Why All Weight Loss Hacks Suck


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Photo: denira (Shutterstock)

Sometimes, when I want to feel mad, I read about the crap the internet tries to pass off as weight loss hacks. Because they are all so, so bad.

Articles about weight loss hacks never actually include hacks, but the headline always swears they do. A recent example: this Telegraph article titled, and I swear I am not making this up, “Why drinking vinegar could be the secret to midlife weight loss.”

The article does not actually tell us why vinegar could be the secret to midlife weight loss, because it can’t do that, because it isn’t. Instead, the writer taste-tests different vinegar-based beverages. They taste good, it turns out. Nobody who has ever enjoyed a sip of lemonade should be surprised that sour ingredients can make a drink taste refreshing. But while the writer was making this discovery for herself, they forgot to cover the weight loss hack.

We’ve previously written about whether vinegar will help you lose weight here, so I’m not going to bother debunking the headline’s claim directly. (Bottom line: no, science has not shown vinegar to be a weight-loss elixir. It has, on a few occasions, shown that one of the chemical components of vinegar can cause subtle shifts in gene expression in rats. That’s not the same thing, and anybody who implies they are the same is a bad person and they should feel bad.)

I will bother to say that I hate these articles (and TikTok videos, and Instagram posts, and all the other ways people spread bad advice) because they are just memorable enough to stick in your mind. You’re probably already thinking “vinegar good,” and filing it away in your brain next to “dark chocolate good” and “margarine bad” and other vague associations you’ve picked up from things you half-read over the years. Months from now you’ll be reading about how vinegar is actually terrible for weight loss, and you’ll be frustrated because what are you supposed to believe, “vinegar good” or “vinegar bad,” and why can’t scientists make up their minds?

Piecemeal diet advice is always garbage

The very thing that makes clickbait diet advice appealing (one weird trick!) is what makes it useless. Actual health advice never boils down to one weird trick. Perversely, its purveyors know this, and use it to their advantage: Sure, none of the “eat this one food” hacks have worked in the past, but maybe this one will. Desperation begets clicks.

To name one of the frequent offenders, the lifestyle site Eat This Not That currently is promoting the following stories on their weight loss page, and once again, I wish I were joking:

  • The best bread to lose abdominal fat—ranked!
  • The #1 best fast-food order for abdominal fat loss, says dietitian
  • 6 best omelet combinations for faster weight loss, say dietitians
  • This weight-loss approach actually works
  • The #1 eating habit for fast weight loss
  • 20 food combos that triple your weight loss
  • The #1 best fast-food order for weight loss [and yes, this is different from the #1 best fast-food order for abdominal fat loss]
  • The #1 breakfast food to avoid for belly fat
  • The #1 best vegetable for weight loss
  • The #1 best toast combo for fast weight loss

There’s more, but I can’t keep scrolling. I am too sad. The #1 items, by the way, are: whole grain bread, Cobb salad, two egg whites plus one whole egg, a prescription pill that expands in your stomach to try to make you eat less, fasting (which may I remind you is not eating), avocado + sprouted grain bread + cayenne pepper, a Subway veggie delite sandwich (this is a lettuce sandwich), breakfast pastries (the “#1 breakfast food to avoid,” even though it a category of many foods and not a single food), and bell peppers. The optimal toast combo is toast with “a spread.”

In other words: food. Read their reasoning for each (or don’t, if you value your sanity) and you’ll find grains of truth. A Cobb salad has eggs and meat, which contain protein, and protein is important. A lettuce sandwich is low calorie, and eating fewer calories will help you lose weight.

But if you were to eat the #1 foods from each article, you wouldn’t necessarily be any healthier or lose any more weight than if you ate none of them. That’s because weight loss is a big picture endeavor. If you eat fewer calories than you burn, you’ll end up losing weight. It doesn’t matter how many of those calories come from toast, specifically. There isn’t even a single “best” entire diet, much less a single best food.

And if there were a magic food that makes dieting easier, there wouldn’t need to be a website (many websites) writing 10 different articles about 10 different magic foods. You’d be like “oh, cool, toast. Got it.” And then you’d eat toast every day, the pounds would melt off, and the entire diet industry would crumble into dust.

In reality, neither healthy diets nor weight loss diets (which are different) hinge on specific ingredients; they are the sum of all the things you eat and do. You can lose weight on a keto diet or a vegan diet or by intermittent fasting or by eating egg-white omelets and lettuce sandwiches. Don’t believe anybody who tells you that a certain food item is make-or-break for your diet or your health. Because it isn’t.


How Apps Can Help People Manage Chronic Illnesses


According to Katie Wilkinson, head of community at Paloma Health, an online specialty clinic focused on Hashimoto’s and hypothyroidism, key issues for patients are access to care and care quality. “The average wait time for an appointment with a thyroid doctor is 37 days,” she says. “Appointments are often rushed, averaging seven minutes, and patients often report feeling dismissed or unheard by their doctors.” In between doctor visits, they, like those with other chronic illnesses, are left to contend with fluctuating symptoms, exhaustion, and even depression.

