Prince William Returns to Public Duties for 1st Time Since Kate's Cancer Diagnosis

Britain's Prince William helps to load trays of food into vans during a visit to Surplus to Supper, a surplus food redistribution charity, in Sunbury-on-Thames, Surrey, Britain, April 18, 2024. Alastair Grant/Pool via REUTERS
Britain's Prince William helps to load trays of food into vans during a visit to Surplus to Supper, a surplus food redistribution charity, in Sunbury-on-Thames, Surrey, Britain, April 18, 2024. Alastair Grant/Pool via REUTERS
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Prince William Returns to Public Duties for 1st Time Since Kate's Cancer Diagnosis

Britain's Prince William helps to load trays of food into vans during a visit to Surplus to Supper, a surplus food redistribution charity, in Sunbury-on-Thames, Surrey, Britain, April 18, 2024. Alastair Grant/Pool via REUTERS
Britain's Prince William helps to load trays of food into vans during a visit to Surplus to Supper, a surplus food redistribution charity, in Sunbury-on-Thames, Surrey, Britain, April 18, 2024. Alastair Grant/Pool via REUTERS

The UK’s Prince William returned to public duties on Thursday for the first time since his wife’s cancer diagnosis.
William visited a surplus food redistribution center and a youth club it serves, highlighting efforts to reduce food waste as a way to cut greenhouse gas emissions and feed people in need. The prince stepped away from public duties after Kate, the Princess of Wales, announced on March 22 that she was undergoing treatment for an unspecified type of cancer.

In a video message released that day, Kate asked for “time, space and privacy” as she and her family adjusted to her diagnosis.

“I have been doing everything we can to process and manage this privately for the sake of our young family,” she said at the time.

“It has taken us time to explain everything to George, Charlotte and Louis in a way that is appropriate for them, and to reassure them that I am going to be okay,” she added.

Both King Charles III and Kate have been largely absent from the public stage since January due to health problems, leaving Queen Camilla, Princess Anne and other members of the royal family to pick up the slack on the whirl of events and awards ceremonies that dominate the work of Britain’s monarchy.

Charles announced on Feb. 5 that he had been diagnosed with an undisclosed type of cancer following treatment for an enlarged prostate two weeks earlier. Kate’s diagnosis came after she was hospitalized in late January for unspecified abdominal surgery.



Saudi Arabia’s Soudah Development Announces Birth of 3 Ibexes in Soudah Peaks Project Area

These new arrivals follow the release of 23 ibexes into the natural areas last year. (SPA)
These new arrivals follow the release of 23 ibexes into the natural areas last year. (SPA)
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Saudi Arabia’s Soudah Development Announces Birth of 3 Ibexes in Soudah Peaks Project Area

These new arrivals follow the release of 23 ibexes into the natural areas last year. (SPA)
These new arrivals follow the release of 23 ibexes into the natural areas last year. (SPA)

The Soudah Development Company, a subsidiary of the Public Investment Fund, announced the birth of three ibexes in the "Red Rock" area within King Abdullah National Park in Soudah.

These new arrivals follow the release of 23 ibexes into the natural areas last year in collaboration with the National Center for Wildlife (NCW) as part of the company's initiative to release endangered animals and the center's program to breed and re-localize wildlife species, reported the Saudi Press Agency on Sunday.

Previously, the NCW released two mothers who recently gave birth to the ibexes in the "Red Rock" area. The third mother, approximately two years old, was born in an enclosed area before being released into the project area in February 2023 and recently gave birth in the park, contributing to the increase in ibex numbers within the protected area.

Currently, Soudah Development Company is monitoring nine ibexes and providing a suitable environment for them to live in the park's "Red Rock" area.

CEO of Soudah Development Company, Eng. Saleh Al-Oraini, stressed that these births represent a significant step towards re-localizing endangered species and enhancing ecosystems in the region.

He also highlighted the company's steadfast commitment to the goals of the Saudi Green Initiative and its contribution to the sustainability of the local environment and biodiversity in the Soudah Peaks.


