Elon Musk SpaceX launches another astronaut crew to the International Space Station..

Four more astronauts blasted into orbit Wednesday, continuing a historic year of human spaceflight in which a diverse array of people have flown on several different spacecraft to varying parts of the increasingly popular neighborhood just outside Earths atmosphere.

SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket lifted off at 9:03 p.m. Eastern time, carrying a crew of four, including three NASA astronauts and one European, on what is expected to be a 22-hour journey to the International Space Station, where they are to stay for about six months.

The launch from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida was the fifth time that SpaceX has flown humans to orbit and the fourth time it has done so under its contract with NASA. In September, it flew four civilians in what was called the Inspiration4 mission – a three-day flight in the SpaceX Dragon capsule that circled the globe every 90 minutes.

The launch came less than 48 hours after SpaceX had returned the previous astronaut crew from the space station to a picture-perfect splashdown in the Gulf of Mexico – evidence that SpaceX is gaining prowess in multiple aspects of its role as NASA’s primary way to transport goods and people to the space station.

After reaching orbit, NASA astronaut Raja Chari told mission control that, “it was a great ride. Better than we expected.

The SpaceX launch director told the crew, which will continue the mission on Veterans Day: “It was a pleasure to be part of this mission with you. Enjoy your holiday amongst the stars. We’ll be waving as you fly by.”

The flight comes as a number of companies are working to fly private citizens to space – from the actor William Shatner, 90, who became the oldest person to reach the edge of space, to Oliver Daemen, a student from the Netherlands, who at 18 became the youngest.

Wednesday’s launch, dubbed Crew-3, is commanded by Chari, an Air Force colonel and test pilot who is making his first trip to space. He was joined by Kayla Barron, a Navy lieutenant commander who served on a nuclear submarine, Tom Marshburn, a physician who has flown to space twice before, once on the space shuttle and once on the Russia Soyuz, and European astronaut Matthias Maurer, an engineer from Germany. It is also Barron’s and Maurer’s first trip to space.

The three rookies became the 599th, 600th and 601st people to fly past the 50-mile edge of space, NASA said. The list of space travelers is growing in part because of the efforts of Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin and Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic, which take paying customers just past the edge of space in suborbital trips that fly up and then fall back down to Earth.

Russia continues to fly astronauts on its Soyuz spacecraft and recently said that it would allow its cosmonauts to fly on SpaceX Dragon capsules. China also is flying humans and recently sent up a crew of three to the space station it is assembling in Earth orbit. And NASA’s Orion spacecraft is scheduled to launch early next year without any astronauts onboard on a trip that would go around the moon in preparation for a human landing, perhaps as soon as 2025 under a new schedule NASA announced on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, Boeing is working to develop a spacecraft that would fly astronauts to the space station as part of NASA’s “commercial crew” program. But its program has suffered through all sorts of problems and delays. On a test flight without astronauts at the end of 2019, the spacecraft suffered a software problem that forced controllers to truncate the mission and forgo a docking with the station.

Boeing decided to redo the test flight and take a charge of $410 million.

Then over the summer, the Starliner capsule suffered another problem ahead of that do-over, this time with valves that remained stuck in the service module. The flight never got off, and Boeing said last month that it would take another charge, this time of $185 million, to cover the costs of the delay.

During a news conference last month, John Vollmer, Boeing’s program manager for the commercial crew program, declined to say how much the problem would cost the company. But he said “NASA would not bear any responsibility for those costs that are within scope of our contract. . . . So, we’re not expecting any charge to the government from that side.” He added that the company would not back away from the program as a result of the additional costs. “We are 100 percent committed to fulfilling our contract with the government, and we intend to do that,” he said.

As it continues to solidify its status as NASA’s premier human spaceflight partner, SpaceX, the California company founded by Elon Musk, is also working toward flying more private citizens. It has a mission commissioned by Axiom Space, a Houston-based company, set to take three civilians and a former NASA astronaut, who would serve as their guide, to the space station for about a week.

As those efforts continue, many believe the ranks of space farers will increase dramatically.

