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Matthew Zahab

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I am currently an A-Level student studying Mathematics, Physics, and Economics aspiring to study Aerospace Engineering at University. Aside from my academics, I enjoy playing sports such as basketball, football, biking and running and I also love listening to many genres of music, my favourite being Hip Hop. I am usually open minded and willing to experience new things especially if I'm part of a team.

Through my written blogs, I talk about my personal experiences, the impact of many things on the environment, and different problems in many countries as I listen to many different podcasts available on BBC Radio 4. Hopefully, like me, you will learn something or at least enjoy my thoughts.

Matthew Zahab



KS Learning

KS Learning provides tuition for all ages inluding GCSE and A Level for a wide range of subjects such as Mathematics, Science, Physics, Chemistry, Biology, English, History, French, German, Spanish, and more, in the Boroughs of Richmond-Upon-Thames, Hounslow, Kingston-Upon-Thames, and surrounding areas.

Tuition for A level and GCSE for students at school or home schooled in subjects like maths and english



Porridge and Rice

Porridge and Rice combats poverty in the Nairobi slums, home to some of the poorest people in the world, by enabling pupils at partner schools to obtain a sound education.

Porridge and Rice is fighting poverty through education for the extreme poor of the Nairobi slums




Contact

If you have thoughts that you would like to share with the world, please submit them by email.

Note that the editor will decide whether to publish and/or edit emails before publication. No discussion will be entered into.


KS Learning

KS Learning provides tuition for all ages inluding GCSE and A Level for a wide range of subjects such as Mathematics, Science, Physics, Chemistry, Biology, English, History, French, German, Spanish, and more, in the Boroughs of Richmond-Upon-Thames, Hounslow, Kingston-Upon-Thames, and surrounding areas.

Tuition for A level and GCSE for students at school or home schooled in subjects like maths and english



Porridge and Rice

Porridge and Rice combats poverty in the Nairobi slums, home to some of the poorest people in the world, by enabling pupils at partner schools to obtain a sound education.

Porridge and Rice is working to combat poverty through education for the extreme poor of the Nairobi slums




Contact

If you have thoughts that you would like to share with the world, please submit them by email.

Note that the editor will decide whether to publish and/or edit emails before publication. No discussion will be entered into.


Contact

If you have any thoughts that you would like to share, please feel free to email

Interests

Aviation Documentaries World problems Environment Engineering Hip Hop Gaming Social gathering Sports Teamwork Films Listening Family Traveling Investing Research Self development Walking Music Economy Podcasts


Matthew's Blog

Matthew is keen on engineering with his main long-term interest the aeronautical world in which he aims to build his career. In addition, he enjoys being with his friends and spending time socialising.

Are face masks really useful?

17 July 2020

In some cases, COVID-19 can be a preventable disease through the washing of hands or even shaving off your facial hair. Recently there has been a huge surge in demand for medical face masks from both the general public and medical professionals. In short, the answer is YES, face masks are useful, people who work in the healthcare sector put up with wearing ‘uncomfortable’ masks for 10 hours without breaks however some people in the public can't even wear it for five minutes without having to move it around.

For many years, scientists weren’t sure whether wearing a mask was effective at preventing the spread of viruses. However, recent studies suggest they can help. The average number of droplets in a single cough are 3,000 droplets are expelled in a single cough, some flying out at 50 miles per hour and the average sneeze releases around 40,000 droplets, some being released at 200 miles per hour. By wearing a face mask, the barrier might be enough to contain a lot of that initial jet of droplets, even if there are gaps in the fabric or around the sides.

On the other hand, public health officials don't believe that wearing a mask prevents anyone from catching a virus that is already floating around in the environment. Airflow follows the path of least resistance, said Rachael Jones, an associate professor of family and preventive medicine at the University of Utah who was not involved in the new research. If viral particles are nearby, they have an easy path around a surgical or fabric mask. And in the case of a fabric mask, wearers may well be wafting in particles small enough to flow right through the fabric.

On 15 June 2020, wearing a face mask in the UK on public transport became mandatory, with anyone not doing so liable to a fine or refusal to board. Aside from public transport, UK government guidelines for face masks state that you must wear a face mask when in a hospital, and in enclosed public spaces where social distancing isn't possible. GP surgeries across the country have also now said face masks must be worn to appointment, however none of the above has yet been made a legal requirement.