Sunday Cricket an Escape for Migrant Workers in Lebanon

Migrants living in Lebanon take part in a cricket match held at a parking lot in Beirut on May 19, 2024. (AFP)
Migrants living in Lebanon take part in a cricket match held at a parking lot in Beirut on May 19, 2024. (AFP)
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Sunday Cricket an Escape for Migrant Workers in Lebanon

Migrants living in Lebanon take part in a cricket match held at a parking lot in Beirut on May 19, 2024. (AFP)
Migrants living in Lebanon take part in a cricket match held at a parking lot in Beirut on May 19, 2024. (AFP)

In a Beirut car park, migrant workers cheer as their teams face off in a cricket tournament, a moment of respite in crisis-hit Lebanon, where working conditions are often tough.

"Sunday we are so happy... We eat together, we laugh together," said cricketer Pradeepa Silva, a 42-year-old Sri Lankan, as she and her teammates prepared coconut rice and other traditional food nearby to share.

"Work is very tiring" and workers are stressed and worried, said Silva, who is employed as a housemaid six days a week and pays for her daughter's university studies back home.

Every Sunday, players mainly from Sri Lanka but also from the Philippines, India and Pakistan gather in Beirut's Ashrafieh neighborhood to play cricket -- a little-known sport in Lebanon.

Migrant workers are employed under Lebanon's controversial "kafala" sponsorship system, which rights groups have repeatedly denounced saying that it enables a wide range of abuses.

On May 19, several hundred people gathered for a tournament that also brought together traditional food stalls, a DJ playing Bollywood hits and other music, teams from the British and Sri Lankan embassies and young Syrian refugee players.

Iris Sagario from the Philippines ran onto the field for the Roaring Lions women's team, wearing an orange and blue shirt with her name printed on the back.

"I love cricket," said the 43-year-old, who works as a housekeeper. "I'm very excited to play every Sunday" -- her only day off.

After winning their match, Sagario's team broke out into cheers, hugging and high-fiving each other. They went on to take the women's trophy.

- 'Lord's of Lebanon' -

More than 160,000 migrants from 84 nationalities were in Lebanon last year, according to a report from the International Organization for Migration.

With daily bombardment in south Lebanon as Hezbollah and the Israeli army clash amid tensions over the Israel-Hamas conflict in Gaza, some foreign embassies have advised their nationals to leave the country.

"At first I was worried" but "my sir (employer) assured me that all is good," said Sagario, who was also in Lebanon in 2006, when Israel and Hezbollah last went to war.

"I'm choosing to stay because... I don't know what I'll do if I go back to the Philippines. I want to give financial (help) to my family," she said.

Curious passersby sometimes peered over a tumbledown stone wall to watch the matches.

Organizer Fernando Sugath, 52, from Sri Lanka said some players nicknamed the car park they have been using for around two decades "Lord's of Lebanon", a reference to the famous Lord's cricket ground in London, which is known as the "home of cricket".

Matches in the car park were halted for five years when the players lost access to the site but resumed in 2022, Sugath said.

His team changed its name to the Saint Joseph Cricket Club in honor of the neighboring church that helped them return to the site.

- 'Let them have some freedom' -

Migrant workers at the cricket match "are very lucky that they've got some good employers who give them the Sunday off", said Sugath, who first came to Lebanon in 1996 as a cleaner and is now an administrative assistant.

Rights groups have long criticized Lebanon's restrictive sponsorship system, saying it facilitates exploitation and leaves migrant workers at the mercy of their employers, amid persistent reports of physical and sexual abuse, unpaid wages and long work hours.

Sugath appealed to all employers to give workers "at least one hour, two hours off on Sunday... Let them have some freedom, let them use the phone, call their families".

As the men's competition kicked off, big hitters began smashing the ball into the trees lining the car park as fielders scrambled for a catch.

Majid Satti, 39, from Pakistan, captains the Eleven Brothers team -- with five players from Pakistan and six from India -- which came runner-up in the men's tournament.

Their two countries have long had a strained relationship, but "we have no issue... we are all like brothers here," said Satti, a concierge who has been in Lebanon for 15 years.

