America celebrates ‘Before I Die I would like to……’ festival

"If you have thought about it when you're not in the midst of a crisis, the crisis will be better."

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Graveyard, Image credits :beforeidiefestival.co.uk
  • This festival was held in mid-April.
  • People talk about what they would like do before death in this festival.
  • Various art and wall paintings related to death are also displayed.

Before I Die Festival is a festival celebrated in the U.S. Held in mid-April, the main purpose of this festival is to get people thinking ahead about topics they want to achieve in their remaining days. i.e. regarding organ donations, funeral arrangements, wills, good and bad deeds etc.

Lucia Wocial, the festival’s organizer and a nurse ethicist at the Fairbanks Center for Medical Ethics in Indianapolis said: “This is an opportunity to begin to change the culture, to make it possible for people to think about and talk about death so it’s not a mystery”.

A 62 years old Tom Davis has been lately thinking a lot about his life and death. He had a heart attack. Initially, he was planning to jolt but after the attack, he wrote “I want to see my grandkids grow up.”

Several books, films, and death related arts are displayed in this festival. At Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library once 61 pairs of boots were displayed which represented the early death of Indiana soldiers.

There are various other attractions of this unique festival such as

  • Death wall paintings
  • Death Cafes
  • Death discussions among people in the whole city
Art gallery during the festival, Image source : beforeidiefestival.co.uk
Art gallery during the festival, Image source : beforeidiefestival.co.uk

The festival organiser further told that “Death has changed, Years ago people just died. Now death, in many cases, is an orchestrated event.” This statement can be well supported by the fact now medicines have brought new innovative ways to extend the life expectancy of an individual.

Moreover, workshops on how to write an advance directive are also organised in this festival. Special emphasis was being laid on advance care planning. These documents tell doctors that If someone falls ill and can’t communicate his/her wishes then family members are enlisted in the document will take decisions on his/her behalf. Wocial thinks that “If you have thought about it when you’re not in the midst of a crisis, the crisis will be better.

Jason Eberl, a medical ethicist from Marian University said at the festival that “advance directives can address these financial issues, too. People themselves, in their advance directive, will say, ‘Look, I don’t want to drain my kid’s college savings or my wife’s retirement account, to go through one round of chemo when there’s only a 15 percent chance of remission. I’m not going to do that to them.’ ”

Coming to the festival tours to cremation facilities are also provided. Biodegradable urns are made available to dispose of human ashes. There are many things one thinks of before dying. This festival indeed makes it harder for people to think of a particular one.

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Prepared by Pritam, an engineering student in Kolkata, India and an intern at Newsgram. Twitter handle : Pritam_gogreen

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National Capital Delhi Makes a Gradual Comeback

The city of Delhi has slowly and gradually reopened

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Shutters are lifted and shops spruced up as Delhi's markets open after two months as lockdown restrictions are eased. (Anjana Pasricha/VOA)

Signs are being spruced up and prayers performed as shops in the Indian capital open their shutters after two months with the gradual easing of a stringent lockdown.

Markets were allowed to reopen recently after the government signaled economic activity must resume, even as the fight against the COVID -19 pandemic continues. Traffic is humming on once-deserted streets as buses and auto rickshaws have been given the go-ahead to operate.

However, people in the city of nearly 20 million — one of the worst-hit in the country — remain hesitant about venturing out as cases of coronavirus touched record highs in recent days.

Shop owners, hoping to slowly emerge from the economic pain imposed by a weekslong shutdown, have instituted new rules to cope with the pandemic.

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Though markets are open, they are seeing few customers as people remain wary amid the COVID 19 pandemic. (Anjana Pasricha/VOA)

“We’ve restricted it to three people at a time for browsing, and then we have new checks and measures in place where we first check the person’s temperature, we give them hand sanitizer and we have started giving everyone a pair of gloves as well,” said Rajni Malhotra, owner of Bahrisons Booksellers, a 65-year-old landmark in one of the city’s most iconic markets.

