Hello, this is the global news podcast from the BBC World Service with reports and analysis from across the world. The latest news, seven days a week. BBC World Service podcasts are supported by advertising.
This is the Global News podcast from the BBC World Service.
I'm Jacki Lyden. In the early hours of Friday, the 19th of February, these are our main stories. NASA successfully lands a rover vehicle on Mars seven months after leaving Earth and inquiry in Colombia finds the army killed over 6000 civilians under President Alvaro Uribe, passing them off as enemy combatants. And warehouse scientists are trying to create a robotic nose to detect cancer inspired by dogs.
Also in this podcast, President Merkel of France urges Europe and the U.S. to urgently send coronavirus vaccines to developing countries. And we hear from Don McLean 50 years since the release of American Pie.
Seven months after leaving Earth and after a journey of nearly half a billion kilometres, the Perseverence Rover has successfully landed on Mars. Engineers at NASA's Mission Control in California erupted with joy when confirmation of touchdown came through.
Touchdown confirmed quickly on. And pick anything apart from the six wheeled vehicle will now spend at least the next two years drilling into the local rocks looking for evidence of past life moments after the landing.
Tim Franks got reaction from Dr. Suzanne Schweitzer, senior lecturer in Earth Sciences from the Open University in the UK.
It's amazing. So now we have two life rover, curiosity and perseverance and a life lander. Don't forget inside operating on Mars. At the same time, we've just seen the arrival of the United Arab Emirates and the genuine one orbiter. Jianmin one carries a rover that will land in the future. So it's just such an amazing time for NASA to set the rover down as if they were landing an aircraft at Heathrow Airport. That's just so amazing. I'm I'm still shaking.
Yeah. Obviously, it's not just about the distance, but the tremendous heat they have to encounter as they place the atmosphere and also the fact that that atmosphere, from what I understand, is very, very thin. So there wasn't much scope for decelerating quickly, was there?
So no spacecraft can decelerate just with the atmosphere. But the lightweight ones like the Rover, Spirit and Opportunity, they could slow down with a parachute enough so they could land on our backs. But curiosity and perseverance, they have the same size. There are about a metric ton that's way too heavy for our to take the impact. And that's why they had to invent this really complex skycrane maneuver.
We're also hoping to get, aren't we, from some of the cameras and even some of the microphones on board, a real sense of the sounds as well as the sights of the Red Planet. Yes, of course.
I mean, these cameras are mounted on a mast for a reason. And the reason is that you then have that same perspective that you would have if you were there yourself. And these images for me as a geologist, they are data. If I see these images, I can start to interpret and to understand this landscape. And so having those images, plus the spectral information, the information, how the light is actually composed, which then can give me mineralogical information, tells me a lot about the landscape from just and just in quotes those images.
But then we have, of course, all the other instruments. And hearing the wind on Mars for the first time will be amazing. It will really feel to be there.
How long will we have those sights and sounds of Mars for?
Well, you have always the nominal mission, which is how long we plan. And for curiosity, that was two years. And we are now in year eight of operations of curiosity. And in case of perseverance, that mission wants to cage and collect these samples and put the sample tubes into certain places so that they can be collected. That's the nominal mission. And if the rover is still happy and in one piece, why not continue and use all the instruments that it has to understand General Crater even better?
And just in terms of collecting those samples, how tricky is that going to be and when are we likely to get them?
Well, first of all, collecting them on Mars may cause us a lot of decision making because you have a limited number of sample tubes and you want to get a baseline sample. You want to know what is the main area made of. But you also want to get these special areas where you had water interact with rocks, where you could think that there might have been life. If it ever had been there, it would have been there. So you want to sample those.
And so there will be this Mars year of decision making, of filling these sample tubes. And then there is a Mars rover planned for 20, 26 currently. And so if that all goes to plan in terms of Earth plants and timelines, then we will get the samples back then.
Dr. Suzanne Spencer of the Open University and NASA's Perseverence Mars rover has been tweeting already. Of course it has, including a picture of the planet's surface and the message. My first look at my forever home from an investigation in Colombia has found that the Army killed nearly six and a half thousand civilians between 1988 and 2014, when the former right wing president, Alvaro Uribe, was in office. The victims had been falsely identified as left wing rebels and paramilitaries. We heard more from our Americas editor, Leonardo Rocca.
