Supporters of the practice argue that people suffering near the end of their lives should have the right to die.
Two Women Choose Death Over Life
A 31-year-old woman in Toronto known as Denise is nearing final approval for a medically-assisted suicide after failing to find affordable housing with accommodations for her disability.
She has a medical condition called Multiple Chemical Sensitivities (MCS), so some common chemicals found in everyday objects like cigarette smoke, laundry detergent, and air fresheners can trigger nausea, blinding headaches, and even anaphylactic shock.
She has also used a wheelchair since injuring her spinal cord six years ago.
Unable to work, Denise lives off of $1,169 in disability stipends per month, putting her well below the poverty line.
Specialized housing where airflow is more controlled could ease her debilitating symptoms, but efforts to find such a location have failed.
Denise has said that she and her supporters have called 10 different agencies in Toronto over the past six months to locate housing with reduced chemical and smoke exposure as well as wheelchair accessibility to no avail. She told CTV News she chose assisted suicide instead “because of abject poverty.”
Denise’s case comes shortly after a similar one in February, when a 51-year-old woman known as Sophia, who also suffered from MCS, opted for assisted suicide.
Sophia spent the pandemic mostly confined to her apartment bedroom with the vents sealed because her neighbors smoked indoors and chemical cleaners were used in the hallways.
She and her friends, supporters, and doctors searched for safe and affordable housing for two years, even asking local, provincial and federal officials for help, but nothing worked.
Canadians Debate a Controversial Law
In 2015, Canada’s Supreme Court ruled that parts of the criminal code prohibiting Medical Assistance in Dying (MAID) must be revised, and the following year parliament passed a law legalizing the practice.
The legislation, designed to help people suffering near the end of their lives, allowed eligible adults to request medically assisted death through a doctor or physician.
In 2021, lawmakers expanded the criteria for assisted suicide to include people with certain extreme chronic illnesses and disabilities, even if they aren’t nearing the end of their life.
While supporters of the practice say it gives people the right to end their suffering in an easy and legal way, critics argue it has become a deadly last resort for society’s most vulnerable who require healthcare and housing.
Some experts argue that cases like Denise’s and Sophia’s are extreme, and the approval process for medical assistance in dying is stringent.
Chantal Perrot, a physician and MAID provider, told The Guardian their MCS would likely not have been treated well by better housing.
“The only treatment really for that is avoidance of all triggers,” she said. “That’s pretty much impossible to do in ordinary life. So better housing can create a temporary bubble for a person – but there’s no cure for this. We do this work because we believe in people’s right to an assisted death. It’s not always easy to do. But we know that patients need it and value it.”
A special joint parliamentary committee is currently deciding whether to expand MAID access to consenting children and those with mental illness.
See what others are saying: (The Guardian) (CTV News) (The Spectator)
Russia to Withdraw From ISS in 2024
The announcement comes after the Russian space agency threatened to let the space station crash into Earth in response to Western sanctions.
One Less Partner in Space
Russia announced Tuesday that it will withdraw from the International Space Station in 2024, throwing into question whether the remaining partners can keep the ISS going without Moscow.
Instead, Russia will focus on developing its own space station, called the Russian Orbital Service Station, or ROSS, which could be ready by 2025.
“The decision to leave the station after 2024 has been made,” Yuri Borisov, the newly appointed head of Roscosmos, said during a meeting with President Vladimir Putin. “I think that by that time we will start forming a Russian orbiting station.”
In the meantime, he promised to still fulfill the country’s obligations to partners on the station.
The station is jointly run by the U.S., Russia, Europe, Japan and Canada. The complex is divided into two main sections — one run by Russia, the other run by the U.S. and other partners — and it is not clear how the Russian portion will be managed after Moscow’s withdrawal.
Russian officials have discussed pulling out of the ISS since at least 2021, citing aging equipment and safety risks.
The move is in line with commitments by other partners to continue using the station until 2024. NASA plans to keep it operational until 2030.
Since launching in the late 1990s, the ISS has stood out as a bastion of post-Cold War international cooperation, particularly between Washington and Moscow.
Extraterrestrial Competition Heats up
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine put stress on its relationships with other spacefaring nations and possibly accelerated its withdrawal from the ISS.
Following the start of the war, U.S. President Joe Biden imposed sanctions targeting Russia’s space program by cutting off some high-tech imports.
