8-year-old Texan girl uses her bionic hand for first time

Robie de Guzman   •   August 2, 2019   •   563

8-year-old Madeline “Mady” Gardner with her pink bionic arm | Courtesy: Reuters

Born without her left arm below the elbow, 8-year-old Madeline “Mady” Gardner nevertheless enjoys playing flag football on the same team as her little brother Jackson, skiing and doing gymnastics. But there are a few things she struggles with, like putting her hair into a ponytail, reading books, playing golf and riding her bike.

But this could all change thanks to her new bionic arm.

The sleek prosthetic would not be out of place on a superhero like Iron Man, though – by her request – Mady’s bionic arm is bright pink.

Developed by British company Open Bionics, which recently launched in the U.S., the “Hero Arm” is billed as the world’s first multi-grip bionic arm for children as young as 8-years-old.

Mady, who lives in Austin, Texas, is currently the youngest person in the U.S. to receive one. She quickly got to grips with the device and learnt how to switch between grips to hold a baseball and wave, as well as doing other simple things that she’s never been able to do before with just one natural hand.

“My favourite thing was to make a heart out of two hands,” Mady said. “I look forward to ride my bike and golf with my dad,” she added.

Fitting Mady’s bionic arm took under a minute. A specialist from Hanger Clinic, Open Bionic’s U.S. partner, showed Mady how to place her residual limb in the prosthetic and tighten it using a twistable knob on the side.

Pressing an illuminated button on the back of the hand switches it on. When Mady flexes muscles in her residual limb just below her elbow, sensors detect tiny electric signals and convert them into bionic hand movements. It’s controlled by tensing the same muscles which are used to open and close a biological hand, with Mady receiving haptic feedback from the device.

Mady’s mother told Reuters that although she never worried about her “super awesome” daughter, there are certain things with which Mady has had difficulty. Her new bionic arm will not only help her perform more dexterous tasks but will give Mady a semblance of anonymity.

“She’ll be able to blend in more and that might sound a little strange, but as a parent sometimes seeing the attention and the questions, the continuous questions, some days she doesn’t want the questions,” explained Mindy Gardner.

“This will be a way for her to have a bit more anonymity and just do things in a different way. So we’re super excited about that,” she added.

Each Hero Arm is custom-made in Bristol, England using technologies including 3D printing and 3D scanning. The outer shell can be custom-made to the wearer’s liking with different colours and patterns worked into the design.

Open Bionics says the prosthetic is less than half the price of its nearest competitor – at around $20,000 for the device and fitting – and is covered by healthcare systems in major western countries, such as the UK, US, Germany and France. (REUTERS)

(Production: Matt Stock)

Three injured in suspected attack near Israeli settlement – military

Robie de Guzman   •   August 23, 2019

Three people were injured in a Palestinian attack near an Israeli settlement in the occupied West Bank, according to early reports by the Israeli military on Friday (August 23).

A military spokesman said the attack was carried out near Dolev, a settlement northwest of the Palestinian city of Ramallah.

“Three people appear to be injured at the scene,” the spokesman said, adding that troops were searching the area.

Israeli news reports said the wounded were Israelis, and that Palestinians had thrown an explosive charge near a water spring popular with hikers in the hilly central region of the West Bank. The first reports came shortly after 10 a.m. (0700 GMT).

Israel’s Magen David Adom ambulance service said it was treating three people in “serious condition”, including a 46-year-old man, a 21-year-old man and an 18-year-old woman. (Reuters)

(Production: Ismail Khadder, Roleen Tafakji)

Russia’s floating nuclear plant readies for Northern Sea Route

Robie de Guzman   •   August 23, 2019

Russia showcased to the media the world’s first floating nuclear power plant Akademik Lomonosov on Thursday (August 22).

Crew on the Akademik Lomonosov are expected to leave Murmansk for a long journey along the Northern Sea Route to Chukotka in Russia’s far east.

Rosenergoatom deputy director Dmitry Alekseenko said at a news conference that the main advantage of the new type of nuclear plant is its mobility that allows it to reach any point with demand for energy. He also said that it would do no harm to the environment.

Critics, however, warily recall Soviet-era nuclear accidents and Russia’s naval disasters such as the loss of the nuclear-powered submarine Kursk, which sank in the Barents Sea after explosions on board, killing all 118 crew.

In 2018 Greenpeace issued a statement calling Lomonosov a ‘nuclear Titanic’. (Reuters)

(Production: Lev Sergeev, Dmitry Turlyun)

Bolivia ramps up efforts to control wildfires

Robie de Guzman   •   August 23, 2019

Firefighters battle one sector of wildfires at night in Bolivia. (Reuters)

Bolivian firefighters continued battling on Wednesday (August 21) a series of wildfires ravaging swathes of the country from both land and air.

Using a helicopter to dump water on hot spots, firefighters also used dirt and sand to put out smaller flames in Santa Cruz. Television images showed flames dangerously close to the highway that leads to Brazil.

Bolivia’s government has reported that nearly 500,000 hectares of forest have been left charred from wildfires.

This week, authorities warned that 70% of Santa Cruz Department is under “extreme risk” from forest fires.

Environmental organisations have also warned of damage to more than 500 species of fauna, some endemic, after slash-and-burn tactics combined with dry conditions have caused dozens of forest fires in Santa Cruz, Bolivia.

Speaking to the media on Wednesday (August 21), President Evo Morales said measures are being stepped up to battle the fires.

Bolivia’s wildfires come as neighbouring Brazil also battles record-breaking fires in its Amazon. (Reuters)

(Production: Monica Machicao)

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