Innocent civilians, usually peasants or people from the outskirts of the big cities, they were killed and falsely identified as rebels or members of. Paramilitary groups. So what these soldiers did is they even dress them as rebels or as paramilitaries, put guns in their hands and then presented them to their superiors.
With that, they could be promoted. You had in this six years, you had almost six and a half thousand people killed that way. Many of them were people who were sent to this area by the army, put on a minibus. And so we have the job for you. You're going to work there and then just killed for that purpose.
How likely is it that people involved in carrying out killings like this will see justice?
I don't know if that will happen because there is this scandal. The first investigation came up in 2008. The U.N. was involved in the United States was involved. The problem we have here is this peace court was set up as part of the peace process that put an end to the war between the fork and the government. The aim is to find the truth. And if people admit they own up to what they've done, the punishment is very low. It's unlikely that you're going to get to the higher people in the army, the people who knew about that at the higher level, probably you're going to know what happened, which for many of the families, bring some closure and you might have lower penalties for these people.
What sort of impact has all of this having on the peace process between government and rebels?
It's going to be negative. It's very negative because we have now in Colombia a right wing government that rejected the peace process. So it's a very serious situation. And many former Foch members have been killed by paramilitaries supposedly. And what they are going to say now is that shows that the government is siding with the army and with the right wing.
Leonardo Rosia, senior Democrats in Washington say there'll be an investigation into how winter storms across the U.S. have managed to paralyze energy supplies in Texas, leaving thousands of homes without heating. At least 31 people have died nationwide, and the extreme conditions are forecast to continue until the weekend. Patrick Paten is the mayor of the city of Midland in Texas system of the century.
And this is something we have not gone through before with rolling blackouts all over our city, with people having water issues and gas and electricity issues. And we're hoping to be getting to the end of this by the end of the week. But just when we think temperatures are going to begin rising once again, we're predicting snow and maybe ice this afternoon. So but even in the worst of times, we see people here in Midland and all over Texas coming out to help one another and do the best they can to help each other.
But it's a it's a difficult time and something we've never been through.
Our correspondent Barbara Starr reports.
Texans have experience with natural disasters like hurricanes, but this is a whole new kind of misery. The coldest temperatures in a generation knocked a third of the state's power grid offline earlier in the week. People have been hunting for warmth wherever they can find it.
Inside of the house, it's almost like minus two or minus one. It's really cold inside.
We're just hoping that the lights will come back soon enough because it's really freezing. It's horrible.
The icy weather and power outages have also affected water systems. Millions of people have been told to boil their tap water, which isn't always possible. Hundreds of thousands of homes across the country have lost electricity, but nowhere is it as bad as Texas. It was a system wide failure, says the governor, Greg Abbott.
The fact is, every source of power in the state of Texas has access to has been compromised because of the ultra cold temperature or because of equipment failures.
In fact, the state did not weatherproof its power plants, even though it was hit with a freak freeze 10 years ago, because that's expensive to do and it wasn't mandatory. Plus, Texas doesn't share its power grid with nearby states to avoid federal regulations so it can't get emergency supplies. But this disaster has renewed debate about how global warming affects winter storms and the need to adapt to changing weather.
Barbara? Latasha, the U.N. Security Council has again warned that Yemen is on the brink of famine. The UN's envoy to the country, Martin Griffiths, said the latest Houthi rebel offensive against government forces was putting millions of civilian lives at risk. A fresh appeal has been made for billions of dollars to fund aid operations, and diplomatic correspondent Paul Adams reports.
Martin Griffiths said the military situation in Yemen was extremely tense, more than at any time since he took the job of special envoy three years ago. Mr Griffiths said the Houthi attack on the government stronghold of Marib had to stop. Sources in the city say displaced civilians continue to flee from camps close to the front lines. But if Marib is the focus of international attention, the situation across Yemen remains dire. Mark Lowcock, the UN's undersecretary general for humanitarian and.