“Six hundred in 60 years, it makes for 10 people per year,” Maurer said during a preflight news conference. “But I think in the next few years, we’ll see an exponential rise. Now we’re entering the era for commercial spaceflight.”

Before SpaceX flew its first test flight with a pair of NASA astronauts last year, the space agency had spent nearly a decade after the space shuttle was retired paying for seats on the Russia Soyuz.

Today, with SpaceX, “there are more flight opportunities” for NASA astronauts, said Garrett Reisman, a former NASA astronaut and a professor at the University of Southern California’s school of engineering. “One of the positive impacts is fewer people having to train over in Russia. That was a major strain and stress on families.”

The Crew-3 mission is slated to dock with the space station at 7:10 p.m. Eastern time Thursday. While onboard the orbiting laboratory, the astronauts will be conducting what NASA says is “new and exciting scientific research in areas such as materials science, health technologies, and plant science to prepare for human exploration beyond low Earth orbit and benefit life on Earth.

Aboard the capsule are NASA astronauts Raja Chari, an Air Force colonel and test pilot who is making his first trip to space; Kayla Barron, a Navy lieutenant commander who served on a nuclear submarine, who is also making her first trip to space; Tom Marshburn, a physician who has flown to space twice before, once on the space shuttle and once on the Russia Soyuz, and European astronaut Matthias Maurer, another space rookie who is an engineer from Germany.

The capsule is a new addition to SpaceX’s Crew Dragon fleet and has never flown to space before. It’s been named Endurance.

One critical adjustment has been to this spacecraft: a tube that carries urine to a storage tank has been welded in place. The change was made after technicians discovered on another spacecraft that the tube had pulled away from the tank, allowing urine to collect under the spacecraft’s floor.

Too much paperwork pulling down Thai Education system.

A teacher posted images of her resignation letter on social media, saying she was quitting due to needless paperwork, the deputy leader of Democrat Party said this pointed to the failure of Thailand’s education system.

Too much paperwork pulling down Thai education system: Democrat

Prof Dr Kanok Wongtrangan said he has often spoken up about teachers’ workload and how it is a dangerous trap that is pulling down the quality of Thai education.

He pointed out that teachers are so overburdened with administrative jobs that they do not have time to focus on teaching.

Hence, he said, he has five solutions:

Cut down the time students spend listening to lectures and instead work on developing an analytical mindset.

Remove unnecessary subjects and add topics that are relevant to students’ lives.

Cut down on homework and motivate youngsters to do more research.

Reduce tests and exams.

Cut down on unnecessary protocols for teachers to follow so they can spend more time with their students.

Utah company says its revolutionized truth-telling technology. Experts are highly skeptical.

A Utah company says its revolutionized truth-telling technology. Experts are highly skeptical.

He wanted the judge to admit evidence from “EyeDetect,” a lie-detection test based on eye movements that Rael had passed.

The judge agreed, and five of the 12 jurors wound up voting not to convict. A mistrial was declared.

EyeDetect is the product of the Utah company Converus. “Imagine if you could exonerate the innocent and identify the liars . . . just by looking into their eyes,” the company’s YouTube channel promises. “Well, now you can!” Its chief executive, Todd Mickelsen, says they’ve built a better truth-detection mousetrap; he believes eye movements reflect their bearer far better than the much older and mostly discredited polygraph.

Its critics, however, say the EyeDetect is just the polygraph in more algorithmic clothing. The machine is fundamentally unable to deliver on its claims, they argue, because human truth-telling is too subtle for any data set.

And they worry that relying on it can lead to tragic outcomes, like punishing the innocent or providing a cloak for the guilty.

EyeDetect raises a question that draws all the way back to the Garden of Eden: Are humans so wired to tell the truth we’ll give ourselves away when we don’t?

And, to a more 21st-century query: can modern technology come up with the tools to detect those tells?