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Modern day slavery in the UK

10 July 2020

When you hear the term slavery, you may think back to when individuals were allowed to own, buy and sell others, before the introduction of the Slavery Abolition Act in 1833. Unfortunately, slavery still takes place across the world today.

Modern day slavery in the UK is on the rise, and that's fact according to the Office for National Statistics. Some facts are that the Modern Slavery Helpline received a 68% increase in calls and submissions in the year ending December 2018, compared with the previous year. Also, there were 5,144 modern slavery offences recorded by the police in England and Wales in the year ending March 2019, an increase of 51% from the previous year.

Individuals become victims of slavery due to their unstable backgrounds which they hope to improve through their work. They may encounter financial difficulties, are battling a drink or drug addiction or homeless. All of these situations make individuals vulnerable to exploitation by traffickers.

Criminals who are skilled in preying on the vulnerable, trick victims into believing they will be provided with good jobs and the chance of a better life, when the reality is the complete opposite. Victims, and sometimes their families, are made to feel indebted to their trafficker and forced to pay back false debt through working long hours for little pay, often in squalid conditions. Traffickers can exert further control through violence and by confiscating identification documents, with victims feeling trapped to work until the debt is paid, in some cases it is never paid and the exploitation continues. Victims are often accommodated together in houses of multiple occupancy, used as another method of incurring debt.

In the UK, sexual and labour exploitation are the most common. Sexual exploitation involves individuals being forced to sell sexual services, frequently moved between brothels around the UK. Labour exploitation can take many forms, with some of the most predominant including car washes, construction sites and nail bars. Victims are forced to work lengthy hours for little or no wage.

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No end in sight - Yemen

3 July 2020

Due to a failure of political transition in 2011 regarding Yemen's longtime leader Ali Abdullah Saleh to hand over power to Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi which was supposed to bring stability to Yemen, has taken a horrifying turn for the worst. Mr Hadi has struggled to deal with various problems such as Jihadist attacks, a separatist movement in the south, corruption, unemployment and food security.

The anti-government movement also known as the "Houthis" fought a series of rebellions against Mr Saleh (the old president) and began to take advantage of the new president's weaknesses by taking control of Yemen's northern heartland Saada province as well as the neighboring areas. The Houthis began to grow, as many ordinary Yemenis began to support them, and in late 2014 and early 2015, the rebels gradually took over the capital Sanaa. Mr Hadi was forced to flee the country in March 2015 as the Houthis and security forces who were loyal to Mr Saleh attempted to take control of the entire country.

Alarmed by the rise of a group they believed to be backed militarily by regional Shia power Iran, Saudi Arabia and eight other mostly Sunni Arab states began an air campaign aimed at defeating the Houthis, ending Iranian influence in Yemen and restoring Mr Hadi's government. The coalition received logistical and intelligence support from the US, UK and France.

In short, Yemen is experiencing the world's worst humanitarian crisis.

The UN had verified the deaths of at least 7,700 civilians by March 2020, most caused by Saudi-led coalition air strikes, following the 23,000 fatalities that were reported in 2019, making it the second most lethal year of the war so far. Many thousands have suffered from preventable causes such as malnutrition, diseases and poor health due to the ongoing war. 80% of Yemen's population is in need of humanitarian assistance and protection as almost 10 million of them are considered "one step away from famine"

An estimated 2 million children are acutely malnourished, including almost 360,000 children under five years old who are struggling to survive. With only half of the country's 3,500 medical facilities fully functioning, almost 20 million people lack access to adequate healthcare and almost 18 million do not have enough clean water or access to adequate sanitation. Consequently, medics have struggled to deal with the largest cholera outbreak ever recorded, which has resulted in more than 2.2 million suspected cases and 3,895 related deaths since October 2016. The United Nations has warned that the death toll from the coronavirus pandemic could "exceed the combined toll of war, disease, and hunger over the last five years."

It is worrying that the international community is not doing more to reduce fatalities in Yemen.

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Albania's cannabis boom

26 June 2020

Albania has become the largest producer of outdoor grown cannabis in Europe. The potent plant has been described as "green gold" for struggling farmers. In a poor nation such as Albania, it's a billion-euro industry. Off a dirt road, in a small village north of Tirana, there's a half-built, shattered, brick house. It stands alone and looks abandoned, but it isn't. The heavy potent odour reveals one thing, cannabis production. Inside, more than half the floor space is covered with buds of the drying drug, ready for export. "There's about 20kg here", says the man who owns it. He is described as young, approximately in his early 20s dressed in skinny jeans, a tight top and trainers. And he is one of thousands making money from the cannabis boom.

