UNICEF starts handing out relief supplies in quakeaffected Malawi

23 December 2009United Nations aid agencies have begun distributing relief supplies in northern Malawi, where a series of earthquakes this month have killed four people, injured more than 300 others and destroyed or damaged nearly 4,000 homes. The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has given out at least 2,200 “survival kits,” containing blankets, mosquito nets, cooking pots, soap, a jerry can and other basic items, to people whose homes are no longer habitable.UNICEF has also issued plastic sheeting, buckets, chlorine and other water purification materials, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).The Karonga district of northern Malawi has endured a succession of strong earthquakes between 6 December and 20 December, with the tremors ranging in strength from 5.4 to 6.0 on the Richter scale. Seismological activity is continuing in the area, OCHA reported.The strongest quake struck in the middle of the night on 20 December, causing severe damage to the town of Karonga. Many residents were sleeping indoors because of seasonal rains and were injured by falling debris from their homes.Malawian disaster management officials estimate that nearly 5,000 people have been affected by the quakes and the Government has declared a national emergency.A joint technical mission comprising staff from UNICEF, the World Food Programme (WFP), the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) headed today for Karonga to assess the humanitarian needs, particularly in health and nutrition, water and sanitation, education, and food security.UN aid agencies say they are working closely with non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and Government officials as well to coordinate the relief response. read more

Wonder what a talking monkey would sound like Scientists create recording based

first_imgBart de Boer of the VUB Artificial Intelligence Laboratory in Belgium then turned the information into a computer model that could predict and simulate a macaque’s vocal range based on the physical attributes.Human speech stems from a source sound produced by the larynx that is changed by the positions of the vocal anatomy such as the lips and tongue. They found that a macaque could produce comprehensible vowel sounds — and even full sentences — with its vocal tract if it had the neural ability to speak.”This new result tells us that there’s still a big mystery concerning where human speech came from,” said Laurie Santos, a psychology professor at Yale University.”The paper opens whole new doors for finding the key to the uniqueness of humans’ unparalleled language ability.”If a species as old as a macaque has a vocal tract capable of speech, then we really need to find the reason that this didn’t translate for later primates into the kind of speech sounds that humans produce.”I think that means we’re in for some exciting new answers soon.”Thore Jon Bergman, an assistant professor of psychology and ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Michigan, said that the research could help narrow down the origin of human speech.”It looks like mainly neuro-cognitive — as opposed to anatomical — differences contribute to the broader range of sounds we produce relative to other primates,” said Dr Bergman, who is familiar with the research but was not involved in it.”An important part of understanding human uniqueness is to know what our relatives do,” he said. “This study shows that the anatomical capability to make a variety of sounds, as we do with speech, was present long ago. This is useful for understanding the starting point for the evolution of language.”The research was published in the journal Science Advances. Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily  Front Page newsletter and new  audio briefings. A monkey x-ray  It sounds like the gentle whisper of someone proposing marriage.But the recording below is actually the sound of how a monkey could speak, if it had the brain power for language.Scientists at Princeton have discovered that monkeys have a vocal anatomy which is capable of ‘clearly intelligible’ speech, just like humans.So the fact that they don’t speak is down to differences in brain structure which suggests that human speech stems from the unique evolution and is not linked to vocalization-related anatomical differences between humans and primates.”Now nobody can say that it’s something about the vocal anatomy that keeps monkeys from being able to speak — it has to be something in the brain,” said Dr Asif Ghazanfar, a Princeton University.”Even if this finding only applies to macaque monkeys, it would still debunk the idea that it’s the anatomy that limits speech in non-humans. Now, the interesting question is, what is it in the human brain that makes it special?”Previous examinations of primate vocal anatomy conducted on cadavers had concluded that monkeys and apes have a very limited range of sounds they could produce relative to humans.In the new research, the team used x-ray videos to capture the macaque’s vocal anatomy, such as tongue, lips and larynx.  A monkey x-ray last_img read more