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Who Gets a Vaccine?

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2020 is the year that brought us COVID-19 — but as Danielle Groen explains in The Walrus, the battle against viruses is not a new one. In the 1600s Chinese doctors were attempting to vaccinate against smallpox by grinding a “scab into a powder” and blowing it up the patient’s nose, and the basic principle has not changed to this day — teaching the immune system how to fight a virus if it is infected. The difference with COVID-19 is the need to vaccinate the whole world, fast. Developing the vaccine is still the first hurdle, but what comes next is going to be just as complicated, with every country in competition for supplies. 

Making a successful vaccine is one challenge. Making enough of it to satisfy world demand is another. There are, of course, all sorts of regulations and standards concerning how to go about production: “I can’t head into my basement and start brewing up a vaccine,” says Curtis Cooper, president of the Canadian Foundation for Infectious Diseases. Every facility needs to conform to Good Manufacturing Practices (gmp), which are exceptionally specific rules set out by the WHO that ensure quality control. You want consistency over time so that each successive batch is precisely the same.

… the UK reserved 100 million doses of the University of Oxford’s vaccine while the US secured another 300 million—that’s nearly a quarter of Oxford’s projected annual supply gone. By mid-August, preorders of COVID-19 vaccine candidates were reportedly stretching toward 6 billion doses, almost all of them claimed by wealthy nations. None of these vaccines has yet been proven to work.

This raises the question of whether it will be the wealthy countries that dominate the vaccine supply, and other ethical questions also lurk beneath the surface. 

Do you vaccinate to prevent mortality? In that case, for this virus, the elderly need to be prioritized. Do you vaccinate to reduce transmission and spread? There are some house-partying twentysomethings in Kelowna who could get the jab. Or do you vaccinate widely in an attempt to achieve herd immunity? NACI advises that front line workers be prioritized because they’re at a greater risk of infection based on the work they do. But that’s not axiomatic: “There’s no commandment in the bible of pandemic response that health care workers go first,” Upshur says. “You have to make arguments, and those arguments are based partly on data and partly on ethics.” We know that racialized and low-income people are infected at rates wildly disproportionate to their populations, not for any epidemiological reason but because of historical and economic disadvantages. This inequality persists for those working in the health care system itself: The Lancet published a study of almost 100,000 front line health care workers in the UK and US, which found that racialized workers were nearly twice as likely as their white colleagues to come down with COVID-19. Should decision making about vaccine prioritization be based on structural social causes instead?

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Selling Fame

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A celebrity autograph scribbled on a scrap of paper with a sharpie used to be a treasured possession — but, as K.J Yossman notes in his piece for Wired UK, it’s now a selfie or a video to post on social media that makes a brush with fame worthwhile. With few fans getting to actually encounter their idols in real life, a group of entrepreneurs is using an app called Cameo as a way to cash in on this trend.

The site boasts more than 30,000 “celebrities” across a plethora of industries from entertainment to sports to social media to business, all available to deliver individually-tailored missives at the touch of a button. All you need to do is select a name, type in what you want her or him to say and fill in your payment details. The person you’ve booked then has seven days to record your message and upload it to Cameo.com, where anyone can view it (unless you’ve opted to make the video private).

At the time of writing, fees range anywhere from £8.30, for New Zealand cricketer Peter Younghusband, to £41,500, for American comedian Chris D’Elia, who, unsurprisingly, has never been booked at that price. Talent set their own price tags, although Cameo, which takes a 25 per cent cut of each transaction, does offer guidance. “It’s about how much your fans can afford, not how much you’re worth,” says Abbie Sheppard, who heads Cameo’s UK and European office. (Galanis puts D’Elia’s eye-watering fee down to his wacky sense of humour.) For those with a more restricted budget, there are still plenty of household names available for under £1,000, including Snoop Dogg (£622.50), Lindsay Lohan (£249), John Cleese (£352.75) and even 94-year-old Dick van Dyke (£830), whose video greetings are recorded at a piano and almost always include a few lines from some of his best-known hits.