The city is only partially open — shopping malls, restaurants, schools and colleges still remain closed and offices can only have limited staff.  Even in markets that have opened, only half the shops open every day to avoid crowding. Delhi accounts for about 10% of India’s infections.

“We have a twofold challenge — to reduce the transmission rate of the disease, and to increase public activity gradually,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi said in an address to the country two weeks ago. “Coronavirus is going to be part of our lives for a long time. But we can’t let our lives revolve around it,” he said.

Shop owners even sanitize customers’ purchases to reassure people still wary of entering markets. Among those that sold some goods is a store that sells kitchen equipment — in Delhi, like much of the world, cooking and baking have been therapy for some of those confined indoors.

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A customer turns up to buy baking tins — in Delhi, like much of the world, cooking and baking has been a therapy for people confined indoors. (Anjana Pasricha/VOA)

However, a sense of unease remains as once-buzzing markets see only a sprinkling of customers, who mostly visit shops selling groceries and other essentials.

“There is this feeling that complete your work fast and then return home,” said Aparajita Pant, a city resident who had come to buy food for her pets.

“Earlier one would like to linger around, there are so many interesting shops here but as of now, there is that cautious approach, at least in me,” she said.

That is not good news for some shop owners. Not a single person had walked into Leena Mehra’s shop selling handicrafts and silver jewelry during the first two days.

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Most customers head to shops selling essentials like groceries and medicines. (Anjana Pasricha/VOA)

“It’s depressing. We have to open the shop, we don’t have any choice,” she said.

“We know it is difficult for us to sell this product to the consumer because right now the mindset of the people is not at all in this direction, but we will try,” she said.

The pandemic has left its mark on a city whose love for shopping and being well turned out made it a retailers’ paradise.

“One would take more efforts to get maybe a little better dressed, but now you come here, avoid jewelry, avoid wearing even a watch, I am not even wearing my earrings,” Pant said ruefully.

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Shops display signs asking people to wear masks and take precautions as new rules are put in place to cope with the COVID 19 pandemic. (Anjana Pasricha/VOA)

Even budget accessories and clothes being sold from small stalls tucked in the market’s narrow lanes have few takers. That is disappointing for low-income workers who say they desperately need to start earning again.

“Everybody needs money. If customers don’t come and this atmosphere persists, it will not be easy to face the problem created by this pandemic,” said a despondent Lucky Arya, as he helped set up a stall to sell summer clothes.

The wait for customers is also long for auto rickshaw drivers waiting on sidewalks.

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Auto rickshaw drivers don’t see too many customers as most people still hesitate to venture outside. (Anjana Pasricha/VOA)
 A once-familiar sight as they skillfully negotiated their way through Delhi’s often chaotic traffic, they too have been scarred by the pandemic because of new rules allowing only one passenger instead of the customary two to ensure social distancing.

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Mohammad Parvez Khan decided to brave the city’s sizzling summer temperatures to ply his auto rickshaw even during Ramadan because his savings were running out.

“Only we know how we passed these last two months,” he said.

“Every day, when I fasted, I prayed that let the coronavirus go quickly, and may everything come back to how it used to be,” he said. (VOA)

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Doctors Warn UK to Cut Meat Intake to Avoid Future Global Health Crisis

A majority of infectious diseases that have appeared in humans have been caused by tampering with animals

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Doctors have urged UK to cut meat intake to avoid a future pandemic. Pixabay

The UK needs to drastically cut back its meat intake to avoid a future global health crisis, a group of doctors have warned.

Plant Based Health Professionals (PBHP) said that the connection between major disease outbreaks and factory farming is being “swept under the carpet” amid the coronavirus pandemic, as they join a wave of experts urging people to go vegan, the Metro newspaper reported.

The vast majority of new infectious diseases that have appeared in humans over the past century have been caused by tampering with farmed animals and their habitats, including Swine Flu (pigs), Avian Flu (birds) and Spanish Flu (poultry).

