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Nagasaki marks A-bombing anniversary during new nuclear war fears

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TOKYO — Nagasaki paid tribute to the victims of the U.S. atomic bombing 77 years ago on Aug. 9, with the mayor saying Russia’s war on Ukraine showed the world that another nuclear attack is not just a worry but “a tangible and present crisis.”

Mayor Tomihisa Taue, in his speech Tuesday at the Nagasaki Peace Park, said nuclear weapons can be used as long as they exist, and their elimination is the only way to save the future of humankind.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and threat of nuclear weapons use came only a month after it and four other nuclear powers pledged in a statement that nuclear war should never be fought, Taue noted.

“This has shown the world that the use of nuclear weapons is not a groundless fear but a tangible and present crisis,” he said. The belief that nuclear weapons can be possessed not for actual use but for deterrence “is a fantasy, nothing more than a mere hope.”

As in Hiroshima, Russia and its ally Belarus were not invited to the memorial event in Nagasaki.

Silent prayers are offered during a ceremony to mark the anniversary of the U.S. atomic bombing in Nagasaki.
Kyodo News via AP

The United States dropped the world’s first atomic bomb on Hiroshima on Aug. 6, 1945, destroying the city and killing 140,000 people. It dropped a second bomb three days later on Nagasaki, killing another 70,000. Japan surrendered on Aug. 15, ending World War II and Japan’s nearly half-century of aggression in Asia.

Participants, including diplomats from nuclear states, observed a moment of silence at 11:02 a.m., the moment the bomb exploded above the southern Japanese city on Aug. 9, 1945.

Although Russia last week tried to roll back on Putin’s warning, fears of a third atomic bombing have grown amid Russia’s threats of nuclear attack since its war on Ukraine began in February. Russia last week shelled a Ukrainian city close to Europe’s largest nuclear plant.

People pray at the Atomic Bomb Hypocenter Park on the 77th anniversary of the atomic bombing in Nagasaki, southern Japan, Tuesday, Aug. 9, 2022. (Kyodo News via AP)
Attendees gather for prayer at the Atomic Bomb Hypocenter Park on Aug. 9, 2022.
Kyodo News via AP

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said, “Even though we face a severe security environment, we must pursue the history of non-nuclear use and make Nagasaki the last place of nuclear attack.”

Japanese officials worry that the conflict may embolden China to be even more assertive in East Asia, and the government is pushing to further step up its military capability and spending.

Japan renounces its own possession, production or hosting of nuclear weapons, but as a U.S. ally Japan hosts 50,000 American troops and is protected by the U.S. nuclear umbrella. Still, Russia’s nuclear threat has prompted some hawkish lawmakers in the governing party have also proposed a possibility of nuclear sharing with the United States.

A choir group consist of victims of the historic bomb attack sing during the 77th anniversary of the Nagasaki atomic bombing in Nagasaki, southern Japan, Tuesday, Aug. 9, 2022. (Kyodo News via AP)
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and threats of nuclear use were top of mind during the ceremony in Japan.
Kyodo News via AP

Taue said discussions about nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation over the past decades have not been put into practice and trust in the 1968 Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons has become “tenuous.”

“We must recognize that ridding ourselves of nuclear weapons is the only realistic way of protecting the Earth and humankind’s future,” Taue said.

Taue urged Japan’s government to exercise leadership in pursuing peace diplomacy that does not rely on nuclear deterrence.

“Nuclear weapons are not deterrence,” said Takashi Miyata, an 82-year-old survivor, or hibakusha. He said possible nuclear sharing is “the opposite of our wish.”

Air-raid sirens and scenes of bombed-out Ukraine reminded him of the “pika don,” or the flash and explosion of the atomic bombing that Miyata experienced at age 5. His uncle and aunt died in the bombing, and his father died of leukemia five years later. Miyata also developed cancer 10 years ago.

Many survivors of the bombings have lasting injuries and illnesses resulting from the explosions and radiation exposure and have faced discrimination in Japan.

