Welcome to Tuesday, where at least 23 die in a Mexico city metro accident, Bill & Melinda are splitting up and Japan spends COVID relief money on a giant squid statue. Les Echos also tells us about the pandemic-linked spike in anosmia cases, a.k.a. "smell blindness' and the impact on France's renowned wine tasters.
• Deadly Mexico City metro accident: At least 23 people were killed and dozens injured when a rail overpass and subway train collapsed in Mexico City on Monday night. Firefighters and rescue workers are still searching for survivors.
• Netanyahu faces deadline to form government: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has until midnight on Tuesday to put together a new coalition government or his leading Likud party might become part of the opposition for the first time in 12 years.
• Biden raises refugee cap above 62,000: President Joe Biden raised the number of refugees that will be admitted in the country to 62,500, after facing harsh criticism from Democrats for not changing the Trump-era limit.
• Germany dismantles global child porn network: German police have shut down one of the biggest darknet child pornography network in the world with more than 400,000 members. Four of its members were detained in Germany and Paraguay.
• Bill & Melinda Gates will divorce: The Microsoft founder and his wife have announced their decision to divorce after 27 years of marriage, raising questions about the future of their multi-billion-dollar philanthropic foundation.
• Japan town builds giant squid statue with COVID money: A seaside town used funding from an emergency COVID-19 relief grant to build a 13-meter-long squid statue. City officials said it was part of a plan to attract tourists back when the pandemic is over.
"Get vaccinated!," urges Slovak daily Dennik, warning that interest in vaccination in the country is extremely low compared with other European countries.
When COVID deprives winemakers of their sense of smell
"Smell blindness," a common coronavirus symptom, isn't a pleasant experience for anyone. But for an oenologist, it's also a serious professional handicap, writes Frank Niedercorn in French daily Les Echos.
The first thing Nicolas Garde noticed that morning in March 2020 was that he felt off — "bizarre," in his words. "After an hour, I realized that I could only smell a few aromas," the resident of Alsace, in eastern France, recalls. "Two days later, I had completely lost my sense of smell." Like many people affected by the COVID-19 virus, Garde experienced anosmia, also known as "smell blindness." The difference in his case, however, is that the loss of smell and taste had a direct impact on his ability to work. That's because Garde is an oenologist, an expert, in other words, in the science of wine and wine making.
A survey, conducted in July 2020 by France's Union of Oenologists, estimated that 54% of oenologists affected by COVID-19 had also lost their sense of smell. And while approximately 70% of them recovered their olfactory sense after 12 days or so, for more than 4% it took several months. Needless to say, anosmia is a real handicap in a profession which has around 7,000 workers in France, with more than half working in wine production.
France's Union of Oenologists has also found that anosmia, which can be caused by various infectious diseases, is common. Its report revealed that 13% of the surveyed oenologists had actually been affected by a loss of smell before the pandemic — two thirds even said it happened to them several times. "It was a taboo in the profession because an oenologist suffering from anosmia is scared to lose his job," says Sophie Pallas, director general of the Union of Oenologists. The Union is now working on creating a confidential hotline to help professionals.
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This French couple contracted three COVID variants … and she's eight-months pregnant
To have and to hold… three COVID variants
At eight-months pregnant, Sandra Cantelou hardly left the house in order to avoid catching the COVID-19 virus. Yet despite her precautions, she wound up "doubly" infected — testing positive for two different strains of the coronavirus, the Brazilian and South African variants, at the same time.
The rare case of contracting multiple variants simultaneously, called "co-infection" by scientists, and Cantelou's pregnancy risks, were further compounded when her husband came down with symptoms too.
Testing showed that his COVID case was actually the English variant, meaning that the two expecting parents had managed to catch three different coronavirus variants.
"I had coughing fits that could cause contractions, but overall I was well monitored and did not have any serious symptoms."
Thankfully, both parents are healthy now, awaiting the imminent birth of their French baby, already with a very international backstory.
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"We offer the most sincere apologies to the Mayan people for the terrible abuses committed.
— Mexican president Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador formally apologized to the indigenous Mayan people for the wrongs committed against them since the Conquista, as part of commemorations to celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Spanish conquest and the 200th anniversary of Mexico's independence.