How Apps Help

Vedrana Högqvist Tabor, a biomedical researcher with a background in digital health, faced these challenges as a Hashimoto’s patient. Tired of the one-size-fits-all approach, she wanted a solution “that would improve patients’ day-to-day care, reduce nonessential doctor visits, and relieve frustration with current treatment options.” She couldn’t find one, so she created her own, the BOOST Thyroid app (available for iPhone, and coming soon to Android.) Tabor is CEO and cofounder of VLM Health, a Berlin-based health tech startup. She and her team built an app that lets users track symptoms on an intensity scale, log lab tests and medication adherence, access evidence-based information on all aspects of Hashimoto’s and hypothyroidism, and provide their physicians with an overview of the data they input. A joint study undertaken with Oxford University indicated that approximately 96 percent of users surveyed found the app helpful, reporting fewer doctor visits, less frustration and anxiety, and fewer and less intense symptoms.

Like Tabor, Eva Galant, founder and CEO of Hashiona, was inspired by personal experience to develop an app for Hashimoto’s sufferers. Working in a high-stress corporate culture took so great a toll on her that she resigned to focus on self-care. When she changed her lifestyle to emphasize diet and stress reduction, her hypothyroid symptoms improved. Aware that most people can’t quit their jobs to prioritize their health, she developed a streamlined solution, the Hashiona app (available for iPhone and Android.)

With Hashimoto’s, “well-being depends on several factors, including proper treatment, supplementation, diet, physical activity, stress reduction, sleep hygiene, and taking care of other organs,” she says. “Making changes in all these areas without a plan may be too difficult for anyone who’s taking the first steps on the road to wellness.” The app aims to lead users to remission with a science-based, 20-week, step-by-step approach that includes modules on thyroid function, stress management, exercise, and diet, and access to teleconsultations with specialists. As with BOOST Thyroid, tracking disease factors helps users see trends and patterns and lets them rely on that data, rather than their memory, when communicating with physicians.

Another helpful tool is the Paloma Thyroid Hormone Health app (available for iPhone and Android,) created in-house by registered dietitians and health coaches from Paloma Health. According to Wilkinson, “Research shows that getting good thyroid care is extremely hard, and that diet and lifestyle interventions are not typically part of the current standard of care.” The goal was to provide “a full-stack approach that covers all their needs related to hypothyroidism.” The app provides a framework for tracking data, implementing lifestyle changes, and building thyroid-health habits through the use of more than 75 self-paced learning modules. It also features a 12-week nutrition plan based on the autoimmune protocol diet to help patients reduce inflammation and alleviate thyroid symptoms.

The Bigger Picture

Apps benefit patients by offering individualized care in place of a cookie-cutter approach, Sharda says, but they’re a boon to researchers as well. That’s why both Tabor and Galant aim to increase the role of artificial intelligence in their solutions. “This,” Galant says, “will help develop knowledge about the condition based on the thousands of anonymized data points we collect.” To this end, in the evolution of BOOST Thyroid, Tabor envisions “more individualization and actionable insights through building better algorithms, using more machine learning to help detect early disease complications.”

Tabor, who’s given TEDx and WIRED Health talks about the role “big data plays in bringing female health to parity with male health,” says anonymized data can improve outcomes, especially in diseases predominantly affecting females. In the case of Hashimoto’s, she says, it’s essential to be able to rapidly collect “big chunks of clean and diverse data” in order to turn what she calls an under-researched and underserved condition into one that’s preventively manageable.

After 355 days aboard the ISS, astronaut Mark Vande Hei returns to Earth a changed man


After 355 days aboard the ISS, NASA astronaut and five-time flight engineer Mark T Vande Hei returns to Earth as record holder for the longest single spaceflight in NASA history, having surpassed Commander Scott Kelly’s 340-day mark set in 2018. Though not as long as Peggy Whitson’s 665 cumulative days spent in microgravity, Vande Hei’s accomplishment is still one of the longest single stints in human spaceflight, just behind Russia’s Valeri Polyakov, who was aboard the Mir for 438 straight days (that’s more than 14 months) back in the mid-1990s.

Though NASA’s Human Research Program has spent 50 years studying the effects that microgravity and the rigors of spaceflight have on the human body, the full impact of long-duration space travel has yet to be exhaustively researched. As humanity’s expansion into space accelerates in the coming decades, more people will be going into orbit — and much farther — both more regularly and for longer than anyone has in the past half century, and they’ll invariably need medical care while they’re out there. To fill that need, academic institutes like the Center for Space Medicine at the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, TX, have begun training a new generation of medical practitioners with the skills necessary to keep tomorrow’s commercial astronauts alive on the job.

Even traveling the relatively short 62 mile distance to the International Space Station does a number on the human body. The sustained force generated during liftoff can hit 3 gs, though “the most important factors in determining the effects the sustained acceleration will have on the human body is the rate of onset and the peak sustained g force,” Dr. Eric Jackson wrote in his 2017 dissertation, An Investigation of the Effects of Sustained G-Forces on the Human Body During Suborbital Spaceflight. “The rate of onset, or how fast the body accelerates, dictates the ability to remain conscious, with a faster rate of onset leading to a lower g-force threshold.”

Untrained civilians will begin feeling these effects at 3 to 4 gs but with practice, seasoned astronauts using support equipment like high-g suits can resist the effects until around 8 or 9 gs, however the unprotected human body can only withstand about 5 gs of persistent force before blacking out.

Once the primary and secondary rocket stages have been expended, the pleasantness of the spaceflight will improve immensely, albeit temporarily. As NASA veteran with 230 cumulative days in space, Leroy Chiao, told Space in 2016, as soon as the main engines cut out, the crushing Gs subside and “you are instantly weightless. It feels as if you suddenly did a forward roll on a gym mat, as your brain struggles to understand the odd signals coming from your balance system.”

