Saudi Arabia confirms 27 COVID-19 deaths, 539 new cases

Saudi Arabia confirms 27 COVID-19 deaths, 539 new cases
The cities with the highest number of COVID-19 cases include Jeddah, Makkah, Madinah and both Hafouf and the capital Riyadh. (File/AFP)
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Updated 29 September 2020

Saudi Arabia confirms 27 COVID-19 deaths, 539 new cases

Saudi Arabia confirms 27 COVID-19 deaths, 539 new cases
  • 696 new patients had recovered from the virus in the past 24 hours

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia recorded 27 new COVID-19 related deaths on Tuesday, raising the death toll to 4,739.
The Ministry of Health also said 539 new confirmed cases were reported in the Kingdom in the past 24 hours, bringing the total number of people who have contracted the virus since the pandemic began to 334,187, of which 10,906 remain active cases, and 1,005 in critical condition.
The cities with the highest number of cases include Jeddah with 61, Makkah with 53, Madinah with 46 and both Hafouf and the capital Riyadh with 35 each.
The ministry also announced that 696 new patients had recovered from COVID-19, bringing the total number of recoveries in the Kingdom to 318,542.
The pandemic has affected almost 33.4 million people globally and total mortality rate has passed one million.


What We Are Reading Today: The New World: Infinitesimal Epics

What We Are Reading Today: The New World: Infinitesimal Epics
Updated 10 min 45 sec ago

What We Are Reading Today: The New World: Infinitesimal Epics

What We Are Reading Today: The New World: Infinitesimal Epics

Author: Anthony Carelli

The New World, Anthony Carelli’s new collection of poems, is an American travelogue that unfolds in a series of darkly comic episodes, with allusions to Dante as a thread throughout. In these epics in miniature, we meet a pilgrim-poet as he awaits the arrival of his child, a would-be Columbus, on the shores of a land “disenstoried” by explorers present and past. It’s a land and a people largely lost in mindscapes and mythscapes, haunted by sketchy aspirational visions, misbegotten misremembering, and emptiness. Nonetheless, the poet steps out to the shore to sing for the child—and reader—to do what Columbus never did: “land gently. /And listen and/ listen and listen/and stay.”
From an Arizona nursing home and a grandmother’s memory of a stolen golden Schwinn in the occupied Philippines, to a tale of road-tripping west through Pennsylvania as sunrise transpires in the wrong sky, The New World opens strange spaces for us to re-see, lament, and re-sing the stories we tell.


Pakistani scientists bring new hope to dementia patients through virtual reality

Dr. Ali Jawaid tests a program and equipment for VR-based therapy for dementia patients during a study at Lahore University of Management Sciences. (Supplied)
Dr. Ali Jawaid tests a program and equipment for VR-based therapy for dementia patients during a study at Lahore University of Management Sciences. (Supplied)
Updated 15 min 58 sec ago

Pakistani scientists bring new hope to dementia patients through virtual reality

Dr. Ali Jawaid tests a program and equipment for VR-based therapy for dementia patients during a study at Lahore University of Management Sciences. (Supplied)
  • Study results show VR could slow disease progression, decline in cognitive function

WARSAW: Two Pakistani scientists have published the results of a study that shows the decline in brain functions of dementia patients could be controlled, or slowed, with the use of virtual reality, offering new hope to sufferers of a neurological disorder that afflicts 55 million people worldwide.

Dementia, which is less a disease and more a group of related syndromes, manifests itself in a steep decline in brain functions. The condition destroys memories and personalities, robbing families of their loved ones and sapping patience and finances. With populations aging, the number of patients worldwide is projected to rise to 78 million by 2030 and 139 million by 2050, the World Health Organization said in a report this month.
There is no known cure for dementia and the focus of therapy has largely remained on slowing its progression.
But now, in a study published in the Brain Sciences journal’s August edition, Pakistani neuroscientist Dr. Ali Jawaid and computer scientist Dr. Suleman Shahid have demonstrated how VR could help those living with dementia cope with their condition.
Jawaid, who is based in Warsaw, Poland, where he leads neuropsychiatric disorders research at the BRAINCITY center at the Nencki Institute of Experimental Biology, told Arab News: “Usually, dementia patients progressively deteriorate in cognitive functions, but what we assessed was that during the whole study, which was more than six months, there was no deterioration.”
His collaborator Shahid directs the Computer Human Interaction and Social Experience Lab at the Lahore University of Management Sciences in Pakistan.
At the core of the two scientists’ latest work has been the employment of VR for environmental enrichment, a term used to describe changing a person’s surroundings to make them more complex, dynamic, and challenging in order to stimulate the brain.
Research on animals has variously found that environmental enrichment could aid the treatment and recovery of brain-related dysfunctions, including Alzheimer’s disease and others related to aging.
“In animals, we have discovered that environmental enrichment is one of the strongest protector factors against cognitive impairment induced by aging. The challenge was how to bring this environmental enrichment to humans,” Jawaid said.
He pointed out that exercise and brain quizzes could work but noted that they were stressful and hardly ever engaging enough for dementia patients to do them regularly or for long periods of time.
What Jawaid and Shahid did instead was to immerse their study’s participants, all with mild dementia, in virtual environments depicting real-world landmarks familiar to them. As all those taking part were Pakistani, the three environments used were the Great Wall of China, the Grand Mosque in Makkah, and the pyramids of Egypt.
In each of the virtual worlds, the patients had to perform tasks designed to stimulate different domains impaired in dementia, such as short-term memory, attention, navigation, motor coordination, or decision-making.
For example, in one scenario, a participant would see balloons in the sky as they walked along the Great Wall of China wearing a VR headset. As the sight triggered a childhood memory of shooting balloons, a virtual pistol or a bow and arrow would appear.

