Nutrition Key to Patient Recovery From Injury, Illness

When people are recovering from an illness or injury, they often don’t think of nutrition, but it may be key to getting their health back.

When Monika McComb returned home from the hospital, she didn’t think about nutrition as being essential for a full recovery.   

“I was really, really weak. I could hardly even walk with a cane,” McComb said. 

McComb didn’t associate her weakness with malnutrition until she was evaluated; but, researchers from Advocate Health Care and Abbott were conducting a study to evaluate the role nutrition plays in reducing hospital admissions. 

Suela Sulo, a researcher from Abbott, says malnutrition is rarely taken into account in dealing with patients who are in recovery.

“Malnutrition is invisible to the eye, and therefore it remains under diagnosed and underrated,” Sulo said. 

McComb enrolled in a home health care program and was given a detailed nutrition plan. 

Most Americans have access to food, but one in three patients in home health care is malnourished or has some nutritional deficiency that puts his or her health — and recovery  — at risk. Katie Riley is the chief nursing officer with Advocate Aurora Health.

“Nutrition is not the primary reason why patients usually come to home health; however, it is important for us to pay attention to the nutrition to promote their strength and get them recovered quicker,” Riley said.

Abbot funded a study in partnership with Advocate Health Care to find a way to reduce hospitalizations, cut medical costs and promote patients’ health. 

Suela Sulo said the researchers found that when patients on home health care received education about nutrition along with nutritional drinks, they were nearly 20 percent less likely to be hospitalized or re-hospitalized in the 90 days after an injury or illness. 

“Through identifying the patients with malnutrition risk, feeding them with the right nutritional drinks, you are increasing their chances of recovering faster, not going back to the hospital, or not going to the hospital in the first place.”

One of the study’s goals was to create a program that patients could follow on their own, one reason they were educated about nutrition. Gretchen VanDerBosch says anyone can become malnourished and not realize it. She says educating patients about nutrition is so important.   

“Because they’re educated, they actually continue their supplements and start it back up, and their outcome is so much improved, they have more strength, they heal quicker, have fewer falls, they have less readmissions,” VanDerBosch said. 

The researchers say they hope other health care programs and hospitals can use the study to help other patients as well. 

As for Monika McComb, she says she feels stronger and has more energy than she had at the start of the program. She credits support from the home health nurse and the focus on nutrition for her improved health.

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In a First, Afghan Government on Board With Taliban Talks

A 50-member delegation of Afghan elites is in Qatar for peace talks with Taliban leaders, with the hopes of ending the 18-year-long conflict in Afghanistan.

The two-day summit, facilitated by Germany and Qatar, is an “historic opportunity for all of them to bridge trust deficit, which will help pave the way for direct peace negotiations between Afghan government and the Taliban,” said Asadullah Zaeri, a spokesman of the country’s High Peace Council.

The delegation includes politicians, top members of the council, representatives of women’s groups and senior journalists, he said.

Although both sides have emphasized that members of Afghan government are attending in their personal capacity, not representing Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s government, their presence makes this conference different from the intra-Afghan conference in Moscow in April. At that gathering, the Taliban refused to sit at the table with anyone from the administration of President Ghani – an administration they insist is a “puppet” of the United States.

Ghani termed that conference a failure.

Members of the Taliban political office are seen inside the conference hall at the start of the intra-Afghan dialogue. Sitting far right is Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanekzai, head of the Taliban delegation, in Doha, Qatar, July 7, 2019. (A. Tanzeem/VOA)

However, the United States seems to have succeeded in its efforts to get the Taliban to show flexibility.

“The Intra-Afghan Conference for Peace in #Doha has been a long time coming. It’s great to see senior government, civil society, women, and Taliban representatives at one table together,” tweeted U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

The conference organizers are hoping this first step would pave way for a bigger breakthrough in future.

“A partial success is for people to continue to talk. A great success would be for them to come up with a framework that could lead into direct negotiations, Afghan-Afghan, and hopefully catch up with the speed in which the talks between the Taliban and the United States are progressing,” said Sultan Barakat, the director of the Center for Conflict and Humanitarian Studies at Doha Institute, who has been closely involved in organizing the event.
The Afghan meeting comes as the U.S. special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad, who’s already holding talks with the Taliban, is nearing an agreement over a timeframe for the U.S. and NATO troop withdrawal from the country.

