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POSITIVE NEWS - What went right this week: saving the treasures of humanity, plus more

Posted 2nd December 2022 • Written by •

More cultural treasures got Unesco status, Alzheimer’s research had a breakthrough, and women made World Cup history, plus more positive news

More cultural treasures got Unesco status

Hungarian folk music, the French baguette and Cuba’s rum knowledge are among the treasures of humanity added to Unesco’s intangible cultural heritage list this week.

The list recognises living traditions and their importance in maintaining cultural diversity in a globalised world. In the case of the French baguette, the designation provides a welcome boost for the country’s artisanal bakeries, which are reportedly closing at a rate of 400 a year due to competition from supermarkets 

An Algerian folk song, Arabia’s camel calling – or Alheda’a – and Tunisia’s harissa chilli paste are among the other assets added this week. 

“Awareness of the intangible cultural heritage of different communities is crucial to the promotion of cultural diversity and intercultural dialogue,” said Unesco. “It can also be instrumental in ensuring sustainable development, as intangible cultural heritage has an important impact on food security, health, education, the sustainable use of natural resources and the prevention of natural disasters.”

Alzheimer’s research had a breakthrough

The hitherto futile search for an Alzheimer’s cure took a major step forward this week, after a new drug was found to slow the disease. 

Lecanemab works by clearing the amyloid protein that builds up in the brains of people who have Alzheimer’s. In a clinical trial, the drug was found to slow cognitive decline.

“This is truly a historic moment for dementia research,” said Dr Susan Kohlhaas, director of research at Alzheimer’s Research UK. “This is the first time a drug has been shown to both reduce the disease in the brain and slow memory decline in clinical trials. These exciting findings represent a major step forward for dementia research.”

However, she added: “It won’t be suitable for everyone, and it’s only a first step on the journey towards a cure.”

Europe unveiled plans to cut plastic pollution

Mandatory return schemes for plastic bottles look set to be rolled out in the EU as part of the European Commission’s circular economy proposals, published this week.

Miniature shampoo bottles in hotels are among the items facing the axe under the draft legislation, which aims to reduce waste by 15 per cent this decade. Without action, plastic pollution would increase by 19 per cent over the same period, the commission said. 

The campaign group Rethink Plastic said the measures “could go a long way in reducing packaging consumption and pollution”, but said they lacked ambition. There are suggestions the proposals were watered down following pressure from the soft drinks industry. 

The new rules will have to be approved by the European Parliament and member states to become law. The EU has already banned many single-use plastics. 

Women made history at the World Cup

The Fifa World Cup may be mired in controversy, but there has been some progress worth celebrating: for the first time in the men’s tournament, a female referee officiated a game. 

Blowing the whistle on Thursday night’s clash between Germany and Costa Rica was Stéphanie Frappart, who led an all-female refereeing team. 

Though many may wonder why it took so long, Frappart’s appearance is a milestone for inclusivity in the sport. That it happened in Qatar, the host country, where women’s rights are restricted, made it all the more poignant. 

“There are some difficulties [in Qatar] for women,” Frappart told the BBC. “I hope that this World Cup will help them.”

Frappart is one of three female referees selected to officiate in the tournament. Rwanda’s Salima Mukansanga and Japan’s Yoshimi Yamashita have also got the call.

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