rules when he visited parts of the country where the virus was surging.

The U.S. is now recording more than 60,000 new coronavirus cases each day, the government said, up from fewer than 12,000 a day in late June.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the leader of the Democratic-controlled U.S. House of Representatives, has reimposed a mask requirement in the chamber.

The western state of Nevada, where the popular Las Vegas gambling mecca is located, is reimposing mask rules for indoor gatherings, as is the Midwestern city of Kansas City, Missouri. A major newspaper, The Washington Post, said it would require that all its journalists be vaccinated before returning to the office in mid-September.

The requirements follow new guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which said Tuesday that new data suggested even vaccinated people could pass on the virus if they became infected. The CDC said masks should be worn inside public places in communities that have seen a dramatic increase in COVID-19 cases in recent weeks. COVID-19 is the disease caused by the coronavirus.

“I know this is not a message America wants to hear,” CDC Director Rochelle Walensky told CNN on Wednesday. “With prior variants, when people had these rare breakthrough infections, we didn’t see the capacity of them to spread the virus to others, but with the delta variant, we now see that you can actually now pass it to somebody else.”

She stressed that vaccines against the coronavirus were preventing greater levels of hospitalization and death. But millions of Americans remain skeptical of the vaccines and are refusing to get inoculated, or are saying  they are unlikely to do so.

Walensky said unvaccinated people were accounting for “a vast majority” of new infections. Two-thirds of the vaccine-eligible population of people 12 years and older in the U.S. have received at least one dose. Still, the government said slightly less than half of the U.S. population of more than 328 million people had been fully vaccinated.

“We can halt the chain of transmission,” Walensky said Wednesday on “CBS This Morning.” “We can do something if we unify together, if we get people vaccinated who are not yet vaccinated. If we mask in the interim, we can halt this in just a matter of a couple of weeks.”

With the new federal guidance, numerous state and municipal governments across the U.S. are reconsidering or rescinding their earlier easing of mask rules.

The CDC also called on school systems across the country to require masks for students, teachers and visitors as they start the new school year in August and September. But some states in the South have passed laws banning masks in schools, leaving it unclear as to how they may react to the new CDC guidance.

Some information in this report came from The Associated Press.
 

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Germany Warns Turkey’s Exiled Media of Apparent Hit List

Celal Baslangic was at his Cologne home on July 16 when two German police officers knocked on his door and warned the veteran Turkish journalist that his name was on an apparent “hit list” of those allegedly to be targeted for violence. 

The police provided Baslangic with contact details for an officer overseeing an investigation into a list of about 50 outspoken critics of Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, some of whom live in Germany.  

Rumors of such a list already were circulating among the exile community. But as police investigate the veracity of the list, attention has turned to whether Ankara has the ability to reach dissidents who have left the country to avoid persecution.  

Journalists named on the list and experts say nationalist groups with links to violent crimes operate in Germany and elsewhere in Europe, and that exiles who fled persecution in Turkey no longer feel safe. 

Baslangic, a veteran journalist with 47 years’ experience, left Turkey in early 2017 as authorities arrested dozens of reporters and others accused of supporting or promoting a failed attempted coup the year before.  

The former Cumhuriyet and T24 journalist was charged with terrorist propaganda for taking part in a solidarity campaign with the pro-Kurdish newspaper Ozgur Gundem. 

Baslangic told VOA he believes the apparent hit list is an attempt to intimidate journalists and media outlets like Arti TV, the Turkish news network he founded when he moved to Cologne.  

“I do not think that this is only because of Erdogan. It is possible to view it as an effort of the coalition partners that will prevent Erdogan from getting closer to both the European Union and NATO,” Baslangic said. 

Erdogan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) has a parliamentary alliance with the far-right Nationalist Movement Party (MHP).  

The Turkish Embassy in Berlin did not return VOA’s emailed requests for comment.  

Cologne police confirmed they have been aware of this apparent hit list since mid-July but declined to provide further information about the number of individuals and the identities of those on the list. 

“Those affected are journalists, writers, and artists close to the Turkish opposition,” a spokesperson told VOA.  