“Dizziness is the result, and this can again cause some nausea,” he continued. “You also feel immediate pressure in your head, as if you were lying down head first on an incline. At this point, because gravity is no longer pulling fluid into your lower extremities, it rises into your torso. Over the next few days, your body will eliminate about two liters of water to compensate, and your brain learns to ignore your balance system. Your body equilibrates with the environment over the next several weeks.”

Roughly half of people who have traveled into orbit to date have experienced this phenomenon, which has been dubbed Space Adaptation Syndrome (SAS), though as Chiao noted, the status debuffs do lessen as the astronaut’s vestibular system readjusts to their weightless environment. And even as the astronaut adapts to function in their new microgravity surroundings, their body is undergoing fundamental changes that will not abate, at least until they head back down the gravity well.

“After a long-duration flight of six or more months, the symptoms are somewhat more intense,” Chiao said. “If you’ve been on a short flight, you feel better after a day or two. But after a long flight, it usually takes a week, or several, before you feel like you’re back to normal.”

“Spaceflight is draining because you’ve taken away a lot of the physical stimulus the body would have on an everyday basis,” Dr. Jennifer Fogarty from Baylor’s Center for Space Medicine, told Engadget.

“Cells can convert mechanical inputs into biochemical signals, initiating downstream signaling cascades in a process known as mechanotransduction,” researchers from the University of Siena noted in their 2021 study, The Effect of Space Travel on Bone Metabolism. “Therefore, any changes in mechanical loading, for example, those associated with microgravity, can consequently influence cell functionality and tissue homeostasis, leading to altered physiological conditions.”

Without those sensory inputs and environmental stressors that would normally prompt the body to maintain its current level of fitness, our muscles will atrophy — up to 40 percent of their mass, depending on the length for the mission — while our bones can lose their mineral density at a rate of 1 to 2 percent every month.

“Your bones are … being continually eaten away and replenished,” pioneering Canadian astronaut Bjarni Tryggvason told CBC in 2013. “The replenishment depends on the actual stresses in your bones and it’s mainly … bones in your legs where the stresses are all of a sudden reduced [in space] that you see the major bone loss.”

This leaves astronauts highly susceptible to breaks, as well as kidney stones, upon their return to Earth and generally require two months of recovery for every month spent in microgravity. In fact, a 2000 study found that the bone loss from six months in space “parallels that experienced by elderly men and women over a decade of aging on Earth.” Even intensive daily sessions with the treadmill, cycle ergometer and ARED (Advanced Resistance Exercise Device) aboard the ISS, paired with a balanced nutrient-rich diet, has only shown to be partially effective at offsetting the incurred mineral losses.

And then there’s the space anemia. According to a study published in the journal, Nature Medicine, the bodies of astronauts appear to destroy their red blood cells faster while in space than they would here on Earth. “Space anemia has consistently been reported when astronauts returned to Earth since the first space missions, but we didn’t know why,” study author Guy Trudel said in a January 14 statement. “Our study shows that upon arriving in space, more red blood cells are destroyed, and this continues for the entire duration of the astronaut’s mission.”

This is not a short term adaptation as previously believed, the study found. The human body on Earth will produce and destroy around 2 million red blood cells every second. However, that number jumps to roughly 3 million per second while in space, a 54 percent increase that researchers attribute to fluid shifts in the body as it adapts to weightlessness.

Recent research also suggests that our brains are actively “rewiring” themselves in order to adapt to microgravity. A study published in Frontiers in Neural Circuits investigated structural changes found in white matter, which interfaces the brain’s two hemispheres, after space travel using MRI data collected from a dozen Cosmonauts before and after their stays aboard the ISS, for about 172 days apiece. Researchers discovered changes in the neural connections between different motor areas within the brain as well as changes to the shape of the corpus callosum, the part of the brain that connects and interfaces the two hemispheres, again due to fluid shifts.

“These findings give us additional pieces of the entire puzzle,” study author Floris Wuyts of Floris Wuyts, University of Antwerp told Space. “Since this research is so pioneering, we don’t know how the whole puzzle will look yet. These results contribute to our overall understanding of what’s going on in the brains of space travelers.”

As the transition towards commercial space flight accelerates and the orbital economy further opens for business, opportunities to advance space medicine increase as well. Fogarty points out that government space flight programs and installations are severely limited in the number of astronauts they can handle simultaneously — the ISS holds a whopping seven people at a time — which translates into multi-year long queues for astronauts waiting to go into space. Commercial ventures like Orbital Reef will shorten those waits by expanding the number of space-based positions available which will give institutions like the Center for Space Medicine more, and more diversified, health data to analyze.

“The diversity of the types of people that are capable and willing to go [into space for work] really opens up this aperture on understanding humanity,” Fogarty said, “versus the [existing] select population that we always struggle to match to or interpret data from.”

Even returning from space is fraught with physiological peril. Dr. Fogarty points out that while in space the gyroscopic organs in the inner ear will adapt to the new environment, which is what helps alleviate the symptoms of SAS. However, that adaptation works against the astronaut when they return to full gravity — especially the chaotic forces present during reentry — they can be shocked by the sudden return of amplified sensory information. It’s roughly equivalent, she describes, to continuing to turn up the volume on a stereo with a wonky input port: You hear nothing as you rotate the knob, right up until the moment the input’s plug wiggles just enough to connect and you blow your eardrums out because you’d dialed up the volume to 11 without realizing it.