An EyeDetect test has a subject placed in front of a monitor with a digital camera and, as with the polygraph, is lobbed generically true-false queries like “have you ever hurt anybody” to establish a baseline. Then come specific questions. If the subject’s physical responses are more demonstrative there, they are presumed to be lying; less demonstrative, they’re telling the truth. The exact number of flubbed questions that determines a failure is governed by an algorithm; the computer spits out a yes-or-no based on an adjustable formula.

Where the polygraph measures blood pressure, breathing and sweat to determine the flubbing, EyeDetect looks at factors like pupil dilation and the rapidity of eye movement. “A polygraph is emotional,” Mickelsen said. “EyeDetect is cognitively based.” He explains the reason the company believes eye movements would be affected: “You have to think harder to lie than to tell the truth.”

EyeDetect plays into a form of techno-aspirational thinking. Our Web browser already pitches us a vacation we swear has only lived in our minds while dating apps serve up a romantic partner dreamed up in our hearts. Surely an algorithm can also peer into our soul?

But experts say such logic may not have much basis in science.

“People have been trying to make these predictions for a long time,” said Leonard Saxe, a psychologist at Brandeis University who has conducted some of the leading research in the field of truth-detection. “But the science has not progressed much in 100 years.”

Like most renowned experts, he has not reviewed EyeDetect’s research specifically. But, he says, “I don’t know of any evidence that eye movements are linked to deception.”

When it comes to the polygraph, experts have a long history of declaring failure.

The machine, which celebrates its centennial this year; continues to be used in areas like police interrogations, government security-clearance investigations and sex-offender monitoring. The market is valued at as much as $2 billion, powered by many federal and local offices using it for hiring purposes.

Yet the American Psychological Association takes an unequivocal position – “Most psychologists agree that there is little evidence that polygraph tests can accurately detect lies,” it declares on its website. Good liars, after all, can cover up tics, while nervous truth-tellers might set the machine berserk.

A 1988 federal law bans private employers from administering polygraphs, if with loopholes. Most states don’t accept them as evidence in court (New Mexico is famously looser), while a 1998 Supreme Court ruling denied federal criminal defendants had a particular constitutional right to them.

If it turns out to be more accurate than a polygraph, EyeDetect can conjure a number of useful consequences – and a few dystopic ones. What grisliness awaits if anyone could know if you were telling the truth just by looking at you? That lie to spare your Aunt Lily’s feelings at Christmas would be out the window; so would being a teenager.

If it proves hollow, though, an entirely different danger lurks: With its veneer of authority, many legal experts worry, it could lead law enforcement, private employers, government agencies and even some courts even further down the wrong path than the polygraph.

“It’s the imprimatur that’s the issue: we tend to believe that where there’s science involved it’s reliable,” said Loyola Marymount University law professor Laurie Levenson, who has studied the issue.

She said she was concerned that people wouldn’t get clearances for jobs or would otherwise be held accountable for things they did not do because of false positives. She noted it also could help the guilty get away.

There are historical reasons for skepticism about any new truth-telling tech. Like diet sweeteners to the soft-drink industry, such innovations come along in the legal world at regular intervals. But they often fall short of their promise. About 15 years ago, the functional MRI, which posited that blood flow to the brain could be the key to truth-detection, enjoyed a period of buzz. But the device largely did not meet scientific standards for broad usage, and the procedure’s cost and intensiveness further inhibited wide-scale adoption.

The p300 guilty-knowledge method championed by the longtime Northwestern professor Peter Rosenfeld, who asserted that the future of truth-detection lay in brain waves, gained some enthusiasm from the scientific community; it was the subject of several dozen outside academic articles, a number of them with positive results, and has won the tentative support of Henry Greely, a Stanford Law professor and one of the leading experts on tech and the law. Among other advantages, it involves an EEG that is fairly cheap and easy to use.

Still, Rosenfeld died last winter with the method not in widespread use. The work is continued by his lab, which has had a group of graduate students working on the p300, and is emphasized in the field by people like John Meixner, an assistant U.S. attorney in Michigan and a protege of Rosenfeld’s.

