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Coronavirus

Risks Of Reinfection And Long COVID: The Pandemic Is Not Over

Too many people no longer follow basic protocol: mask wearing, physical distancing and avoiding crowded events. The consequences are an increase in both daily case numbers and long COVID.

The latest Omicron variant BA.5 is fast becoming dominant worldwide, including in New Zealand and Australia. As it continues to surge, reinfection will become increasingly common and this in turn means more people will develop long COVID.

The two most concerning aspects of long COVID are its high prevalence (up to 30% of those infected) and a link between reinfection and a higher risk of harmful outcomes.

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Food Shortages Around The World, Product By Product

The war in Ukraine and the climate crisis have been devastating for food production. Here's a look at some of the traditional foods from around the world that might be hard to find on supermarket shelves.

The consequences of the invasion of Ukraine by Russia have been far-reaching. A Russian blockade of the Black Sea has meant Ukraine, known as “Europe’s breadbasket,” has been unable to export much of its huge harvests of wheat, barley and sunflower oil.

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So even those thousands of miles from the battlefields have been hit by the soaring prices of basic necessities.

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Overcoming My Pākehā Family's Historical Amnesia

New Zealand politics professor Richard Shaw comes to terms with how his family's silences finds roots in the historical amnesia surrounding the acquisition of lands by Irish settlers in Taranaki, a region in the south west of the Aotearoa's North Island.

The day my great-grandfather Andrew Gilhooly was buried at Taranaki’s Ōkato cemetery in early February 1922, Jas Higgins played the Last Post. Neither man had seen active service in the “great war” with which that ritual is most closely associated. Rather, both had served in the New Zealand wars, an earlier series of conflicts fought across the mid-to-late 19th century as part of the colonisation of Aotearoa New Zealand.

In New Zealand and Australia it’s a mark of honour to have ancestors who fought on the Dardanelles or at the Somme or Passchendaele. A national origin myth has been constructed around the Anzacs, replete with a day of remembrance, outsized monuments, and a rich tradition of rituals that are rehearsed annually “lest we forget”.

Nothing like the same emotional (or financial) investment is made in remembering the wars that took place at home. Our own colonial violence, in Taranaki and at Ōrākau, Pukehinahina/Gate Pā and elsewhere, has been relegated to the margins of the national consciousness. It’s an ongoing process of selective historical amnesia that we’re only slowly beginning to address – not so much lest we forget, as best we forget.

This might explain why I grew up knowing next to nothing about my maternal great-grandfather. Yes, there were plenty of stories about his wife (roundly condemned as having been a “difficult” woman) and six children (farmers, priestly prodigies and musical spinsters). However, other than the bare facts that he was born into a poor farming family in County Limerick in Ireland and had served in the New Zealand Armed Constabulary (AC), about Andrew there was only silence.

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Why These 7 Eternal Flames Around The World Keep On Burning

The president of Turkmenistan announced plans this year to extinguish the country's famous "Gates of Hell" gas crater. But it's by no means the only one of its kind. We rounded up the eternal flames still burning in all corners of the globe.

On Jan. 8, Turkmenistan’s leader Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov, known for his authoritarian tendencies, announced on television that he had set his sights on the Darvaza Gas Crater, also known as the “Gates of Hell”, a mysterious vat of flames that has been spewing fire for over 50 years in the Karakum Desert.

The burning crater is one of the central Asian country’s few tourist attractions, yet President Berdymukhamedov has ordered it extinguished once and for all, saying the methane-belching pit was bad for the environment and locals’ health, while also representing a lost opportunity for the impoverished nation to capture marketable gas.

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Society
Anne-Sophie Goninet

Why The Right To Die Is Expanding Around The World

Euthanasia and assisted suicide laws are still the exception, but lawmakers from New Zealand to Peru to Switzerland and beyond are gradually giving more space for people to choose to get help to end their lives — sometimes with new and innovative technological methods.

The announcement last month that a “suicide capsule” device would be commercialized in Switzerland, not surprisingly, caused quite a stir. The machine called Sarcophagus, or “Sarco” for short, consists of a 3D-printed pod mounted on a stand, which releases nitrogen and gradually reduces the oxygen level from 21% to 1%, causing the person inside to lose consciousness without pain or a sense of panic, and then die of hypoxia and hypocapnia (oxygen and carbon dioxide deprivation).

While active euthanasia is illegal in Switzerland, assisted suicide is allowed under certain conditions and under the supervision of a physician, who has first to review the patient’s capacity for discernment — a condition that Sarco aims to eliminate. “We want to remove any kind of psychiatric review from the process and allow the individual to control the method themselves,” Australian doctor Philip Nitschke, the machine’s creator, told news platform SwissInfo. Some argue that this is against the country’s medical ethical rules while others expressed concerns about safety.

But Nitschke says he found the solution: an online AI-based test, which will give a code to the patient to use the device if he passes.

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In The News
Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

COVID & Fertility, Airplanes 5G Warning, R2D2 Moon

👋 ഹലോ!*

Welcome to Thursday, where Kim Jong-un offers to reopen hotline with Seoul, a 96-year-old Nazi war crime suspect flees and a Turkish man gets so drunk he joins a search party for himself. From France, we also take a look, and listen, to the surprisingly loud noises of the countryside.