For many celebrities, the idea of charging fans to wish them congratulations or say hello does not sit well, but from February to March of this year there was still a 77 percent increase in talent joining the site — suggesting that the pandemic shutting down other avenues for exposure enhanced Cameo’s appeal. For the fans, this has been a delight, with the site offering new ways to deliver messages that could not always be given in person during COVID-19.

a woman booking NFL player Tyler Lockett to tell her husband that she’s pregnant, a fan requesting that actor Dolph Lundgren wish his doctor friend luck fighting Covid-19, and one customer asking influencer and voice actor IRLRosie to tell someone to stop talking during films – in the manner of Amazon’s Alexa device. From mid-March to mid-April Cameo reported a 176 per cent increase in bookings; Galanis says many were requests for reassurance or advice.

However, there is a darker side to Cameo, with some people finding their fame being inadvertently used to support causes they do not believe in.

…in 2018 a handful of celebrities including NFL player Brett Favre, comedian Andy Dick and rapper Soulja Boy were tricked into recording shout-outs for a white supremacist group, some of which included coded antisemitic messages. “You guys are patriots in my eyes,” Favre, who charges £249 per video, said in the video, mistakenly believing he was talking to a veterans’ organisation. In the same year, Flava Flav was duped into sending a “happy retirement” message to an Australian cardinal who had recently been convicted of sexually abusing children (the conviction was later overturned).

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Until I Have Your Money

In an article for Chantelaine, Courtney Shea explores a dating hazard that, before the advent of Dirty John,  many did not associate with romance — financial scammers, a step beyond normal catfishing. It’s a problem that is on the rise, so much so that “weeding out scammers is just another reality of dating these days, right up there with fielding dick pics.” Figures show that women over the age of forty are particularly susceptible to these scam artists. 

“Invisible woman syndrome” describes the phenomenon wherein women are ignored after they reach a certain age—by potential employers, by suitors, by bartenders. No longer imbued with youth or fertility or (as Amy Schumer would say) “f-ckability,” we have ceased to serve our biological purpose and are deemed less valuable. And then along comes a person who sees you and appreciates you and promises to make all of your dreams come true. Who wouldn’t want to believe in that?

In this article Shea talks to several Canadian women who were scammed by the same man, Marcel Andre Vautour. The women found that police took little interest in their cases, citing romance fraud as more of a civil matter. However, by banding together these women discovered a source of comfort — and the courage to act as their own detectives. 

For Nikola, connecting with Vautour’s other victims was the only thing that got her through that terrible time. “I went to the police and they basically kicked me out of the room,” she says. “Rosey and the other women gave me a lot of support.” And she gave them a good tip: Vautour had bought himself a fancy backpack with her credit card and, knowing him, he would try to sell it. Rosey went onto Kijiji and there was the identical backpack, for sale by a guy in Nanaimo named Marc.

This was in June 2019; by then I had been researching this story for a few months. I was at my mom’s 70th birthday party when I got a text from Jodi: “WE’VE GOT HIM!!! FINALLY!!! WE’RE GOING TO GET THIS GUY!!!” She was in Nanaimo, having made the six-hour journey from Kelowna. Her new boyfriend, Vince, was with her and they checked into a hotel before setting off on their mission. Rosey was also en route.

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When Boomers Must Zoom

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Anne Fadiman has spent the last 15 years teaching writing with only one requirement — a round table in the smallest possible room, to enable an intimate environment for her students to learn. A self-proclaimed Boomer with limited technological knowledge, moving her class online due to COVID-19 filled her with fear. Bravely, she signed up for a course to learn the intricacies of Zoom. She tells us all about in Wired:

Brian addresses us from his bedroom, which has an impressive record collection, an electric-guitar case, a full wastebasket, a bowl of pet food, and a bed whose duvet is slightly askew. He has a beard and a voice so soothing that he sounds as if he is telling a bedtime story. This is exactly what we need. The other faculty members who are taking the class—I see their diminutive heads, some of them gray-haired, arrayed in a vertical column on the right of my screen—are probably as terrified as I am.

