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HTC’s lightweight Vive Flow is a VR headset you can take anywhere

HTC today announced the Vive Flow, its smallest and lightest VR headset yet. While the reflective lenses on the outside make it seem like this may be an AR headset — one that lets you see the outside world — this is strictly a VR affair. The $499 device tethers to an external power source and is more focused on lightweight immersive experiences than the high-end gaming VR headsets are normally used for. HTC says the Vive flow is “taking technology in a new direction, focusing not on what we do, but on how we feel.” To this end, the…

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Biden Hosts Kenyan President at White House

Kenya is a major African player — as evidenced by U.S. President Joe Biden’s decision to meet with Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta on Thursday, Biden’s first in-person talks with an African leader since becoming president. 

“The U.S.-Kenya strategic partnership is essential,” Biden said, as the two leaders sat down in the Oval Office. “We both, I think, believe it is essential to addressing key regional and global challenges.”

The focus of their closed-door talks is likely to be Kenya’s next-door neighbor Ethiopia, where war has raged in the northern Tigray region for nearly a year. The conflict has killed untold numbers of people — the death toll itself is a subject of contention. But the United Nations estimates that the war has plunged 5.2 million people into humanitarian crisis and sent more than 63,000 fleeing into neighboring Sudan.

“Today, we’re going to discuss what more Kenya and the United States can do together on the Horn of Africa to advance peace and security,” Biden said. Neither leader mentioned Ethiopia by name. 

But White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said the two leaders had discussed the landlocked nation and described the conflict in stark terms.

In September, Biden signed an executive order threatening to impose sanctions on “those responsible for, or complicit in, prolonging the conflict in Ethiopia, obstructing humanitarian access, or preventing a ceasefire.” The sanctions, which have not yet been imposed, would affect the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, the federal governments of Ethiopia and Eritrea, the Amhara regional government, and other parties in the conflict.

“Obviously, what’s happening in Ethiopia, it’s an atrocity,” Psaki said, responding to a question about when the U.S. would initiate sanctions. “It’s horrific. It’s something that, frankly, I’m happy you’re asking about because there hasn’t been probably enough attention here in the United States to what’s happening.” 

African solutions to African problems?

The lack of international oversight over the conflict, both in Tigray and in Addis Ababa, is a concern. In September, Ethiopia expelled seven senior United Nations officials, indicating that the Horn of Africa power is not easily influenced by outside forces. As Ethiopian leaders and ordinary citizens are inclined to note, Ethiopia is the only African nation that has never been colonized. 

That historic mistrust, says Fergus Kell, makes a fellow African state like Kenya a smart choice to exert influence.

“Regionally, Kenya has been a long-standing partner of the U.S. in terms of counterterrorism, particularly with respect to Somalia,” said Kell, an analyst with British think tank Chatham House, speaking from Kano, Nigeria. “But increasingly, this is also about the situation in Ethiopia. As the Biden administration weighs up stronger punitive measures, Kenya has been one of the most vocal African countries on the crisis.” 

This week, Kenyatta told reporters at the United Nations that the warring sides in Ethiopia need to reach “a political resolution, because we do not believe that there is any military solution.”

‘I want to talk to you about that’ 

The White House also said the leaders discussed democracy and human rights issues as well security, economic growth, climate change and “the need to bring transparency and accountability to domestic and international financial systems.” 

The last subject is likely to touch on revelations about Kenyatta and his family’s offshore holdings. The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists said in its recent Pandora Papers reports that Kenyatta’s family had stowed away about $30 million in offshore wealth. There is no evidence that the Kenyatta family stole any state assets.

When asked by VOA Wednesday about the push for transparency and the Pandora Papers revelations, press secretary Psaki said Biden “has been quite vocal, as you all know, about the inequalities in the international financial system.”

“That doesn’t mean we don’t meet with people you have disagreements on,” she said. “We have a range of interests in working with Kenya and working with them on issues in Africa, in the region, and that will be the primary focus.”

