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Clashes in Peru coca eradication operation leave at least two dead

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LIMA (Reuters) – Two farmers were killed in clashes in Peru that erupted on Friday as authorities launched an operation to uproot coca plants – used to make cocaine – in a region near the border with Bolivia, a local mayor and the police said.

A third person was in critical condition and had been taken to a local hospital, said Roger Larico, the mayor of the district of San Gaban in the region of Puno.

The eradication team – 158 civilian workers and 72 police officers – had arrived to San Gaban before dawn to destroy illegal coca farms in the coming days, but were attacked by people wielding machetes and sticks as they sat up their camp, the Peruvian National Police said in a statement.

But Larico said witnesses told him that the police had fired live bullets recklessly.

“They were shooting right and left. That’s why we have this bloodshed,” Larico told Reuters by phone.

The deaths are under investigation, said Victor Rucoba, the head of the government’s eradication agency.

“It’s very likely that to protect their lives and the lives of unarmed civilians, police had to increase the use of force,” he added in comments broadcast on local TV channel Canal N.

The unrest underscores the risks of forcibly eradicating illegal coca, a crop that tends to fetch a much higher price in Peru than alternatives such as coffee and cacao. It comes a day before U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visits the Andean country in a four-country tour of South America.

Peru has been one of the leading producer countries of cocaine for decades, despite efforts by consecutive governments to capture drug traffickers and shift farmers toward alternative crops from coca.

But in recent years, illegal coca farms in Peru have expanded.

The U.S. government said in November that Peru’s potential cocaine production had risen 20 percent to a 25-year high of 491 tonnes.

Police reinforcements were being sent to San Gaban to ensure the eradication team could work in the days ahead, said Rucoba, adding that coca cultivation had expanded “exponentially” in the area.

In a 2017 report, Peru’s anti-narcotics agency Devida said coca growers from the country’s most notorious drug-trafficking region, the VRAEM, had been migrating to Puno to start new farms. The coca produced in San Gaban is part of a supply chain that moves cocaine into Brazil through Bolivia, it added.

Peru plans to eradicate about 25,000 hectares (61,776 acres) of illegal coca crops per year through 2021, according to the country’s anti-narcotics plan.

Coca is also grown legally in Peru, where it is widely used as an infusion as well as in traditional indigenous rituals.

Reporting by Mitra Taj and Marco Aquino, editing by G Crosse

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Vaping nearly killed me, says British teenager

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Ewan FisherImage copyright
Ewan Fisher

A teenage boy nearly died after vaping caused a catastrophic reaction in his lungs, doctors in Nottingham say.

Ewan Fisher was connected to an artificial lung to keep him alive after his own lungs failed and he could not breathe.

Ewan told BBC News e-cigarettes had “basically ruined me” and urged other young people not to vape.

His doctors say vaping is “not safe”, although health bodies in the UK say it is 95% safer than tobacco.

Listen: Beyond Today – Can vaping kill you?

What happened?

Ewan started vaping in early 2017. He was 16 at the time and wanted to quit smoking to improve his boxing.

Despite being under age, he said, “it was easy” to buy either cigarettes or e-cigarettes.

In May that year, Ewan was finding it harder and harder to breathe.

His mother took Ewan to accident and emergency on the night before his GCSE exams, because he was coughing and choking in his sleep.

His lungs were failing and he very quickly ended up on life-support in intensive care in Queen’s Medical Centre in Nottingham.

“I thought I was going to die,” Ewan told BBC News.

Ewan was getting worse. Even ventilation could not get enough oxygen into his body and his life was in the balance.

Image copyright
Ewan Fisher

Image caption

Ewan was attached to an ECMO machine to keep him alive

He was taken to Leicester and attached to an artificial lung or ECMO (extra-corporeal membrane oxygenation) machine.

“This machine saved my life,” he said.

Large tubes took blood out of Ewan, removed the carbon dioxide, added oxygen and pumped the blood back into his body.

“He had very serious respiratory failure, he had to go to ECMO and that is a very big deal,” Dr Jayesh Bhatt, a consultant at Nottingham University Hospitals, told BBC News.

“He got as ill as anyone can get.”

The case – from May 2017 – has just come to light in the journal Archives of Disease in Childhood.

How is Ewan now?

Ewan, who is 19 on Tuesday, had a long recovery. It was six months before he was properly up and on his feet again.

“I’m still not back to normal, I’d say 75-80%, it’s in the last six months that I’m feeling a bit stronger in myself,” he said.

“Vaping has basically ruined me, I try to tell everyone and they think I’m being stupid, I tell my mates and they don’t listen.

“They still do it, they all still vape, but they’ve seen what I’ve been through.

“Is it worth risking your life for smoking e-cigs?

