You are what you eat, going by Harvard-led obesity investigation – dpa international

DUBLIN — Overeating does not always make you overweight, according to research published by Oxford University Press (OUP), which put the US’s “obesity epidemic” down to processed carbs prompting hormones to cause widespread metabolic mayhem. According to scientists and medics led by David Ludwig, an endocrinologist at Boston Children’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School, gluttony is not really the problem. Instead the culprit is “modern dietary patterns characterized by excessive consumption of foods with a high glycemic load: in particular, processed, rapidly digestible carbohydrates.”

Pandemic shows non-infectious diseases must be taken more seriously – dpa international

The coronavirus pandemic has prompted widespread use of sanitisers, as seen in these dispensers inside a Catholic church, but campaigners think more needs to be done to combat so-called NCDs (Simon Roughneen)

DUBLIN — The coronavirus pandemic has “intensified” needs to prevent and treat not only infectious diseases such as Covid-19, but “noncommunicable” illnesses such as cancer and diabetes, say health-issue campaigners. The pandemic “has brought about a greater recognition that the long-held distinctions between infectious and noncommunicable diseases are not as clear cut as once thought,” according to the Noncommunicable Disease (NCD) Alliance and The George Institute for Global Health, who warned in a report that “those with chronic conditions have a significantly higher risk of hospitalisation or death from the virus.”
NCDs such as cancer and diabetes, as well as respiratory and heart disease, have recently perhaps become more widely-known as “co-morbidities” or “pre-existing conditions” that leave a sufferer more likely to get sick or die after a coronavirus infection. “The Covid-19 pandemic has been catastrophic for people living with NCDs,” said Katie Dain, CEO of the NCD Alliance.

OECD says more people back at work in July as economies recover slowly – dpa international

Bus stop outside a Dublin café in July (Simon Roughneen)

DUBLIN — Unemployment across the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) fell for the third consecutive month in July, the group’s Paris-based secretariat said on Thursday. As countries continued to mostly ease coronavirus pandemic restrictions, joblessness dropped by 0.2 per cent to 6.2 per cent of the OECD-area workforce. However, unemployment remained almost 1 per cent above the 5.27 per cent recorded in February last year, the month before the World Health Organizaton declared a pandemic and most countries imposed lockdowns that froze swathes of their economies. Overall, around 1.6 million people were taken off unemployment registers across the OECD in July, leaving over 41 million people without a job.

All in the rhythm – US doctors claim asthma management breakthrough – dpa international

Asthma inhaler (Simon Roughneen)

DUBLIN — An asthmatic can ditch the cigarettes, steer clear of pollen and dust, take regular pulls on a trusty inhaler, and top all that off with running, cycling, swimming – but in the end, all those good habits might not matter as much as previously assumed. At least not at night, because once the sun sets, according to US doctors and scientists, the body’s natural circadian rhythms “have a stand-alone impact on asthma severity, independent of behavioral and environmental factors.”

Europeans feeling less free since pandemic started, survey shows – dpa international

Reduced numbers and mask mandates have been widely imposed on public transport systems as a virus-related restriction (Simon Roughneen)

DUBLIN — Only one in five of Europeans claim to “still feel free in their everyday life,” around a third as many as before the coronavirus pandemic. A survey published this week by the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR) showed 22 per cent of respondents claiming to feel free, “compared to 64 per cent who say they felt free two years ago, before the pandemic struck.” The poll, carried out in May and June and taking in over 16,000 people, suggested 41 per cent of Hungarians and 38 per cent of Spaniards “currently feel free,” the highest among the 12 countries canvassed. Meanwhile one in two Germans, the most of any country, say they are “not free” – despite being put under arguably less onerous restrictions than elsewhere.