Biden said Thursday that he planned to discuss the issue with his Kenyan counterpart in private. 

“We’re also going to talk about strengthening the financial transparency and accelerating economic growth,” Biden said, as the two smiled and reclined in armchairs near artwork depicting American civil rights champions Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy. “You’ve spoken to that, Mr. President; I want to talk to you about that,” Biden added.

VOA’s Chris Hannas contributed to this report.


Shredded Banksy Artwork Sells for $25.4 Million at Auction

A work by British street artist Banksy that sensationally shredded itself just after it sold at auction three years ago fetched almost 18.6 million pounds ($25.4 million) on Thursday — a record for the artist, and close to 20 times its pre-shredded price. 

“Love is in the Bin” was offered by Sotheby’s in London, with a presale estimate of 4 million pounds to 6 million pounds ($5.5 million to $8.2 million). 

After a 10-minute bidding war involving nine bidders in the saleroom, online and by phone, it sold for three times the high estimate to an undisclosed buyer. The sale price of 18,582,000 pounds ($25,383,941) includes an auction-house fee known as a buyer’s premium. 

The piece consists of a half-shredded canvas in an ornate frame bearing a spray-painted image of a girl reaching for a heart-shaped red balloon. 

When it last sold at Sotheby’s in October 2018, the piece was known as “Girl With Balloon.” Just as an anonymous female European buyer made the winning bid — for 1 million pounds ($1.4 million) — a hidden shredder embedded in the frame by Banksy whirred to life, leaving half the canvas hanging from the frame in strips. 

Sotheby’s received some criticism at the time for failing to spot the hidden shredder. But the 2018 buyer decided to go through with the purchase, a decision that was vindicated on Thursday as the work’s price soared. 

The work quickly became one of Banksy’s most famous, and Sotheby’s sent it on tour to cities including New York and Hong Kong before Thursday’s auction. 

Auctioneer Oliver Barker joked that he was terrified to bring down the hammer to end Thursday’s sale. There were jitters among Sotheby’s staff to the last that Banksy had another surprise planned. 

Alex Branczik, Sotheby’s chairman of modern and contemporary art, called the shredding “one of the most ingenious moments of performance art this century.” 

Banksy, who has never confirmed his full identity, began his career spray-painting buildings in Bristol, England, and has become one of the world’s best-known artists. His mischievous and often satirical images include two male police officers kissing, armed riot police with yellow smiley faces and a chimpanzee with a sign bearing the words, “Laugh now, but one day I’ll be in charge.” 

Several of his works have sold for multiple millions at auction. In March, a Banksy mural honoring Britain’s health workers, first painted on a hospital wall, sold for 16.8 million pounds ($23.2 million) at a Christie’s auction, until Thursday a record for the artist. 

“Girl With Balloon” was originally stenciled on a wall in east London and has been endlessly reproduced, becoming one of Banksy’s best-known images. 


Vvolt Sirius review: This low-maintenance ebike is like riding on a cloud

New ebike companies enter the crowded market seemingly every other week. They tend to fall into one of two categories: copycats sourcing generic designs, or companies promising a myriad of gimmicky features that do little to add to the actual ride experience. Many seem more interesting in cashing in on the trend than actually building bikes meant to last, crowdfunding bikes with little support afterward. Vvolt‘s launch this year was a refreshing change of pace. While it goes without saying that you should take longevity promises from any new company with some caution, the company differentiated itself by the simple…

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Austerity in England linked to more than 50,000 extra deaths in five years

Researchers looked at 2010-2015 when Cameron cuts to NHS and social care were starting to bite

Austerity cuts to the NHS, public health and social care have killed tens of thousands more people in England than expected, according to the largest study of its kind.

Researchers who analysed the joint impact of cuts to healthcare, public health and social care since 2010 found that even in just the following four years the spending squeeze was linked with 57,550 more deaths than would have been expected. The findings, worse than previously thought, were revealed in the journal BMJ Open.

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