On a recent afternoon, Mickelsen sat in his office in the tech corridor of Lehi, Utah, and, over Zoom, coolly screen-shared a series of graphs and charts to make the case why EyeDetect is different from failed past technologies.

EyeDetect’s accuracy rate is determined by a simulated-crime interrogation. A group of “innocent” and “guilty” subjects are told whether to commit a simulated crime of petty cash theft in a manufactured environment and then administered the ocular test. The rate at which the machine will then correctly predict a person’s truth-telling status – Converus researchers already know the right answer for each subject – is between 83 and 87%, according to the test results, the company says.

That’s about the same as a polygraph tends to achieve in its tests, though the polygraph can discard up to 10% of borderline results as “inconclusive,” while the EyeDetect gives a result on every test, leaving its accuracy percentage higher. Mickelsen also says the system is preferable to a polygraph because, by entirely automating the test, it avoids the possibility of human bias.

The man at EyeDetect’s scientific core is John Kircher, a now-retired University of Utah professor who has consulted for the CIA and had his lab funded by the Defense Department. Kircher had been researching and writing software for lie-detection technologies for decades when, in the early 2000s, he came across a University of New Hampshire professor who was researching how our eye patterns change during reading.

“Suddenly it hit me: all the software I had developed for 30 years could be applied to this problem,” Kircher said. He wedded the two and, for much of the past two decades, has been perfecting EyeDetect, now as Converus’s chief scientist.

Kircher says that the software for his eye tracker captures a machine-level 350,000 eye-movement metrics – including “fixations,” the milliseconds-long pause between words – over a 25-minute test; four metrics are taken every second. (Converus also has the EyeDetect+, which adds a computer-administered variation on a traditional polygraph.)

EyeDetect has won its supporters in the field. Law-enforcement customers laud the system as smoother than a traditional polygraph.

“People will come in nervous because they’re expecting what they see on TV, where you’re hooked up to this machine and sweating and it just seems really invasive,” said Lt. Josh Hardee of the Wyoming Highway Patrol. “This is just clean and quick.”

Hardee’s department has used EyeDetect to screen more than 150 prospective job candidates in the last two years. His department and others pay around $5,000 for the EyeDetect system – which consists of a high-definition camera, a head-rest and software that generates the questions and takes and calculates the responses – and then $80 to Converus to score each individual test. (They must be trained to use the system as well.) The machine reduces liar false alarms, Hardee says, because anxiety plays less of a role.

Other public officials have also been persuaded. The Tucson, Ariz., fire department uses EyeDetect to screen employees. The machine is also put to use, Converus says, by law-enforcement or corrections departments in states including Idaho, New Hampshire, Washington, Utah, Ohio and Connecticut. Defense lawyers in the ongoing case of Jerrod Baum, accused of killing two teens in Utah, have petitioned the judge to allow EyeDetect. The jury in the Rael case appeared amenable too. (The defendant later pleaded guilty and avoided jail time; he was given four years probation.)

But many experts are not swayed by the enthusiasm. Saxe makes the point many scientists and academics do: even if eye movements are fundamentally different under different sets of circumstances, there’s no way to directly link them to lying. In fact, they could well have to do with just the fact that the subject is taking a test.

“Fear of detection is not a measure of deception,” he said. At heart, the issue may come down to the 21st-century desire to automate and digitize a process – human emotion and motivation – that fundamentally resists the enterprise.

Stanford’s Greely says EyeDetect doesn’t dislodge his broader skepticism about truth-telling tech, either.

“I see no reason to believe that this works well, or, really, at all,” he said in an email. “Show me large, well-designed impartial studies and I’ll be interested.”

In a phone interview he noted that while it’s not hypothetically impossible for the body to engage in particular physiological changes in response to lies, the burden of proof lies heavily on the new technologies. The tests involving simulated crimes that EyeDetect uses he said contain a fundamental flaw – people being instructed to lie in a test situation might well react differently, and more

demonstratively, than a criminal in the real world.

He also noted a lack of published research by people not affiliated with Kircher or his lab.