Dmitry Rogozin, the previous head of Roscosmos, said last month that Russia would only negotiate an extension of the station’s operations if Washington lifted sanctions on Russian space industries. He has also threatened to let the ISS crash into Earth
“There [is] the possibility of a 500-ton structure falling on India and China,” Rogozin warned. “Do you want to threaten them with such a prospect? The ISS does not fly over Russia, therefore all the risks are yours.”
Russia controls the station’s critical propulsion control systems, which keep it flying the correct orbit.
Despite the tensions, Moscow and Washington agreed on July 15 to launch astronauts on Russian Soyuz rockets and cosmonauts on American SpaceX rockets.
Russia isn’t the only country building its own orbital outpost. On Sunday, China launched the second module for its Tiangong space station.
The third and final module is expected to dock in October.
Once the ISS is decommissioned in 2030, the U.S. plans to shift toward a presence in low-Earth orbit led by the private sector.
NASA dished out over $400 million to three companies last December — Blue Origin, Nanoracks and Northrop Grumman — to develop their own commercial space stations which will be finished by the end of the decade.
NASA’s plan is to maintain uninterrupted access to low-Earth orbit by transitioning its research to private industry.
See what others are saying: (Associated Press) (The Washington Post) (The Verge)
Public Health Officials Spread Awareness About Monkeypox As WHO Declares Public Health Emergency
Currently, monkeypox mostly impacts men who have sex with men, but health officials warn it is already spreading beyond that community.
WHO Emergency Declaration
Public health officials are working to combat misinformation and complacency regarding the recent monkeypox outbreak following the decision by the World Health Organization to officially declare the disease a global emergency.
The announcement was made by the WHO’s Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, who overruled a panel of advisors that have not yet agreed that monkeypox is an international emergency. The director told reporters that one of his reasons for sidestepping the panel was his desire to try and curb the disease before it gets worse.
“We have an outbreak that has spread around the world rapidly through new modes of transmission, about which we understand too little, and which meets the criteria,” he said.
The emergency declaration is notable because it marks the highest alert level the WHO can issue and means the organization views the outbreak as a significant enough threat to public health to warrant a coordinated global response.
Among other measures, the designation can lead member countries to invest in controlling the disease, marshal more funding to fight outbreaks, and put pressure on governments to share vaccines, treatments, and other resources.
The specific designation is also significant because it is actually quite rare: according to reports, the WHO currently only uses it for COVID-19 and polio.
The decision to extend the emergency label to monkeypox underscores just how serious the situation is.
While monkeypox has existed for decades, it is endemic to western and central Africa and has largely been contained to the region. But over the last two months, it has spread around the world at an incredibly alarming rate.
According to WHO data, over 16,000 cases of monkeypox have been reported in more than 70 countries this year, with the number of confirmed infections skyrocketing 77% from late June through early July.
Currently, more than 80% of cases confirmed in 2022 are in Europe, but over the last few weeks, infections have surged drastically in the U.S. In its most recent count, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported 2,891 cases of monkeypox in America, meaning that new infections are 10 times higher than they were just a month ago.
In the U.S., like the rest of the world, the outbreak has been largely concentrated among men who have sex with men. The WHO reports that this demographic composes 98% of all cases worldwide.
Officials Debunk False Transmission Claims
Because of the concentration of cases in the LGBTQ+ community, there has been a lot of harmful, often homophobic misinformation swirling around, including false claims that monkeypox can only be transmitted during sex.
Monkeypox belongs to the same family as smallpox, and the CDC describes it as having symptoms that are similar but less severe than that disease, including flu-like symptoms as well as a rash of pox that spreads all over the body.
Also like smallpox, monkeypox is spread by both direct and indirect contact with the rash, scabs, and fluids of an infected person. This means that, in addition to spreading from skin-to-skin physical contact with someone who has a rash, a person could also get infected from sharing clothes, blankets, or linens that have been exposed, as well as through respiratory droplets.
While the CDC says it is investigating “if virus could be present in semen, vaginal fluids, or other body fluids,” it is certain that monkeypox can be spread in non-sexual ways.
Even just in the U.S., the CDC has recently reported a small handful of directions among cisgender women. On Friday, the agency also announced that two children had contracted it separately, marking the first documented cases among kids in this outbreak.