Speaking to the Metro newspaper, PBHP founder and Consultant Haematologist at King’s College Hospital, Shireen Kassam, said that another disease outbreak was “inevitable if we do not move towards a plant-based diet”.

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Experts urging people to go vegan. Pixabay

In the UK, demand for cheap meat has fuelled a huge expansion of factory farming – a controversial process that often sees thousands of animals being packed into small, unsanitary cages.

This “provides the perfect conditions for the generation of novel infections with epidemic and pandemic potential” as well as necessitating the widespread use of antibiotics in animals, “contributing to a crisis in antibiotic resistance among humans”, Kassam said.

“The last 100 years has shown that pandemics will continue unless we change the way we eat and how our food is produced.

“Disease is spread predominantly through confinement, we don’t have the land capacity to feed the 8 billion people on this planet free range.

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Poor diets are the main cause of chronic health conditions in adults in the UK. Pixabay

“We are in this race to find an antiviral, but other than HIV, there are very few viruses where there are very effective drugs available. (A vaccine) isn’t just going to save our problems, there is a risk of a mutation that could come back in a few years.

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“We need to learn from our mistakes. We need to change our land use to grow beans and legumes, we need a system change,” she told the newspaper.

Poor diets are the main cause of chronic health conditions in adults in the UK, while pre-existing health conditions such as obesity and diabetes are seen as risk factors in catching COVID-19, which has infected 252,246 peopled and killed 36,124 in the country so far.

Research from the University of Oxford last year found foods with the largest negative environmental impacts such as unprocessed and processed red meat, were linked with the largest increases in disease risk, while foods associated with improved health (whole grain cereals, fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts and some vegetable oils high in unsaturated fats, such as olive oil) have among the lowest environmental impacts. (IANS)

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Commute to Work by Walking, Cycling Instead of Car to Reduce Early Death Risk

Driving to work may increase risk of early death

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Cycling your way to work may reduce risk of early death. Pixabay

People who walk, cycle and travel by train to work are at reduced risk of early death or illness compared with those who commute by car, according to a new study.

For the findings, published in the journal The Lancet Planetary Health, the researchers conducted a study on more than 300,000 commuters in England and Wales. They used census data to track the same people for up to 25 years, between 1991-2016. The researchers from Imperial College London and the University of Cambridge in the UK, suggest increased walking and cycling post-lockdown may reduce deaths from heart disease and cancer.

“As large numbers of people begin to return to work as the COVID-19 lockdown eases, it is a good time for everyone to rethink their transport choices,” said study researcher Dr Richard Patterson from the University of Cambridge.

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People travel by train to work are at reduced risk of early death or illness. Pixabay

The research team found that compared with those who drove, those who cycled to work had a 20 per cent reduced rate of early death, 24 per cent reduced rate of death from cardiovascular disease during the study period, a 16 per cent reduced rate of death from cancer, and an 11 per cent reduced rate of a cancer diagnosis.

Walking to work was associated with a seven per cent reduced rate in cancer diagnosis, compared to driving. The team explain that associations between walking and other outcomes, such as rates of death from cancer and heart disease, were less certain.

One potential reason for this is people who walk to work are, on average, in less affluent occupations than people who drive to work, and more likely to have underlying health conditions which could not be fully accounted for.

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The study shows that those who drove had a 20 per cent increased rate of early death compared to those who cycled to work. Pixabay

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The research also revealed that compared with those who drove to work, rail commuters had a 10 per cent reduced rate of early death, a 20 per cent reduced rate of death from cardiovascular disease, and a 12 per cent reduced rate of cancer diagnosis.

This is likely due to them walking or cycling to transit points, although rail commuters also tend to be more affluent and less likely to have other underlying conditions.”With severe and prolonged limits in public transport capacity likely, switching to private car use would be disastrous for our health and the environment,” Patterson said.”Encouraging more people to walk and cycle will help limit the longer-term consequences of the pandemic,” Patterson wrote. (IANS)