Welcome to Friday, where Kyiv slams Putin’s ceasefire order as “propaganda,” the arrest of El Chapo’s son sparks violence in Mexico, and Avatar: The Way of Water is officially 2022’s biggest movie. Meanwhile Edda Grabar in German daily Die Welt investigates what it is about “long COVID” that still stumps scientists.
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• Ukraine rejects Russian ceasefire offer: Kyiv swiftly rejected Russian President Vladimir Putin’s unilateral 36-hours ceasefire in Ukraine for Orthodox Christmas. A senior aide to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, Mykhailo Podolyak, called the ceasefire “a cynical trap and an element of propaganda.”
• Arrest of El Chapo’s son sparks cartel violence: Following the arrest of Ovidio Guzmán, the son of notorious drug kingpin “El Chapo” in the Mexican state of Sinaloa, angry cartel members set up roadblocks and set fire to vehicles, killing three security force members.
• World’s most wanted people smuggler arrested in Sudan: Kidane Zekarias Habtemariam, called the “world’s most wanted” people smuggler has been arrested in Sudan, in coordination with UAE authorities. Habtemariam is accused of running a camp in Libya where hundreds of migrants were kidnapped, raped and killed.
• Biden to honor Jan. 6 Capitol “heroes”: U.S. President Joe Biden will mark the anniversary of the Jan. 6 Capitol Riots by bestowing the Presidential Citizen Medal for 12 “heroes” who fought to defend democracy on that day.
• House Speaker election deadlock continues: Republican Kevin McCarthy’s bid failed for an eleventh round of voting, due to the opposition of 20 fellow Republicans of the far right. This has been the longest contest for the pivotal Congressional role in the last 164 years.
• Afghanistan-China oil deal: Afghanistan’s government has signed a contract with Chinese firm CAPEIC to extract oil from the Amu Darya basin and develop an oil reserve in the country’s northern Sar-e Pul province. This is the first such deal with a foreign company since the Taliban took over in 2021.
• That stings! The U.S. has just approved the world’s first vaccine for its declining honeybees population. The vaccine was designed to prevent the bees from succumbing to foulbrood disease, and Annette Kleiser, Dalan Animal Health’s CEO, described the measure as a “breakthrough” in protecting honey bees.
Rome-based weekly Internazionale warns that “The future of humanity depends on this glacier,” as specialists project that the melting of the Thwaites Glacier (a.k.a. the “Doomsday Glacier”) in western Antarctica could cause a chain reaction that would raise sea levels by three meters.
James Cameron’s sequel Avatar: The Way of Water has earned $1.51 billion globally, surpassing Top Gun: Maverick, to become the highest grossing film released in 2022 and among the top 10 of the highest-grossing films of all time. Domestically however, Maverick remains at the top spot, over $260 million ahead.
Why long COVID is still such a mystery to researchers
Both long and post-COVID are still misunderstood by the general public and the scientific community. This can cause even more suffering for those affected, who already fear their symptoms being dismissed as psychosomatic, reports Edda Grabar in German daily Die Welt.
🦠🧠 There is still a lot of uncertainty around the long-term symptoms experienced by COVID patients. Are depression and anxiety after a COVID infection caused by processes in the brain sparked by the virus? Or are they the result of increased stress after the pandemic? There is evidence for both explanations: studies suggest the virus does cause changes in the brain. However, other studies show that these changes disappear after the patient recovers from the infection.
😷 Clara Lehmann, director of the working group on outpatient treatment at Cologne University Hospital, believes that the number of people suffering from long COVID or post-COVID is vastly overestimated. “The umbrella term is hiding a whole range of different syndromes,” she said. More than 200 symptoms have been linked to the syndrome — from headaches and difficulty concentrating to kidney and liver damage, heart attacks, strokes and fatigue.
👩 Long COVID doesn’t affect everyone equally. Some people seem particularly vulnerable to long-term effects. According to a U.S. study, around two thirds of those affected were middle-aged women. Important risk factors include being overweight and having pre-existing chronic or psychological conditions — such as anxiety and depression. A latent Epstein-Barr virus infection and diabetes also increase the risk of suffering from long COVID.
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“The war will end either when your soldiers leave or we throw them out.”
— Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky rejected his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin’s offer of a 36-hour truce over the Orthodox Christmas period, arguing the ceasefire was a tactical ploy from Moscow to stop Ukraine’s military advances in the east of the country. “The whole world knows how the Kremlin uses interruptions in the war to continue the war with new strength,” Zelensky said.
✍️ Newsletter by Renate Mattar, Bertrand Hauger and Anne-Sophie Goninet
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