Vice-captain Raju Singh, 41, from India, said the players "never think about" politics.

An electrician by trade, Singh wore his team's traditional cricket whites, with long white trousers and shoes, and was among those in charge of the coin toss to decide which teams would field or bat first.

The Lebanese 500 lira coin he used, valued until 2019 at around 35 US cents, is now worth less than a single cent following Lebanon's economic collapse, during which some migrant workers were abandoned by their employers and others pushed to leave the country.

Singh said he loved cricket and travelled almost 30 kilometers (20 miles) each week for the Sunday games.

"When we finish (and) we go home, we are waiting for next Sunday," he said.


Saudi Ginseng Returns after 20 Years in the Northern Borders

The "abab" plant, also known as "Saudi ginseng" or "ashwagandha", has returned after a 20-year absence in the deserts of the Northern Borders Region. (SPA)
The "abab" plant, also known as "Saudi ginseng" or "ashwagandha", has returned after a 20-year absence in the deserts of the Northern Borders Region. (SPA)
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Saudi Ginseng Returns after 20 Years in the Northern Borders

The "abab" plant, also known as "Saudi ginseng" or "ashwagandha", has returned after a 20-year absence in the deserts of the Northern Borders Region. (SPA)
The "abab" plant, also known as "Saudi ginseng" or "ashwagandha", has returned after a 20-year absence in the deserts of the Northern Borders Region. (SPA)

The "abab" plant, also known as "Saudi ginseng" or "ashwagandha", has returned after a 20-year absence in the deserts of the Northern Borders Region, the Saudi Press Agency said on Sunday.
This evergreen shrub with yellow flowers has reemerged, alongside other wild plants.
In an interview with SPA, Director of the Amana Environmental Association in the region Nasser Rashid Al-Majlad, said that the area's rich green wealth presents economic opportunities. By utilizing natural plant resources, the region can enhance biodiversity, combat desertification, expand green spaces, promote tourism, and foster human development.
Al-Majlad said that these efforts align with the principles of the green economy, which aims to strike a balance between economic and environmental needs for the benefit of both humanity and the planet.
Khonaysser Al-Anazi, a plant enthusiast, said the abab plants on the outskirts of Arar city reappeared due to increased rainfall and the expansion of green areas. He highlighted the potential for cultivation and utilization of these plants for various purposes.


Culling Controversy as French Wolf Population Falls in 2023

There is increasing controversy about the status of wolves in France - AFP
There is increasing controversy about the status of wolves in France - AFP
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Culling Controversy as French Wolf Population Falls in 2023

There is increasing controversy about the status of wolves in France - AFP
There is increasing controversy about the status of wolves in France - AFP

The estimated number of wolves in France last year was 1,003, down nine percent from the year before, environmental associations said earlier this week, urging the French government to lower its quota for the number of the animals which can be killed each year.

The drop in the predator's population is the first in almost ten years, according to loupfrance.fr, a site managed by France’s biodiversity authority.

"This new estimate reinforces the finding that the species' conservation status is not good," the six conservation groups wrote.

The current quota allows for 19 percent of the French wolf population to be legally killed.

But an administrative source close to the matter —- who confirmed the 1,003 figure —- told AFP that current hunting limits would be maintained, allowing for "209 wolves" to be culled, AFP reported.

The percentage is "based on the estimated population at the end of the winter, which was 1,104," said the source, asking not to be named.

The number of wolf attacks is also on the rise, added the source.

For their part, agricultural groups argue culling nearly one-fifth of the predator's population is still too low to prevent what they say is a growing number of attacks on livestock.

Wolves had vanished from France but began returning in the 1990s, with farmers saying they suffered 12,000 attacks on their animals in 2022.

"For 2024, we're expecting to see an increase in the number of reports and victims," said a representative for France's sheep farmers group, Claude Font.

"If we hold at 19 percent of the estimated wolf population, we're not going to stop the number of sheep being killed," he said, calling for political action at the highest level to increase the percentage.

But for League of the Protection of Birds (LPO) president Allain Bougrain-Dubourg, "wolves are being sacrificed on the altar of agricultural demagoguery".