Afghan delegates inside the conference hall included Lotfullah Najafizada (2nd-R), the head of Afghan TV channel Tolo News, in Doha, Qatar, July 7, 2019. U.S special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad is seen center rear, with red tie. (A. Tanzeem/VOA)

 Both sides claim the talks are progressing well.

“The last 6 days of talks have been the most productive session to date,” tweeted Khalilzad on Saturday. The two sides will resume on the 9th after this intra-Afghan interaction which Khalilzad called “a critical milestone.”

A Taliban spokesman said in a future conference, the insurgent group may be willing to talk to top level Ghani administration officials.

“If someone is coming in his or her personal capacity and expressing his or her views on how to bring about peace in Afghanistan, we have not put any restriction on that,” said Suhail Shaheen when asked whether the Taliban could sit with government ministers or top-level officials.  

Afghan High Peace Council member Jamaluddin Badar said government representatives may be in Doha in their personal capacity but they “seemed to be giving the government’s point of view.”

Media representatives were only allowed to briefly take pictures at the start of the intra-Afghan dialogue and was asked to leave before the opening statements, in Doha, Qatar, July 7, 2019. (A. Tanzeem/VOA)

He felt positive about the discussions held till late Sunday afternoon. The Taliban, he said, seemed to be willing to address some critical concerns of most Afghans, such as how to protect the gains made since the ouster of the insurgent group in 2001, particularly in terms of institution building and human rights.

“We might have disagreements with the Taliban on how to interpret those rights, but I don’t think they will be strong enough to lead to fighting,” he said. The Taliban, he added, have even been talking about the need to reduce violence against women.

He was not the only one who expressed optimism about the discussions with the Taliban.

“I think their attitude has changed tremendously. Last night they sat with women and we chatted. They tried to show that they are willing to talk to women,” said Asila Wardak, a women’s rights activist attending the conference.

Members of the Taliban delegation are seen at the Sheraton Doha, before the start of the intra-Afghan dialogue, in Doha, Qatar, July 7, 2019. (A. Tanzeem/VOA)


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Iraqi Forces Begin Operation Against IS Along Syrian Border

Iraq’s security and paramilitary forces began Sunday a military operation along the border with Syria aimed at clearing the area of Islamic State group militants, the military said in a statement.

Although Iraq declared victory against IS in July 2017, the extremists have turned into an insurgency and have carried out deadly attacks in the country.

The military said the operation that began at sunrise was being carried out by Iraqi troops and members of the Popular Mobilization Forces that largely consist of Iran-backed militias.

It said the operation will last several days and was the first phase of the Will of Victory Operation securing the western province of Anbar and the central and northern regions of Salahuddin and Nineveh.

“We press on the hands of our heroic forces that will achieve victory with the will of its heroes against the gangs of Daesh,” said Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi using an Arabic acronym to refer to IS. “May God protect you and make you victorious.”

IS once held large parts of Syria and Iraq where it declared a caliphate in 2014. The extremists lost in March the last territory they controlled in Syria.


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Rising French Far-Right Star Resurfaces and Flirts with Fire

She vowed to stay out of politics and even dropped the French far right’s signature name – Le Pen – from her moniker. But Marion Marechal, a former star lawmaker who’s still only in her 20s, is now tip-toeing back into the political arena, and is already causing trouble.

Widely seen as a potential party leader, the 29-year-old’s discreet meetings in recent days to build bridges with enemy conservatives, crippled by their crushing defeat in European Parliament elections, are further unsettling the mainstream right.

The forays into forbidden territory by the woman once voted the most popular in the far-right National Rally party (formerly the National Front) led by her aunt, Marine Le Pen, have also raised questions about Marechal’s political intentions – and whether a new war within the Le Pen clan is afoot.

Marechal is the darling of her controversial grandfather, Jean-Marie Le Pen, a National Front co-founder expelled by daughter Marine for repeating anti-Semitic remarks that got him convicted. Marechal is more conservative than her aunt. Addressing a major forum for American conservatives last year, she decried the European Union and said France is becoming “the little niece of Islam.”

To Jean-Marie’s disappointment, Marion dropped out of politics two years ago, refusing to seek a new mandate as a National Rally lawmaker to found a private school in Lyon seen as a training ground for far-right leaders.