[*halēā - Malayalam, India & Malaysia]

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Society
Hannah Steinkopf-Frank

The World's Toughest Anti-Smoking Laws

New Zealand is proposing to effectively ban cigarette sales in the future, the culmination of decades of increasingly tough laws aimed at tobacco use around the world, from Kyoto to California to Costa Rica.

New Zealand has announced what may be history's toughest anti-smoking law, saying it will not allow young people to buy cigarettes for life. Over the coming years, it amounts to a de facto prohibition-to-be, reports the New Zealand Herald.

Health activists are hailing the radical measure as the best way to begin to end the millions of deaths each year from smoking-related illnesses. The New Zealand legislation would be the culmination of worldwide efforts, both national and local laws, to limit tobacco use — from rules on cigarette packaging , bans on tobacco advertising and restrictions on smoking in public places.

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Coronavirus
Alexander Gillespie

New Zealand's COVID Exceptionalism Risks Unraveling

As New Zealand grapples to bring a Delta outbreak under control and to accelerate the vaccination rollout, social cohesion is vital for a successful elimination strategy.

Political consensus on elimination has endured so far. Unlike the anti-mask and anti-vaccination movements elsewhere, most New Zealanders continue to back the prime minister's decision to place the country under the strictest lockdown.

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Coronavirus
Anne Sophie Goninet

What COVID-19 Means For Worldwide Push To Legalize Marijuana

New Zealand's referendum last month to legalize recreational marijuana use was the first time a country put the controversial topic to a popular vote. Initial results point to a narrow defeat of the measure, which would still leave Uruguay and Canada as the only countries to fully legalize cannabis at a national level.

Still, in normal times, such a vote would have made worldwide headlines. But with COVID-19 dominating the news, it's mostly wafted under the radar.

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THE NEW ZEALAND HERALD
Rozena Crossman

New Zealand To Niger: 8 *Other World Elections That Matter

*Other than Donald Trump's jaw-dropping push for a second term, we will also see Maduro's Venezuela and Myanmar (also) testing the limits of democracy in the coming weeks.

This year's U.S. presidential election is sucking up even more global attention than previous runs for the White House. America's global influence is undeniable, as is the current president's knack for making noise. There is no doubt Worldcrunch and other international media will continue to follow the U.S. campaign until Nov. 3 — but from New Zealand to Ivory Coast to Venezuela, the stakes are equally high at ballot boxes around the world in the coming weeks and months. Here's a rapid-fire glance at eight key global elections that shouldn't be ignored:

NEW ZEALAND

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Coronavirus
Kati Bohmbach

New Zealand And Seven Other Nations Beating COVID-19 Odds

It was the kind of definitive piece of information that has been rare since the COVID-19 pandemic began: On Monday, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced that coronavirus transmission has been officially eliminated in the country, since its appearance there in late February. According to the Director-General of Health, it has been at least 17 days since the last new case of the country was reported and the last person being treated for the disease has recovered.


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THE GLOBAL TIMES

Eyebrows, Nods And Elbow Bumps: Handshake Alternatives Around The World

Humans have been greeting each others with handshakes for thousands of years. Are we witnessing the end to pressing the flesh, and giving some skin? "I don't think we should shake hands ever again," declared Dr Anthony Fauci, one of the key members of the US coronavirus task force, in a Wall Street Journal podcast.

So is we must shelve the shake, what should we do when we greet a friend, a colleague or family member? From reviving old traditions to inventing new ways of greetings, alternatives to handshakes are showing up around the world:

  • In New Zealand, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has encouraged citizens not to use handshakes, hugs or hongi (a traditional noses-pressed Maori greeting) but to perform instead the "east coast wave", even demonstrating it during a press conference, reports The New Zealand Herald. Also known as the "Kahungunu wave" as it is common in Ngāti Kahungunu Maori iwi (tribe), it consists of raising the eyebrows while looking at someone in the eyes, with a subtle upward movement of the head.

  • In China, a traditional gesture called "zuoyi", bowing with hands folded in front, has made a public comeback in the eastern city of Quzhou. Officials were asked to use this gesture during local plenary sessions, as well as students in 117 schools,The Global Timesreports. This formal custom dates back from China's imperial era thousands of years ago. The country also popularized the "Wuhan shake," or how to say hello with your feet, after an online video went viral.

  • In many countries, a handshake is also a means to seal a business deal. That is how traders traditionally operate in Garissa County, Kenya, when they sell animals in livestock markets. But Kenyan health officials are now giving them a safer option that doesn't require physical contact: a "stick-shake". The Ministry of Health has published a picture of a health worker demonstrating how to use sticks as a substitute for the traditional handshake at a goat market.

No handshake, use shaka instead — Photo: Brian Schatz

  • The elbow bump has been widely used across the world and seems to be favored especially by politicians (who are famous hand shakers...or "flesh pressers' as we say in English) , from state officials in Indonesia to European health ministers. Former US presidential candidate Hillary Clinton even dubbed it the "corona shake".
  • Hawaiians are used to hugs, kisses or "honi", with foreheads touching. But officials like Hawaii US Senator Brian Schatz have been urging citizens to use the "shaka" to help prevent the virus from spreading, reports local news channel KITV. The gesture, which consists in curling the three middle fingers and extending the thumb and pinky finger, is a symbol of friendship and compassion in the Hawaiian culture and was widely popularized by surfers.
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