In addition to authorised hunting, "we're seeing an upsurge in poaching and poisoning", he told AFP.

The National Wolf Group (GNL) meeting, scheduled for Friday, will bring together environmentalists, elected officials, civil servants, the agricultural industry, and hunters.

But several environmental groups pulled out of the organisation in September 2023, deeming the government's 2024-2029 wolf plan "unacceptable".

The proposition calls for increased support for farmers dealing with livestock loss from wolf attacks, simplified population culling, and an overhaul of the current counting system, which is an estimate drawn up by France's biodiversity authority.

The wolf is categorised as "strictly protected" in the European Union, but France's new plan raises the possibility of reviewing the animal's status.

In September 2023, European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen warned that "the concentration of wolf packs in some European regions has become a real danger for livestock and potentially also for humans".

For conservation groups, however, the dip in the wolf population is a clear sign that efforts to protect the predator are falling short.

The government must "stop advocating downgrading the species’ level of protection".


Germany Warns from Dangers of 'Laughing Gas' Sales

The drug, which is used in medicine as an anaesthetic and for pain reduction, has become a particularly popular party drug among young people (Shutterstock)
The drug, which is used in medicine as an anaesthetic and for pain reduction, has become a particularly popular party drug among young people (Shutterstock)
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Germany Warns from Dangers of 'Laughing Gas' Sales

The drug, which is used in medicine as an anaesthetic and for pain reduction, has become a particularly popular party drug among young people (Shutterstock)
The drug, which is used in medicine as an anaesthetic and for pain reduction, has become a particularly popular party drug among young people (Shutterstock)

Germany's health minister, Karl Lauterbach, plans to introduce stricter rules to curb the sale of nitrous oxide, sometimes known as laughing gas, especially to young people.

The drug, which is used in medicine as an anaesthetic and for pain reduction, has become a particularly popular party drug among young people in Germany. The sale and consumption of nitrous oxide is not restricted under current law, dpa reported.

"We will come up with a regulation quickly," Lauterbach told public broadcaster ARD on Friday.

Among the possibilities is including nitrous oxide in the list of psychoactive substances, which come with very strict rules for sale and possession.

He said that a complete ban would not be possible because nitrous oxide is used for industrial purposes as well.

"We are now tackling this very quickly," assured the minister.

Until the government takes action, Lauterbach recommended that parents educate their children: "It may sound fun and harmless, but it's not," the minister warned.

Regular consumption could lead to accidents or even neurological damage, and permanent damage cannot be ruled out either, he said.

"It's very dangerous for children and young people," said Lauterbach.


More than 10,000 People Reach UK on Small Boats since January

FILE PHOTO: Two inflatable dinghies carrying migrants make their way towards England in the English Channel, Britain, May 4, 2024. REUTERS/Chris J. Ratcliffe/File Photo
FILE PHOTO: Two inflatable dinghies carrying migrants make their way towards England in the English Channel, Britain, May 4, 2024. REUTERS/Chris J. Ratcliffe/File Photo
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More than 10,000 People Reach UK on Small Boats since January

FILE PHOTO: Two inflatable dinghies carrying migrants make their way towards England in the English Channel, Britain, May 4, 2024. REUTERS/Chris J. Ratcliffe/File Photo
FILE PHOTO: Two inflatable dinghies carrying migrants make their way towards England in the English Channel, Britain, May 4, 2024. REUTERS/Chris J. Ratcliffe/File Photo

More than 10,000 asylum seekers have arrived in Britain in small boats so far this year, updated government data showed on Saturday, underlining a key challenge facing Prime Minister Rishi Sunak ahead of a July 4 national election.

The number of people landing on England's southern beaches after making the dangerous Channel crossing fell by a third in 2023, but the latest numbers on a government website showed 10,170 arrived between January and May 25, up from 7,395 over the same period last year.

Sunak, who announced the election date on Wednesday, said later this week that asylum seekers who come to Britain illegally would not be deported to Rwanda before the vote - casting doubt on one of his Conservative Party's flagship policies, Reuters reported.