She denies speculation she is making an end-run around Aunt Marine for a comeback. Nevertheless, the noise created after at least two below-the-radar meetings became known underscores Marechal’s potentially pivotal role in the power politics of the French right.

A dinner in late June between Marechal and more than a dozen officials and lawmakers of The Republicans, or LR, caused a firestorm within the main conservative party. The conservative mainstream has long been extremely wary of liaisons with France’s far right, but the meeting suggested that some conservatives may believe the only way to survive is by joining forces with the likes of Marechal.

Senate leader Gerard Larcher, of the LR, said those who met at a Paris restaurant with Marechal have placed themselves “outside” the party.

“I have always said there was a firewall between us and the National Rally,” party, he said on LCI TV. “Whether you like it or not, this (dinner) was a breach.” Those who attended risk exclusion from the party, Larcher said, making clear that for him they already had “placed themselves outside the values of our political formation.”

Meanwhile, France’s powerful business lobby Medef invited Marechal to speak about the rise of populism at its annual summer gathering – but then canceled the whole panel after the idea left many aghast.

The National Rally came to the forefront of French politics with its win in the European Parliament elections in May. The party bettered President Emmanuel Macron’s centrists and hopes to maintain momentum ahead of municipal elections next year.

In a TV interview in early June, she said she wanted to build a “grand alliance of the right” – though she insisted her intentions were devoid of personal ambition.

She had some stinging words for the National Rally, saying it is “indispensable to political life, but unfortunately it isn’t sufficient.” Defending the nation, and countering Macron’s progressives, needs “other voices from other movements, currents” to create alliances.

Marechal has been regarded as a potential presidential candidate in the 2022 election, or later, raising occasional tensions with her aunt, who was roundly defeated in 2017 by Macron after making it to the runoff. Former White House strategist Steve Bannon praised her as a “rising star” – on a stage he shared with Marine Le Pen at an important National Rally congress.

If Marine Le Pen is wary that her niece is setting the stage for a return to politics, neither she nor her camp is saying so.

Le Pen was politely dismissive of her niece’s initiatives.

“That Marion wants to build bridges with people of the traditional right closer to us than to Emmanuel Macron, so much the better,” she said in an interview with BFMTV this month after her niece’s remarks. As for Marechal’s “regret” about short-comings of the National Rally, Le Pen took a diplomatic dig.

“One should not be pessimistic when one is young,” she said.


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Economic ‘Game Changer? African Leaders Launch Free-Trade Zone

African leaders met on Sunday to launch a continental free-trade zone that if successful would unite 1.3 billion people, create a $3.4 trillion economic bloc and usher in a new era of development.

After four years of talks, an agreement to form a 55-nation trade bloc was reached in March, paving the way for Sunday’s African Union summit in Niger where attendees will unveil which
nation will host the trade zone’s headquarters, when trading will start and discuss how exactly it will work.

It is hoped that the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) — the largest since the creation of the World Trade Organization in 1994 — will help unlock Africa’s long-stymied economic potential by boosting intra-regional trade, strengthening supply chains and spreading expertise.

“The eyes of the world are turned to Africa,” Egyptian President and African Union Chairman Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said at the summit’s opening ceremony.

AfCFTA “will reinforce our negotiating position on the international stage. It will represent an important step.”

Africa has much catching up to do: its intra-regional trade accounted for just 17% of exports in 2017 versus 59% in Asia and 69% in Europe, and Africa has missed out on the economic booms
that other trade blocs have experienced in recent decades.

Economists say significant challenges remain, including poor road and rail links, large areas of unrest, excessive border bureaucracy and petty corruption that have held back growth and

Members have committed to eliminate tariffs on most goods, which will increase trade in the region by 15-25% in the medium term, but this would double if these other issues were dealt with, according to International Monetary Fund (IMF) estimates.

The IMF in a May report described a free-trade zone as a potential “economic game changer” of the kind that has boosted growth in Europe and North America, but it added a note of caution.

“Reducing tariffs alone is not sufficient,” it said.

Divergent interests

Africa already has an alphabet soup of competing and overlapping trade zones — ECOWAS in the west, EAC in the east, SADC in the south and COMESA in the east and south.