But Baslangic said he wants more transparency about the list. 

“We want to know the source of this list so that we can take it seriously, or [know if] it’s just to intimidate us, so that we can tell the difference,” Baslangic said. “No one can distinguish it better than us, because we know the Turkish state, and we know what this state can do.”

Physical attacks

For some journalists, like Erk Acarer, the warning he was on the list came as little surprise. 

On July 7, three assailants attacked the columnist for daily BirGun, in the courtyard of his Berlin apartment complex. The assailants — who spoke Turkish — warned Acarer to stop writing.  

Acarer needed hospital treatment for a head injury, and German police are investigating, the journalist told VOA. He added that police have provided protection for him and his family.  

On July 20, however, Berlin police found a threatening note wrapped around a hard-boiled egg in the courtyard to his home. 

Acarer says he thinks the Turkish government has a long reach in Europe and beyond.  

“Polarization and conflict in Turkey are being carried to Europe and other parts of the world by the AKP and MHP government. … So, I think the assailants are the gangs who have been consolidated by [the Turkish government] and live in Germany,” Acarer told VOA.  

Acarer didn’t specify a group, though networks that include the Grey Wolves and Osmanen Germania reportedly are operating outside of Turkey. 

In a 2020 report, Berlin estimated that in Germany, 11,000 people are affiliated with the ultra-nationalist movement of which the Grey Wolves are a part. The far-right Turkish group has been accused of politically motivated violence in Turkey and abroad.  

Separately, German media in 2017 alleged that Metin Kulunk, a high-ranking member of the AKP, had links the Turkish nationalist group Osmanen Germania.  

The group was outlawed in Germany in 2018 because of its links to violent crimes and extreme right-wing views.  

VOA was not able to find contact information for Kulunk. The media chair of the AKP did not respond to VOA’s email. 

Kulunk responded to the 2017 media reports at the time via social media, saying Germany supports the PKK and FETO group, and that its “deep state’s media operations are futilely trying to target me and Turkish civil society organizations.” 

Ankara says the FETO group was behind the failed attempted coup. The PKK is designated as a terror group by Turkey, U.S. and EU. 

No safety in exile

Hayko Bagdat, an exiled Turkish Armenian journalist, says Germany’s foreign policy priorities with Turkey, including the EU refugee deal and Turkey’s potential role in Afghanistan, prevent Berlin from addressing human rights issues with Ankara. 

Police also informed Bagdat his name is on the apparent list. 

“We are no longer a subject on their agenda at the negotiation table with the Erdogan regime. Democracy in Turkey, prisoners, imprisoned politicians, people in exile or their safety is not even an argument that is used against Erdogan anymore,” Bagdat told VOA.  

Because of that, Bagdat said, “Dissidents all over the world do not feel secure.”  

The journalist moved to Berlin from Istanbul in 2016 and Turkey later issued a warrant for his arrest on charges including terrorist propaganda and insult.   

An official source in Germany’s Foreign Ministry told VOA via email that Germany has “repeatedly campaigned for journalists and the respect for their rights in Turkey.” 

“For all people living in Germany, it must be guaranteed that they are not imperiled by any violence, regardless of underlying motivations,” the source said, adding that any “deficits in the respect for freedom of speech and the media are addressed consistently.” 

Laurens Hueting, an advocacy officer for the Leipzig-based European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF), finds the attack on Acarer and list of alleged targets disturbing.  

“Going to live in exile is not enough for Turkish journalists to escape the persecution they face inside their own country, which is quite a frightening development in and of its own,” Hueting told VOA, describing Germany as a “safer haven.” 

“What we’ve been advocating for and saying is that there should not be this half-hearted approach and that human rights should be always at the center and the forefront of this relationship consistently, and not be made subordinate to other geopolitical considerations,” Hueting said. 

For all the debates on politics and attention to the apparent hit list, for those directly affected, it is one more threat they must contend with just because of their profession.  

When asked if he was taking steps to protect his safety, Baslangic responded, “What can we do? Are we supposed to get guns? We’re journalists and we’re doing our jobs.” 