Brian is an excellent teacher. He shows us how to sign in to the university’s Zoom page and calmly guides us through the mysteries of Gallery vs. Speaker View, Spotlight Video, Microphone Mute and Unmute, Chat, Screen Share, Whiteboard, and Breakout Rooms. I’ve heard Zoom images described as “squares,” but I see now that they’re horizontal rectangles, each inhabited by a face. In addition to us real students, Brian has four pretend students, one per rectangle. Two of them, Clare and Timberley, whose names are displayed below them in white, are fellow educational technology staffers. They wave at us. The other two—Barry, a small blue teddy bear, and Yoda, who is crocheted—do not wave.

With a class full of Gen Zs who grew up on screens, Fadiman was confident that her students would have no issues learning through Zoom rather than IRL. But she found that they missed being together — and the physical expression of sharing food or touching an arm to offer support. Beyond the class, her students were also missing out on rites of passage others have taken for granted.

It’s worst for the seniors. Senior spring is supposed to be the best time they’ll ever have in college, the time to consolidate friendships and check off their bucket lists and try to hook up with people they’ve always considered out of their league, because it’s now or never. They’ll miss Senior Week: Bar Night, the Last Chance Dance, the Day of Service, the senior picnic. They’ll miss Commencement.

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I Don’t Wear Pink

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In this article for Parenting magazine, Alex Bliss (all names have been changed), explains with complete honesty the process she went through in order to embrace her child being transgender; initially struggling to accept that her four-year-old daughter identified as a boy. 

…My daughter, the nurse explained, had peed in her pants in the middle of the cafeteria.

I rushed to the school with a dry pair of pants and underwear.

“What happened?” I asked.

Isabel was silent.

“Did you wait too long? Are you feeling sick?”

It would be hours before she would tell me, “I couldn’t hold it.”

“Why do you think you have to hold it?” I asked.

“I can’t use the bathroom,” she said.

There was anger in my throat. What teacher doesn’t allow children to use the bathroom?

“I’ll talk to your teacher. This is crazy,” I said.

“No, mommy,” she said. “It’s not the teacher. I can’t go because I’m not allowed in the boys’ bathroom and I don’t belong in the girls’ bathroom.”

Even as I worked with the school to ensure that she could use a gender-neutral bathroom and even as I found myself saying “she might be transgender,” I harbored—and courted—doubts. My stomach turned whenever I thought of Boys Don’t Cry. How would I keep a transgender boy safe? How would a transgender boy find love? Happiness? Success?

Turning to therapy for answers, it became clear that this was not a “phase,” but reality.

Before our rear ends had even warmed the couch, I blurted, “I need to know if this is just a phase. If she’s transgender, I need to know for sure.” I wanted a test, a diagnostic tool like the Beck Depression Inventory, something definitive that would pronounce my child transgender or not. I learned that no such test exists.

Still, my husband and I left the room so the therapist could conduct an initial evaluation.

Twenty minutes later, we settled down on the same couch, my husband on one side of Isabel, me on the other.

“Your son said something interesting,” the psychologist said.

I heard the word “son” louder than the “your” and the “something interesting.” It was as if the therapist shouted that one word through a bullhorn and bolded and underlined it just before it traveled the distance from her mouth and to my ears.

He said he didn’t think his parents were ready yet.”

Gradually, Bliss started to refer to her son Shane, rather than her daughter Isobel. Explaining to more and more friends and family about his gender. As she embraced the situation, she realized that she had a son — and that she loved him.

About halfway through fifth grade, just before he went to bed one night, I looked at him. Really looked at him. There was that short hair and handsome face, the deep-ish voice and abrupt mannerisms, a bare chest, and arms folded behind his head.

There was no doubt. He was a boy.

He wasn’t just any boy, either. He was my boy. My incredibly smart, funny, quirky, kind, just-plain-awesome boy.