Kircher says the Defense Department is currently conducting a study of ocular technologies which he hopes will conclude by the summer. A DoD spokesman did not reply to a request for comment.

Not all outside experts are unmoved, however.

“All truth-detection methods are imperfect. But here’s the reason it’s worth relying – not over-relying, but relying – on them,” said Clark Freshman, a law professor at UC Hastings who specializes in lie detection, expressing optimism about the EyeDetect.

“People can do even worse than a coin-flip at telling whether someone is lying. So if you get better results – even if it’s just 70 or 80% accurate – than if we didn’t use it, and it’s generally free from bias, I don’t understand why you wouldn’t make it part of the picture.”

He said studies showed juries do not overly rely on these technologies, but instead include them as one factor among many.

There is also a particular abuse concern with EyeDetect. Without the human element, there may be less bias. But the device could also be intentionally set at algorithmic levels that would make it difficult to pass – at least with the polygraph there’s a transcript of human conversations. (Converus says that it trains customers on how to use the machine and, while it acknowledges that it allows them to set their own “base rate of guilt,” a spokesman also says that “if we observe a BRG set outside of a reasonable range, we make an inquiry.”)

Even if ocular technology can’t actually root out fibbers, there may be some value in how it could discourage them in the first place. In other words, EyeDetect may not need whiz-bang technology. It just needs to look high-tech. As Brad Bradley, the fire chief in Tucson, says in materials from Converus: “A guilty applicant, such as one with a drug history, looks at it and thinks, ‘I’m not going to pass. So, I’m not going to even apply.'”

Still, the odds of this moving from realms like hiring to mainstream courtrooms are slim. Plato said the eye is the window to the soul; he was silent on whether it was a ticket out of jail.

“This is going to be an uphill climb in almost any court, especially after the debacle that was the polygraph,” said Loyola Marymount’s Levenson.

Nor, in her opinion, do they deserve to scale the hill. “Truth-telling should be determined by people, not machines,” she said.

Garba Shehu has said that American politicians were bribed by IPOB.

In the wake of Nigeria’s removal from the ‘watchlist of religious violators’ by America, Senior Special Adviser to Muhammadu Buhari on Media and Publicity, Mallam Garba Shehu, has reacted to the development.

He described the removal as a triumph of diplomacy by the Buhari regime over a hate-driven foreign policy that was founded on false propaganda.

Shehu, who made this known through an article on Friday, insisted that Nigeria should never have been on the list of countries accused of religious violations in the first instance.

He explained that this happened after members of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) paid millions of dollars to American politicians to spread lies and falsehoods about the Muhammadu Buhari regime.

Recall that in December 2020, the Donald Trump-led United States Government had listed Nigeria among countries that were suspected of violating the religious freedom of its citizens.

Garba Shehu.

Nigeria: Ipob Lawyer Ifeanyi Ejiofor Petition UN,EU, US, UK over Nnamdi KANU.

Ifeanyi Ejiofor, lead counsel for the detained leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Nnamdi Kanu has petitioned the British, American, Canadian, Russian and Israeli embassies in Nigeria over the solitary confinement of the IPOB leader in the detention of the Department of State Services (DSS).

The same petition was addressed to the European Union and Amnesty International, revealing how the pro-Biafra separatist agitator was abducted and tortured in Kenya on June 19 and flown to Nigeria to face a court trial at the Federal High Court, Abuja without the presence of his counsel.   

Nnamdi Kanu
The letter further revealed that Kanu, a British citizen has not received proper medical care from the Nigerian government despite his worsening health conditions, and how the secret police refused to allow his American lawyer, Bruce Fein to see him in detention, despite a court order that three persons are allowed to see him on Mondays and Thursdays.

It also noted how over 300 IPOB members are being detained in DSS headquarters without having access to families and lawyers.

Ejiofor, then, appealed to the international community to intervene and deploy an “aggressive diplomatic engagement/effort to ensure that our client is released unconditionally in the shortest possible time”.