Fares told the meeting that malnutrition rates are running at record highs, 400000 children are starving to death. Those children, he said, are in their last weeks and months. The Biden administration's renewed focus on Yemen with the appointment of its own special envoy and an end to support for offensive operations by the Saudi led coalition has offered a glimmer of hope that diplomatic efforts to end the war may now gather pace. But in the meantime, the Houthi rebels backed by Iran seem to think they have the upper hand.
That was Paul Adams. Now we know there are best friends, but dogs can also save our lives. We know they can be trained to sniff out covid and diabetes. Now scientists are trying to create a robotic dog nose to help detect prostate cancer. Charlotte Gallagher reports.
If you've ever had a dog or spent time with one, you'll know how much they love sniffing. The area of the canine brain that's devoted to analyzing scent is 40 times greater than that in a human's. So their nose helps them understand the world around them. Whereas we can easily identify smells like coffee and flowers. Dogs can detect much more complex scents. Some are trained to use that superior sense of smell to sniff out diseases like cancer. Claire Guest is the chief scientific officer and co-founder of Medical Detection Dogs.
What they do at the moment is they look for the volatiles, you know, the smelly molecules that are in urine or other samples indicate that somebody definitely does have cancer, that I can do this incredibly reliably. And actually for prostate cancer, they're much more reliable than the PSA blood test, which unfortunately, 75 percent false positive rate.
So we know what dogs can do, but it takes time to train them so their availability is limited. Scientists in the UK and US are working on developing a machine that can do what a doctors, essentially a robotic knows two dogs, a red fox Labrador called Floren and Midas, a Hungarian Vizsla have been working with teams, including at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who are researching the device. Here's Craig asked again.
Cancer is something that affects people worldwide. And what we need to do is we need to learn and translate this remarkable thing it can do into an electronic device that could save millions of people around the globe. There's still work to be done. And this translational work which will follow is the work where the dogs will teach artificial intelligence scientists, you know, what this cat smells like and what that can mean.
The eventual aim then is to have a cheap device that can detect not just prostate cancer, but other diseases all developed with the help of a dog's nose. Charlotte, Gulaga.
Still to come, we'll be looking back at the life of one of Russia's most respected actors, Andrei Mackoff, who has died at the age of 82.
The French president, Emmanuel Merkel, has called on the West to send up to five percent of their coronavirus vaccine supplies to developing countries as quickly as possible. He made the remarks in a newspaper interview on the eve of a G7 video summit. Mike Saunders has the details.
President Emmanuel Macron said vaccine rollouts in developed countries were leading to an unprecedented acceleration of global inequality. African nations are being asked to pay twice as much for vaccines as the European Union. He said Russia and China were stepping in to fill the gap and it was becoming a war of influence. He urged Western countries to send a small amount of their stocks and to do it quickly so people on the ground could see that they weren't forgotten.
Mike Saunders, one of the questions about coronavirus has been how long people who have had it stay immune afterwards. Now, research from an Austrian ski resort at the centre of a major coronavirus outbreak last year has shown that months later, most of the people who caught it were still immune. Our correspondent in Vienna is Bethany Bell.
It's a very interesting study. In April, after this big outbreak in the ski resort of Eskil, scientists went and tested around 1500 people who live in Eshkol, practically the whole of the town's population. And they discovered that back then, 42 percent of people had antibodies. So basically 42 of the local people from Eshkol had caught coronavirus. They then did a follow up study in November which found that 90 percent of those people still had antibodies. And they say that this study is one of the biggest of its kind and over one of the longest period of its kind.
So it shows that people still have protection quite a long time after the initial infection and that they found something else out. Or they think that this shows something that could be quite positive, which is that initial this level of protection of immune stability of around 40 percent, combined with wearing masks and social distancing, seems to have protected the rest of the population, because while the rest of Austria and a lot of Europe has been going through a big second wave in Eshkol, the number of new infections last autumn was less than one percent.
So the scientists are saying that what we could start seeing is that once people are vaccinated to around 40 or 50 percent and you still have a bit of masking and social distancing, you could see similar levels of protection.
And just so I've understood this correctly, the concern with antibodies wasn't that they wouldn't be generated, but they wouldn't necessarily last for a long period of time. So the significance here is not so much the existence of the antibodies, but they are still there many months on.
