Welcome to Wednesday, where Israel continues retaliatory airstrikes on Gaza, another major earthquake shakes Afghanistan and a scary-big pumpkin gets crowned in California. Meanwhile, Carlos Orsi Portuguese-language digital publication Questão de Ciência looks at the World Health Organization’s tricky balancing act vis-à-vis alternative medical practices.
[*Nĭ hăo - Mandarin]
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• Israel steps up strikes on Gaza, more Hamas atrocities revealed: Israel launched a new barrage of missiles aimed at Hamas strongholds in Gaza, as new civilian victims of the Hamas attack on Saturday were discovered in southern Israel, including many women and children shot dead in their homes. Death tolls continued to rise: with more than 1,200 Israelis killed and 1,055 in Gaza. The U.S., meanwhile has sent its first additional military aid to Israel and announced efforts to open a humanitarian corridor out of Gaza.
• Zelensky visits NATO HQ in Brussels: Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky made a surprise visit to the NATO military alliance headquarters in Brussels on Wednesday, his first since Russia’s invasion started, to ask again Western countries to help Kyiv bolster air defense systems ahead of another wartime winter. The leader also urged the West to rally around the people of Israel and show them they are not “alone.” Here’s the Moscow correspondent for French daily Les Echos about the surprising resilience of Russia’s economy, despite international sanctions.
• Afghanistan hit by second strong quake: Another strong earthquake shook western Afghanistan early on Wednesday just days after a series of strong quakes in the same region killed more than 2,400 people. More than 100 were injured and sent to hospital but the wider impact of the quake is not yet known.
• Australian journalist Cheng Lei released from China detention: Journalist Cheng Lei, who had been jailed for three years in China, has been freed and returned to Australia. Cheng was working for China's state-run English language TV station CGTN when she was arrested in August 2020 over ill-defined allegations of sharing Chinese state secrets overseas, but her charges were never made public. China’s national security body said the reporter had been deported “in accordance with the law after serving her sentence.”
• Mexico’s Pacific coast hit by Hurricane Lidia: Hurricane Lidia crashed into Mexico’s Pacific coast late on Tuesday as an “extremely dangerous storm,” killing at least one person. The Category 4 storm has weakened to Category 2 as it barreled inland.
• NASA to reveal images of newly returned asteroid sample: During a live streamed news conference on Wednesday, NASA is set to provide a first peek of the largest asteroid sample ever collected in space, which returned to Earth two weeks ago via a capsule that landed in the Utah desert.
• World’s heaviest pumpkin: A 2,749-pound (1,247-kg) monster pumpkin has been named the world’s heaviest after taking the top prize at the 50th World Championship Pumpkin Weigh-Off at Half Moon Bay in California.
Barcelona-based daily El Periódico dedicates its front page to the “emerging atrocities” after reports of more than 40 children and babies murdered in a Kibbutz. The newspaper features a photo showing a thick plume of smoke coming from the Port of Gaza after an Israeli attack, as Defense Forces and Hamas intensify airstrikes and rocket launches. *Five days after the first attacks by Hamas on Israel, the world’s front pages are still translating the shock and brutality of the war. Check our collection of front pages around the globe at the beginning of the Hamas-Israel war.
Birkenstock will officially be making its debut on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol BIRK. The popular and beloved maker of sandals and shows (which also benefited from a recent Barbie boost) priced its initial public offering at $46 a share, making Birkenstock an $8.6 billion company.
WHO's evidence anyway? The extra careful mainstreaming of alternative medicine
The World Health Organization has long walked the uneasy tightrope between evidence-based and traditional medicine. It is time to dismantle this unrealistic balance, writes Carlos Orsi Portuguese-language digital publication Questão de Ciência.
💊 The World Health Organization (WHO) held its First Global Summit on Traditional Medicine in August. The event, held in the city of Gandhinagar, India, was preceded by a social media advertising campaign that left scientists and serious science communicators reeling. It presented in a "friendly" way — equivalent to an implicit endorsement — alternative practices that contradict the best scientific evidence, such as homeopathy and naturopathy, and that are in no way “traditional”: the first was invented in Germany 200 years ago and the other in the U.S., a little over a century ago.
📝 WHO's introductory text is a balancing act. In six paragraphs, the word “evidence” appears five times. Being part of the UN and, therefore a political but also a technical (or technical but also political) body, the WHO juggles things to impress its sponsors who want to capitalize on “traditions” in the globalized health and wellbeing market, without betraying its commitment to human health.
🌿 Traditional medicine with efficacy, safety and quality proven by rigorous clinical tests is... just medicine. This is what happened with aspirin and artemisinin, two drugs originally inspired by traditional uses of plants, but which are now duly incorporated into the arsenal of evidence-based medicine. Read together, the WHO's current statements on the subject seem to push traditional medicines, gently but firmly, into the context of discovery. And with the full intention of leaving them only in that context, which is quite the opposite of what was suggested a decade ago.
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“This was an act of sheer evil.”
— U.S. President Joe Biden condemned the deadly attack against Israel by the Hamas militant group and stressed U.S. support for Israelis mourning the killings of more than 1,200 people. At least 14 Americans died in the attack. National security adviser Jake Sullivan believes that 20 Americans are missing but that it remains unclear if they are being held hostage. Biden said Washington will share intelligence with Israel and deploy additional experts for hostage recovery. Sullivan also noted that no American forces would be deployed on the ground.
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