The petition said, “The Nigerian Government should not be allowed to benefit from its wrongdoing. It grossly violated all international treaties it is a signatory to the moment it surreptitiously entered a sovereign state to kidnap/abduct a British national and extraordinarily renditioned him to Nigeria for a trial that is a sham.”

Ejiofor made the 6-page copy of the document and court document backing it available to SaharaReporters on Friday

It was titled, “Solitary Confinement Of Mazi Nnamdi Kanu (A British Citizen) In The Custody Of The Department Of State Security (In Re: Charge No. FHC/ABJ/CR/383/2015 Federal Republic Of Nigeria V. Nnamdi Kanu).”

The letter partly read, “We act as Solicitors to Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, (hereinafter referred to simply as, ‘our client’), a British citizen, currently held in solitary confinement in the facility of the Department of State Security, Abuja, Nigeria. We write this letter to your good self, consistent with his brief and instruction. Our said client has informed us to the following effect, namely,

“That on the 19th day of June 2021, he was abducted at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, Nairobi, Kenya, by Kenyan security operatives and was severely tortured and dehumanised for eight days. Further, that after he had undergone excruciating physical assault, he was subsequently extraordinarily renditioned to Nigeria.

“That upon being extraordinarily renditioned as aforesaid, our client was summarily brought before the Federal High Court, Abuja Judicial Division, presided over by Hon. Justice Binta Nyako, on the 29th day of June, 2021, and was, by order made under the hand of the learned Judge, remanded in the custody of the Department of State Security, Abuja. It is instructive to note that these proceedings were taken surreptitiously, without notice to us and without affording our client the benefit of legal representation.

That in the proceedings aforesaid, the criminal charge preferred against our client in 2015 and pending in the same court was adjourned to the 26th day of July, 2021, for hearing. Further, that on the adjourned date, operatives of the Department of State Security did not produce our client in court and did not proffer any reason for his non-production. For this reason, proceedings which could have been taken on that day was truncated and the case was further adjourned to the 21st day of October 2021, for hearing.

“After arguments were taken on the application, the learned trial Judge acceded to our prayer and directed that the Detaining Authority, namely, the Department of State Security (Services), should thenceforth afford us access to our client on Mondays and Thursdays of every week. Subsequently, the order referred to above was flagrantly violated by operatives of the Detaining Authority, as we were not afforded access to our client. This was in spite of the fact that we caused the enrolled order of court to be served on the Detaining Authority. It was only upon the activation of the mechanism for the enforcement of orders of courts by committal that operatives of the Detaining Authority buckled and complied with the order of the court. 

Regrettably, despite the fact that the court order referred to above was immediately enrolled and served on the Department of State Security (Services), the latter denied persons whom our client chose to have an audience with access to our client. One of such persons is a certain Bruce Fein. For the record, Bruce Fein a foremost American Constitutional Law Attorney, who doubles as our client’s International Attorney and Attorney to IPOB in the United States of America, was denied access to our client, both at the facility of the Department of State Security, for five consecutive times, and at the court.

“It must be pointed out that our client was diagnosed of a medical condition, occasioned by gradual depletion of potassium in his system, which condition has defied every medical solution so far given to him within the facility of the Department of State Security (Services). 

“Furthermore, our client has since his extraordinary rendition to Nigeria, been exclusively confined to a tiny cell where he has no access to any other living object except his handlers, who bring food to him. Our client informed me and I verily believe him that he is daily exposed to mental and psychological torture, all targeted at breaking his spirit and compelling him to admit guilt in respect of an offence he never committed.

“Right to freedom of Religion/worship is a constitutionally guaranteed right of the citizens, clearly provided for in Section 38 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, (as Amended). It is instructive to also point out the fact that our client has not been convicted of any offence known to law.

“That being so, the law presumes him innocent of the 7-Count Amended Charge. Further, since his remand at the facility of the Department of State Security, Abuja, he has been denied his constitutional right to practice his religion. He is not allowed to practice his Jewish faith. Furthermore, recently, he is being fed with poorly prepared food, which, ostensibly, is designed to slowly kill him.