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Pretty and Dumb? Tell It to the Avocado

Philippines, Natives cutting abaca, Colored engraving, 'The Spanish and American Illustration,' 1876. (Photo by Prisma/UIG/Getty Images)

When Christopher Columbus first encountered “Indians,” he formed the opinion: “These are very simple-minded and handsomely formed people.” As Robert Jago explains for The Walrus, this unjustified view of Native incompetence has persisted in some non-Natives to this day — even encountered in the way his tribe currently fishes the river named after them.

in another news report, they advised that any salmon bought from us poses a “significant risk to human health.”

Our catch is fine for us to eat, apparently—it’s just a problem for “human” health.

Stó:lō means “river people,” and this river is full of salmon—or, at least, it used to be. It’s our staple food, eaten smoked, baked, boiled, and candied. My grandma prized the eyes, plucked out and sucked on till they popped and released their fishy goo. My nephew goes for the eggs; he quite literally licks his lips at the sight of them. My uncle takes the best cuts to smoke outdoors with a closely guarded, centuries-old family recipe.

It takes a lot of nerve to say we don’t know how to handle salmon—but I suspect the reality behind that claim is that a great many Canadians can’t imagine us knowing anything independently, as Native people.

In reality, Jago argues that it was only with the help of native knowledge and creations that non-Natives were able to create their world at all — alluded to in the name his ancestors gave to the new arrivals in Canada:  xwelítem — the hungry people. A name coined after starving white miners came begging for food during the Fraser River gold rush.

Indigenous people around the world were experts at food long before non-Natives made an appearance — responsible for developing the agriculture techniques that led to the potato, maize, avocado, tomato, chocolate, and quinoa, to name but a few.

European farmers of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries had to leave as much as half of their fields empty at any time so as not to exhaust their growing potential. They were also overreliant on grain as one of their few sources of nutrition. The result was that, in England alone, between 1523 and 1623, there were seventeen major famines. The addition of Indigenous agricultural methods and foods domesticated by Indigenous people changed that. Where in the past, a study in Nature found, European farmers could feed 1.9 people per hectare, with our help they could now feed 4.3. Writing in Smithsonian Magazine, Charles C. Mann concludes that, with Indigenous peoples’ sharing of their domesticated foods and agricultural technology, “the revolution begun by potatoes, corn, and guano has allowed living standards to double or triple worldwide even as human numbers climbed from fewer than one billion in 1700 to some seven billion today.” didn’t hand us the keys to the modern world—they took from us the tools that built its foundations.

Non-Natives like to think that the Mayflower had Wi-Fi, that the Niña, the Pinta, and the Santa María brought with them consumer goods, Facebook, and nuclear medicine. In reality, they brought very little from Europe that Natives wanted beyond weapons and metalwork.

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Chasing Spies From the Couch

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Eliot Higgins followed global events from the comfort of his sofa in the East Midlands of England. However, as Luke Harding reports for The Guardian, this did not stop him from analyzing what was going on. The digital world is largely open-source — anyone can access social media, Google Earth, Google Street View, or YouTube. Higgins found by cross-checking video footage with photos and Google maps, he could investigate what was happening in war zones across the world.

At home, and surrounded by his daughter’s discarded toys, Higgins unearthed a number of scoops. He found weapons from Croatia in a video posted by a Syrian jihadist group. The weapons, it emerged, were from the Saudis. The New York Times picked up the story and put it on the front page – an indication of how armchair analysis could be as telling as dispatches from the ground.

Higgins documented the Syrian regime’s use of cluster bombs. He discovered that government soldiers were tossing DIY barrel bombs out of helicopters, and that rebels were fighting back around Aleppo with Chinese-made shoulder-launched missiles. His reputation spread. He launched a new investigative website: Bellingcat.

When in the summer of 2018 two Russian suspects tried to poison Sergei Skripal in Salisbury, members of Higgins’ website, Bellingcat, took on the challenge of unmasking the true identities of the attempted murderers. The armchair detectives were successful, identifying the first assassin in a message on its website, and the second at a press conference. The identification led the would-be poisoners to defend themselves in an interview that was comedic in its lack of credibility.