This report originated in VOA’s Turkish service.  

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‘This Was a Coup’: Police Officers Describe Capitol Riot to US Lawmakers

Warning: This TV package includes a soundbite from Tuesday’s congressional hearing that contains profane and racist language.

U.S. lawmakers heard emotional testimony from four members of law enforcement Tuesday as a special panel met for the first time to investigate the events of the January 6 attempt by Trump supporters to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election. VOA’s Congressional Correspondent Katherine Gypson reports the panel will probe former President Donald Trump’s role in the riot.

Produced by: Katherine Gypson
 

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Tunisian President’s Suspension of Parliament Gets Mixed Reaction

Tunisia’s Islamist al Nahda Party is calling President Kais Saied’s suspension of parliament a “coup” and urging a broad “dialogue,” while other political parties and leaders appear divided on his decision.

A number of trade syndicates, including the Labor Federation, say they support the move so long as it does not last more than a month.

Tunisian state TV reported that the situation inside the country was calm Tuesday following Saied’s decision Sunday to suspend parliament. It said Tunisians were largely obeying a curfew that forbids more than three people from gathering in the streets during the night.

Most government institutions, with the exception of security forces, interior ministry and customs, were also suspended for several days. The president met with political and trade union leaders to discuss his next move, amid calls by some for a well-defined “road-map.”

 The Tunisian president told a roundtable Monday night that he had been patient for a long time, but that some provocateurs were trying to destroy government institutions from within. Saied asked for calm and urged citizens to avoid provocations. Democracy is important, he said, but the poor have no rights.

Islamist parliament speaker Rached al Ghannouchi told supporters to suspend their protest in front of parliament to avoid bloodshed. His al Nahda Party called the president’s suspension of parliament a “coup,” but urged all political parties to hold a dialogue.

Peter Johnson, a former U.S. diplomat who now works in Tunisia, tells VOA that he doesn’t see a clear-cut answer as to whether the president’s move was legal or not.

“I would definitely say it’s a grey area. It’s not really clear black or white because this is something that article 80 [of the constitution] gives him the power [to do] as commander-in-chief of the military — the power of national security, of protecting the borders, of diplomacy,” Johnson said. “However, at the same time, that same section of the constitution talks of his power to remove certain government officials, but not to completely suspend parliament.”

Johnson points out that the constitution also gives parliament the right to remove the president with a two-thirds vote, so the president short-circuited a major check and balance. But, he argues, the Tunisian public seems broadly supportive of Saied’s move, so far.

“The Tunisian people seem broadly supportive [of the president’s move] so far,” Johnson said. “I hear from many, many friends and from seeing the celebrations in the streets that people were very frustrated by the stalemate and the inaction of this current government [or past government].”

Fathi al Ayadi, a spokesman for the Islamist al Nahda Party, told Qatar’s al Jazeera TV (Arabic) that “the best way to avoid the threats to the country that [President Saied] says he is trying to prevent is a return to normal constitutional procedures and a return to democracy and the political process.”

Outspoken Tunisian member of parliament Abir Moussi applauded the president for sidelining the al Nahda Party, while Oussam Khleifi, of the Heart of Tunisia Party, thanked him for “his wise leadership and for acting swiftly.” The head of the Tunisian workers’ party, however, claimed the president was “misleading the people.”

 

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Malawians Line Up for COVID Shots After Expired Doses Were Burned

Malawians have again begun to line up to get vaccinated against the coronavirus.  Malawi ran out of doses in June amid a rise in COVID-19 infections and just weeks after the government burned 20,000 unused doses that expired because of vaccine hesitancy.

Malawi’s government resumed its vaccination program Monday after the arrival of 192,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine.

Since then, vaccination centers have seen long lines of people, unlike the past, when some centers would only vaccinate two people per day.

Liznet Chilungo was among thousands who lined up for vaccinations Tuesday at the Youth Centre in Blantyre.

She said she “decided to get vaccinated this time because the COVID-19 infection is now becoming very scary and many [more] people are dying than before.” 

