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‘We are new Russians’: How a hard-drinking nation curbed its alcohol use




Once the holder of the dubious title of one of the world’s hardest-drinking nations, Russia has fallen steadily down the list — and Eduard Grigoriev likes to think his group can claim some of the credit.

A volunteer with the group Sober Russia, the 21-year-old is a self-proclaimed liquor vigilante. Since his teens, Grigoriev has been helping police crack down on businesses that break Russia’s ever-stricter liquor laws.

“Four years ago, when we started, eight out of 10 stores in Moscow were selling illegal alcohol. Right now, it’s three out of 10,” said Grigoriev of the role that his band of helpers have played in ensuring liquor violators are brought to the attention of police.

Illegal alcohol sales usually take the form of homemade distilled spirits or legally made products sold after hours. Russian law prohibits any off-licence sales in corner stores or grocery stores past 11 p.m. at night.

The restrictions on availability have been part of a sweeping series of measures enacted by the Russian government since 2005, aimed at curbing widespread alcohol abuse in the country.

In its latest report, the World Health Organization acknowledges the efforts have paid off with significantly lower rates of consumption.

Sweeping restrictions

Grigoriev’s group has affiliations with the governing United Russia party and Vladimir Putin’s administration, but Grigoriev said Sober Russia isn’t political, and everyone who joins is a volunteer.

The group’s tactics involve sending volunteers into corner stores after Russia’s 11 p.m. curfew and entrapping staff who sell booze.

Grigoriev, left, and another Sober Russia member report back on the outcome of their sting operation with a Moscow police officer. (Pascal Dumont/CBC)

A crew from CBC’s Moscow bureau was with Grigoriev’s team recently when they visited the city’s southern suburbs and documented several of their ensnarement stings.

“We’re doing this because we think we can make Russia a better place to live in,” Grigoriev explained. “This is our future.”

Grigoriev said that if fewer stores sell illegal alcohol, “the better the alcohol will be in legal stores, and the less people will have health problems.”

Sales of illegally distilled spirits in Russia have been a deadly health problem. In one of the worst cases in recent times, 78 people died in the Siberian city of Irkutsk in 2016 after drinking tainted moonshine.

Last week, police released a video of a police raid in a factory that was manufacturing illegal vodka just outside Moscow. It resulted in the seizure of more than 77,000 bottles. Not long before that, a bust at a factory in the central Russian city of Nefteyugansk netted about 30,000 bottles. Police claim the booze would have made people badly sick.

A nurse walks through the emergency ward at a Russian alcohol rehabilitation clinic. While Russians continue to be heavy drinkers, the World Health Organization considers their fight against alcoholism to be a success story. (Pascal Dumont/CBC)

In one of the Sober Russia stings the CBC crew witnessed, a shopkeeper sold several bottles of beer to a volunteer after the 11 p.m. curfew. Then, with our cameras rolling, other members entered the store and confronted the employee, who quickly denied doing anything improper.

Grigoriev’s team then found several large plastic bottles behind the cash register that contained a mixture of alcohol and an energy drink.

“It’s like Red Bull, but with alcohol,” he said. “This is forbidden.”

Less boozy

Twelve years ago, Russians consumed roughly 15 litres of alcohol per person a year, which put them in fourth in the world rankings of the hardest-drinking countries. Now, in Russia, the per capita average is closer to 10 litres. (By comparison, Canada drinks eight litres per capita per year.)

Russia now ranks 14th in terms of alcohol consumption globally, and is comparable to France and Germany.

Notably, the proportion of strong liquor, such as vodka, in the overall mix of Russian alcohol consumption is down substantially, by 31 per cent.    

“Alcohol consumption has decreased a lot,” said professor Yevgeny Yakovlev of Moscow’s New Economic School, where he tracks Russia’s consumption habits.  

“We see that everywhere. Mortality from alcohol poisoning has decreased by 30 per cent,” he said. Yakovlev noted that suicides where alcohol is believed to have played a role have fallen by roughly the same amount in the past 12 years.

“In all of these measures, we see progress,” said Yakovlev.

Yakovlev credits aggressive government measures to restrict alcohol sales and to discourage use, such as increased taxation. 

Drinking in public is still common in Russia. (Mikhail Metzel/Associated Press)

While taxes on alcohol are politically unpopular, the World Health Organization notes that automatic yearly tax increases on booze have contributed to better health outcomes.

Earlier this month, Russia’s health ministry announced it was drafting legislation that could raise the country’s drinking age from 18 to 21. The Moscow Times newspaper cited a poll suggesting strong public support for the higher drinking age.

Healthier choices

Many Russians are making healthier lifestyle choices more generally, which are contributing to the significant decline in alcohol use.