They appeared nervous, shifty, under pressure, timorous, idiotic and craven. Unlike Putin – a grand master when it came to deceit – they were lousy liars. The pair insisted that they were not GRU officers, and that their real names were indeed Petrov and Boshirov. As for the curious events of Salisbury – well, these might be explained:

Simonyan: What were you doing there?

Petrov: Our friends have been suggesting for quite a long time that we visited this wonderful city.

Simonyan: Salisbury? A wonderful city?

Petrov: Yes.

Simonyan: What makes it so wonderful?

Boshirov: It’s a tourist city. They have a famous cathedral there, Salisbury Cathedral. It’s famous throughout Europe and, in fact, throughout the world, I think. It’s famous for its 123-metre spire, it’s famous for its clock. It’s one of the oldest working clocks in the world.

Chepiga/Boshirov’s knowledge of Salisbury seems to have been gleaned from a cursory reading of Russian Wikipedia. The cathedral spire is impressive – built in the 13th and 14th centuries, the tallest in Britain, octagonal, with flying buttresses and scissor arches, and praised by Sir Christopher Wren and Malcolm Muggeridge as a marvel. Still, it seemed unlikely this spire had drawn the two spies all the way from Moscow. How also to explain the fact that the Russians visited Salisbury twice?

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How To Make $1000 PER DAY From ANYWHERE In The World!!! Totally Not Shady!

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Making your millions while working on a tropical beach in your swimwear is the ideal for many digital nomads dreaming of breaking away from the 9-5 for good. As Sirin Kale discovered for Wired UK, dropshipping is one way people have been earning big just by clutching their Macbooks. Dropshipping is a “fulfillment” method where an entrepreneur identifies a product — usually through Chinese eCommerce platform AliExpress — that they think they can sell to European or American consumers. They then create a website using Shopify, and identify and target buyers. You never even see the products you sell. 

The town, once a stop-off for backpackers en route to Ubud’s yoga studios and hippy scene, has in recent years become a hub for self-described “digital nomads”. In Canggu’s cafés, barefoot westerners run fledgling companies from MacBook Pros. When not talking Facebook ads or cost-per-click, they socialise exclusively with each other. “The thing is, not many Indonesians are on a level with bule [an Indonesian term for foreigners],” explains one digital nomad over the fart of hot tub jets in Amo, a luxury spa. Around us, statue-like men wander in and out of steam rooms (CrossFit is big here), talking about e-commerce and intermittent fasting.

Inside the city’s co-working spaces (Dojo is the oldest in Canggu, Outpost the new challenger), people are building business empires selling products they’ve never handled, from countries they’ve never visited, to consumers they’ve never met. Welcome to the world of dropshipping.

Those who make it in dropshipping are idealized by people desperate to follow suit. Some dropshippers are adding to their profits by selling courses on how to achieve success to their acolytes, while others have stepped away from a business they now recognize as unethical.

A gruff, profane Australian who speaks his mind, Craig, 41, has banned anyone from selling dropshipping courses in Dojo. “My main gripe is that you’re selling a course for $6,000 to a person from middle America who’s put all their funds into this, and you’re teaching them to sell avocado slicers online with 40 other people who are also selling avocado slicers,” he says.

Some dropshippers are shuttering their stores, and shipping out. Louden is one of them. Despite the fact that he’s earning executive-level pay while wearing boardshorts, he wants to leave dropshipping behind. He’s aware that even the most successful dropshipping store will eventually run out of steam: when the cost of Facebook advertising increases beyond your marketing spend, you’re done. “At the end of this year, we’re probably done with dropshipping,” he says. “I want to build brands – actual ones – that provide value to people.”

I’m reminded of a comment one of the statue-men made amid the ice baths and steam rooms of Amo Spa. I’d asked him if he was a dropshipper, and he’d laughed and said that he wasn’t any more: “I’m doing something ethical.”