But only the EAC, driven mainly by Kenya, has made significant progress towards a common market in goods and services. These regional economic communities (REC) will continue to trade among themselves as they do now. The role of AfCFTA is to liberalise trade among those member states that are not currently in the same REC, said Trudi Hartzenberg, director at Tralac, a South Africa-based trade law organization.

The zone’s potential clout received a boost on Tuesday when Nigeria, the largest economy in Africa, agreed to sign the agreement at the summit. Benin has also since agreed to join.
Fifty-four of the continent’s 55 states have signed up, but only 25 have ratified.

One obstacle in negotiations will be the countries’ conflicting motives.

For undiversified but relatively developed economies like Nigeria, which relies heavily on oil exports, the benefits of membership will likely be smaller than others, said John Ashbourne, senior emerging markets economist at Capital Economics.

Nigerian officials have expressed concern that the country could be flooded with low-priced goods, confounding efforts to encourage moribund local manufacturing and expand farming.

In contrast, South Africa’s manufacturers, which are among the most developed in Africa, could quickly expand outside their usual export markets and into West and North Africa, giving them
an advantage over manufacturers from other countries, Ashbourne said.

The presidents of both countries are attending the summit.

The vast difference in countries’ economic heft is another complicating factor in negotiations. Nigeria, Egypt and South Africa account for over 50% of Africa’s cumulative GDP, while its six sovereign island nations represent about 1%. “It will be important to address those disparities to ensure that special and differential treatments for the least developed countries are adopted and successfully implemented,” said Landry Signe, a fellow at the Brookings Institution’s Africa Growth Initiative.

Regulations governing rules of origin, removal of non-tariff barriers and the development of a payments and settlements system are expected to be unveiled at the summit.


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Reports: Apparent Gas Explosion at Florida Shopping Center Injures Several

An apparent gas explosion at a shopping plaza in Plantation, Florida, injured several people on Saturday, authorities and local media reported.

Video posted to Twitter showed the force of the blast scattered debris across a parking lot and blew out several windows at a nearby L.A. Fitness gym, sending patrons running for the exits.

The Plantation fire department said on Twitter that there were multiple patients being treated at the scene.

The Sun-Sentinel newspaper reported that witnesses said a vacant restaurant appeared to be the source of the explosion. The city of Plantation is about 6 miles west of Fort Lauderdale.


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Reports: Deadly Airstrike in North Syria Kills 13 People

A war monitor and first responders group say an airstrike has killed at least 13 people in a village in northwestern Syria.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says the dead, most of them internally displaced persons, include seven children and three women. They died on Saturday in a Syrian government airstrike on the village of Mhambel in the province of Idlib.
Opposition-allied first responders known as the White Helmets also reported the attack and the casualties.
Idlib is the last major rebel stronghold in Syria’s eight-year civil war. Government troops backed by Russia have been using heavy airstrikes in their campaign to take the area in the past months.


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UK-flagged Tanker Reported ‘Safe and Well’ After Stop in Gulf

UK-flagged supertanker Pacific Voyager which halted in the Gulf on Saturday is “safe and well,” a British official told Reuters, after Iran dismissed reports its Revolutionary Guards had seized the vessel.

A Revolutionary Guards commander on Friday had threatened to seize a British ship in retaliation for the capture by Royal Marines of Iranian supertanker Grace 1 in Gibraltar.

The Pacific Voyager stopped in the Gulf en route to Saudi Arabia from Singapore before resuming its course, Refinitiv Eikon mapping showed.

It stopped as part of a routine procedure to adjust its arrival time at its next port, an official at UK Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO) told Reuters.

The UKMTO, which coordinates shipping in the Gulf, had been in contact with the tanker, the official said.

On Saturday an Iranian cleric said Britain should be “scared” about Tehran’s possible retaliation for the seizure of the Grace 1, the Fars semi-official news agency reported.
“I am openly saying that Britain should be scared of Iran’s retaliatory measures over the illegal seizure of the Iranian oil tanker,” said Mohammad Ali Mousavi Jazayeri, a member of the
Assembly of Experts clerical body.

Tensions are high in the Gulf following last month’s attacks on vessels near the Strait of Hormuz, a vital oil shipping route, and Iran’s downing of a U.S. drone. Washington and Saudi
Arabia have directly blamed Iran for the attacks on tankers, something Tehran denies.

The attacks have raised fears of a broader confrontation in the region where the United States has boosted its military
presence over perceived Iranian threats.


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