DUBLIN — Even as the coronavirus pandemic has receded in some parts of the world, coffee drinkers might not be able to sip in peace anytime soon: According to a recent analysis, coronavirus restrictions have likely spurred a crisis across the global coffee industry. In a study published by the National Academy of Sciences in the US, researchers led by academics from Rutgers University said “socio-economic disruptions” since the start of the pandemic “are likely to drive the coffee industry into another severe production crisis.” Lead author Kevon Rhiney warned of “serious implications for millions of people across the globe” if there is turmoil in the sector.
DUBLIN — Despite long-running allegations of Chinese hacking of Western governments and businesses, Beijing’s “cyber power” is “clearly inferior” to that of its chief rival, the US, according to the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS). China is “unlikely to match US cyber capabilities for the next decade at least,” according to the IISS, which regularly stages conferences involving some of the world’s most powerful defence ministries. The US is out on its own as the world’s leading cyber power, the IISS said, in a new 174-page report looking at the “cyber capabilities” of 15 countries.
DUBLIN — Singapore’s government on Thursday said it should be possible “to live normally” with Covid-19, which it expects to become “endemic” like influenza. The three ministers responsible for the government’s coronavirus response announced “a broad plan” to “turn the pandemic into something much less threatening.” Pointing to the example of influenza, Trade Minister Gan Kim Yong, Finance Minister Lawrence Wong and Health Minister Ong Ye Kung said that “we can work towards a similar outcome for Covid-19.”
DUBLIN — Coffee not only takes bleary out of bleary-eyed, according to British scientists, but lowers the likelihood of liver disease so long as it’s no more than three or four cups a day. Researchers at the University of Edinburgh and the University of Southampton looked at health data for almost half a million people and concluded that “drinking any type of coffee was associated with a reduced risk of developing and dying from chronic liver disease compared to not drinking coffee.” According to Oliver Kennedy, the lead author of the study, which was published by BioMedCentral, a Springer Nature journal, coffee “could offer a potential preventative treatment for chronic liver disease.”
DUBLIN — Foreign direct investment should revive in 2021, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) said on Monday, after a 35 per cent global drop last year when lockdowns “slowed down existing investment projects.” According to UNCTAD’s World Investment Report 2021, global investment should “recover some lost ground” by growing 10-15 per cent, as multinational enterprises resume work paused due to “prospects of a recession” last year. The global economy shrank by over three per cent in 2020 but is expected to rebound this year with 5-6 per cent growth, according to recent World Bank and OECD estimates. Though overseas investment is expected to bounce back in tandem with GDP expansion, it will remain 25 per cent below 2019 levels after a tough 2020, according to Unctad’s James Zhang.
DUBLIN — Listening to Mozart could prevent epileptic seizures, according to research being presented over the weekend to the European Academy of Neurology. A Czech-led team, from St. Anne’s University Hospital and Masaryk University in Brno, found a 32 per cent reduction in seizure-inducing epileptiform discharges (EDs) among patients who listened to Mozart’s Sonata for Two Pianos K448. Exposure to Mozart “may be a possible treatment to prevent epileptic seizures,” the team suggested, after using “intracerebral electrodes” that were “implanted in the brains of epilepsy patients prior to surgery” to measure the effects of music.
DUBLIN — Wealthy city-state Singapore is no longer the world’s most competitive economy, according to the Institute for Management Development (IMD), which on Thursday put Switzerland top of its 2021 World Competitiveness Ranking. Singapore topped the list for the previous two years and was the sole Asian representative in the top five, which was rounded out by Sweden, Denmark and the Netherlands. Though most European countries were hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic, measured by lives lost and case numbers, the Lausanne-based IMD said the continent’s economies “weather[ed] the health crisis better than most other regions,” with Switzerland ranked highest after it “kept a disciplined financial strategy.” Singapore’s fall from first to fifth came despite being it being relatively lightly hit by the pandemic – and was down to “problems with job losses, lack of productivity and the economic impact of the pandemic,” the IMD said.
DUBLIN — Thousands of health-related mobile phone applications have “serious problems with privacy,” according to analysis by Macquarie University in Australia. Published by the British Medical Journal (BMJ), the Sydney-based team’s research into more than 20,000 apps found “collection of personal user information” to be “pervasive.” Of the almost 5 million apps available on platforms operated by Apple and Google, around 100,000 are health-related, including increasingly-popular fitness monitors. However “inadequate privacy disclosures” often hinder users “from making informed choices,” said the Macquarie researchers, who compared 15,000 health apps with a sample of 8,000 others. While the health apps gathered less user data the others examined, around two-thirds of them still “could collect advert identifiers or cookies” and a quarter could “identify the mobile phone tower to which a user’s device is connected.”
DUBLIN –A lack of Vitamin D “strongly exaggerates the craving for and effects of opioids,” according to researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital. The vitamin, which has been touted for potentially reducing the effects of coronavirus, is produced naturally in the human body after exposure to sunlight. So not getting outdoors enough means “potentially increasing the risk for [opioid] dependence and addiction,” according to the research, which was published on Friday by the journal Science Advances. For those living in cloudier regions, Vitamin D supplements could help address “the ongoing scourge of opioid addiction.”
DUBLIN — Less well-off countries are facing bigger food bills, according to the United Nations, which on Thursday said the world’s food imports are set to increase by 12 per cent this year to 1.72 trillion dollars, equivalent to Russia’s gross domestic product. In its biannual report on global food markets, the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimated consumer prices for proteins and calories to have increased by between 20 and 34 per cent compared to a year ago, risking “deteriorating quantitative and qualitative dietary trends in vulnerable countries” where food can account for up to half of household spending. The FAO last week estimated an overall annual jump in food costs of around 40 per cent, due to “a surge in prices for oils, sugar and cereals.”