Welcome to Wednesday, where Delhi shuts down its schools due to toxic air, Biden bans Nicaraguan officials from entering the U.S., and your dog can now call you. We also see how a new law in Iran, aimed at boosting birth rates in the country, could lead to a rise in HIV/AIDS infections.
• Biden bans Nicaragua officials from entering U.S.: President Joe Biden issued a proclamation banning members of Nicaragua's government from entering the U.S., following an election that Washington claims was wrought with fraud to favor Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega.
• Chilean Senate votes against impeaching president: While Chile's lower chamber of Congress voted to open impeachment proceedings, the Senate failed to reach a two-thirds majority that could have ended in President Sebastian Piñera spending up to five years in jail. Piñera has been in political turmoil since a questionable business deal was revealed in the Pandora Papers.
• Ceasefire following Azerbaijan-Armenia border clash: Russia reportedly helped mediate an end to violence following the death of at least one Armenian soldier and the capture of a dozen more along the Azerbaijan-Armenia border. The conflict originally sparked fears of a return to war, a year after the two countries fought over the Nagorno-Karabakh region.
• Deadly storm hits Vancouver: A "once in a century" Pacific Northwest storm has resulted in at least one casualty and left thousands in Canada and the U.S. without electricity. Flood waters destroyed highways and cut off Canada's largest port city of Vancouver, with fears that a landslide caused more casualties.
• Delhi shuts schools and colleges: Dangerous levels of air pollution in India's capital has led to school closure and calls to work from home as well as banning non essential trucks from entering the city. The city of 20 million is one of the world's most polluted and such air quality degradation is a common winter occurrence. Meanwhile, in neighboring Pakistan, Lahore has been declared the world's most polluted city, with persistent smog causing health impacts for many of its 11-million plus citizens.
• COVID update: U.S. biotech giant Pfizer will allow generic manufacturers to supply its COVID-19 vaccine to 95 low- and middle-income countries, accounting for 53% of the global population. Governments around the world are beginning to crack down on the unvaccinated ahead of the holiday, with vaccinations required for some German Christmas markets and for New Year's Eve celebrations at Times Square in New York City.
• Call your canine: Worried about your dog being alone all day? University of Glasgow researchers have invented the DogPhone — a ball that allows man's best friend to dial up their owners at any time.
Chilean daily El Mercurio reports on the country's Senate voting against impeaching President Sebastian Piñera over a controversial business deal revealed in the recent Pandora Paper leaks.
Frida Kahlo's painting Diego Y Yo ("Diego and I") one of the Mexican artist's final self-portraits, has sold for $34.9 million at auction in New York, smashing the record for a Latin American artwork which was held until then by her husband Diego Rivera's painting Los Rivales, sold for $9.76 million in 2018.
Iran's new law to boost birth rate takes aim at condoms, raises HIV risks
An Iranian public healthcare official warns that a parliamentary bill to boost birth rates will cut access to condoms, and could fuel sexually-transmitted diseases like AIDS.
🦠 Facing the lowest birth rate in the Middle East, the Iranian government has passed legislation that will end the distribution of free contraceptives in the public health care system unless a pregnancy would threaten the woman's health. The law has already faced pushback from NGOs for its attempt to undermine women's reproductive rights. Mas'ud Mardani, who heads the State Committee to Fight AIDS and the Anti-Coronavirus Committee, has also warned that discouraging the use of condoms will increase the spread of AIDS/HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases.
💊 Mardani said that the bill will reverse years of efforts to promote condom use among men, "making our youngsters highly vulnerable to HIV and... infections will rise." The situation is particularly critical given that because of the pandemic, antiretroviral medicines are in short supply and the state seems to have abandoned its "management strategy" against HIV/AIDS. Mardani says the Committee had not had any recent meetings to discuss the national AIDS strategy.
🍼 In the mid-1980s, Iran had one of the highest birth rates in the world, at 6.5 children for each woman of childbearing age. The website Iran International reports that the number has now plummeted to 1.6, given political, economic and social crises that have disrupted the Middle Eastern country, but also because of greater access to family planning. Conservatives among Iran's clergy and politicians have long denounced family planning as cultural corruption from the West and supported policies to boost the population.
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People need to buy bread, not glass, you can't eat glass.
— Italian glassworker Giovanni Maschietto told Reuters, as global soaring gas prices are threatening the survival of glassblowers on the island of Murano in the Venice lagoon. Famous for its art since the 13th century, Murano's glass manufacturing and its 1,000 workers were already struggling to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. "I think everything here is going to die," Maschietto added.
✍️ Newsletter by Hannah Steinkopf-Frank, Anne-Sophie Goninet and Bertrand Hauger
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