The plan has been bogged down by legal obstacles for more than two years, and the opposition Labor Party, which is about 20 points ahead in opinion polls and seen on track to end 14 years of Conservative rule, has promised to scrap the policy if it wins the election.

Labor's shadow immigration minister Stephen Kinnock said Sunak's government had not done enough to tackle the issue.

"Because all the government's efforts are now focused on getting a few hundred people flown to Rwanda, they have lost sight of the thousands more who are crossing the Channel every month," Kinnock said in a statement.

Labor has said if elected it would create a Border Security Command that would bring together staff from the police, the domestic intelligence agency and prosecutors to work with international agencies to stop people smuggling.

 

 

 

 

 


What to Look for in Mosquito Repellents

Mosquito season is starting to rev up across much of the United States ( AFP File Photo)
Mosquito season is starting to rev up across much of the United States ( AFP File Photo)
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What to Look for in Mosquito Repellents

Mosquito season is starting to rev up across much of the United States ( AFP File Photo)
Mosquito season is starting to rev up across much of the United States ( AFP File Photo)

There's an old joke that mosquitoes are like family: They are annoying, but they carry your blood.

Mosquito season is starting to rev up and that means bug bites.

When a mosquito bites you, it pierces the skin using a mouthpart called a proboscis to suck up blood. As it feeds, it injects saliva into your skin that can cause a reaction — a bump and itching. But the pests can also spread parasites like malaria and viruses like dengue, West Nile and Zika.

So you might want to pause summer vacation planning and consider what to look for in repellents, which keep bugs away from you, and insecticides, which kill them.

WHAT MOSQUITO REPELLENTS WORK BEST? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that for protection that lasts hours, people should look for ones with these active ingredients: DEET, IR3535, picaridin, or oil of lemon eucalyptus. Those ingredients are registered with the Environmental Protection Agency, The AP reported.

A note about oil of lemon eucalyptus: Lemon eucalyptus essential oil has a similar name, but the agency does not recommend it because it hasn't been tested for safety and is not registered with EPA as an insect repellent.

Likewise, the CDC doesn't endorse other “natural” products that haven't been evaluated.

WHAT OTHER STEPS CAN YOU TAKE TO AVOID MOSQUITO BITES? Repellents are one line of defense against bugs, but there are others: Wear long sleeves and long pants. Avoid going out at dusk and dawn, when some types of mosquito tend to be most active.

Silvie Huijben, an evolutionary biologist at Arizona State University, helped develop an online game to help children understand how to protect against mosquitoes, which emphasizes another prevention strategy:

“Mosquitoes need water to breed in,” so it's important to make sure to get rid of standing water — including buckets of water or kiddie pools left undisturbed in the yard for a week or more, she said. “Make sure you're not the one contributing the local mosquito problem, that you're not breeding mosquitoes on your property.”

You can also treat clothes and outdoor gear with a pesticide called permethrin to ward off mosquitoes and other unwelcome pests.

HOW INSECTICIDES ARE TESTED The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention operates a mosquito lab in Fort Collins, Colorado, where it evaluates insecticides, but not repellents.

To test these kinds of products, the researchers coat the inside of a bottle with a given dose of an insecticide ingredient, then put mosquitoes in the bottle — usually about 25. They see what percentage of the bugs die within two hours and compare that with a nearby uncoated bottle containing the same number of mosquitoes.

The test is widely used in the US and also is increasingly used around the world. It is considered simpler and less expensive than some more complicated alternatives, including a test in which insecticide drops are applied directly to mosquitoes.

Scientists typically repeat the experiments each season to document changes in how the mosquitoes respond to insecticides, CDC officials say.

Huijben said repeating the test is important because it has limitations: Results can be thrown off by factors such as whether each bottle was coated with exactly the same amount of chemical.

“I think we’re seeing a lot of noise in the data” which may lead to false initial conclusions, said Huijben, who has compared resistance testing approaches.

ARE MOSQUITOES BECOMING RESISTANT TO SOME CHEMICALS? Just like bacteria can gradually develop the ability to shrug off antibiotics, bugs can develop resistance to some of the chemicals developed to kill and repel them.