“It is our further information that over 300 innocent members of the Indigenous People of Biafra arrested across the South East States are secretly being detained in the facility of the Department of State Security, Abuja, without access to their relatives and lawyers.

“We also respectfully call for an aggressive diplomatic engagement/effort to ensure that our client is released unconditionally in the shortest possible time. The Nigerian Government should not be allowed to benefit from its wrongdoing. It grossly violated all international treaties it is a signatory to the moment it surreptitiously entered a sovereign state to kidnap/abduct a British national and extraordinarily renditioned him to Nigeria for a trial that is a sham.”

I will consider request for Nnamdi Kanu’s Release – Buhari to Igbo leaders

President Muhammadu Buhari has said that he will consider a request for the release of Nnamdi Kanu, the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB.

Kanu is currently standing trial for treason and terrorism. The president disclosed that such a demand “is quite heavy” but he will consider it nevertheless.

Ohtani voted American League MVP for 2-way season; Harper wins NL honor.

Shohei Ohtani’s two-way season was so incredible, MVP voters filled out the top of their ballots only one way.Ohtani was a unanimous winner of the American League MVP award Thursday for a hitting and pitching display not seen since Babe Ruth, and Bryce Harper earned the National League honor for the second time.

Ohtani received all 30 first-place votes and 420 points in balloting by members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America.”American fans, the U.S.A. baseball, is more accepting and welcoming to the whole two-way idea compared to when I first started in Japan, so it made the transition a lot easier for me,” Ohtani said through translator Ippei Mizuhara. “I’m very thankful for that.”Ohtani batted .257 with 46 homers, 100 RBIs and a .965 OPS as the Los Angeles Angels’ full-time designated hitter, and went 9-2 with a 3.18 ERA in 23 pitching starts with 156 strikeouts and 44 walks in 130 1/3 winnings.

It was the first full season on the mound for the 27-year-old right-hander since Tommy John surgery in 2019.He averaged 95.6 mph with his fastball, 28th in the major leagues among qualified pitchers, and had a 93.6 mph exit velocity at the plate, which ranked sixth among qualified batters, according to MLB Statcast.”MVP is something I was shooting for,” Ohtani said. “I think every player is, as long as they’re playing baseball professionally.”Ohtani won AL Rookie of the Year in 2018 after leaving the Pacific League’s Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters to sign with the Angels.

This year he became the first two-way starter in the history of the All-Star Game, which began in 1933.He called that the highlight of his season.”It was my first one and I got to play with a lot of players that I’ve always watched on TV,” Ohtani said. “That was a great experience.”Ruth had just two seasons in which he thrived at the plate while pitching regularly. He batted .300 with 11 homers and 61 RBIs in 1918 while going 13-7 with a 2.22 ERA for Boston, then hit .322 with 29 homers and 113 RBIs in 1919 while going 9-5 with a 2.97 ERA. Ruth was sold to the Yankees that December and made just five mound appearances in his final 16 seasons.Ohtani became the second Japanese MVP winner after Seattle outfielder Ichiro Suzuki in 2001.”I’ve dealt with a lot of doubters, especially from my days in Japan, but tried not to let that get to me, let the pressure get to me,” Ohtani said. “I just wanted to have fun and see what kinds of numbers I could put up and what type of performance I could put up.”Harper received 17 of 30 first-place votes and 348 points from a separate panel. Washington outfielder Juan Soto was second with six firsts and 274 points, and San Diego shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. was third with two firsts and 244 points.

Harper overcame getting hit on the left cheek with a 96.9 mph pitch from Génesis Cabrera of the St. Louis Cardinals on April 28, a ball that ricocheted off Harper’s left wrist. Tears came to his eyes when he learned he had won, and he talked about what he had overcome.

“I was, Oh,I'm great. I'm fine.' I'm pressing my face,I’m good and I’m OK to get back,’ not knowing that maybe it was a little bit too soon for myself,” Harper said.

He hit .211 with three RBIs in May, then went on the injured list between May 22 and June 5.

“I had to take a break and understand that my wrist was still hurt, my face and my mental state probably wasn’t the greatest,” Harper said.