In response, top public health officials have been warned false claims about transmission are incredibly dangerous because they not only stigmatize the LGBTQ+ community, but also create the misconception that others are not at risk.
“At the moment, cases continue to be reported among men who have sex with men for the most part, but we should not expect that to remain as such,” Dr. Catherine Smallwood, the senior emergency officer at the WHO, told CNBC’s “Street Signs Europe.”
Smallwood said it is not unusual for the outbreak of a virus to start in one group or setting before spreading more broadly. She also added that while there have only been five reported deaths and limited hospitalizations so far, more severe cases could emerge if monkeypox spreads to vulnerable groups like young children, pregnant women, and the immunocompromised.
Other experts have also said that the current state of affairs presents a crucial turning point for combatting a broader outbreak — especially in the U.S.
Unlike with COVID, the CDC had tests available before this outbreak began, and because monkeypox is similar to smallpox, there are existing smallpox treatments and vaccines are effective against both.
Also, because monkeypox has a long incubation period, the development of a contact-tracing program could seriously help containment.
Some have complained that the federal government has not been moving fast enough on testing, and demand has exceeded supply on vaccines despite the U.S. having millions of doses of stockpiled.
WHO officials say that the emergency declaration will enhance these efforts both in the U.S. and globally. The outbreak will certainly prove to be a major test of whether the global public health system can actually internalize the lessons it learned during the COVID pandemic, but some are optimistic.
“I absolutely think that it can be contained,” Anne Rimoin, a UCLA epidemiologist who studies monkeypox, told NPR. “But whether it will be depends upon the resources dedicated to doing this and the speed with which we can act. It really will require a major concerted effort locally, nationally and globally.”
See what others are saying: (CNBC) (NPR) (The Washington Post)
Mortgage Boycotts Shake Chinese Economy as CCP Haunted by Financial Crisis
Videos purporting to show tanks protecting banks against protestors appear to in fact be from an unrelated event.
A Looming Catastrophe
The Chinese government is moving to mitigate a potential financial crisis as hundreds of thousands of home buyers in at least 80 cities have joined a nationwide boycott of mortgages.
Analysts say the protests are affecting 235 property developments in 24 of China’s 31 provinces.
The immediate causes include sinking real estate prices as well as a common practice in the country in which home buyers pay upfront for properties that haven’t been built yet. The practice effectively works as an interest-free loan to the builders, but when property developers default or there are construction delays, the home buyers are left with debt and no physical property to show for it.
Construction delays and unfinished projects have become endemic in China partly because in recent years the government has curbed excessive borrowing by developers, hurting their balance sheets.
Analysts have speculated that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) fears the political instability that could result from the boycotts, which could then turn into a crisis of confidence for the party.
The boycotts could also push China over the edge of economic crisis by threatening property developers with mass defaults, exposing the banks to billions of dollars in bad debt.
China’s property sector makes up 25-30% of the country’s GDP, and some 70% of household wealth is tied up in property, a far higher proportion than in the United States.
Government censors have reportedly blocked the sharing of information about delays and boycotts online.
In recent days, the government has taken steps to mitigate the crisis, such as reassuring citizens that their homes will be delivered.
The country’s banking regulator ordered lenders to extend credit to developers so they can finish their projects.
Officials are also reportedly considering deferring mortgage payments for home buyers without penalty.
Banks, Tanks, and Frank Misinformation
Bank depositors in central China’s Henan province have been prevented from withdrawing their savings for months as the government says it is investigating fraud, sparking protests from thousands of people.
During one demonstration this month, people were attacked by a violent mob while police stood by, and many have since reported being harassed by authorities.
In one instance, police sent guards in to break up a demonstration, with many getting beaten, thrown to the ground, and dragged onto buses.
“I did not expect them to be so violent and shameless this time,” one person told CNN. “There was no communication, no warning before they brutally dispersed us.”
Videos purporting to show tanks rolling through the streets to crack down on protesting depositors have gone viral, being viewed more than eight million times on Twitter.
Multiple outlets, however, have reported that the footage appears to in fact originate from an unrelated military demonstration on July 27.
Newsweek stated that while it cannot independently verify the video’s source, it appears to have been filmed in a different province.
Henan’s banking regulator said in a statement that it is speeding up the process of addressing customer complaints and moving forward with plans to pay out some customers.
Still, recent events threaten the public’s trust in rural banking, which appears wrought with corruption and weak regulatory oversight.