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Monday
Explainer: Why Tonga’s Eruption Was So Big A tsunami travels across the ocean

A single eruption produced a tsunami of about one meter that crossed the Pacific Ocean. It damaged boats in New Zealand and caused an oil spill and two drownings in Peru. The tsunami surprised scientists because most are caused by large, undersea earthquakes that extend across large areas. The Tonga eruption was at one small area in the ocean.

Lane said one theory is that the shock wave from the volcano, which traveled around the world twice, may have given more power to the tsunami waves.

Tonga escaped the worst damage

Scientists are also uncertain why the tsunami was not bigger or more destructive in Tonga. The Polynesian kingdom of many islands sits almost on top of the volcano.

“That’s the million-dollar question,” Cronin said. “Looking at the images so far, the level of devastation is less than I was fearing.”

By Wednesday, officials had confirmed three deaths in Tonga. Many homes were destroyed.

Lane said that Tongans got an early warning. It came from the increased activity at the volcano the day before the eruption and from the loud noise when the blast took place. Tongans had time to get to higher ground before the tsunami hit.

Lane said undersea formations that surround the many islands may also have protected parts of Tonga.

Falling rock dust and ash

The ash that has covered Tonga is acidic, but not poisonous, Cronin said. He has been telling aid workers that people can drink from their water supplies even if some ash has fallen in.

New Zealand and other nations are trying to get water and other supplies to Tonga as quickly as possible.

Cronin said all of Tonga’s soil comes from volcanic ash and the latest amount of ash will quickly wash into the ground. It will also improve the soil for planting.

No global cooling

Large volcanic eruptions can sometimes cause temporary cooling around the Earth. But the Tonga eruption released only a small amount of sulfur dioxide, which scientists have linked to cooling. Alan Robock is a scientist at Rutgers University in New Jersey. He said the eruption will cause a cooling of only 0.01 degree Celsius.

What will happen next?

Cronin says the volcano may have exhausted itself and could go quiet for the next 10 to 20 years. But it is also possible there may be additional eruptions as new magma rises up quickly. Both Cronin and Lane agree the volcano needs to be watched closely to better predict future events.

I’m Susan Shand.
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Tuesday
Rain, Snow Support Healthier Salmon in California California, which has suffered from a lack of rainfall, welcomed the arrival of rain and snow late last year.

The precipitation gave farmers and city planners in the western state hope for better days ahead. Wildlife officials say the water also has led to healthier growth in the state’s population of endangered fish called coho salmon.

Records from the National Weather Service show that California received more precipitation from October to December than during the previous 12 months.

California weather officials reported in late December that the snow level in the state’s Sierra Nevada Mountains was 200 percent of its average for that date. The increase is important because the Sierra Nevada Mountains supply nearly one third of the state’s water needs.

Officials said the snow level statewide was 160 percent of its average.

The arrival of rain and snow came in time for the November-to-January spawning season in the Tomales Bay area, north of San Francisco. The precipitation enabled some fish to reach waters near Lagunitas Creek, about 20 kilometers inland.

"We've seen fish in places that they haven't been for almost 25 years," said Preston Brown. He directs a water conservation program for the Salmon Protection and Watershed Network , or SPAWN.

Experts say some fish have been seen in places where they could not go before. That includes about one-and-a-half kilometers past a place where a dam once existed on San Geronimo Creek. The dam was removed about a year ago.

Weather officials said last year’s precipitation could end up being just a short break in the state's severe, 20-year drought. The water shortage has made it difficult for officials to keep fish, farms and growing cities supplied with enough water. Experts say the state needs several wet years in a row to refill supplies.

But for now, the salmon are doing well. They are leaving eggs in nests where babies will be born and spend most of their youth. The fish will then swim out to the ocean as adults, later returning to the same area to spawn.

Todd Steiner is the director of Turtle Island Restoration Network, the parent group to SPAWN. He told Reuters news agency the fish like to stay in smaller bodies of water, because "that's where their survival is the highest."

Steiner added: "If we give the fish a fighting chance at survival, they will come back."

I’m Bryan Lynn.
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Wednesday
Microsoft Aims to Buy Gaming Company Activision for $69 Billion Software maker Microsoft is buying the video game company Activision Blizzard for nearly $69 billion in one of the biggest technology deals in history.

Microsoft announced the agreement Tuesday and said it is expected to be completed in 2023. The deal must be approved by government regulators.

Activision Blizzard produces a series of popular and profitable video games including Call of Duty, World of Warcraft and Candy Crush. Microsoft is the maker of the Xbox gaming system and is expected to add those games, along with others, to its subscription service.

If approved, the deal will turn the software maker into one of the world’s largest video game companies. It is expected to better position Microsoft to take on other major videogame competitors like China’s Tencent and Japan’s Sony.