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Lawsuit over eggs tests China’s policies on unmarried women

Lawsuit over eggs tests China’s policies on unmarried women
Updated 22 min 26 sec ago

Lawsuit over eggs tests China’s policies on unmarried women

Lawsuit over eggs tests China’s policies on unmarried women
  • Teresa Xu is suing a hospital in Beijing that forbid her from freezing her eggs, citing national law
  • Her case is getting heard after the latest census data showed that population growth was slowing

BEIJING: After almost two years, an unmarried woman suing for the right to freeze her eggs in Beijing is getting her case heard in court Friday in a rare legal challenge against the country’s restrictions on unmarried women in reproductive health.
Teresa Xu has been waiting since December 2019 for her second hearing at the Chaoyang People’s Court in Beijing. She is suing Beijing Obstetrics and Gynecology Hospital at Capital Medical University, a public hospital that forbid her from freezing her eggs, citing national law.
Xu’s victory could mark an important step for unmarried women in China who want to access public benefits. Unlike in the US, though, court judgments in China do not rely on precedence.
“From 2018 until now, it’s been three years, and my eggs are getting older with me, and the deadline is more and more pressing,” Xu, 33, said.
Her case is getting heard after the latest census data showed that population growth was slowing, while the proportion of elderly people was growing. The number of newborns had fallen every year since 2016. National level statistics showed that 12 million babies were born in 2020, down 18 percent from 14.6 million in 2019.
Beijing has responded by allowing families to have a third child, and said it will revamp policy to help families who want to have children.
For decades, China had instituted a “one-child” policy. It eased the restrictions slightly in 2015 to allow families to have two kids, although that did not change the overall slowing of population growth.
Yet, some aspects of the system, such as tying reproductive health services and things like maternity benefits to a woman’s marriage status, has made it difficult for some. China only allows married couples to access reproductive services and related benefits and they must be able to prove their marriage status with the license.
“I hope that the signal it sends about needing population growth will allow single women the opportunity to be able to make their own choice,” Xu told reporters in front of the court.
Xu visited the hospital in November 2018. When she went to the doctor, she was urged to have a child instead of freezing her eggs. The doctor also requested to see her marriage license.
Xu said her court hearing had been continually pushed back, owing in part to the pandemic.
She had briefly considered going abroad, but the costs — between $15,500 to $31,000 — were not feasible.


‘Wall of Grief’ project by Indian journalists documents hidden toll of pandemic

 A health worker inoculates a man with a dose of Covishield vaccine against the Covid-19 coronavirus at a vaccination centre in Srinagar on September 17, 2021. (AFP)
A health worker inoculates a man with a dose of Covishield vaccine against the Covid-19 coronavirus at a vaccination centre in Srinagar on September 17, 2021. (AFP)
Updated 22 min 2 sec ago

‘Wall of Grief’ project by Indian journalists documents hidden toll of pandemic

 A health worker inoculates a man with a dose of Covishield vaccine against the Covid-19 coronavirus at a vaccination centre in Srinagar on September 17, 2021. (AFP)
  • “The projection of Gujarat itself after extrapolating the data is 218,000 — far higher that what the government claims”