In Albania, a kilo of this illegal drug sells for between 100 and 200 euros (£85 to £170). In Italy it will fetch about 1,500 euros. And most of the country's cannabis crop is trafficked out in a route north through Montenegro, south to Greece, or west across the Adriatic to Italy. One source revealed on the program estimates that the industry may be worth five billion euros (£4.25bn) per year - about half of Albania's GDP at the time.

"I've produced 350kg," he says. "This year almost every single house in the village grew cannabis - tons and tons have been produced in this community alone." This man employs 15 people to pick and process, and armed guards to defend his crop. He says he is in charge here, but he probably belongs to a wider network. So, if everyone is growing it, and that seems to be common knowledge, why has there been no police raid?

"I pay the police 20%. Everybody has to pay. If you don't pay, they will take you to jail," he says. Then, he gets defensive. "This is our curse as there are no jobs, no work here. There's no money in growing anything else. I know it's not a good thing I'm doing, but there's no other way."

For decades Albanians lived under a punishing, closed regime. Then after communism fell, there came a period marked by civil unrest and the rapid growth of organised crime. Twenty-five years later, unemployment is still at a boom so many people have to turn to growing crop. The government has had some success in its fight against the illegal industry. It says more than two million cannabis plants have been destroyed this year, and now that the growing season is over, police are concentrating on confiscating the drug as it is prepared for trafficking out of Albania. However, if the government leave this for too long, the younger generation will see it as an opportunity to make money and by creating new ways to refrain from getting caught, Albania's future may not be bright.

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How solitary confinement affects the mind

19 June 2020

We've experienced a period of lockdown and self-isolation to help reduce the worst effects of the Covid-19 pandemic. Some have compared the experience to imprisonment because we've had our simple everyday activities taken from us and our daily patterns have been forcibly interrupted. We've all been locked down and we've all had different experiences but most of us have access to phones and social media to stay in contact with others as well as liberties such as leaving the house to exercise or even to talk to your neighbour. Overall, solitary confinement is an altogether different experience as ALL of your liberties are taken away.

Solitary confinement is used to isolate prisoners in closed cells from 22 to 24 hours a day. Once a prisoner's inside, they are free of human contact for periods of time ranging from days to even decades. At this moment, approximately 80,000 to 100,000 prisoners are in solitary confinement, restricted from everyday activity. The contact that they do have with officers is very brief and interaction only occurs when prisoners are being handed food through a small hole in the door. Phone calls and any visits by family and loved ones are severely restricted or prohibited. During the week, prisoners are let out for showers and solitary exercise in a small, enclosed space, sometimes indoors on a few times a week. They often have very little or no access to educational and recreational activities or other sources of mental stimulation. Lastly, they are usually handcuffed, shackled, and escorted by correctional officers every time they leave their cells. This also goes into them not having any access to sun light or adequate housing that it is fit for the shelter of any human being.

Scientists believe that long-term isolation produces clinical effects similar to those produced during physical torture. Living without normal social interaction or mental stimuli can change the chemistry and structure of the brain, resulting in feelings of loneliness and depression. Many of those in solitary confinement also experience hallucinations, panic attacks, hypersensitivity to noise and touch, paranoia, uncontrollable feelings of rage and insomnia.

By limiting social interaction, the prison is depriving social interaction that is crucial for psychological growth and when that is interrupted, it could have a horrific influence on the individual. Craig Haney, a professor of psychology at the University of California who evaluates the psychological effects of solitary confinement on a human being states that "one of the very serious psychological consequences of solitary confinement is that it renders many people incapable of living anywhere else." Then, when prisoners are released into cells or back into society, they are often overwhelmed with anxiety. "They actually get to the point where they become frightened of other human beings,! he said. These long-term effects from solitary confinement leave a damaging mark on the humanity of these people and mentally abuses their human rights to the worst degree.

Should solitary confinement be abolished worldwide?

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The Kalief Browder Story

12 June 2020

"Time: The Kalief Browder Story" is about a male African American teen from the Bronx, Kalief Browder, who was in prison for three years. Two of those years were actually in solitary confinement, which is proven to make people mentally ill, before actually being convicted of a crime.

