THE OFFICE OF THE PRESIDENT President George Vella visits the final preparations for l-Istrina with a new look

The President of Malta George Vella and Mrs Miriam Vella visited the Kirkop Sports Complex which on Monday 26th December will host l-Istrina 2022 with a new and fresher look between noon and midnight on local television stations.


While observing the final preparations of the entertainment area and the areas for answering phone calls and receiving pledges for The Malta Community Chest Fund, President Vella thanked all the workers and volunteers who have spent several days making preparations for the telethon.


“I am impressed that everything is almost ready, and we are now looking forward to start welcoming people with donations on Boxing Day while Miriam and I answer phone calls. I hope that despite the difficulties and the two years of pandemic, this year we will have more activity and collect the largest sum possible for The Malta Community Chest Fund,” said the President.


The Chairperson of the Board of Administrators of The Malta Community Chest Fund, Mr John Huber, said that this Christmas there is no better gift than giving a donation to help those going through a difficult time.


“There is no better gift than making a difference for a person you do not know to continue to live with dignity,” said Mr Huber while stating that this is the greatest act of charity one can do.


This year’s edition will also include an event at Villa Rundle in Victoria Gozo at the same time as l-Istrina in Kirkop. ​​


Source: Office of the Prime Minister


Canada’s Hudson Bay Polar Bear Population Plummets

Canada’s Western Hudson Bay polar bear population has fallen 27% in just five years, according to a government report released this week, suggesting climate change is affecting the animals.

Every autumn, the bears living along the western edge of the Bay pass through the sub-Arctic tourist town of Churchill, Manitoba, as they return to the sea ice. This has made the population not only the best-studied group in the world, but also the most famous, with the local bear-viewing economy valued at $5.30 million annually.

However, Nunavut’s government assessment finds that just 618 bears remained in 2021 — a roughly 50% drop from the 1980s.

“In some ways, it’s totally shocking,” said John Whiteman, chief research scientist at conservation nonprofit Polar Bears International. “What’s really sobering is that these kinds of declines are the kind that unless sea ice loss is halted, are predicted to eventually cause … extinction.”

Polar bears depend on the sea ice to hunt, staking out over seal breathing holes. But the Arctic is now warming about four times faster than the rest of the world. Around Hudson Bay, seasonal sea ice is melting out earlier in the spring, and forming later in the fall, forcing bears to go for longer without food.

Scientists cautioned that a direct link between the population decline and sea ice loss in Hudson Bay wasn’t yet clear, as four of the past five years have seen moderately good ice conditions. Instead, they said, climate-caused changes in the local seal population might be driving bear numbers down.

And while it’s possible some bears may have moved, “the number of adult male bears has remained more or less the same. What’s driven the decline is a reduced number of juvenile bears and adult females,” said Stephen Atkinson, an independent wildlife biologist who led the research on behalf of the government.

This change in demographics doesn’t fit with the idea that bears are moving out of western Hudson Bay, he added.

“There was a very low number of cubs being produced in 2021,” said Andrew Derocher, who leads the Polar Bear Science Lab at the University of Alberta. “We’re looking at a slowly aging population, and when you do get bad [ice] years, older bears are much more vulnerable to increased mortality.”

Also of concern to scientists, the report suggests declines have sped up. Between 2011 and 2016, the population dropped only 11%.

There are 19 populations of polar bears spread out among Russia, Alaska, Norway, Greenland and Canada. But Western Hudson Bay is among the southernmost locales, and scientists project the bears here are likely to be among the first to disappear.

A 2021 study in the journal Nature Climate Change found most of the world’s polar bear populations are on track to collapse by 2100 if greenhouse gas emissions aren’t heavily curbed.

Source: Voice Of America

US Life Expectancy Drops to Lowest in a Generation

The combination of the COVID-19 pandemic and high levels of opioid overdose deaths drove life expectancy in the United States down for the second consecutive year in 2021, with a child born in that year expected to live 76.4 years, the lowest figure since 1996, according to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

By comparison, Americans born in 2019, the year before the pandemic took hold, could expect to live 78.8 years.

