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Japanese pay $55 per hour for ‘smile lesson’

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Some Japanese are paying $55 for an hour-long smile lesson after their government lifted the mandatory mask mandates in March.

The development followed three years of government recommendations that people wear masks.

After the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, people in the country were advised to wear masks in order to protect themselves from the respiratory illness.

But since the recent lifting of the mask rules, many people have struggled to smile and feel the need to rehearse their facial expressions.

According to Reuters, Keiko Kawano, a smiling instructor, founded a company called Egaoiku – which means “Smile Education” in 2017.

Her services, however, increased more than four times in demand after the government of the country lifted its recommendation to wear masks.

Kawano’s customers include young people, companies seeking more approachable salespeople, and local governments looking to improve the well-being of their residents.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, wearing a mask was normal for many people in Japan who want to protect themselves from a cold or hay fever during the winter and spring seasons.

A poll in May also showed that only 8 percent of the population said they had stopped wearing masks altogether.

Himawari Yoshida, one of the students taking the class to prepare for the job market, said she needed to work on her smile.

“I hadn’t used my facial muscles much during COVID so it’s good exercise,” the 20-year-old said.

Kawano said she teaches the one-hour-long smile lessons because young people have become used to life with masks.

Kawano, who is a former radio host, trademarked the ‘Hollywood Style Smiling Technique’ and has also trained 23 other people on how to be smiling coaches.

Her coaching techniques are “crescent eyes, round cheeks and shaping the edges of the mouth to bare eight pearly whites in the upper row.”

“Culturally, a smile signifies that I’m not holding a gun and I’m not a threat to you,” she said.

“With a surge in inbound tourists, Japanese people need to communicate with foreigners with more than just their eyes. I think there’s a growing need for people to smile.”

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EU says ‘X’ is worst social media platform for misinformation

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The European Union (EU) Commission has declared that X, formerly Twitter, is the social media platform with the largest ratio of misinformation and disinformation posts. 

The Commission’s Vice-President for Values and Transparency, Vera Jourova, stated this on Tuesday in a statement on the EU Code of Practice on Disinformation. She said X performed woefully during a pilot test of a new methodology developed by the Code signatories.

While other platforms like YouTube, TikTok, Microsoft, and Meta’s family apps were said to have taken some measures to address disinformation, X is said to be harbouring more disinformation actors.  

But for the X owner, Elon Musk, his agenda is to use the platform to promote ‘free speech’ for people all over the world. Musk has yet to respond to the EU’s claim as of the time of filing this report.  

X, former Twitter, who is not under the Code anymore is the platform with the largest ratio of mis/disinformation posts. The pilot also showed that disinformation actors were found to have significantly more followers than their non-disinformation counterparts and tend to have joined the platform more recently than non-disinformation users,” Jourova declared.

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US surgeons carry out world’s second pig-to-human heart transplant

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Surgeons in the United States have carried out the world’s second transplant of a genetically modified pig’s heart to a human being.

According to a statement issued on Monday by the University of Maryland School of Medicine (UMSOM), the surgery was carried out on Lawrence Faucette, a 58-year-old patient who had terminal heart disease.

In 2022, the Maryland team had performed the world’s first transplant of a genetically modified pig’s heart into another dying man, David Bennett.

But the patient had died just two months after the procedure.

The current pig heart recipient was said to have been deemed ineligible for a traditional transplant with a human heart due to his pre-existing peripheral vascular disease and complications with internal bleeding.

This transplant of a pig’s heart was therefore the only option available.

The US Food and Drug Administration granted emergency approval for the surgery on September 15 through its single patient investigational new drug (IND) “compassionate use” pathway.

This approval process is used when an experimental medical product, is the only option available for a patient faced with a serious or life-threatening medical condition.

The pig heart, provided by Blacksburg, Virginia-based Revivicor, has 10 genetic modifications, knocking out some pig genes and adding some human ones to make it more acceptable to the human immune system.

According to the statement, Faucette is currently breathing on his own, and his heart is functioning well without any assistance from supportive devices.

“He is recovering and communicating with his loved ones. This is only the second time in the world that a genetically modified pig heart has been transplanted into a living patient,” the statement reads.

Bartley P. Griffith, who surgically transplanted the pig heart into both the first and second patient, said the doctors are grateful to Faucette for his bravery and willingness to help advance their knowledge of the field.

“We are hopeful that he will get home soon to enjoy more time with his wife and the rest of his loving family,” he said.

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34 killed, 20 injured in Benin Republic fuel explosion

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A fuel explosion in Benin Republic has led to the deaths of 34 persons, while 20 others sustained injuries.

The explosion occurred at an illegal fuel depot in Seme-Podji, a town that sits near the border with Nigeria.

Speaking with reporters, Alassane Seidou, minister of interior in Benin Republic, said two babies were among the dead.

“Unfortunately we have 34 deaths including two babies. Their bodies are charred because the cause of the fire is smuggled fuel,” Seidou said.

He added that those who sustained injuries are receiving treatment in hospital.

Some of the petrol smuggled from oil rich Nigeria often ends up in Seme-Podji.

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