In Kalief's story we can clearly see a broken criminal justice system that punishes people for being poor, and shows the inhumane treatment prisoners receive. Kalief was 16 years old when he was arrested in 2010 for allegedly stealing a backpack. He was charged with robbery, grand larceny, and assault. Bail was set at $3,000. However, his family could not afford that amount, so Kalief didn't get to go home after he was charged. Instead, he was sent to the infamous Rikers Island jail in New York City, known for its intense brutality.

Kalief spent more than 1,100 days incarcerated, maintaining his innocence throughout. Moreover, prosecutors repeatedly offered plea deals, which Kalief rejected as he believed that if he took a plea deal, he wouldn't be able to find any work as he had a record under his name. After 74 days of incarceration, bail was revoked altogether. By the time he left Rikers Island he had spent almost 800 days of solitary confinement. Imagine being alone in a room, day and night, with all that time to think.

Eventually prosecutors realised they had no case and dismissed all charges after the victim of the crime was too scared and fled to his motherland Mexico. He was released on 5 June 2013. Yet the damage done to him was a new kind of prison that stayed with him. After his release, he says, "I'm not all right. I'm messed up." He received hours and hours of horrible abuse by inmates and prison officers who even watched him suffer through numerous fights and by also starving him when he was in solitary confinement. On 6 June 2015, after numerous attempts during his time in prison, he hung himself with an air conditioner cord. He was 22 years old.

Imagine yourself being locked in a dark room for days on end, with a lack of nutrition for a crime you didn't commit. I urge you to watch this heartbreaking documentary as it will really make you question today's system.

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How will the pandemic change the way we fly?

5 June 2020

As the world slowly eases its way out of the Covid-19 lockdown, we're on the verge of a new era in air travel.

Ryanair has recently announced that it plans to restore 40% of its flight schedule like many other airlines from July 1st, but consumers have been warned that it won't be business as usual for travelers. In regards to the introduction of many flights, a number of new public health measures are brought in to reduce the risk of transmission. For example, crew and passengers will be required to wear face masks or face coverings when travelling as well as passing temperature checks. Furthermore, queuing for toilets will be banned and replaced with a use upon request system. All sales must be cashless and refreshments on board will be limited to pre-packaged items too. Ryanair said all surfaces in its cabins will be disinfected every night with chemicals which are effective for more than 24 hours followed by many more actions which have been implemented in response to the fight against COVID-19.

Numerous new pieces of technology are in the making by various companies, but for now, full personal protective equipment (PPE) has been given to the cabin crew to ensure their safety on board. Moreover, various airlines have implemented the no middle seat rule which restricts passengers from using the middle seat to ensure that passengers maintain a safe distance on board. Lots of new implementations are actively being researched but this may take time. In the meantime, many changes could be happening inside of terminals to ensure no one on board is infected with the deadly virus.

As we speak, dogs are being trained to alert the airport team when someone is infected with Covid followed by various new devices being implemented. For example, at Hong Kong's International Airport (HKIA), authorities are trying out a set-up called "CleanTech", a full body disinfectant facility. In it, passengers and airport staff undergo a temperature check before entering an enclosed channel for a 40-second sanitising procedure, using "photocatalyst" and "nano needles" technologies.

Perhaps one of the longest journeys facing airlines today is restoring passenger confidence.

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The impact coronavirus has had on aviation

29 May 2020

The current COVID-19 pandemic has had a huge impact on the aviation industry due to travelling restrictions which lead to a huge slump in demand for travelers. The significant reduction in passenger numbers have resulted in planes flying empty between airports so the airline avoids paying major fees and the cancellation of numerous flights which causes a huge reduction in revenue for airlines and have forced many such as British Airways with up to 12,000 jobs being at risk. According to many commentators have agreed that the ongoing crisis is the worst ever encountered in the history of the aviation industry.

The impact on aviation in the UK has been the worst in history as the UK aviation industry would be facing bankruptcy if there was no emergency financial support. Many airlines are acting fast to try and preserve their businesses by making financial sacrifices to protect as many jobs as possible.

Companies such as Virgin Atlantic and British Airways are just two of many airlines making sacrifices just like these. The Chief Executive of British Airways Alex Cruz has even decided not to take his salary for two months in hope to save more and more jobs. The owner of Virgin Atlantic, Sir Richard Branson has committed to investing £215 million to the airline which is a huge hit financially because of the coronavirus pandemic. Richard Branson himself described the global pandemic as "the most significant crisis the world has experienced", and that the chances of securing economic recovery depended "critically upon governments around the world".