In 2019, the U.S. experienced 715.2 deaths per 100,000 people. In 2021, that rate had climbed by 23%, to 897.7.

While most countries in the world experienced a decrease in life expectancy during the pandemic, it was particularly pronounced in the U.S. And while many advanced economies, including France, Belgium, Switzerland and Sweden saw their life expectancy rates recover to pre-pandemic levels in 2021, death rates in the U.S. continued to climb.

Heart disease, cancer and COVID-19 remained the top three causes of death in 2021, unchanged from the preceding year. In 2021, the U.S. also recorded 106,699 deaths attributed to drug overdoses, or more than 30 per 100,000 people.

Since 2001, when the rate was below 10 per 100,000, the rate has increased every year.

Overdose deaths have an outsized effect on average life expectancy because victims are disproportionately young.

Differences by gender, race

Women in the U.S. have a higher life expectancy than men, on average. In 2021, a girl born in the U.S. could expect to live 79.3 years, while a boy could expect to live 73.5 years.

An American who turned 65 in 2021 could expect to live another 18.4 years on average, while women could expect to live 19.7 years longer — for men the number remained unchanged from 2020 — at 17 years.

Dividing the population by sex, race and Hispanic origin highlights stark disparities in death rates. Among men, American Indian and Alaska Native men had the highest rate of deaths per 100,000 people in 2021, at 1,717.5

The next-highest death rate was for Black men, at 1,380.2. White men experienced 1,055.3 deaths per 100,000, Hispanic men experienced 915.6, and Asian men just 578.1.

Among females, death rates were highest for American Indian and Alaska Native women, at 1236.6 per 100,000, followed by Black women, at 921.9. White women experienced 750.6 deaths per 100,000, followed by Hispanic women at 599.8. Asian women had the lowest death rate of any subgroup, with 391.1 per 100,000.

International comparison

Compared to other wealthy industrialized nations, particularly in Europe, U.S. life expectancy is not only lower, but also is getting worse.

A study published in the journal Nature Human Behavior in October charted the stark differences between the U.S. and many European nations. While almost all countries in Europe experienced a sharp decline in life expectancy in 2020, the first full year of the pandemic, many had returned to 2019 levels by the following year.

Among them, Sweden, Switzerland, Belgium and France all saw life expectancy rebound to near pre-pandemic levels in 2021. Other countries, including the U.K., Portugal, Austria, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, Slovenia and Iceland had all recovered some, but not all the lost life expectancy.

Alone among wealthy European countries in posting two back-to-back declines was Germany, though its combined fall in life expectancy, less than one year in total, was far smaller than in the U.S.

Other European countries, mostly former Soviet states, also saw consecutive yearly declines, including Croatia, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Lithuania and Poland, though none of those saw a decline as sharp as in the U.S.

The only European countries with a steeper drop in life expectancy than the U.S. from 2019 to 2021 were Bulgaria and Slovakia.

The differences in life expectancy between the U.S. and other wealthy countries is even more stark when compared with industrialized countries in the Asia-Pacific region.

Data collected by the World Bank shows that a child born in wealthy countries in that region, including Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore, Australia and New Zealand had a life expectancy of 82 years or more in 2020.

Public health failure

Life expectancy declines in the U.S., particularly regarding deaths related to COVID-19, is especially frustrating to experts, who note the widespread availability of vaccines and the fact that medical professionals have far more knowledge about how to fight the disease than they did at the beginning of the pandemic.

“It is absolutely a public health failure and a political failure,” Noreen Goldman, the Hughes-Rogers professor of Demography and Public Affairs at the Princeton University School of Public and International Affairs, told VOA.

“It’s certainly due, in part, to a lack of public health infrastructure, a lack of any kind of national coordination of our strategies during the pandemic, high politicization of vaccination and higher [vaccine] refusal rates in the U.S. than most other high-income countries,” she said.

Goldman said there are other complicating factors, not the least of which is the lack of universal health care, which is present in all other wealthy nations. Other factors play a role as well, including the high prevalence of other medical conditions, such as obesity and diabetes, which are associated with poorer COVID-19 outcomes.



Source: Voice Of America