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NASA Fail, 60 Days To Save Africa, Google Vs. Death

A NASA rocket carrying cargo to the ISS exploded shortly after launching Tuesday night.
A NASA rocket carrying cargo to the ISS exploded shortly after launching Tuesday night.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga fighters have arrived in Kobani to fight alongside Syrian Kurds in the besieged border city, more than a week after Turkey announced it would let them cross into Syria, The New York Times reports. The 150-strong group were reportedly to be joined by as many as 150 additional fighters from the Free Syrian Army, which has mostly been engaged in the fight against Syrian government forces. Kurdish officials in Kobani believe that these new reinforcements will enable them to open up new fronts against ISIS. The jihadist group meanwhile launched a deadly attack on an oil and gas field near the Syrian city of Homs, killing at least 30 pro-Assad fighters, London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights told AFP.

An Antares rocket carrying cargo to the International Space Station exploded shortly after launching Tuesday night, in the first failure of a NASA commercial space mission. The rocket was carrying an unmanned spacecraft packed with about 2.5 tons of supplies for astronauts on the International Space Station. NASA has come under intense criticism online for describing the dramatic explosion, the first since the space agency outsourced resupply operations to private space companies, as a "mishap." The bill is expected to top $200 million. Russia has offered to help the U.S. with deliveries to the ISS should the NASA require its assistance. Read more from AFP.

“Parts of West Africa face catastrophe within 60 days” if urgent action against the Ebola virus is not taken, a UK umbrella group representing 13 aid charities warned yesterday as it launched an aid appeal, the BBC reports. It is the first time in its 50-year history that the Disasters Emergency Committee is calling for aid for a disease outbreak, “a sign of how serious the situation has become,” its chief executive said. According to the World Health Organization, the worst affected countries could see 5,00 to 10,000 new cases every week by December. Meanwhile, Time reports that Asia is also preparing to face a potential Ebola outbreak but notes that the continent’s recent experiences with epidemics gives Asian nations an edge. Professor Peter Piot, one of the doctors who discovered the deadly virus in 1976 recently warned that China would be at risk “one day” given the number of Chinese citizens working in Africa.

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff edged out reelection, thanks in part to her charismatic predecessor Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva. But what role will the former president seek in Dilma’s second term? According to Folha de S. Paolo’s Valdo Cruz, “With an eye on maintaining the Workers’ Party project in power, the former president wishes to have a bigger influence on his protege's second term. Brazilian law prevents a president from running for a third consecutive term in office. Meaning that nothing would stop Lula — who served from 2003 to 2011 — from deciding to be a candidate four years from now, to succeed his own successor.”
Read the full article, After Dilma's Reelection, The Lula Question Looms.

At least 10 people died and some 300 are missing in central Sri Lanka after a landslide which came after heavy monsoon rains, the BBC reports quoting disaster officials.

In its quest to “cure death,” Google is working on a pill containing nanoparticles that could “patrol the human body” and diagnose cancers, impending heart attacks or strokes and other diseases, The Wall Street Journal reports. According to the newspaper, such a pill and its accompanying wearable device are “likely more than five years off” and will face “huge challenges, both technical and social.” Just over a year ago, the search giant launched Calico, a health company focused on “the challenge of aging and associated diseases.”

The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg reports that U.S.-Israeli relations are at an all-time low, and the colorful word that an unnamed White House official used to describe Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu won’t help. Read our daily Verbatim item here, and Goldberg’s article here.

Unclassified White House computer networks have been breached in recent weeks with unnamed officials quoted inThe Washington Post suggesting the hackers could be working for the Russian government. Although the FBI and the NSA are currently investigating, the White House officials said there had been no damage to the systems and that no classified data was hacked. Meanwhile, Russia and China appear to be finding harmony on Internet security questions, reports Moscow daily Kommersant.

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Zambian President Micheal Sata has died in London at the age of 77 from an undisclosed illness that had taken him off the public stage since June. Sata, whose sharp tongue earned him the "King Cobra" nickname, was elected in 2011.

Who said aging rockers are destined to turn into furniture? Still, for the right price, they can adorn your living room coffee table: A new limited edition signed book by The Rolling Stones is fetching a $5,000-pricetag. There’s also a “cheap” smaller version, available for $150. Sometimes you get what you need ...

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Livestream Shopping Is Huge In China — Will It Fly Elsewhere?

Streaming video channels of people shopping has been booming in China, and is beginning to win over customers abroad as a cheap and cheerful way of selling products to millions of consumers glued to the screen.

A A female volunteer promotes spring tea products via on-line live streaming on a pretty mountain surrounded by tea plants.

In Beijing, selling spring tea products via on-line live streaming.

Xinhua / ZUMA
Gwendolyn Ledger

SANTIAGOTikTok, owned by Chinese tech firm ByteDance, has spent more than $500 million to break into online retailing. The app, best known for its short, comical videos, launched TikTok Shop in August, aiming to sell Chinese products in the U.S. and compete with other Chinese firms like Shein and Temu.

Tik Tok Shop will have three sections, including a live or livestream shopping channel, allowing users to buy while watching influencers promote a product.

This choice was strategic: in the past year, live shopping has become a significant trend in online retailing both in the U.S. and Latin America. While still an evolving technology, in principle, it promises good returns and lower costs.

Chilean Carlos O'Rian Herrera, co-founder of Fira Onlive, an online sales consultancy, told América Economía that live shopping has a much higher catchment rate than standard website retailing. If traditional e-commerce has a rate of one or two purchases per 100 visits to your site, live shopping can hike the ratio to 19%.

Live shopping has thrived in China and the recent purchases of shopping platforms in some Latin American countries suggests firms are taking an interest. In the United States, live shopping generated some $20 billion in sales revenues in 2022, according to consultants McKinsey. This constituted 2% of all online sales, but the firm believes the ratio may become 20% by 2026.

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