Many airlines have also been forced to ground their fleets, which is adding to the pressures of commercial operations. Carriers that have had to cancel services were facing new issues under the EU's "use-it-or-lose-it" rule too, which would require companies to fly near-empty planes to keep take-off and landing slots.

As the UK still follows EU law; London Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted, Manchester, London Luton and London City airports operate under the use-it-or-lose-it rule. So, if airlines don't occupy 80% of take-off and landing slots at these airports, they risk losing them to other carriers the next year. Brussels responded to the pandemic by temporarily suspending the rule, which has lowered emissions and prevented airlines from suffering further losses.

Will the aviation industry ever recover from this crash?

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Cuba's black-market housing boom

22 May 2020

One of the worst problems in Cuba is housing. Due to many natural disasters such as hurricanes, Cuba is known to be short of half a million homes for its people in the housing sector. However, there is a huge twist in the housing market in Cuba. Only the state has the right to sell property. Private buyers or sellers may end up having their home confiscated altogether by the state if they are caught.

We are introduced to a woman named Maria Julia which fears her relationship with her husband will not withstand the pressures due to their living arrangements. Maria, her husband and her two children all need to sleep in one room as they also live with her husband's grandparents which require separate rooms. Due to the living arrangements, there is constant arguments in the household in links with child care, cooking and having family friends over she says. She hopes to feel a sense of unity in the place she lives in the future however this is tough in a place like Cuba.

She says she has only one chance of securing a separate flat in Havana for her family and saving her relationship and it sure is drastic. "The only option I have is to divorce my husband, and to marry a man who has legal title to a flat. I will pay him. Then in two years, he will sign over the property to me, we will get divorced and I will marry my husband again." This complicated transaction will cost Maria Julia $10,000. It is a fortune in Cuba, but the minimum going rate. Her sister has sent her the money from the United States, and Maria Julia has it hidden in cash somewhere where it is less likely to get stolen. These extreme measures are widely known in Cuba as long as you can get the money however many do break the rules too.

Overall, the Cuban housing stock is in a shocking state. The precariousness of the Cuban economy, which the government says is partly due to the impact of the US trade embargo, means the new building program introduced by Castro is not keeping up with demand, causing the black market to continually grow.

"It's the biggest, really the biggest in Cuba," says Juan Triana, a Cuban economist. Mr Triana was unwilling to guess at what the housing black market is worth in cash terms, but he is troubled as he worries that the Government has no clue about what is happening, however it seems like it is known due to a threatening action by a man from state security and he states that he can make life very difficult for them.

"Everybody's losing. And for me, as an economist, it's frustrating. Today if you want to buy your home, you have to use something like the black market". Although Cubans are not allowed to buy and sell properties privately, they are permitted to swap. On Saturday mornings, hundreds of people gather in Central Havana in the hope of finding someone they can exchange homes with. Officially no money should change hands, yet in practice, swapping a smaller property for something larger will mean parting with several thousand dollars. However, Maria Julia has no property to swap as her husband's grandparents hold the legal title to the property she lives in as previously mentioned, so a bogus marriage is the only way she can see of changing her circumstances. Mrs Julio also uses an unknown middleman which runs and finds a good property fit for her family as she is busy working. If a finalised deal goes through, the middleman admits that he receives presents but Maria previously says that she pays around $500.

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Celebrating Coptic Orthodox Easter in lockdown

15 May 2020

Due to the current world pandemic leading to a lockdown, many Orthodox Christians like me were affected as the lockdown fell on the week of Easter. For the first time in its history, Egypt's Coptic Orthodox Church decided to suspend Holy Week and Easter-time prayers and services as part of a nationwide effort to stem the spread of the virus. As soon as Boris Johnson announced the rules, the Diocese of the Coptic Church decided that churches across the UK would immediately close.

This was heartbreaking at first as Easter is a very important celebration for Copts, and normally many Copts take the week off work to pray in many different masses throughout the week in preparation of Easter Sunday. Also, I had personally never stayed at home for the whole of Holy Week so the Church was a big aspect of the week as you feel a sense of togetherness as hymns are sung together and masses even pass midnight. Overall, you would feel like the church was your own home.

The primary focus of the week was to focus on Jesus' time on Earth and the different stages of his life until he resurrected. We started the week off by going food shopping in preparation of the week as we were all fasting from meat and dairy products. Next, we placed many Icons in the living room to increase our focus on the Lord and also started viewing an Egyptian channel called "CTV", which played last year's masses throughout Holy Week. It almost felt like the church entered our home.