At a gym in eastern Moscow, Yuri Sysoev and Alexei Forsenco have gone further than most Russians in promoting an alcohol-free lifestyle, both in their own choices and with their outreach.

“If I look back, well, basically, I had child alcoholism,” said Sysoev during a break from sparring with a partner in the boxing ring.

Now an actor and filmmaker in Moscow, the 31-year-old Sysoev said the 1990s were a difficult time in Russia. In the post-Soviet economic and political chaos, he said drinking was a means of escape for many.

“I was a little kid in the theatre playing [roles] of gnomes and hobbits, and I got pulled into [binge-drinking culture],” Sysoev said. About nine years ago, an epiphany about the destructive effect alcohol was having on his life prompted him to give it up entirely, he said.

Moscow film producers Yuri Sysoev, left, and Alexei Forsenco gave up drinking and took up fitness. Then they made a movie about why young people should follow their example. (Pascal Dumont/CBC)

Forsenco, his 37-year-old friend and business partner, said his story is quite similar, except it took him longer to come to the same realization.

“It wasn’t until I had kids of my own, about five years ago, that I understood alcohol could not be part of my family.”

Forsenco said the decision to abstain from booze often catches the foreigners they meet off guard. But he said no one should be surprised.

“We are new Russians. We don’t drink alcohol.”

The pair have made a short film that they are showing at Russian high schools. They are sharing their experiences with students in the hope of dissuading teenagers from repeating their mistakes.

Entitled The Outcast, the film features a teen walking through an apartment complex who is being taunted by his friends for not drinking after school. Instead of yielding to peer pressure, he stays the course and chooses the healthy option of a good workout.

“I don’t want to brag, but we are the first in Russia to be making a film like this,” said Sysoev.

At a recent showing, students peppered Sysoev and Forsenco with questions about their experience with alcohol and its destructive impact.

“We have to fight this,” Sysoev told the students. “Not with banners and meetings, but [you must] change yourself first, and then the world around you will change.”

While the film has been well received by students, the pair said they have also run into resistance from nervous school administrators, who are afraid The Outcast might portray Russia in a bad light.

While more Russians are opting for healthy lifestyles, Sysoev said there are still too many instances of people walking in their neighbourhoods and seeing what he calls an “alcohol apocalypse” — like drunks sleeping on benches or just staggering around.

“That’s why we wanted to make this film and send a message that a healthy lifestyle and healthy sport is right.”


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Post-vaccine surge? Michigan’s spring coronavirus case spike close to previous year’s autumn high




(Natural News) The spike in new Wuhan coronavirus infections recorded in Michigan over the spring is similar to a spike seen during the 2020 fall season. According to a Wall Street Journal analysis, the state’s daily coronavirus case count averaged more than 7,000 for almost two weeks – before taking a slight dip to 6,891 on April 20. This echoed similar figures back in November and December 2020, which saw sharp rises in infections for those two months before plunging.

Back in autumn of last year, Michigan averaged more than 7,000 cases per day for a span of 10 days. New infections dropped slightly, then briefly spiked as the December holidays approached. It then fell to the low 1,000s for the succeeding two months – until ascending again in March.

According to University of Michigan internal medicine professor Dr. Vikas Parekh, the sudden increase in new infections could be attributed to several factors. Among the factors he cited was re-openings, which increased people’s interactions and mobility. Parekh said the loosened restrictions contributed to the spread of the highly contagious U.K. B117 variant.

“As the B117 variant spreads nationally, we will likely see other stats [with] their own surges – although I hope none are as bad as Michigan,” the professor remarked. He continued: “The milestone just tells us we are not yet in the clear, especially as we still have large portions of our population who are not vaccinated yet.”

Parekh also expressed optimism over the lower daily caseloads the Great Lakes State reported. He said he believes both cases and hospitalizations have plateaued and will likely decline soon. The professor commented: “[COVID-19] positivity has been declining now for one week, which is usually a leading indicator of case decline.”

Meanwhile, the state cited younger populations and youth sports, such as basketball, wrestling and hockey, to increase new COVID-19 infections. Because of this, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer called to suspend youth sports and indoor dining in the state. She also exhorted high schools to conduct remote class sessions for two weeks to curb the spread of the pathogen.

Michigan still experienced the spike in cases despite having one of the highest vaccination rates in the country

During the opening stages of the U.S.’s immunization drive against COVID-19, Michigan boasted of having one of the highest vaccination rates nationwide. A report by Bridge Michigan even noted the initial “frenzy for vaccines” that “far exceeded the state’s limited supply.” But things have appeared to turn around for Michigan, as it now struggles to reach the 70 percent vaccination rate needed for herd immunity.

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Scottish mom’s legs turn into a pair of “giant blisters” after first dose of AstraZeneca’s coronavirus vaccine




(Natural News) Sarah Beuckmann of Glasgow, Scotland, felt a tingling sensation in her legs and noticed a rash flaring up around her ankles a week after getting her first dose of AstraZeneca’s coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine on March 18.