NEW DELHI: A group of Indian journalists are documenting the everyday information of their dead compatriots in the wake of a devastating second wave of COVID-19 in the subcontinent earlier this year.
The online memorial project, “Wall of Grief,” aims to show the reality of the situation, which saw hundreds of thousands of Indians killed, according to official data. However, some suspect that the true number could be much higher.
Wall of Grief was launched in late August by The Reporters’ Collective, which says its aim is to “visualize the scale” of casualties amid the pandemic.
The project is supported by independent news agency 101Reporters and the Delhi-based National Foundation for India, an independent grant organization for public welfare and social transformation.
It functions as a database and a public depository containing the name, age, gender, occupation, and place of, and date of death, of each COVID-19 victim.
“We want to document all the deaths that have gone unacknowledged and unaccounted for,” one of the project’s coordinators, Tapasya, told Arab News on Friday.
The idea emerged when the collective went to work on a story about underreported COVID-19 deaths in the western Indian state of Gujarat. When reporters analyzed excess deaths data from a few dozen municipalities that covered only 6 percent of the state’s population, the number of deaths was about 16,000, compared with the 10,000 that the government had cited as Gujarat’s total coronavirus death toll.
“The data from Gujarat was quite shocking for me,” Tapasya said. “The projection of Gujarat itself after extrapolating the data is 218,000 — far higher that what the government claims.”

FASTFACTS

• Database shows name, age, gender and occupation of ‘untold’ COVID-19 victims.

• Official figures say disease has killed 440k people in India, but many say real number could be up to 11 times higher.

According to official figures, the pandemic has claimed more than 440,000 lives in India, most of them during the deadly second wave between March and June this year.
While their own count is still ongoing, the TRC have so far recorded death statistics in 13 of India’s 28 states.
“If from only one state you have almost half of the national figure of 440,000, then the overall result is going to be very shocking,” Tapasya warned.
Their expectations are supported by a study released earlier this week by the University of Michigan, the Indian Statistical Institute in Kolkata and Delhi School of Economics, which projected the country’s actual death toll to be between four and 11 times higher than official number.
Led by epidemiologist Bhramar Mukherjee, the study warned that India could have lost up to 4.9 million people to the disease.
Despite requests by Arab News, Indian Health Ministry officials and representatives of the government-run Indian Council for Medical Research declined to comment on COVID-19 death figures.
“Everyone knows that no matter what the official figures are, the actual number is much more,” Mayank Aggarwal, who leads Wall of Grief with Tapasya, told Arab News.
But for Aggarwal, the purpose of the project is not only formal documentation.
“This project should trigger conversations and bring people together to question the system and make it more accountable,” he said.
It is also meant to help open spaces for those who are grieving lost family members and friends, he added.
“We wanted to have a common space where people can come together and share their grief — a space that does not allow us to forget what happened to us.”


New York millionaire Robert Durst declared guilty of best friend’s murder

New York millionaire Robert Durst declared guilty of best friend’s murder
Updated 42 min 10 sec ago

New York millionaire Robert Durst declared guilty of best friend’s murder

New York millionaire Robert Durst declared guilty of best friend’s murder
  • Durst faces a mandatory term of life in prison without parole after he was convicted of first-degree murder
  • Prosecutors painted a portrait of a rich narcissist who ruthlessly disposed of people who stood in his way

