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

Robie de Guzman   •   August 2, 2019   •   706

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)

Iraqis defy tear gas, upcoming curfew as protests stretch on

Robie de Guzman   •   October 29, 2019

 Iraqi protesters react after police fired tear gas at them during a protest at al-Tahrir square, central Baghdad, Iraq, 28 October 2019. EPA-EFE/MURTAJA LATEEF

Thousands of people in Baghdad continued their protests at Tahrir Square in central Baghdad on Monday (October 28), defying a curfew scheduled to be imposed from midnight until 6am (2100GMT to 0300 GMT).

Protesters took to the streets for a fourth day, despite having endured bloody clashes over the weekend and an overnight raid by security forces seeking to disperse them.

At least 74 Iraqis were killed and hundreds wounded across the country on Friday (October 25) and Saturday (October 26) as demonstrators clashed with security forces and militia groups in the second wave of this month’s protests against Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi’s government.

More than 200 people have been killed in October so far.

Iraqi security forces on Monday fired tear gas at school and university students who defied a warning from the prime minister and joined anti-government protests.

A spokesman for Abdul Mahdi, whose position is increasingly precarious as he faces the largest challenge since he came to power a year ago, said on Sunday (October 27) that anyone disrupting work or school days would be severely punished.

Mass street protests in Baghdad and other cities in the southern Shi’te heartland against economic hardship began at the start of the month and resumed on Friday after a pause of about two weeks. (Reuters)

READ: DFA cautions Filipinos against travel to Iraq

(Production: Haider Kadhim, Mohammed Al-Ramahi, Mohammed Katfan, Hannah Ellison)

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US Military: No footage on Baghdadi’s death will be released

Robie de Guzman   •   October 29, 2019

US President Donald J. Trump answers a reporter’s question as he participates in a briefing with senior military leaders in the Cabinet Room of the White House in Washington, DC, USA, on 07 October 2019. At right is United States Army General Mark A. Milley, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. EPA-EFE/Ron Sachs

Islamic State (IS) leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s remains had been disposed of and there were no plans to share footage on his death, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley announced on Monday.

U.S. President Donald Trump said on Sunday that al-Baghdadi had been killed in a U.S. military operation in Syria.

Trump said earlier that part of the footage on the operation would be released, but military sources said that the footage might expose some confidential information about the U.S. military, adding that the footage should go through strict checks before it is published.

The Associated Press on Monday released footage taken by a witness when the U.S. military launched a raid in northwestern Syria — but the authenticity of the footage has not been verified.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov on Monday expressed “prudent welcome” to Baghdadi’s death, saying the U.S. has made a big contribution to fighting terrorism “if confirmed”.

The Russian Defense Ministry said on Sunday that it does not have reliable information about the U.S. operation in the Idlib de-escalation zone in Syria that allegedly killed IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Abbas Mousavi on Monday stressed that the extremist ideology and the support for it still exist in the Middle East, and the death of Baghdadi was a “creature” killed by the U.S.

On the same day, Iranian government Spokesman Ali Rabiee said al-Baghdadi’s death is the end of a symbol of “destructive terrorism,” and the U.S. should end its interventions in the Middle East. (Reuters)

Tokyo 2020 gymnastics, boccia venue unveiled

Robie de Guzman   •   October 29, 2019

The Tokyo Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (Tokyo 2020) on Tuesday (October 29) unveiled the new Ariake Gymnastics Centre, which will host Gymnastic and Boccia events during the Tokyo 2020 Games.

The 12,000-seat, 30-meter height venue, whose construction was completed on 25 October, has no pillar in the performance area.

The central element of the architecture is a 90-meter spanned, local larch wood roof that arches over the building’s core.

Timbers of Larch were all domestically sourced including from Hokkaido, Nagano and Miyazaki prefectures to name a few.

The venue, located in the Ariake district of the Japanese capital that will host many other Olympic events, will be also used as an exhibition center when the Games are over.

One of the Tokyo 2020 officials at a press viewing of the venue, Koichi Fukui, told reporters that wood materials would eventually be used as partitions at exhibitions and all the bench boards would be recycled into shoe shelves for schools.

The venue will host the 34th FIG Trampoline Gymnastics World Championships in November. (Reuters)

(Production: Akira Tomoshige, Yoko Kono)

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