“Your brain has acclimated to an environment, and very quickly,” Fogarty said. “But the organ systems in your ear haven’t caught up to the new environment.” These effects, like SAS, are temporary and do not appear to limit the amount of times an astronaut can venture up to orbit and return. “There’s really no evidence to say that we would know there would be a limit,” she said, envisioning it could end up being more of a personal choice in deciding if the after-effects and recovery times are worth it for your next trip to space.

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6 Advice Podcasts to Navigate the Weirdness of Daily Life


Starter episode: “How Many Friends Do I Need?”

Slate was one of the earliest players in the podcast game — its Political Gabfest began in 2005 — so it’s no surprise that its long-running advice column “Dear Prudence” made a successful transition to audio. Between 2016 and 2021, that podcast featured Daniel M. Lavery (who wrote as Prudence at that time) responding to listener letters in more depth than a typical column would allow. But after Lavery moved on from the Prudence role last year, his podcast shape-shifted into “Big Mood, Little Mood.” The new show still sees Lavery giving guidance to letter writers, but in the context of longer conversations with a diverse array of guests including writers, comedians and even the fellow advice columnist Heather Havrilevsky.

Starter episode: “Sore Loser”

Dan Savage has been one of America’s leading sex advice columnists for more than three decades, and its leading sex advice podcaster for half that time. When it began back in 1991, the print column “Savage Love” was envisioned as a tongue-in-cheek antidote to mainstream advice dispensaries; Savage, who is gay, planned to “treat straight people with the same contempt that straight advice columnists had always treated gay people.” But it turned out Savage had more insight to share than contempt, and his trademark blunt, explicit advice has continued to resonate. In the audio version, Savage takes voice mail messages from listeners on topics like monogamy, infidelity and navigating kinks, and though not all of his advice has aged well, he’s typically candid about those mistakes.

Starter episode: “Savage Lovecast Episode 799”

No list of shows about manners would be complete without this eight-year-old series descended from the grande dame of American etiquette, Emily Post. Hosted by her great-great-grandchildren, Lizzie Post and Daniel Post Senning, “Awesome Etiquette” is a haven for anyone seeking guidance on social mores. The Posts have covered just about every issue imaginable over the show’s long run, like how to correctly tip on to-go orders (it’s optional, but they suggest 10 percent) and how to approach a dinner party when your diet differs from the hosts’ (give them plenty of notice, and if it’s a preference rather than an allergy, be prepared to be flexible). And as the past two years have reshaped the world, introducing new layers of planning and risk into the simplest social engagements, their soothingly structured advice has never felt more welcome.

Starter episode: “Episode 385 — No Problem”

Esther Perel, the well-known couples therapist and author, has become a go-to expert on the subject of sex and relationships. That’s thanks in large part to her hit podcast “Where Should We Begin?,” which lets listeners be a fly on the wall during real couples therapy sessions. Her second series, “How’s Work?,” takes a similar approach, but instead of romantic partners, it spotlights sessions between co-workers, co-founders and even family members who work together. As Perel explains in the opening episode, we all have a relationship “pattern,” which shows up just as much in the workplace as it does in romance and friendships. Now that many Americans are heading back to the office, this should be an especially illuminating listen.

Starter episode: “My Promotion Ended Our Friendship”

Updates From Star Trek 4, Sonic the Hedgehog 2, and More


The poster for Star Trek Beyond, including Chekov, Bones, Uhura, Kirk, Spock, Scotty, and Jaylah.

Are you ready to boldly go for the seven billionth time?
Image: Paramount

Leslie Grace offers a filming update for Batgirl. Andrew Garfield talks about the possibility of The Amazing Spider-Man 3. The CW’s Gotham Knights show has found its Spoiler. Plus, May Calamawy teases her Moon Knight character Layla, and Netflix teases a new vampire anime epic. Spoilers away!

Image for article titled Updates From Star Trek 4, Sonic the Hedgehog 2, and More

Organ Trail

Deadline reports Southbound’s Mather Zickel has joined the cast of Organ Trail as Pa Archer, “a gaunt but imposing figurehead that has a commanding energy balanced by an instinctive compassion. In the throes of a brutal Montana winter, Pa’s steadfastness and sense of purpose—along with the skills he learned as a soldier in the Civil War—are the foundation on which his family’s survival rests.”

Untitled H.G. Wells Project

According to Deadline, Paramount Players and Wes Ball’s OddBall Entertainment are developing “a very loose adaptation” of an unspecified H.G. Wells story said to “stem from the ‘mythology’ surrounding one of the writer’s most iconic titles.” Screenwriter Laura Gillis has been tapped to rewrite the script “based off of a previous incarnation” by Pacific Rim: Uprising’s T.S. Nowlin.

Robert Egger’s Nosferatu

The New Yorker reports Harry Styles was once attached—but has now exited—Robert Eggers’ Nosferatu.

Eggers was supposed to be in Prague. The previous week, he had been scheduled to move there to begin preparing a remake of Nosferatu, F. W. Murnau’s silent vampire film, from 1922. The new version featured Taylor-Joy, who also starred in The Witch, and Harry Styles. But, at the last minute, Styles pulled out, citing scheduling concerns.

Star Trek 4

Chris Pine admitted to IndieWire he’s still totally in the dark about Star Trek 4.