INGLEWOOD, California: A Los Angeles jury convicted Robert Durst on Friday of murdering his best friend 20 years ago, a case that took on new life after the New York real estate heir participated in a documentary that connected him to the slaying that was linked to his wife’s 1982 disappearance.
Durst, 78, was not in court for the verdict from the jury that deliberated about seven hours over three days. He was in isolation at a jail because he was exposed to someone with coronavirus.
Durst, who faces a mandatory term of life in prison without parole when sentenced Oct. 18, was convicted of the first-degree murder of Susan Berman. She was shot at point-blank range in the back of the head in her Los Angeles home in December 2000 as she was prepared to tell police how she helped cover up his wife’s killing.
Berman, the daughter of a Las Vegas mobster, was Durst’s longtime confidante who told friends she provided a phony alibi for him after his wife vanished.
Prosecutors painted a portrait of a rich narcissist who didn’t think the laws applied to him and ruthlessly disposed of people who stood in his way. They interlaced evidence of Berman’s killing with Kathie Durst’s suspected death and the 2001 killing of a tenant in a Texas flophouse where Robert Durst holed up while on the run from New York authorities.
“Bob Durst has been around a lot of years, and he’s been able to commit a lot of horrific crimes. We just feel really gratified that he’s been held accountable,” Deputy District Attorney John Lewin said.
Lewin met with jurors after the verdict and said they thought prosecutors had proven Durst had killed his wife and had murdered both Berman and his Texas neighbor in an effort to escape justice.
He said jurors did not find Durst credible as a witness.
Durst was arrested in 2015 while hiding out in a New Orleans hotel on the eve of the airing of the final episode of “The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst,” in which he was confronted with incriminating evidence and made what prosecutors said was a confession.
Durst could be heard muttering to himself on a live microphone in a bathroom: “There it is. You’re caught.”
Durst’s decision to testify in his own defense — hoping for a repeat of his acquittal in the Texas killing — backfired as he was forced to admit lying under oath, made damning admissions and had his credibility destroyed when questioned by the prosecutor.
Defense lawyer David Chesnoff said Friday they believed there was “substantial reasonable doubt” and were disappointed in the verdict. He said Durst would pursue all avenues of appeal.
The conviction marks a victory for authorities who have sought to put Durst behind bars for murder in three states. Durst was never charged in the disappearance of his wife, who has never been found, and he was acquitted of murder in Galveston, Texas, where he admitted dismembering the victim’s body and tossing it out to sea.
The story of Durst, the estranged scion of a New York real estate developer, has been fodder for New York tabloids since his wife vanished. He provided plot twists so numerous that Hollywood couldn’t resist making a feature film about his life that eventually led to the documentary and discovery of new evidence in Berman’s slaying.
Durst ran from the law multiple times, disguised as a mute woman in Texas and staying under an alias at a New Orleans hotel with a shoulders-to-head latex mask for a presumed getaway. He jumped bail in Texas and was arrested after shoplifting a chicken sandwich in Pennsylvania, despite having $37,000 in cash — along with two handguns — in his rental car.
He later quipped that he was “the worst fugitive the world has ever met.”
Durst escaped close scrutiny from investigators when his wife disappeared. But his troubles resurfaced in late 2000 when New York authorities reopened the case.
His lawyer told him to be prepared to be charged in the case, and he fled a life of luxury to Galveston, Texas, where he rented a cheap apartment as “Dorothy Ciner,” a woman he pretended couldn’t speak. He eventually dropped the disguise after mishaps that included walking into a men’s restroom and igniting his wig at a bar while lighting a cigarette.
Just before Christmas, he testified that he traveled to LA to visit Berman for a “staycation” with plans to see some of the tourist sites.
Durst, who had long denied ever being in LA at the time of Berman’s death, testified at trial that he found her dead on a bedroom floor when he arrived.
Berman, a writer who had been friends with Durst since they were students at the University of California, Los Angeles, had serious financial problems at the time. Durst had given her $50,000, and prosecutors suggested she was trying to leverage more money from him by telling him she was going to speak with the cops.
Nine months after her death, Durst killed his Galveston neighbor Morris Black, in what he said was either an accident or self-defense. Durst said he found Black, who he had become friends with, in his apartment holding Durst’s .22-caliber pistol.
Durst was acquitted after testifying the 71-year-old was killed in a struggle for the gun. Durst then chopped up Black’s body and tossed it out to sea. He was convicted of destroying evidence for discarding the body parts.
After the trial and the ghastly evidence of the dismemberment, Durst found he was a pariah, he said. Despite an estimated $100 million fortune, he was turned away by multiple condominium associations and said the Los Angeles County Museum of Art wouldn’t take his money unless he donated anonymously.
Durst thought a 2010 feature film based on his life, “All Good Things,” starring Ryan Gosling as him and Kirsten Dunst as Kathie, had been largely accurate and painted a sympathetic portrait, despite implicating him in three killings. He only objected that he was depicted killing his dog — something he would never do.
He reached out to the filmmaker and agreed to sit for lengthy interviews for a documentary. He encouraged his friends to do the same and gave the filmmakers access to boxes of his records.
He came to deeply regret his decision after “The Jinx” aired on HBO in 2015, calling it a “very, very, very big mistake.”
The documentary filmmakers discovered a crucial piece of evidence that connected him to an anonymous note sent to police directing them to Berman’s lifeless body.
Durst, who was so confident he couldn’t be connected to the note, told filmmakers “only the killer could have written” the note.
Filmmakers confronted him with a letter he sent Berman a year earlier. The handwriting was identical and Beverly Hills was misspelled as “Beverley” on both. He couldn’t tell the two apart.
The gotcha moment provided the climax of the movie as Durst stepped off camera and muttered to himself on a live microphone in the bathroom: “Killed them all, of course.”
During 14 days of testimony that was so punishing Judge Mark Windham called it “devastating,” Durst denied killing his wife and Berman, though he said he would lie if he did.
He tried to explain away the note and what prosecutors said was a confession during an unguarded moment.
For the first time, Durst admitted on the witness stand that he sent the note and had been in Los Angeles at the time of Berman’s death.
Durst said he sent the note because he wanted Berman to be found but didn’t want anyone to know he had been there because it would look suspicious.
He acknowledged that even he had difficulty imagining he could have written the note without killing Berman.
“It’s very difficult to believe, to accept, that I wrote the letter and did not kill Susan Berman,” Durst testified.
A prosecutor said it was one of the truest things Durst said amid a ton of lies.