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Risking Your Life For a Selfie

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What is the cost of a perfect selfie? This is a question posed by Joel Barde in a piece for The Walrus that looks at how the rise of selfie culture has affected the natural world. Beauty spots, which were previous havens for locals, have been made famous by social media, resulting in visitor numbers they cannot always accommodate. Not only that, but the quest for Instagram photos has also led inexperienced hikers to put themselves in dangerous situations, with some areas resorting to signs that list “the number of people who have been seriously injured or killed at various spots. Another takes the form of a glib text exchange between two friends: “That was worth the spinal damage.” “Said no one ever.””

Some industries see opportunity in courting social-media attention. Museums, for example, are increasingly allowing—even encouraging—photographs of their exhibitions. Last spring, the Art Gallery of Ontario hosted Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Mirrors, a travelling exhibit with exceptionally Instagrammable qualities: a series of rooms decorated with mirrors, lights, and fantastical backdrops. Every visitor was granted thirty seconds inside each room—enough time to snap a selfie. Over a three-month run at the AGO, the show was visited by more than 165,000 people (and, in November, the gallery started the hashtag #InfinityAGO as part of a bid to fundraise $1.3million to purchase one of the rooms). While some saw Kusama’s success as a testament to the internet’s ability to inspire the public to engage with high art, others were less convinced. “For all the depth of Kusama’s thinking . . . the social media profile of her biggest hits seems an irresistible prompt for a surface skim,” lamented the Toronto Star’s art critic. Many outdoor enthusiasts voice similar concerns for Canada’s public parks: engagement is growing, but it’s vapid, devoid of the deeper reflection that being in nature is meant to inspire. Whether it likes it or not, the park world is welcoming a surge of new visitors who don’t conform to—or understand—its etiquette.

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Caring Without Touching

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Gavin Francis, a doctor in Edinburgh, Scotland, writes candidly for The Guardian about his life as a general practitioner (GP) being turned upside down by COVID-19. While his GP training emphasized the importance of building empathy and rapport, now he stays as far from a patient as possible until the moment of having to examine them — if they meet in person at all — with the number of actual face-to-face encounters with patients dropping by 90%.

“Could you stand up for me?” I asked. We shuffled awkwardly on the small landing in a doleful dance. He turned his back and I lifted his pyjamas to place my stethoscope on his back. The sound of air through his lungs was accompanied by a quiet hissing sound, like sizzling fat. The sound of pneumonia. In his case, pneumonia probably caused by Covid-19.

“I’m going outside, then I’ll phone you about what happens next,” I told him. I picked up the clear bag with my stethoscope, oxygen sensor and thermometer, and stepped out, trying to hold central to my awareness and every action that there was virus on the walls, the door handle, my gloves and all my equipment.

Out on the doorstep I gulped down the fresh air, then it was back to the rigmarole: topmost layer of gloves off and into a waste bag. Still wearing my underlayer of gloves, I took a chloride wipe and began to clean all the equipment – stethoscope, oxygen sensor, thermometer – and placed them into yet another clear plastic bag, ready for the next patient. The wipe went into the waste, then my apron. Next it was the visor’s turn to get cleaned, and afterwards I placed it on the ground to dry. Then undergloves off, mask off, the clinical waste bag tied off and sealed, and back into the car.

The lockdown in Scotland has caused the number of COVID-19 cases to fall. However, Francis points out that doctors are noticing a different type of problem.

It’s clear that though the lockdown has slashed transmission, it is provoking a silent epidemic of despair. Panic attacks, sleeplessness and plunging moods are all difficulties GPs are encountering daily – tough conversations to have at the best of times, but even tougher on the phone. Within our area of the city, we already know of suicides triggered by bankruptcies and business closures; and of marriages breaking down. Alcohol-induced injuries are up, as are injuries from assaults. Between 23 March and 12 April, there were 16 deaths from domestic violence in the UK – more than triple the still-shocking figure from last year. A police officer friend told me that domestic abuse support lines were experiencing a 30-40% increase in traffic. Samaritans and Childline, too, were receiving high volumes of calls. A domestic abuse hotline for NHS workers had been inaugurated – intended to support both health workers at risk, and to offer advice should they suspect patients of being abused. When I check routine blood tests on my patients, I have been seeing new flares of liver irritation, which suggest rising levels of alcoholism.

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