They're still there eight months on. They have also protected the rest of the population in Eshkol, it seems, from getting more cases of coronavirus. And these are things which the scientists say are quite hopeful signs. And they say that they could mean quite a lot when it comes to other populations when they start vaccinating them.
Bethany Bell speaking to Rosalyn's to Nigeria now, where last weekend 10 people were reportedly killed in clashes between Uraba and Howzat traders in the south of the country. Most Uraba live in southwestern Nigeria, while the howzat are concentrated in northern states. The president, Muhammadu Buhari, has appealed for calm and launched an investigation into the incident. Our correspondent Moyane Jones reports on what's fueling the violence.
Walking through Sacyr Markets vegetable market in the southern city of Ibadan, not much has left. Many of the stalls have been burnt and stripped of their metal parts. Many goods, crates of drinks, freezers have been strewn all over the floor. People's livelihoods completely destroyed. And a trader said it was sparked by the death of a Yoruba man at the hands of a house of one. Now, details vary depending on who you speak and their biases. But something here has ignited longstanding tension between the two ethnic groups and led to the massive destruction of goods that we're seeing here.
What I understand about this issue that you're an outsider don't understand, because this issue of in it has been raised and they don't understand what I was standing there pleading be the shops.
They said the to the fire.
I printed that. Yeah. And my friends took me with the facts right now, I don't know what I don't know, but see me sitting here with I don't know what the clash at Sasha Markets me was souring relations between northerners and southerners in the rest of the country, treaties that the markets sold produce mostly grown in the house that dominated North.
Before last week, House Euribor traders had worked side by side for years. They had disputes but would settle them. Now things are worsening. Analysts blame external factors, including a bad economy brought on by the coronavirus.
The economic downturn is a major problem.
Aissa Cooloola Albats is a professor of African History, Peace and conflict studies at the University of Ibadan.
So people are getting poorer and as they get poorer, they point accusing fingers at their neighbours. I think this is the problem we have.
How different is this moment in time to other times when there's been conflict between different ethnicities?
No, we have never had it. So but I have been studying conflict in this country since 1992. And I can tell you that this is the worst period in the history of this country.
I've come to Akinyele in a neighborhood on the outskirts of Ibadan where a number of health traders who used to work in such a market have been hiding over the last few days. They see hundreds of them have been staying in the same house and have been leaving on buses every day, heading to the north of the country. They say they no longer feel safe here. Mohammed took in relatives during the fighting.
See, I'm telling you that all howzat people that we are in Sasa, they can't get to Sasol, they can't go back to Gaza even to carry their glutes. So they can't go back there. We want government if they washhouse our people to stay here in Oystein, to be doing business like the way the army is Haza, they have to find some place and do it for us. You don't want to trade together anymore. We don't want to trade together anymore.
Nigeria is no stranger to ethnic divisions, but a weak economy and poor governance are worsening pre-existing tensions in Africa's most populous nation. This could be dangerous.
Maione Jones reporting from southern Nigeria. It's 50 years since Don McLean released one of the longest and most celebrated singles of all time, American Pie. The tracks been covered by the likes of Madonna. While the enigmatic lyrics have long been analyzed and debated by music fans and historians, our reporter James Alexander has been speaking to Don McLean about the story behind American Pie and how he came up with the song's distinctive title a long, long time ago.
Well, I knew that I had something when I came up with the term American Pie because it had always been as American as apple pie.
And I thought, gee, that's that's powerful, those two words together.
So bye bye. Miss American Pie. Do you remember that exact moment when you first heard this song in your head? Yeah, I had my guitar.
I was probably sitting on a little bed that there was there in that little room and the tape recorder was on. And I started to see a long, long time ago and just like that. And I made it up as I went along like a child. And there was.
Clocking in over eight and a half minutes, the lyrics reference events in pop history through the 50s and 60s, beginning with a rock and roll tragedy that left a deep impression on the teenage Don McLean, the death of Buddy Holly in a plane crash in 1959.
I loved, loved Buddy Holly and his records when I was, you know, 12, I guess, 13 years old.