Although we were stuck at home during Easter, it turned out to be a huge success even though there were many changes. Many Copts were kept safe as they stayed at home and through platforms such as Skype and Zoom, we could still get in contact with friends and family from all over the world. This Easter was definitely one to remember due to the circumstances and the changes.

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Liberia: Children for sale

8 May 2020

Today on Crossing Continents, they investigate how Liberia's children are being traded as commodities. This episode explains the ongoing problem of children being traded illegally due to a loophole in the adopting sector as it has no mention of inter country adoption, or children being sold in the orphans. Authorities fear that there are many transit camps where children are trafficked to neighboring countries where they are exploited, for example they could work at plantations or even become prostitutes at such a young age. We are later taught that desperate parents in Liberia are giving up their children due to poverty to operators known as 'Private Adoption Services' who arrange fast-track adoptions with Northern American families. Originally the parents think that they will see their children again as they are being told a lie due to their misunderstanding of adoption. Due to the exploitation of dated legislation (1950s) many parents are caught in the loophole where if you discover that the adoption is fraudulent after it has taken place, you cannot reverse the adoption, one of the many reasons why some places such as the UK do not recognise adoption papers from Liberia.

We are later introduced to a man named John Vakpola, who believed he was dropping his niece off for temporary care (food and education) and did not intend to relinquish her for permanent adoption.

John's sister died in some of the worst fighting in Liberia's brutal 14-year civil war, leaving a new-born baby in his care. John named the baby Faith and prayed for her survival and was determined to do whatever he could do to ensure baby Faith lives a good life, however with three children of his own and no job, he struggled. An elder in his church said she knew of a charity which would feed and educate Faith, he agreed to hand her over, believing he could still have contact with his niece, but without knowing, there was no chance. Today baby Faith has a new name and a new life with an adoptive family in the US. Around 600 children like her have been adopted from Liberia to North America in the last two years alone. John is adamant his niece was adopted overseas without his consent saying "We did not talk about adoption," he says. "For me as a parent, as an uncle I still want to have access to her. I don't want her to be with another person. It is not what we discussed."

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The real death toll of COVID19

1 May 2020

Since the outbreak has sadly started, everyone must've heard the death toll mentioned in the media each day. Until recently, it has told us how many people have died in hospitals after testing positive of COVID-19. The government has now added the number of deaths from other locations such as care homes after testing positive to COVID. Now, even Public Health England labels its measure as "the total number of deaths". Even though the figures have been amended, it still includes almost nobody who died from Covid-19 without testing positive at some point. It doesn't include anyone who died from something else, because they were unable or unwilling to get medical care during a pandemic. It doesn't include people who may have died as a result of domestic abuse, or suicide, or other possible social consequences of the lockdown.

On the other hand, you may have heard that some of the people who died "with" Covid-19 did not actually die from it, which is true, at least according to the death certificates. According to the ONS, it found that 14% of the death certificates mentioning COVID-19 in March did not list the disease itself as the underlying health condition. It also found that deaths from ischemic heart disease (commonly one of the biggest killers in the UK) were 26% below the average for the month. That could mean that Covid-19 killed some people who were already close to death, but it could also mean that some heart disease deaths were being attributed to Covid-19 incorrectly.

The deaths currently being announced by the media daily will give you a rough idea whether the epidemic is growing or shrinking as these deaths are arranged by the actual date of death which gives an outline of the rate of deaths in the UK. The ONS has announced that it takes about two weeks for each death to be registered and processed before it appears in the data, but every Covid-19 death, and every other death, will be in there somewhere.

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Cooking for my family

24 April 2020

By watching my mum making a phyllo meat pie which is also called Egyptian goulash, I was determined to make my own for my family. Normally I don't cook for my family as I'm very restricted in the kitchen due to my mother's fears of one of her kids burning down her kitchen, however I was allowed this time. Also, through the lockdown, when I have some free time, I try my best to help out in the kitchen in preparation for university as I do believe watching professionals (my mother) do their jobs is the best way to learn.

Numerous previous times when it came to my mother's phyllo meat pie, the 50-minute baking time would seem to take forever. When I was much smaller, I would remember watching the pastry cook in the oven as it used to turn into a golden brown colour. I had left 2 hours before the usual time for dinner to leave some time for errors that I knew were going to happen however the dinner ended being a huge success.