As of March, 118,935 survivors are certified as eligible for government medical support, according to the health and welfare ministry. Their average age now exceeds 84.

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Air Force to unveil its new B-21 Raider stealth bomber Friday

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The U.S. Air Force and Northrop Grumman plan to unveil the latest stealth aircraft called the B-21 Raider at the company’s facility in Palmdale, California, this Friday.

“The B-21 is the most advanced military aircraft ever built and is a product of pioneering innovation and technological excellence,” Dough Young, sector vice president and general manager at Northrop Grumman Aeronautics Systems said in a press release. “The Raider showcases the dedication and skills of the thousands of people working every day to deliver this aircraft.”

Northrop was awarded a contract in 2015 to design and build the world’s most advanced strike aircraft.

The B-21 was made using advanced manufacturing techniques and breakthrough stealth technology. It is a sixth-generation aircraft, which Northrop Corporate President Tom Jones said is “optimized for operations in highly contested environments.”

The plane, according to Northrop’s website, is designed to perform long-range conventional and nuclear missions.

The estimated cost to develop, purchase and operate 100 aircraft is estimated at $203 billion, or about $2 billion per plane.

Currently, the company has six aircraft being assembled in Palmdale and the first B-21 is set to take flight sometime in 2023, depending on ground test results.

The unveiling on Friday is by invitation only.

Northrop Grumman Corp develops and manufactures advanced aircraft systems. The Aeronautics Systems segment engages in the design, development, production, integration, sustainment, and modernization of advanced management systems, weapons systems and aircraft, and mission systems.

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One Step Closer to a Universal Flu Vaccine?

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Imagine a single dose of vaccine that prepares your body to fight every known strain of influenza — a so-called universal flu vaccine that scientists have been trying to create for decades.

A new study describes successful animal tests of just such a vaccine, offering hope that the country can be protected against future flu pandemics. Like the Covid vaccines made by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, the experimental flu vaccine relies on mRNA.

It is in early stages — tested only in mice and ferrets — but the vaccine provides important proof that a single shot could be used against an entire family of viruses. If the vaccine succeeds in people, the approach could be used against other virus families, perhaps including the coronavirus.

The vaccine would not replace annual flu shots but would provide a shield against severe disease and death from potential pandemic threats.

“There’s a real need for new influenza vaccines to provide protection against pandemic threats that are out there,” said Scott Hensley, an immunologist at the University of Pennsylvania who led the work.

“If there’s a new influenza pandemic tomorrow, if we had a vaccine like this that was widely employed before that pandemic, we might not have to shut everything down,” he said. He and his colleagues described the vaccine last week in the journal Science.

By the age of 5, most children have been infected with the flu multiple times and have gained some immunity — but only against the strains they have encountered.

“Our childhood exposures to influenza lay down long-lived immune memory that can be recalled later in life,” Dr. Hensley. But “we’re sort of living the rest of our life dependent on the random chance of whatever we got infected with as a kid.”

Current influenza vaccines protect against seasonal flu but would provide little protection against a new strain that may emerge as a pandemic threat. During the 2009 H1N1 swine flu pandemic, for example, the conventional vaccine offered little defense against the virus. But older adults who had been exposed to H1N1 strains in childhood developed only mild symptoms.

Scientists have long tried to create a vaccine that would introduce children to every possible strain of flu they may encounter later in life. But researchers have been constrained by technical hurdles and by the diversity of the flu virus.

Broadly speaking, there are 20 subgroups of influenza that each represent thousands of viruses. Current vaccines can target four subgroups at most. But the experimental vaccine contains all 20, and it would be faster to produce.

The vaccine elicited high levels of antibodies to all 20 flu subtypes in ferrets and mice, the researchers found — a finding that several experts said was unexpected and promising.

If the vaccine behaves similarly in people, “we’ll have a more broad coverage of influenza viruses — not only those that are circulating, but those that might spill over from the animal reservoir that might cause the next pandemic,” Alyson Kelvin, a vaccinologist at the University of Saskatchewan in Canada, said.