Well, what’s going on with Star Trek is frankly, I don’t know. When the announcement was made at the shareholders’ thing, I didn’t know that they were doing that. I don’t think anybody did. I met Matt Shakman, the director. He’s a super-cool guy, very smart, I like him a great deal. I know there’s a script out there somewhere and I’m waiting to see it. Looking forward to reading it. I love the group. I love the team. I love the world. Happy to go to work.


Filming is nearly complete on Batgirl, according to Leslie Grace on Instagram.

this is a “it’s our last week of shooting #batgirl and i’m getting emotionalllll” dump🥴🥺🤎 be prepared for moreeeee. but in advance – Scotland, thank u endlessly for welcoming us with open arms and gifting us the perfect city to create our Gotham. it’s not the end yet but i didn’t want to miss a moment to say thank you as I’m sitting here reflecting on all we’ve gotten to experience thanks to you. i will never forget my time here🫂🦇😘

The Amazing Spider-Man 3

Meanwhile, Andrew Garfield answered “no one’s going to believe anything I say again” when asked to provide an update on his rumored third Spider-Man movie at Sony.

Sonic the Hedgehog 2

Dr. Robotnik introduces Knuckles in a new clip from Sonic the Hedgehog 2.

Gotham Knights

Deadline reports Anna Lore has been cast as Stephanie Brown, a.k.a Spoiler, in Gotham Knights. Similar to her comics counterpart, a press release states the character boasts a level of “sarcasm matched only by her intellect” and that she was “raised on a steady diet of brain teasers and puzzles.” Since then, she’s “honed her skills to become a formidable coder. But her greatest talent might be hiding a less-than-perfect home life.”


Entertainment Weekly reports Tim Gabriel has been cast as Todd “Obsidian” Rice, the “son of Alan Scott/the Golden Age Green Lantern and the twin brother of Jennie-Lynn Hayden/Jade” in the third season of Stargirl.

One Piece

Spoiler TV additionally reports Yellowjackets’ Peter Gadiot has joined the cast of Netflix’s live-action One Piece as Shanks, “the legendary captain of the red-haired pirate crew.”

Doctor Who

Doctor Who’s “Legend of the Sea Devils” is now confirmed to air this April 17, on Easter Sunday.

In a swashbuckling special adventure, the Doctor (Jodie Whittaker), Yaz (Mandip Gill) and Dan (John Bishop) come face to fin with one of the Doctor’s oldest adversaries: the Sea Devils. Why has legendary pirate queen Madam Ching come searching for a lost treasure? What terrifying forces lurk beneath the oceans of the nineteenth century? And did Yaz really have to dress Dan up as a pirate?

[Spoiler TV]

House of the Dragon

In conversation with Comic Book, Matt Smith described House of the Dragon as being “very different” from Game of Thrones.

I think it’s really different to the original series, to be honest with you. I mean it has to be. The original series was its own thing and it was, it was so brilliant and, and sort of left a mark in a way that it would be impossible to repeat. So, I don’t know. The truth is I haven’t seen any so it’s difficult for me. Essentially it’s in the same world, it has to take on a slightly different identity. But who knows? I have no idea.

Moon Knight

May Calamawy spoke to Comic Book about the pressure she felt developing her brand-new character, Layla El-Faouly, in Moon Knight.

I felt so much pressure in the beginning and I was really intimidated, because I genuinely didn’t know what would be the best direction for her, and I wanted to do justice to all the work that’s been done. Every character is so nuanced and rich, and I’m like, ‘How do I bring this? And what is gonna serve the story and Moon Knight?’ And also important for me to create a character who has her own arc, not just in service of the man. And luckily I had just incredible people that I was working with, and Layla took a village, I’ll say that. I worked so much with Mohammed Diab and his wife. Oscar and Ethan were so helpful. My stunt doubles were like, I needed them, you know, so we found her. When I auditioned, it was like, ‘Egyptian woman,’ and I was like, ‘I’ll take it.’ But it was as we were going along that the mysteries were unfolding, I was just on the ride with it. It was cool.

Vampire in the Garden

Finally, survivors of a vampire apocalypse living inside a wall of light must form diplomatic relations with the new world order in the trailer for Vampire in the Garden, premiering May 16 on Netflix.

Banner art by Jim Cook

A month into war, communicator-in-chief Zelenskiy strives to keep eyes on Ukraine – Reuters.com


  • Ukraine president proves a shrewd wartime communicator
  • His job will get harder as conflict drags on, experts warn
  • Zelenskiy has tightened his grip on domestic media
  • His outreach at home and abroad has helped war effort

LONDON/LVIV, Ukraine, March 24 (Reuters) – The props were simple, the message was clear. In a video address to the nation this week, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy held up his smartphone to the camera and started a timer app while an air raid siren blared.

“It lasted 20 seconds,” Zelenskiy said, after the wailing subsided. “And we hear it for hours, days, weeks. Our people… instantly take their children, help the elderly, and go to the shelters… to survive, from Russian missiles, bombs.”

Sitting at his desk, unshaven and in his now trademark green shirt, Zelenskiy had in a few short sentences reminded 44 million Ukrainians that he was going through what they were, while renewing pressure on NATO to impose a no-fly zone.

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While keeping the world engaged could get harder over time, for now that ability to communicate is making a difference.

His approval ratings at home have soared as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine enters its second month, and he has rallied the nation around the flag as thousands of civilians take up arms.

Abroad he appears no less popular, as Western powers supply Ukraine with weapons and aid, take in millions of refugees and tighten sanctions around Russia.