I began with the filling which consisted of minced beef mixed with many Egyptian spice and some onions and peppers. Next, I chopped some tomatoes to add some colours to make it more vibrant and covered the pan to let it cook. As the filling was cooking, I melted some butter and brushed the tray I was making the pie in to prevent the pastry from sticking. After the brushing, I covered the tray with some phyllo pastry sheets, approximately 4 followed by the meat filling all around base. Some shredded cheese was added on the top followed by 4 more sheets of phyllo pastry to complete the pie. As it started taking shape, I brushed the top with some butter to achieve a gold crispy colour on the top. Finally, while the dish was cooking, I made a mix of an egg, some warm full fat milk and seasoning of salt and pepper to pour on top of the pastry to give it that final touch.

Overall, I enjoyed cooking for my family as they enjoyed the dish and I also felt a sense of accomplishment as my mother can get on with something else without worrying about the cooking and it also gave me more confidence in preparation of going to University.

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Environmental impact of the meat industry

17 April 2020

Deforestation caused by the expansion of land used to grow crops to feed livestock is one of the various ways animal agriculture contributes to global warming. Through the research of the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO UN), animal agriculture is responsible for 9% of human caused carbon dioxide emissions globally. The huge sector is a significant source of other greenhouse gases such as methane, which is produced in the manure of animals such as cows. Methane is known to be twenty times more potent than carbon dioxide which hugely affects our climate. The livestock sector is responsible for around 37% of human-caused methane emissions, and about 65% of human nitrous oxide emissions globally according to FAO.

It seems like beef is the biggest problem than other sources of meat such as chicken and pork. Producing beef requires significantly more resources such as land, fertiliser and water than other sources of meat. Moreover, cattle also produce methane and other sources. A study conducted by a group of scientists at the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) in 2014 estimated that producing beef requires 28 times more land, 6 times more fertilizer and 11 times more water than producing pork or chicken. As a result, the study estimated that producing beef releases 4 times more greenhouse gases than a calorie-equivalent amount of pork, and 5 times as much as an equivalent amount of poultry.

Many focus on the amount of emissions released by transport like cars and planes however a significant amount of people are unaware of the amount of emissions released by animal agriculture which is significantly more. The future of the climate will be heavily affected by the meat industry

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Environmentally, cars versus planes

10 April 2020

For many years, planes have been blamed for releasing the most greenhouse gas emissions and have been considered to be the biggest contributor to global warming. Although it's a very efficient way to travel overseas, other ways of transportation are seen as better for our planet because we view them as a way to travel with the release of lower emissions. The blog will be contrasting the amount of emissions released by planes compared to the use of cars while taking into account many factors to prove which is worse for the planet.

Research from the European Environment Agency (EEA) shows a range of ways to travel, from the smallest to the biggest polluters each measured in the CO2/ passenger/km . The train ranked the lowest at 14g, followed by an 'average' car releasing 55g of carbon emissions. The highest figure released by the EEA was 285g of CO2 which was in fact the plane. While many people look at this data and conclude that the plane was the biggest emitter, the figures stated include a number of assumptions.

Looking at some of the figures above, the plane seems to be the most polluting means of transport. Nevertheless, looking at the assumptions closer causes these figures to change drastically. For example, the figure of 55 g of CO2 /passenger/km for an average car assumes that the car is occupied by 4 people. But is this assumption realistic? The EEA claims that the occupancy rate of a car was 1.6 people per vehicle per mile in 2018. This means that fewer people in cars means that cars can pollute up to 110g for 2 passengers in a car or even 220g for 1 passenger.

On the other hand, the 285 g CO2 /passenger/km for the plane considers an occupation rate of 88 people. If we take Delta Airlines as an example, their Boeing 747 can take up to 134 people. The company also had an occupancy rate of 85.5%. This means that planes would score better than 285g CO2/passenger/km as the total pollution has a higher number of people to be split with. And of course, if we considered a bigger plane, the figures would still be different as they make bigger trips and consume more fuel.

It seems like the future of flight is more sustainable than the future of cars as aeronautical engineers create many advancements on planes, as they release less CO2 emissions. The creation of electric/hybrid cars seems less sustainable for the climate as the production and the fuel creation for the upcoming vehicles release a huge amount of emissions, possibly suggesting that travelling by airplanes isn't too bad compared to the daily trips by car.

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