Packing 20 targets into one vaccine does have a downside: Antibody levels in the test animals were lower than when they were given vaccines aimed at individual strains. But the levels were still high enough to be effective against influenza.

Because a new pandemic strain of influenza might differ from the 20 targets included in the experimental vaccine, the researchers also tested it against viruses that were imperfectly matched. The vaccine still provided strong protection, suggesting that it would prevent at least severe illness, if not infection, from a novel pandemic flu virus.

This phenomenon is akin to that with the current Covid vaccines: Although the latest Omicron variants are so different from the ancestral virus that the original vaccine does not prevent infections, it continues to help safeguard most people against severe illness.

This quality may be a particular advantage of mRNA vaccines, Dr. Kelvin said. Conventional flu vaccines target only the specific viruses they are designed for. But mRNA vaccines seem to produce antibodies that defend the body against a broader range of viruses than those included.

The experts noted some important caveats and questions that must be answered before the vaccine becomes a viable candidate.

The animals in the study built defenses against all 20 flu strains equally. But “these animals have not seen flu before,” said Richard J. Webby, an expert in influenza viruses at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis.

Such a complete lack of immunity against flu is only true of very young children, Dr. Webby noted. Older people are exposed to many different strains over their lifetimes, and it’s not clear whether their immune responses to a universal vaccine would be quite so uniform.

“The proof of the pudding will be what happens when it goes into humans and how going into a preimmune population skews the response to it,” Dr. Webby said.

Designing universal vaccines for varying age groups, if necessary, would be a challenge. It would also be important to see how long protection from such a vaccine lasts, some experts said.

“The biggest issue about universal flu is what you need to target and how long you can continue to use the same vaccine,” Ted Ross, director of Global Vaccine Development at the Cleveland Clinic, said. “If you have to keep updating it, it may not increase the advantage of how we do vaccines today.”

The next step for the vaccine would be to test it in monkeys and in people. But proving its effectiveness might be challenging. “How do you evaluate and regulate a vaccine where their targets aren’t circulating, and so you can’t really show effectiveness?” Dr. Kelvin said.

Perhaps the vaccine could be tested in small sporadic outbreaks, or in poultry workers who are at risk of becoming infected with an avian flu virus, she said: “Those are questions that I think we need to answer before we have our next pandemic.”

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With Federal Aid on the Table, Utilities Shift to Embrace Climate Goals

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“I’ve spent too much time this last year flying in helicopters over areas of scorched earth,” Mr. Biden told them, referring to a rash of wildfires, blamed in part on climate change. “More territory is burned to the ground in the West Coast than the entire state of New Jersey in terms of square miles,” he added. “It’s just stunning. Absolutely stunning.”

Mr. Biden also let the assembled group know that he was well aware that many of them in the past were hardly ready to rally behind him, alluding to when he served as vice president during the Obama administration and also pushed, often in the face of industry opposition, for ambitious climate change measures.

During that period, utilities were secretly sending millions of dollars to a law firm that filed litigation on their behalf to block the Clean Power Plan, enacted during the Obama administration. They also made large donations to Republican attorneys general who filed their own lawsuits to overturn air pollution and climate rules.

E.E.I. members, in some cases, even organized their own sophisticated, but covert, political operations to try to block renewable energy mandates.

The owner of Arizona Public Service, the state’s largest electric utility, secretly donated more than $10 million to help elect state regulators who would sabotage renewable energy requirements it opposed.

The company denied for several years that it had played a role in the scheme, until the F.B.I. opened an investigation. The company was subpoenaed and then confessed in 2019 that it had bankrolled the dark-money push.

But despite that history of opposition to clean-air regulations, the industry in recent years has been abandoning coal, largely for economic reasons. Southern Company, which serves 4.4 million electric utility customers Georgia, Mississippi and Alabama, has long had one of the largest fleets of coal-burning power plants, and it waged an intense fight to protect them, including donations to climate change skeptics.

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