For those who have worked closely with him, the 44-year-old’s handling of the war so far is not totally surprising.

Iuliia Mendel, Zelenskiy’s spokesperson during the first two years of his presidency from 2019-2021, told Reuters that the former actor put a lot of time and effort into his speeches. He is also quick to adapt.

“Now he can just take his telephone and make a selfie video, not caring much about the lighting and how he looks and that he has not shaved probably,” she said.

The more informal setting brought him closer to people, “because when everybody is suffering so much it would be really strange if… he tries to look official.”

Zelenskiy would often come up with a specific message or metaphor that he wanted to include in his addresses, according to Mendel, and looked for what would resonate most with a particular audience.

And so, as he hones his role as the face of Ukraine’s resistance, he has used a mix of social media savvy, impassioned speeches and a virtual “tour” of the world’s parliaments to try to prevent international outrage at Moscow from dissipating.

“He’ll be aware that the world moves on. The world gets tired,” Alastair Campbell, who was spokesman to former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, told Reuters.

“He knows that you’ve got to keep finding new ways to keep this thing right at the centre of the global public debate and on his terms. And I think that’s what he’s done very well so far, but it gets harder the longer you go on.”


As the war drags on, Zelenskiy is tightening his control over messaging at home.

Under martial law, his security and defence council temporarily banned Russia-friendly political parties, one of which holds a sizeable number of seats in parliament and which has in the past accused him of silencing the opposition.

He has also effectively shut down private TV channels by unifying coverage around one state station.

Ukraine has had a varied media scene, although major TV channels were owned by business groups that promoted competing political interests.

Zelenskiy faced some criticism from political opponents before the war for imposing sanctions on TV channels connected to opposition figures.

Now the unified TV news platform broadcasts speeches and interviews by Zelenskiy, selected state officials and regional mayors who address the plight of cities under Russian attack.

One of his main modes of communication abroad has been to address national parliaments, from Washington to Tokyo, via video link from Kyiv.

Zelenskiy’s message has sometimes been blunt.

In his address to the U.S. Congress, Zelenskiy played a video showing Russian bombs falling on Ukraine, grieving families, bloodied children on hospital beds and corpses on the streets and laid into graves.

Zelenskiy then singled out U.S. President Joe Biden: “You are the leader of the nation, of your great nation. I wish you to be the leader of the world. Being the leader of the world means to be the leader of peace.”

His demand that NATO members impose a no-fly zone over Ukraine has been dismissed by some diplomats as impractical, because they say it risks dragging the alliance into direct confrontation with nuclear-armed Russia.

When addressing Israel’s Knesset, Zelenskiy, who is Jewish and lost family members in the Holocaust, compared Russia’s war to Nazi Germany’s killings of Jews while asking Israel for its Iron Dome defence system to protect Ukrainian cities.

The reference sparked a backlash and the Israeli government did not accede to Ukraine’s request. read more

On the eve of the one-month anniversary an impassioned Zelenskiy – speaking, unusually, in English – used his nightly video to bypass the world’s political leaders and appeal directly to their people.

Casting the war as an existential battle not only for Ukraine but for Europe, he urged them to protest what he called Moscow’s “war against freedom”.


For Campbell, Zelenskiy’s “sense of authenticity” makes him an effective communicator.

“You really feel this is a guy who is speaking from the heart all the time, but without being too emotional,” he said.

The president invoked playwright William Shakespeare and speeches of World War Two leader Winston Churchill while speaking to British lawmakers and civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr while addressing the U.S. Congress.

Addressing the Japanese National Diet on Wednesday, he referred to Ukraine’s Chernobyl nuclear disaster and the prospect of Russia waging chemical warfare – resonant in Japan which suffered the Tokyo subway sarin attack in 1995 and the Fukushima nuclear disaster in 2011.

A former comedian who once played a fictional president in a popular TV series before entering politics, Zelenskiy has suddenly been thrust into a very different role.

When Reuters first interviewed him as a candidate in 2019, it was backstage at a comedy competition he was compering. Three years on, he spoke to Reuters in March in a city under attack, protected by armed soldiers in rooms dotted with sandbags.

But some elements of his messaging have remained constant.

Ever since he ran for president as a political outsider in 2019, Zelenskiy has used social media and videos to get through to voters using plain language.

Upon entering office, he took with him people from the TV and media world as officials and advisers. One of those close to him declined to comment when Reuters asked about his communications strategy.

Kyrylo Tymoshenko, now deputy head of Zelenskiy’s office, founded a company that produced political campaign adverts. Also in his entourage in Kyiv are his powerful chief of staff Andriy Yermak, Prime Minister Denys Shmygal, close adviser Mykhailo Podolyak and David Arakhamia, who heads the presidential party’s faction in parliament.

A video in which he introduced his team early on in the conflict has been viewed nearly 15 million times on Instagram.


So far, Zelenskiy’s messaging is working at home. According to the Rating research group, the president’s approval rating in Ukraine has trebled to 91% from December, while 93% of Ukrainians believe they will win the war.

It has brought round Ukrainians like Tetiana Popova, a member of Ukraine’s Council on Freedom of Speech and Protection of Journalists.

“He is what I would call an ‘everyman’ – this was his advantage from the very beginning,” said Popova, who was a deputy minister under Zelenskiy’s predecessor.