She also had flu-like symptoms right after the vaccination.

Beuckmann called her doctor to arrange an appointment the morning she noticed the rash, but by the afternoon her skin was already breaking out into blood-filled blisters. Blisters also appeared on her legs, hands, face, arms and bottom.

“I ended up asking my husband to take me to A&E,” said Beuckmann, referring to “accident and emergency,” the equivalent of an emergency room (ER). “When I got there, my heart rate was sitting at 160bpm, which they were very concerned about. I got put on an ECG machine.”

Doctors determine AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine triggers the rash

Medics carried out tests for HIV, herpes and other skin conditions to work out what triggered the rash, but all results came back negative. Doctors finally determined that the vaccine caused her rare reaction after carrying out two biopsies.

“Once they found that it was a reaction to the vaccine, they put me on steroids and that really seems to be helping my progress,” said Beuckmann. She had been advised by her doctor not to get the second dose of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine because of her reaction.

Beuckmann spent 16 days at Queen Elizabeth University Hospital. She was discharged to recover at home. The 34-year-old mother of one is currently wheelchair-bound due to the bandages on her legs and blisters on the soles of her feet. She may need physiotherapy to help strengthen her leg muscles.

“They are starting to heal and they’re looking a lot better than they were but as the blisters started to get worse, they all sort of merged together,” she said. “I didn’t know what was going on.”

With the blisters merging, her legs have looked like a pair of “giant blisters.” Beuckmann admitted that at one point she feared her legs might have to be amputated.

Dermatologist agrees COVID-19 vaccine causes the blisters

Dr. Emma Wedgeworth, a consultant dermatologist and spokeswoman at the British Skin Foundation, agreed that Beuckmann had likely suffered a reaction to the vaccine.

“Vaccines are designed to activate the immune system. Occasionally people will have quite dramatic activation of their immune systems which, as happened in this case, can manifest in their skin” Wedgeworth told MailOnline. “This poor lady had a very severe reaction, which thankfully is extremely rare.”

It is not clear why Beuckmann, who works in retail, was invited for a vaccine. Scotland’s vaccine rollout was focused on people over the age of 50 when she got vaccinated, although vaccines are available to those who are considered at risk from the virus, or live with someone considered vulnerable.

At least 20 million Briton have had AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine, which drug regulators say causes a rash in one percent of cases. They say rashes caused by the jab tend to go away within a week.

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Trojan labs? Chinese biotech company offers to build COVID testing labs in six states




In 2012, BGI acquired Complete Genomics, a DNA sequencing company and equipment maker. The funds for the $117.6 million purchase were raised from Chinese venture capitals. The company has expanded its footprint globally. According to its website, BGI conducts business in more than 100 countries and areas and has 11 offices and labs in the U.S.

People are concerned about China’s access to American DNA data

Some said that with Complete Genomics providing an American base, BGI would have access to more DNA samples from Americans, helping it compile a huge database of genetic information. Some also worried about the protection of the genetic information’s privacy.

According to a 2019 report from the U.S.–China Economic and Security Review Commission (USCC), BGI “has formed numerous partnerships with U.S. healthcare providers and research organizations to provide large-scale genetic sequencing to support medical research efforts,”

There are three main reasons why many people in the biotech community and government have expressed concerns about China’s access to American DNA data.

In the “60 Minutes” interview, Evanina discussed the very likely scenario in which Chinese companies would be able to micro-target American individuals and offer customized preventative solutions based on their DNA.

Evanina asked: “Do we want to have another nation systematically eliminate our healthcare services? Are we okay with that as a nation?”

The second concern is that China may use DNA to track and attack American individuals. As the USCC report states: “China could target vulnerabilities in specific individuals brought to light by genomic data or health records. Individuals targeted in such attacks would likely be strategically identified persons, such as diplomats, politicians, high-ranking federal officials or military leadership.”

The third concern is that China may devise bioweapons to target non-Asians. Steven Mosher, president of the Population Research Institute, discussed it in his article “What Will China Do With Your DNA?” published by The Epoch Times in March 2019.

He wrote: “We know that the Asian genome is genetically distinct from the Caucasian and African in many ways. … Would it be possible to bioengineer a very virulent version of, say, smallpox, that was easily transmitted, fatal to other races, but to which the Chinese enjoyed a natural immunity? … Given our present ability to manipulate genomes, if such a bio-weapon can be imagined, it can probably – given enough time and resources – be realized.”

An article from Technocracy said: “China’s aggressive collection of American DNA should be doubly alarming because it can only spell one ultimate outcome: biowarfare. That is, genetically engineering viruses or other diseases that will be selectively harmful to U.S. populations.”

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