He finished with a .309 average and 35 homers for Philadelphia. The 29-year-old slugger led the majors with a .465 slugging percentage and 1.044 OPS, tied for the lead with 42 doubles and had 84 RBIs.

Harper was a unanimous MVP winner with Washington in 2015 and became the fifth player to win MVPs for different teams after Jimmie Foxx, Frank Robinson, Barry Bonds and Alex Rodriguez.

“This one just felt a little bit different,” Harper said. “I think being a little bit older, a little bit more mature, being able to have the teammates I do, have the family now that I do with my kids.”

Harper earned a $500,000 bonus for winning MVP in his third season of a $330 million, 13-year contract.

He thanked his personal chef, Dan.

“Knowing I wasn’t going to have an empty stomach any night,” Harper said. “Having family dinner each night is big for us. So after a game, no matter if I’m 0 for 4 or 4 for 4, no matter if we lost or if we won, and everybody’s happy, everybody’s sad, I was getting home and we were going to have dinner together each night. And being able to sit down with your family and have dinner kind of puts things in perspective.”

Soto, a first-time All-Star at age 23, hit .313 with 29 homers and 95 RBIs. He led the majors with 145 walks and a .465 on-base percentage.

Tatis, 22, led the NL with 42 home runs, hitting .282 with 97 RBIs.

Toronto first baseman Vladimir Guerrero Jr. was second in the AL vote with 29 seconds and 269 points, and Blue Jays second baseman Marcus Semien was third with 232 points. Kansas City catcher Salvador Perez got the other second-place vote.

Guerrero, 22, tied for the major league lead with 48 homers, batting .311 with 111 RBIs. His father, Vladimir, won the 2004 AL MVP award with the Anaheim Angels.

Semien batted .265 with 42 homers and 102 RBIs. The 31-year-old is among the top free agents this offseason.

This marked the first time since the Chicago Cubs’ Andre Dawson and Toronto’s George Bell in 1987 that neither MVP’s team made the playoffs.

Tokyo record 16 new Covid-19 cases.

The Tokyo metropolitan government on Friday reported 16 new coronavirus cases, down four from Thursday and down six from last Friday.

The number of infected people hospitalized with severe symptoms in Tokyo is nine, one down from Thursday, health officials said. The nationwide figure is 62, down 14 from Thursday.

Nationwide, the number of reported cases was 159. No coronavirus-related deaths were reported.

Japan envoy says U.S. sought help to free journalist in Myanmar.

The U.S. government sought the help of Yohei Sasakawa, Japan’s special envoy for national reconciliation in Myanmar, to win the freedom of American journalist recently jailed for 11 years by a military court, the envoy revealed Thursday.

Sasakawa, chairman of the philanthropic Nippon Foundation, made the remarks in an interview with Kyodo News amid his “personal” visit to Myanmar, where the military ousted the elected government of civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi last February.

He said he was asked by the U.S. government to intercede with the military in the case of Danny Fenster, the managing editor of online news magazine Frontier Myanmar, who was arrested on May 24 at Yangon’s airport, charged with dissemination of false information and other offenses, and sentenced last Friday to 11 years in jail.

On Saturday, Sasakawa, who has visited Myanmar frequently in the past, held a meeting with Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing, the top commander of the armed forces.

Just two days later, Fenster was released after being jailed for almost six months, and was flown out of the country in the company of former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Bill Richardson.

Sasakawa said that even before the U.S. government made the request of him given his good connections with Myanmar’s military brass, he had been urging them to release the journalist.

In releasing Fenster, military authorities said he was amnestied at the request of Sasakawa and other intermediaries from Japan and the United States “in view of the existing friendly relations between Myanmar and those countries and on humanitarian grounds.”

Sasakawa also revealed in the interview that he met with an executive of the Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy during this visit.

Suu Kyi, who has been under detention since the Feb. 1 coup, has been charged with a litany of offenses, most recently electoral fraud related to last November’s general election that her NLD won resoundingly.