Popova recalls her house shaking from Russian shelling while her nine-year-old slept. In a panic, she sent her child into Poland and remained in Ukraine, and immediately felt calmer once she saw Zelenskiy speaking on television.

“I believed that we can, we will endure, we will succeed. This thought came to me because the President is in Kyiv.”

Outgunned by a larger Russian army, Zelenskiy has struck a balance between persuading Western allies of the need to equip Ukraine’s military with air defences and missiles while convincing Ukrainians that their country will win the war.

Such messaging – Ukraine is smaller and needs help but will also win – is reflected in posters and signs that have appeared on the streets of Lviv.

One reads “DAVID vs GOLIATH” above a map showing tiny defiant Ukraine and vast Russia, adding: “Do you remember what happened?”

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Matthias Williams reported from London and Margaryta Chornokondratenko and Stephen Farrell reported from Lviv; Additional reporting by Reuters bureau in Lviv; Writing by Matthias Williams; Editing by Mike Collett-White

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Risk of type 2 diabetes rises after COVID; organ transplant from donors who had COVID likely safe – Reuters.com


People wear face masks during the outbreak of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Singapore, April 3, 2020. REUTERS/Edgar Su

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March 23 (Reuters) – The following is a summary of some recent studies on COVID-19. They include research that warrants further study to corroborate the findings and that has yet to be certified by peer review.

Type 2 diabetes risk rises after COVID-19

People may be at increased risk for developing diabetes for up to a year after a diagnosis of COVID-19, according to two studies.

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One study used data from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to track more than 181,000 adults with COVID-19 for a year after recovery. Comparing these patients to more than 8 million people not infected with the coronavirus, researchers found that among every 1,000 people, there were 13 more new cases of diabetes among the COVID-19 patients after 12 months than among the uninfected individuals. The COVID-19 group also had an extra 12 people per thousand who started taking medication for diabetes. Overall, two of every 100 people with COVID-19 developed diabetes in the year afterward, Ziyad Al-Aly of the VA St. Louis Health Care System said on Twitter. After accounting for other risk factors, including how often subjects in both groups saw their doctors, that translated to a 40% higher risk after COVID-19, his team reported on Monday in The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology. The higher risk for diabetes was evident even in people who had mild or asymptomatic COVID-19 and even in people who did not have any other risk factors for diabetes, Al-Aly told Reuters.

In a separate study of 35,865 people with COVID-19 published last week in Diabetologia, researchers found a 28% higher risk of developing diabetes compared to a group with non-COVID upper respiratory infections. Nearly all new cases in both studies were type 2 diabetes, which can sometimes be controlled by weight loss and diet changes. The authors all recommend that COVID-19 survivors with symptoms of diabetes, such as excessive thirst or frequent urination should seek medical attention.

Organ transplants from donors who had COVID likely safe

Organ donation from dying donors with current or previous COVID-19 infection is likely safe, transplant teams from the United States and Italy will report next month at the European Congress of Clinical Microbiology & Infectious Diseases meeting.

Both teams are expected to outline their experimental protocols for use of such organs. Dr. Cameron Wolfe and Dr. Emily Eichenberger, from Duke University Medical Center in North Carolina, will advise that lungs or intestines should only be used if the donor last tested positive for the virus more than 20 days prior, while other organs can be transplanted safely if the donor was not dying of COVID-19 or having excessive blood clotting, the conference organizers said in a statement.

Professor Paolo Grossi of the University of Insubria in Italy and colleagues have transplanted livers, hearts, and kidneys from SARS-CoV-2-positive donors. “As we move deeper into 2022, the transplant community will undoubtedly learn more about using various organs from donors with recent or active COVID-19,” Grossi wrote in an advance copy if his presentation seen by Reuters. “Although the published data are encouraging, the safety of deceased donors in these scenario is (unproven) given the small sample size of the published studies,” he said.

Neuropsychiatric after-effects not unique to severe COVID-19

Neurological, psychiatric and cognitive problems are often reported by patients who were hospitalized for severe SARS-CoV-2 infections, but those problems are not unique to COVID-19 survivors, a new study suggests.

Researchers in Denmark compared 85 survivors of severe COVID-19 to 61 closely matched patients who were similarly ill during the pandemic with other diseases. Six months after patients first became sick, “the overall burden of neuropsychiatric and neurologic diagnoses and symptoms appeared similar” in the two groups, according to a report published on Wednesday in JAMA Psychiatry. Cognitive impairment was worse in the COVID-19 survivors, but the absolute difference was small, the researchers said. They point out that persistent neuropsychiatric and cognitive symptoms are known to follow hospitalizations involving heart attacks, over-activated immune responses, and stays in intensive care units. They said this study’s findings highlight the importance of including well-matched control groups when investigating the after-effects of COVID-19.

Click for a Reuters graphic on vaccines in development.

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Reporting by Nancy Lapid; Editing by Bill Berkrot

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Breakingviews – Wall Street blowout helps New York bounce back – Reuters.com


A street sign is seen in front of the New York Stock Exchange on Wall Street in New York, February 10, 2009. REUTERS/Eric Thayer/

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LONDON, March 23 (Reuters Breakingviews) – Bonuses in New York City’s securities industry soared 20% to a record $257,500 per employee for 2021, according to New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli on Wednesday. It’s no secret that Wall Street was in a sweet spot read more . While 2020 was already a record, last year’s per-head figure and total bonus pool of $45 billion leaves the 2006 high point of the previous boom far behind.