She said she originally was hesitant because she doubted the efficacy and safety of the AstraZeneca vaccine due to myths and misinformation.

George Jobe, executive director for the Malawi Healthy Equity Network, said the huge turnout confirms the fear and panic people have about rising COVID-19 cases and other factors.

“The first factor could be that those who received the first jab and second jab are still in good health including the state president and the vice president contrary to myths and misinformation that were there. That should have affected the mindset of people over the COVID-19 vaccine,” Jobe said.

Also, preliminary results of a survey by the Ministry of Health show that over 80% of COVID-19 patients who are admitted to public hospitals had not been vaccinated.

However, Malawi is far from inoculating the 11 million people needed to reach herd immunity.  

Records from the Public Health Institute of Malawi show that just 43,165 people have received two doses of a vaccine.  Another 385,000 have received just the first shot. 

Charles Mwansambo, secretary for the Ministry of Health, said people most vulnerable to the coronavirus should get vaccinated first. 

“Because we will be getting enough vaccine for everybody, so I would recommend that let’s give a chance to health workers, let’s give a chance to those over age of 60. Let’s also give a chance to those with conditions like high blood pressure, sugar (diabetes). And the rest of us we can wait,” Mwansambo said.

The Ministry of Health announced last week that in addition to 192,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, which arrived Saturday, Malawi expects to receive 119,000 more doses of the same vaccine before the end of the month.

The country is also expected to receive donations of 300,000 Pfizer vaccine doses and 300,000 Johnson & Johnson doses in early August.  

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US Defense Chief in Singapore in Push to Boost Southeast Asia Ties

U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin will likely discuss deterring Chinese aggression in Southeast Asia through his stated pursuit of “integrated deterrence” as he delivers an address Tuesday during a visit to Singapore. 

Austin is the first top official from the Biden administration to visit the region.

After talks Tuesday with Singapore’s Defense Minister Ng Eng Hen, the two countries said in a joint statement they discussed regional security issues and “the importance of sustaining a rules-based order,” a major tenet of U.S. foreign policy since Biden took office.

The statement said the defense ministers also talked about potential areas of further cooperation, including cyber defense, humanitarian aid and disaster relief. 

Austin’s trip includes further stops in Vietnam and the Philippines.

 

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Cities Unprepared for Intense, Frequent Heat Waves

As the world braces for more intense heat waves fueled by climate change this summer, urban centers across the world are unprepared to face these brutal natural disasters.

Several countries in the Middle East, including Iran, Kuwait, Oman and the United Arab Emirates, surpassed 50 degrees Celsius this summer. Also, Moscow and Helsinki, Finland, saw their hottest June temperatures on record.

A few weeks ago, a record-breaking heat wave in the usually temperate Pacific Northwest of the United States and western Canada brought temperatures of 42 degrees Celsius or higher. Oregon and Washington state reported nearly 200 heat-related deaths, and British Columbia’s Coroners Service recorded over three times the number of sudden deaths than usual. Laborers in kitchens, warehouses, factories and fields suffered from heat exhaustion. Thousands of people lost power, and some public transportation services shut down due to melting operating infrastructure.

“(Heat) is different than other extremes because it’s slow moving, it’s invisible,” said Jennifer Vanos, who studies the effects of extreme heat on human health at Arizona State University. “And when it’s anomalous, when it’s something people have never experienced before, then it becomes a lot more dangerous.”

Many emerging global climate risks, such as heat stress, will be concentrated in urban areas, according to reports by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Heat waves can hit hard in cities, partly because of urban infrastructure that both exacerbates and fails to handle extreme heat. With over 50% of the world’s population residing in densely populated urban areas, experts expect heat-related deaths, economic consequences and infrastructural damage will become a growing concern. 

Urban islands of heat

Cities can run several degrees hotter than nonurban environments. This effect, known as an urban heat island, puts city dwellers at more risk during hot weather. Asphalt in pavement and roof shingles, for example, provides a dark surface that reflects less light and absorbs more heat, explained Hashem Akbari, who studies urban heat islands at Concordia University in Montreal.