Permethrin belongs to a class of insecticides called pyrethroids, which have shown this kind of resistance.

Pyrethroids grew popular in the 1990s as replacements to older pesticides and are commonly used to control adult bugs. Community mosquito-control programs and farmers use the chemicals, but homeowners can also find them on hardware store shelves.

In lab experiments, resistance varies by product and dose, but in some tests ”none of them (mosquitoes) will die,” said Roxanne Connelly, a CDC insect scientist.

CDC officials are working with state and local officials to do more real-world field testing, including experiments in which mosquitoes placed in cages outdoors are checked after an insecticide fogging truck passes by.


At Least 12 Children Injured after Strong Wind in Russia’s Krasnodar Blew off School's Roof

The Russian flag waves in the wind - US, September 2, 2017. (File/Reuters)
The Russian flag waves in the wind - US, September 2, 2017. (File/Reuters)
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At Least 12 Children Injured after Strong Wind in Russia’s Krasnodar Blew off School's Roof

The Russian flag waves in the wind - US, September 2, 2017. (File/Reuters)
The Russian flag waves in the wind - US, September 2, 2017. (File/Reuters)

Strong wind blew off the roof of a school in Russia’s southern Krasnodar region on Saturday morning, injuring at least 12 children, local officials said.

A warning was issued across the region on Friday for hurricane-force winds, Russian state news agency Ria Novosti said.

The regional prosecutor’s office in Krasnodar said in a statement that “a strong gust of wind” tore off the roof, causing the children to “suffer shrapnel wounds of varying severity.”

It added that an investigation under the article of “provision of services that do not meet safety requirements” has been ordered.


Wegovy Users Have Less Kidney-related Health Problems, Analysis of Novo Study Finds

Boxes of Wegovy made by Novo Nordisk are seen at a pharmacy in London, Britain March 8, 2024. REUTERS/Hollie Adams/File Photo Purchase Licensing Rights
Boxes of Wegovy made by Novo Nordisk are seen at a pharmacy in London, Britain March 8, 2024. REUTERS/Hollie Adams/File Photo Purchase Licensing Rights
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Wegovy Users Have Less Kidney-related Health Problems, Analysis of Novo Study Finds

Boxes of Wegovy made by Novo Nordisk are seen at a pharmacy in London, Britain March 8, 2024. REUTERS/Hollie Adams/File Photo Purchase Licensing Rights
Boxes of Wegovy made by Novo Nordisk are seen at a pharmacy in London, Britain March 8, 2024. REUTERS/Hollie Adams/File Photo Purchase Licensing Rights

Novo Nordisk's Wegovy obesity drug reduced adverse kidney-related events by 22% in overweight and obese people in a large study, according to a new analysis the Danish drugmaker published on Saturday.

The analysis, from a large study for which substantial results had been released by Novo last year, was presented at the European Renal Congress in Stockholm.

"By addressing key markers of kidney health, semaglutide...may contribute to a significant reduction in the risk of kidney-related complications, including chronic kidney disease and end-stage renal disease," said Professor Helen M. Colhoun of the University of Edinburgh and lead study author.

A Novo spokesperson said in a statement to Reuters that the new analysis "demonstrates for the first time the benefits of semaglutide 2.4 mg in improving kidney function in people with cardiovascular disease and overweight or obesity, without diabetes, a high-risk population with increased need for kidney protection."

The study follows the publication in March of a Novo study showing its diabetes drug Ozempic delayed progression of chronic kidney disease in diabetes patients. Ozempic contains the same active ingredient, semaglutide, as Wegovy, which is approved as an obesity treatment.

The latest data adds to growing body of medical evidence that drugs from the GLP-1 class, which suppress appetite by mimicking gut hormones, have medical benefits for conditions beyond type 2 diabetes and weight loss, their initial purposes.

In the new analysis, semaglutide led to a slower decline in a certain measure of kidney function known as eGFR (estimated glomerular filtration rate), particularly in individuals with a pre-existing kidney impairment.