The momentum may not endure into 2022, but that’s hardly a reason for hand-wringing. After all, the Institute for Policy Studies think tank notes that if the U.S. federal minimum wage had increased in line with Wall Street bonuses since 1985, it would be worth $61.75 per hour now, against the actual ludicrously low $7.25.

Even so, the post-Covid-19 rebound in pay for financiers reflects a welcome bounce in the Big Apple’s fortunes. It will even reinforce the recovery, with the securities industry accounting for an estimated 7% of the city’s tax collections in the current fiscal year, according to DiNapoli, and a bigger slice of the Empire State’s. (By Richard Beales)

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(The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are their own.)

Capital Calls – More concise insights on global finance:

Saipem’s rescue offers Eni risky payback read more

Sycamore can relieve Ted Baker from its misery read more

Tencent WeChat Pay rejig would have 1 bln problems read more

KKR property deal threads the needle in Japan read more

Electric-car makers need to stay on their diet read more

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Editing by Peter Thal Larsen and Pranav Kiran

Sign up for a free trial of our full service at https://www.breakingviews.com/trial and follow us on Twitter @Breakingviews and at www.breakingviews.com. All opinions expressed are those of the authors.

Saipems rescue offers Eni risky payback – Reuters.com


A staff member gestures on the Saipem 10000 deepwater drillship in Genoa’s harbour, Italy, November 19, 2015. REUTERS/Alessandro Garofalo

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MILAN, March 23 (Reuters Breakingviews) – Eni’s (ENI.MI) rescue of affiliate Saipem (SPMI.MI) looks risky. The 48 billion euro Italian energy major is joining a 1.5 billion euro cash call to prop up the troubled drilling company, in which it owns a 30.4% stake, Reuters reported on Tuesday read more . It will also guarantee an 855 million euro equity bridge from banks for part of the rest. If all goes to plan, that will later be refinanced with a 2 billion euro capital increase with Saipem’s other investors.

Eni’s commitment to Saipem has not yielded profit. The company’s shares have dived 90% since a 3.5 billion euro cash call in 2015. This may cast doubt on Claudio Descalzi’s strategy of maintaining stakes in a galaxy of offshoots.

The capital increase will help cover a forecast net loss of 2 billion euros in 2021, the result of write-downs on some contracts . But the company has yet to detail its exposure to Russia, where it won in 2019 a 2.2 billion euro share of a liquefied natural gas project. And boss Francesco Caio is under pressure. Still, a global rush to secure more oil and gas resources plays to Saipem’s core drilling strength. Eni’s support is Descalzi’s last chance for some payback. (By Lisa Jucca)

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Capital Calls – More concise insights on global finance:

Sycamore can relieve Ted Baker from its misery read more

Tencent WeChat Pay rejig would have 1 bln problems read more

KKR property deal threads the needle in Japan read more

Electric-car makers need to stay on their diet read more

Online grocer woes imply fresh price wars read more

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Editing by Neil Unmack and Oliver Taslic

Sign up for a free trial of our full service at https://www.breakingviews.com/trial and follow us on Twitter @Breakingviews and at www.breakingviews.com. All opinions expressed are those of the authors.

Japans record budget clears parliament, paves way for debate on fresh stimulus – Reuters.com


TOKYO, March 22 (Reuters) – Japan’s record $900 billion budget for the next fiscal year cleared parliament on Tuesday, paving the way for Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s administration to seek yet another spending package to support households facing rising food and fuel bills.

Even before the passage of the budget for the 12 months starting April 1, Kishida has come under growing pressure from ruling and opposition lawmakers to compile a fresh stimulus package to cushion the economic blow of a rise in household bills blamed on the Ukraine crisis.

“Targeted spending aimed at cushioning the impact from fuel and food price hikes could be positive for the economy,” said Takuya Hoshino, senior economist at Dai-ichi Life Research Institute. “The question is how to ensure effective spending.”

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Parliament approved the government’s 107.6 trillion yen ($900 billion) package for fiscal 2022 at the fourth-fastest pace for any annual budget in postwar history. Lawmakers voiced few complaints about huge spending to combat the strain imposed on the world’s third-biggest economy by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The government makes it a tacit rule that any talk of an extra budget – which would be required to finance another spending package – must wait until the full budget passes Japan’s Diet.

With parliament now having approved the fiscal 2022 budget, the government can more openly debate the likelihood of another spending package, analysts say.

Kishida said last week the government is ready to take further steps to cushion the blow from rising energy costs – a nod to the growing political calls for another stimulus package.

Shortly before the budget passage, his party’s secretary-general Toshimitsu Motegi signalled the need for a fresh stimulus, saying his party stands ready to take various steps to cushion the economic blow from rising prices.

Opposition party head Yuichiro Tamaki on Friday called for a fresh stimulus package worth 20 trillion yen on the assumption that Japan is already experiencing stagflation.

Additional spending will likely be financed by issuance of government bonds, Dai-ichi Life’s Hoshino said, a move that would strain Japan’s already tattered finances.

The country’s economic growth likely ground to a near halt this quarter as coronavirus curbs and supply disruptions threaten to derail recovery, a recent Reuters poll of economists showed.

Japan’s huge public debt – twice the size of its $5 trillion economy – constrains the country’s ability to boost fiscal spending to support the economy.

($1 = 119.6000 yen)

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Reporting by Tetsushi Kajimoto; Editing by Kenneth Maxwell

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