Airlines say travel numbers up but still just half of 2019 levels – dpa international

Beach in Ireland, July 2021. Visitors to beaches in 2021 are mosty travellers from within the same country (Simon Roughneen

DUBLIN — International and domestic travel demand showed “significant momentum” in July compared to the previous month but remained overall 53 per cent below what was recorded in the same month in 2019, according to the International Air Transport Association (IATA). “Extensive government-imposed travel restrictions continue to delay recovery in international markets,” said the IATA, which represents almost 300 airlines carrying around 8 in 10 of the world’s passengers. There were huge differences between some regions and between domestic travel, which by July had recovered to within around 15 per cent of pre-pandemic numbers, and international, where the difference was a whopping 73.6 per cent, the IATA said. In June, domestic travel was 22 per cent less than the same month two years ago, while international travel was down 80 per cent. The hardest hit region remains the Asia-Pacific, which in July saw a near 95-per-cent-fall in international traffic compared to 2019, only slightly better than during the worst of the pandemic.

Conservationists warn almost a third of tree species could die out – dpa international

Trees are plentiful in Dublin's Pheonix Park (Simon Roughneen)

DUBLIN — Some of the world’s most recognisable trees, including oak, magnolia and maple, are among the 30 per cent of species at risk of extinction, according to Botanic Gardens Conservation International (BGCI). Published on Wednesday, the BGCI’s State of the World’s Trees report warned that over 17,000 of the world’s 60,000 kinds of tree could soon be no more due to logging, forest clearances, farming and extreme weather. The most vulnerable are 440 species which “have fewer than 50 individuals remaining,” according to the report, which the BGCI said was based on five years of work involving 60 institutions and 500 researchers. Around one in five tree species are used by humans “for food, fuel, timber, medicines, horticulture,” the BGCI said, with only around 40 per cent of species confirmed as not at risk.

Car makers face chip shortage as pandemic curbs hinder Asian factories – dpa international

Social distancing in May 2020 on a city train in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, a major manufacturer of electronics and related parts (Simon Roughneen)

DUBLIN — Ford’s Cologne factory is to pause production of Fiesta models due to a shortage of semiconductors usually sourced from Malaysian factories, which have been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic and related government restrictions. The shutdown is to begin on Thursday and last at least two weeks, the company said on Wednesday, and comes as factories around the world are being hit with shortages of computer chips and other components due to manufacturing supply chains snapping due to pandemic curbs. Toyota and Volkswagen are among the other car brands to recently warn of slowing production due to tightening supplies of chips. According to Capital Economics, with “virus disruption” likely to last “at least the next couple of months,” the global shortage of chips is “unlikely to get better any time soon.”

Pandemic lays bare global welfare gap leaving 4 billion unprotected – dpa international

At work in a mall in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, a so-called middle-income economy, shortly after the relaxing of the county's first pandemic lockdown in May 2020 (Simon Roughneen)

DUBLIN — More than half the world’s people lack “social protection coverage” and have been left wide open to “economic shock waves” since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, according to the International Labour Organization (ILO). The ILO, a United Nations body, said in its World Social Protection Report 2020-22 that the pandemic has shown up how billions of people are vulnerable to “high levels of economic insecurity, persistent poverty, rising inequality, extensive informality and a fragile social contract.” While most Western countries and others such as Japan and Singapore “marshalled social protection as a front-line response to protect people’s health, jobs and incomes” as the pandemic spread and related curbs on economic activity were imposed, many low and middle income countries have struggled to emulate wealthier counterparts.

Dogs can forecast epileptic seizures, according to Belfast-based scientists – dpa international

DUBLIN – Man’s best friend can not only warn off burglars, herd farm animals or sniff out bombs and drugs, but can be predict epileptic seizures, according to Queen’s University Belfast (QUB). The seizures “are associated with a specific smell which is detectable by pet dogs,” a university-led research team said. Anecdotes about behaviourial changes in dogs suggested they were aware of impending seizures, but no scientific study had until now “investigated the veracity of these claims,” QUB said. Published in the journal MDPI Animals, the findings could help develop a “reliable” and potentially life-saving early warning system” for the world’s 65 million people who live with epilepsy, of which around 30 per cent “cannot control their seizures by medication.”