There was also a significant reduction in the urinary albumin-to-creatine ratio (UACR), another important marker of kidney health, the analysis found.

Regardless of kidney function at the start of the study, "no increased risk of acute kidney injury was associated with semaglutide", it found.

The analysis examined data from a large trial by Novo Nordisk called Select. Initial results from that were published in August.

The 17,604-patient trial tested Wegovy not for weight loss or kidney function but for its heart protective benefits for overweight and obese patients who had preexisting heart disease but not diabetes.

The analysis published on Saturday comes a day after Novo presented detailed results of a separate late-stage trial showing its diabetes drug Ozempic slowed the worsening of kidney dysfunction in patients with type 2 diabetes and lowered the risk of kidney failure, heart problems, stroke and death.


Thai Town Maddened by Marauding Monkeys Launches Plan to Lock Them up and Send Them Away 

A worker chases monkeys away from a customer in front of an auto-part shop in Lopburi Province, north of Bangkok, Thailand, Friday, May 24, 2024. (AP)
A worker chases monkeys away from a customer in front of an auto-part shop in Lopburi Province, north of Bangkok, Thailand, Friday, May 24, 2024. (AP)
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Thai Town Maddened by Marauding Monkeys Launches Plan to Lock Them up and Send Them Away 

A worker chases monkeys away from a customer in front of an auto-part shop in Lopburi Province, north of Bangkok, Thailand, Friday, May 24, 2024. (AP)
A worker chases monkeys away from a customer in front of an auto-part shop in Lopburi Province, north of Bangkok, Thailand, Friday, May 24, 2024. (AP)

A Thai town, run ragged by its ever-growing population of marauding wild monkeys, launched an offensive against the simian raiders on Friday, using trickery and ripe tropical fruit.

Several high-profile cases of monkey-human conflict recently convinced authorities in Lopburi in central Thailand that they had to reduce the animals' numbers.

If all goes well, most will end up behind bars, before starting a new life elsewhere.

The first stage of the plan, instituted Friday, is to bait cages with the animals’ favorite food, then wait for hunger to get the better of their natural caution.

There was early success for the catchers on one street, with three of the macaques falling for the ruse and ending up trapped because they had fancied a taste of rambutan fruit. The cages had been placed on the street earlier in the week so the monkeys got used to them and found them less threatening.

There are thought to be around 2,500 monkeys running around the town. The capture of the unlucky trio and around 30 others - trapped in other parts of the town - slightly pared down that total.

The effort will go on for five days this month, then is likely to be repeated. Some of the monkeys will be left free to maintain Lopburi’s image as Thailand’s monkey town.

But no one is expecting it to be easy.

“With the monkey’s intelligence, if some of them go into the cage and are caught, the others outside won’t enter the cage to get the food because they’ve already learnt what’s happened to their friends,” said Patarapol Maneeorn from Thailand’s Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation.

The roaming monkeys have long been a symbol of the town, 140 kilometers (90 miles) north of Bangkok, and are a major tourist draw. They've become increasingly aggressive, however, with several videos of them snatching food from residents and causing injuries being widely shared online.

One auto parts shop now trades from behind wire. The owners erected it at the time of the coronavirus pandemic, but keeping out the light-fingered primates was also a prime concern. They say they’ve adapted to the monkey problem, but not everyone has.

“When there are a lot of monkeys around, customers are afraid of buying the goods at the shop. Only our regulars aren’t frightened,” said Supaporn Tantiwong.

The town’s mayor, Chamroen Salacheep, agrees that the monkeys, while bringing in visitors, have also become bad for trade, with shops and malls seeing a drop in income and even people’s homes damaged. Lopburi, he said, is almost an “abandoned town.”

“After our operation is over,” Chamroen said, “I will do a big cleaning across the town and paint all the buildings to regain the faith of the people.”

These may seem like grim times for monkeys in Lopburi, but there is a plan to give them a fresh start.

On Friday authorities began sedating them to carry out health checks before cleaning and sterilizing them and inking them with tattoos so they can be identified to keep accurate records.

After that they’ll transfer them to a series of huge holding pens, just outside the town center, while looking for a permanent home.