Meanwhile, closely packed buildings and streets also mean fewer trees and plants, which reduces potential shade. Plants normally absorb water through their roots and use surrounding heat to evaporate and emit the moisture as vapor from their leaves. With less greenery, that natural cooling effect is also gone.

“Citizens who are living in urban areas are going to see the cumulative effect of the heat island plus the extreme heat that will come,” Akbari told VOA.

Energy demands

In these scenarios, to avoid the heat, urban populations rely on electricity to power air conditioners and fans.

“Urban infrastructure already has a higher population to serve, so the infrastructure is working at a higher capacity because of the demand (for electricity),” said Sayanti Mukherjee, a professor in the department of industrial and systems engineering at the University at Buffalo, New York.

When all these demands exceed how much electricity an energy grid can generate and provide, the system overloads and the flow of power shuts off. Extreme weather events are difficult to anticipate when they are far from the historical norms that helped city planners and engineers prepare for possible situations.

“There is a lack of adequate models that can predict what would be the demand in the future accounting for all of these extreme events,” Mukherjee explained to VOA. “Climate is just taken as a constant, but the climate is changing.”

Materials in infrastructure

Heat makes materials expand, and that can have consequences on urban infrastructure.

Power lines, typically made of copper or aluminum, help transmit electricity to buildings and transportation systems. A combination of heat from the weather and overloaded electricity demands can cause the metal to expand and sag. The drooping lines then risk touching trees, vehicles or people and can cause fires or deaths.

Concrete and asphalt expand too. “What we really get concerned about with heat is big variations at a quick time scale,” said Matthew Adams, who studies concrete durability and sustainability at New Jersey Institute of Technology. Sudden changes in temperature can heat up a surface faster than an interior. The difference results in inconsistent expanding in concrete that creates cracks and can cause buildings, streets or bridges to deteriorate faster.

On asphalt pavement, the material has nowhere to expand sideways, so it pushes against itself, buckles upwards and cracks, Adams explained.

Then there is steel. A bridge roasting under the sun, for example, can swell where the joints of two steel parts meet and push against each other. Without room to shift, they can get stuck when trying to lift the bridge to allow boats to pass under. Similarly, rail tracks can expand to create curves and kinks that force trains to run slower or even stop to avoid accidents. 

Preparing for climate change

Besides lowering greenhouse gas emissions to limit climate change, researchers are also encouraging other solutions for helping urban populations endure extreme heat.

“I think one thing cities or counties can do better is have more systematic records of heat-related deaths,” Vanos said, referring to the frequent underreporting of these mortalities. That, and improving coordination across different public sectors, can help identify at-risk populations and improve emergency responses. 

Planting more vegetation such as trees, grass and green roofs to shade and cool cities has the potential to turn cities into oases instead of urban heat islands, said Akbari. Updating structures with materials that are lighter in color and more reflective can also lower temperatures and save energy.

To address energy demands, Mukherjee recommends integrating renewable sources, such as wind and solar, into power generation. Introducing smart grids with computer-based operators to control the multiple components of a power system can also help utilities respond efficiently to weather events.

The world’s carbon emissions have pushed the climate past a tipping point, according to experts. “The more frequent and intense heat waves are showing that we need to prepare ourselves more to address this problem in the future,” said Mukherjee.

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Senate Confirms New US Air Force Secretary

The U.S. Senate has confirmed Frank Kendall’s nomination to lead the Air Force. 

The approval of President Joe Biden’s choice came in a voice vote late Monday. 

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said in a statement that Kendall brings decades of expertise and is “an unmatched asset for the challenges we face today.” 

“Throughout his career, Frank has led the department’s acquisition efforts to equip our warfighters with the latest capabilities and cutting-edge weaponry for the battlefield, educated our next generation of leaders at West Point, and served as a human rights lawyer,” Austin said. 

Kendall served as undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics during the administration of former President Barack Obama. 

He earlier worked as a vice president for defense contractor Raytheon. 

Carla Babb contributed to this report.

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