The deal is also expected to help Microsoft better compete with technology companies developing equipment and systems for a future “metaverse.” Metaverse is a term used to describe a non-physical world in which individuals can interact through different kinds of virtual technology.

Among the companies that have confirmed the development of metaverse technologies are Microsoft, Facebook’s parent Meta, Google and Apple. In announcing the agreement, Microsoft Chief Executive Satya Nadella said gaming is expected to play an important part "in the development of metaverse” systems.

Experts said the deal will turn Microsoft into the third-largest video game company in the world, a position formerly held by Japan’s Nintendo. Only Sony – maker of the PlayStation gaming system – and Chinese technology leader Tencent are bigger.

Microsoft’s Xbox already develops and produces its own games. But the deal with Activision Blizzard will give the company control of many additional games. This is likely to raise questions about whether Microsoft could shut out competitors by restricting Activision games to its own Xbox system and Windows-powered computers.

Nadella, however, promised this would not be the case. He said the deal would actually help people play games “wherever, whenever and however they want.”

Daniel Ives is an industry expert with Wedbush Securities. He told The Associated Press that Microsoft “needed to do an aggressive deal” because the company has plans to greatly expand in streaming and metaverse development.

Ives added that the size of the deal is likely to bring closer attention from regulatory agencies in the United States and Europe.

One group, Public Citizen, criticized the proposed agreement. The group’s Alex Harman called on the Federal Trade Commission and the U.S. Department of Justice to block the deal. “If Microsoft wants to bet on the ‘metaverse,’ it should invest in new technology, not swallow up a competitor,” Harman said.

The deal came after Activision Blizzard faced months of accusations involving sexual misconduct at the company by several top managers. There were also employee accusations of workplace discrimination and unequal pay.

The company has said it is still investigating and dealing with the accusations. On Monday, Activision Blizzard said it had fired or pushed out more than 36 employees for violating company policies and disciplined 40 others since July.

In a conference call with investors, Nadella did not directly speak about the misconduct issues. But he did talk about the importance of company culture. "It's critical for Activision Blizzard to drive forward on its renewed cultural commitments," he said, adding, "the success of this (deal) will depend on it."

I’m Bryan Lynn.
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Thursday
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Friday
How Will the Pandemic End? From VOA Learning English, this is the Health & Lifestyle report.

Pandemics do end, even if Omicron is making it difficult to know when. But when it does, it will not completely go away. The world will have to learn to live with this virus. Luckily, there are some defenses now.

Vaccines offer strong protection from serious illness, even if they do not always prevent a mild infection. Omicron does not appear to be as deadly as some earlier variants. Those who survive will have some increased protection against other forms of the virus.

Dr. Albert Ko is an infectious disease specialist at the Yale School of Public health. He said the newest variant is a warning about what will continue to happen “unless we really get serious about the endgame.”

Ko added that COVID will be with us permanently. He said that the world will never be free of COVID, so we have to know our goals.

The World Health Organization will decide when enough countries have controlled their COVID cases, or at least hospitalizations and deaths, to declare the end of the pandemic. Exactly what that means is not clear.

Even when that happens, some parts of the world will still struggle, like poorer nations that lack enough vaccines or treatments. Other countries will change into some sort of acceptable state to deal with COVID-19.

Stephen Kissler is an infectious disease expert of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. He says he believes the world will reach a state where COVID is like another infectious disease, the flu.

COVID-19 has killed more than 800,000 Americans in two years while the flu kills between 12,000 and 52,000 a year.

Exactly how much continuing COVID-19 illness and death the world will accept is largely a social question, not a scientific one. People will have to decide how much risk they can accept in their normal lives.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top United States infectious disease expert, is looking ahead to controlling the virus in a way that does not affect daily life and the economy.

The U.S. is showing signs that it is on the road to the new normal. The Biden administration says there are enough tools, like vaccines, treatments, and face coverings, to deal with Omicron without the shutdowns of the pandemic’s earlier days.

Dr. William Moss of Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health expects “this virus will kind of max out” in its ability to create more dangerous variants. He says he believes there will not be endless new variants.

Many experts say after the pandemic, the virus will cause minor illness for some and more serious illness for others, depending on their general health. Mutations will continue and might require newer vaccines. The human body will also get better at recognizing and fighting against the virus as time goes on.

Ali Ellebedy is a doctor that studies the immune system, which protects the body from diseases and infections. He is an immunologist at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri. Ellebedy said the protection our bodies have gained has improved so much that there will be a drop in severe illnesses, hospitalizations, and deaths, even with new variants.

He says he believes there will be a day when someone gets a coronavirus infection, they stay home two to three days and then "...move on. That hopefully will be the endgame.”

And that's the Health & Lifestyle report.

I’m Anna Matteo.
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