U.S.-Russia Stalemate, Asymptomatic Omicron, Pig Heart Breakthrough
Welcome to Tuesday, where the U.S breaks a new COVID record, “no progress” in tense talks between Russian and American officials over Ukraine and a medical breakthrough crosses the animal kingdom. Meanwhile, we look at why more and more countries around the world are loosening laws on assisted suicide and euthanasia.
[*Ojibwe - Canada]
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🌎 7 THINGS TO KNOW RIGHT NOW
• COVID update: The U.S. reported the highest daily total of new coronavirus infections for any country in the world, with 1.35 million cases recorded Monday. A new South African study suggests the Omicron coronavirus variant has a much higher rate of “asymptomatic carriage” than previous variants, possibly explaining its rapid spread across the globe. Meanwhile, China locked down a third mega-city, Anyang, and its 5.5 million residents, over COVID-19 cases outbreak, raising the number of citizens confined to their home in the country to about 20 million.
• U.S.-Russia talks show “no progress”: U.S. and Russian officials held nearly eight hours of intense talks over Ukraine and other security issues on Monday. Both sides agreed to continue efforts to reduce tensions, with Russia announcing it had no intention of invading Ukraine. However there was no sign of a major breakthrough following the talks. Meanwhile, after a week of deadly unrest in Kazakhstan, President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev announced on Tuesday that a contingent of Russian-led forces would start pulling out of the country in two days.
• 17 killed in Ethiopian airstrike: An airstrike in Ethiopia's northern region of Tigray on Monday killed at least 17 people, mostly women, and wounded dozens. This followed an airstrike that killed 56 people and injured 30, including children, in a camp for displaced people in Tigray region on Friday.
• Death of EU Parliament president: The president of the European Parliament, David Sassoli, a former Italian journalist, died early Tuesday in a hospital in Italy. He was 65.
• U.S. patient gets pig heart in world first transplant: A 57-year-old American man has become the first person to get a heart transplant from a genetically-modified pig. The patient, David Bennett, is doing well three days after the experimental seven-hour procedure in Baltimore. Surgeons see the procedure as a potentially major breakthrough, hoping genetic modifications will increase the body's chances to accept the organ and that pig organs could help alleviate shortages of donor organs.
• Check out the Maya Angelou quarter: A new U.S. 25-cent coin featuring the seminal poet and activist Maya Angelou went into circulation on Monday. Maya Angelou was the first black woman to write and perform a poem at a presidential inauguration, and is now the first black woman ever featured on the quarter, part of the American Women Quarters program, which will include coins featuring prominent women in American history.
• Norway soldiers asked to return underwear when service ends: Amid shortage of supplies, Norway has ordered members of its military to return underwear, bras and socks after the end of their military service so that the next group of recruits can use them. The Norwegian military partly blamed the problem on the coronavirus pandemic.
🗞️ FRONT PAGE
“Winner,” titles Serb tabloid daily Blic, after tennis player Novak Djokovic’s Australian visa cancellation was overturned by a judge, who ordered the Serb’s release from immigration detention. While the men’s tennis world No. 1 is allowed to stay to compete in the Australian Open for now, he can still face deportation if the country’s immigration minister decides to cancel his visa for a second time.
#️⃣ BY THE NUMBERS
Changpeng Zhao, founder and CEO of cryptocurrency exchange Binance, has become the world's richest crypto billionaire with an estimated net worth of at least $96 billion. The fortune of the Chinese-Canadian entrepreneur, commonly known as “CZ,” could be significantly larger, as the estimate doesn’t take into account his personal crypto holdings, which include Bitcoin.
📰 STORY OF THE DAY
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. While active euthanasia is illegal in Switzerland, assisted suicide is allowed under certain conditions and under the supervision of a physician.
⚖️ Issues surrounding the right to die have been at the center of the debate in several countries particularly this past year — maybe as a result of the coronavirus pandemic and its numerous victims, which forced us to face our own mortality head on. While euthanasia and assisted suicide are legal in just a handful of countries around the world, more are allowing the practice in certain conditions, or for specific cases. New Zealand is one of the latest countries which legalized euthanasia, following a referendum in 2020 with nearly 65% of voters supporting the End of Life Choice Act to become law.
❓ But the procedures are far from widespread and some are still hesitant to legalize them. In January 2021, Portugal’s parliament voted to legalize euthanasia, setting the country on its way to becoming the seventh in the world to allow the procedure. But last November, Portuguese President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa vetoed the bill for the second time after already refusing to sign a first draft earlier this year. The leader criticized the wording of the proposed law, saying it was too imprecise when it came to the justification of assisted suicide.
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— According to a leaked message obtained by British broadcaster ITV, Martin Reynolds, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Principal Private Secretary, invited more than 100 employees to a Downing Street garden party in May 2020, at the height of the 2020 lockdown. This is the latest in a series of alleged COVID-rule-breaking gatherings held by government officials, adding to the growing criticism of Johnson’s handling of the pandemic.
💣🚢 IN OTHER NEWS
Argentine millionaire to buy and “pulverize” Nazi warship artifact
An Argentine businessman has vowed to buy the eagle and swastika crest of a German warship that sank in 1939 in Uruguay, and was recovered in 2006, in order to "blow it to smithereens" and prevent it becoming a fetish for Nazi sympathizers.
The Admiral Graf Spee warship, which had been disrupting Allied shipping in the early months of World War II, was damaged in fighting and then scuttled in Montevideo's harbor on the orders of its captain. Its wreck was recovered in 2006, and a Uruguayan court has ordered it sold to repay the two brothers who financed the operation.
But 64-year-old Daniel Sielecky, an Argentine boating aficionado in Punta del Este, a resort near Montevideo, said he would buy the "Nazi symbol," to "immediately blow it into a thousand pieces." Any chunks left, he told the Uruguayan daily Correo de Punta del Este, "will be pulverized. There will be nothing left."
The ship's crest, which is two meters high, 2.8 meters wide and weighs 300 kilograms, resurfaced in the operation paid for by brothers Felipe and Alfredo Etchegaray, who took legal action to ensure Uruguay would compensate them.
The crest has since caused unease and was separately offered to a German war museum and the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial in Israel. The Simon Wiesenthal Center, which investigates Holocaust crimes, warned in 2020 that the crest must only be sold for display for "teaching" purposes.
But for Sielecky, reports Buenos Aires daily Clarin, even this is a risk, and he said he will simply opt for the object's elimination.
✍️ Newsletter by Anne-Sophie Goninet and Jane Herbelin