His death affected me as one of the first real traumas, I suppose, that I had in terms of making me realize that, you know, life was a little bit more complicated than going back and forth to school.
I can't remember if I cried when I read about his widowed bride, but something touched me deep inside the day. The music di fans and critics have spent years trying to decipher some of the more cryptic lyrics, speculating whether the king refers to Elvis Presley and if the Joker is Bob Dylan.
Oh, and while the king was looking down, the jester stole his already crown.
Don McLean has always refused to confirm or deny the intense speculation around his lyrics. So half a century on. What can you tell us about the song's meaning?
American Pie, you know, is a song of loss on many, many different levels and heartache, you know, and struggle. It's an abstraction. So when people ask me to turn it into a board game, I don't want to do that because it first of all, you can't do it.
But it is a disrespects the essence of the song, the nature of the song.
And he was singing Bye-Bye, Miss American to mark American Pie. Fiftieth anniversary. Don McLean's just recorded a new version with the country a cappella group Home Free, singing the show today that I. This will be the day that I die.
Don McLean says the song has a new relevance today, coming at a time when the covid pandemic has for now silenced live music.
Most of the music venues in the world have not had a single performance in more than a year. The smaller ones that don't have endowments of some sort are failing.
They're going bankrupt. They cannot hold on.
This will be the day that dies.
So the song's relevance to today is very specific. The music is actually dying.
Don McLean was speaking to James Alexander, one of Russia's most respected actors. Andrei Mackoff has died at the age of 82. His best known work, the romantic comedy The Irony of Fate, is still a favorite on Russian television every New Year's Eve. Steve Rosenberg reports from Moscow.
He was a titan of Soviet cinema, but there is one role in particular for which Andrei Mikhalkov will always be remembered and adored.
Nathaniel, its 13 year old child, set as an uprising. The irony of fate was a very Soviet kind of love story with you.
The actor played a Moscow surgeon who gets stinking drunk with friends in a bathhouse on New Year's Eve and ends up on a plane to Leningrad on arrival. He thinks he's still in Moscow and staggers to what he believes is home. The street names the same, the apartment block looks the same. Even the key fits in the front door, a gentle dig at the lack of variety behind the Iron Curtain. Inside is a beautiful woman and, well, you have to watch to find out what happens.
The film is hilarious. It's shown every year on television on New Year's Eve. It occupies a special place in Russian hearts. Andrew Metcalfe once said the irony of fate was shown far too often on TV.
But it was, he conceded, a kind hearted film and it made him a star, someone who watched Steve Rosenberg reporting.
And that's it from us for now.
But there will be an updated version of the Global News podcast later. If you would like to comment on this podcast or the topics we've covered in it, do you please send us an email? The address is Global Podcast at BBC, DOT Code onto UK. This part was mixed by Christian Hansen. The producer was Judy Frankel. Our editor, of course, is Karen Martin. I'm Jackie Leonard. And until next time, goodbye.
Hello, I'm Jeff Solomon, and I'm Emmanuel Husseiny. We're the hosts of Comedians versus the News from the BBC World Service. We're back with the second season. If you haven't heard the show, here is what it sounds like in 30 seconds. Welcome to the show where your host, a married couple, staying together for this podcast and our dog, Esther. Honey, this week I complained about walking the dog in the cold and just proceeded to show me photos of Russian protesters braving minus 50 degree weather and Russian police.
It worked. Now let's check in with global headlines. We've got time for one engineering company that has taught robots dance moves like the twist and the mashed potato and the robots take over. It'd be nice if some of them were programmed by people that know how to dance. Then we chat to our guests, but they aren't here.
So and that's the show Comedians versus the News from the BBC World Service, except longer with more people, more jokes and more barks financed by certain comedians versus the news wherever you get your podcasts.
Oh. He's defeated the most formidable super villains known to man now the world's most famous superhero faces the ultimate challenge. Parenthood from the creators of The Flash becomes the new series Superman and Lois. Will Clark and Lois, his teenage sons, be able to handle the truth about their dad's true identity? The Kent family's most amazing adventure is about to begin. Catch the two hour season premiere event, Superman and Lois Tuesday on the CW or stream three next day on The CW at.