“I don’t want you to end up like me and I don’t want you to be dead, I wouldn’t wish [that] on anyone.”

Ewan also fears being around other vapers – everywhere from the pub to High Street – could damage his lungs again.

Is vaping to blame?

His doctors say the answer is yes.

Ewan developed a condition called hypersensitivity pneumonitis – something he was breathing in was setting off his immune system, with catastrophic consequences.

“You get an over-exuberant inflammatory response and the lungs pay a price and develop respiratory failure,” Dr Bhatt said.

One of the most common forms of hypersensitivity pneumonitis is “bird fancier’s lung”, which is caused by particles from feathers or bird droppings.

When scientists tested the two e-cigarette liquids Ewan had been using, they found one of them was triggering an immune reaction.

Dr Bhatt said: “The real learning point is vaping is not safe, especially for young people, they should never go near it.

“We consider e-cigarettes as ‘much safer than tobacco’ at our peril.”

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How common is this?

There are 3.6 million people vaping in the UK and reactions like this are rare.

However, doctors have told BBC News Ewan’s case is not an isolated incident.

“As vaping becomes more popular, we are beginning to see more cases,” Dr Hemant Kulkarni, a consultant in paediatric respiratory medicine at Sheffield Children’s NHS Foundation Trust, said.

He told BBC News: “Some of the cases my colleagues and I have seen are teenagers presenting with severe lung injury and some of these have been life-threatening.

“However, in the cases I’ve been involved in, patients are now regaining normal lung function.”

Dr Kulkarni is “surprised” e-cigarettes are advertised in the UK, given the severe reaction they can cause in children and a lack of scientific studies on their safety.

Is vaping dangerous?

Smoking is pretty much the worst thing you can do for your health.

E-cigarettes are promoted in the UK as a way to quit because they let people inhale nicotine in vapour rather than breathing in smoke.

Ewan’s reaction to vaping was extreme, but what about the rest of us who would not end up with hypersensitivity pneumonitis?

Public Health England says vaping is 95% safer than smoking but is not without risks.

Rosanna O’ Connor, the body’s director of drugs, alcohol and tobacco, said: “Smoking kills half of lifelong smokers and accounts for almost 220 deaths in England every day.

“Our advice remains that while not completely risk free, UK regulated e-cigarettes carry a fraction of the risk of smoked tobacco.”

But there are arguments about how safe vaping really is.

The World Health Organization says e-cigarettes are “undoubtedly harmful and should therefore be subject to regulation”.

It also raises concerns vaping is being aggressively marketed at young people – particularly through the use of flavourings – and risked re-normalising smoking.

Is Ewan’s case similar to those in the US?

The deaths of 39 people in the US have been connected to vaping and have prompted worldwide concern about its safety.

There have been 2,051 cases of e-cigarette, or vaping, product use associated lung injury (called EVALI) in the outbreak.

Most of those cases, but not all, have been linked to vaping THC, the psychoactive ingredient in cannabis.

Ewan was vaping standard e-cigarettes bought from a shop.

What do experts says?

Dr Nick Hopkinson, the medical director of the British Lung Foundation, said: “If people switch completely from smoking to vaping, they will substantially reduce their health risk as e-cigarettes do not contain tobacco and any harmful components are present at a much lower level.

“People who do switch should try to quit vaping in the long term too but not at the expense of relapsing to smoking – and non-smokers should not take up vaping.”

Prof John Britton, the director of the UK Centre for Tobacco and Alcohol Studies, at the University of Nottingham, said: “This is worrying, and the risk needs to be acknowledged, but in absolute terms it is extremely small and, crucially, far smaller than that of smoking.

“The advice remains the same: if you smoke, switch to vaping; if you don’t smoke, don’t vape.”

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England v Montenegro: Raheem Sterling to miss Euro 2020 qualifier at Wembley

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England team-mates Joe Gomez and Raheem Sterling during Sunday’s Premier League match at Anfield, where Liverpool beat Manchester City 3-1

England forward Raheem Sterling will not play in the Euro 2020 qualifier against Montenegro on Thursday “as a result of a disturbance in a private team area”, the Football Association has announced.

The 24-year-old Manchester City player was involved in an on-field argument with Liverpool and England defender Joe Gomez, 22, during the Reds’ 3-1 Premier League victory at Anfield.

“Unfortunately the emotions of yesterday’s game were still raw,” said England boss Gareth Southgate.

“One of the great challenges and strengths for us is that we’ve been able to separate club rivalries from the national team.

“We have taken the decision to not consider Raheem for the match against Montenegro on Thursday. My feeling is that the right thing for the team is the action we have taken.

“Now that the decision has been made with the agreement of the entire squad, it’s important that we support the players and focus on Thursday night.”

England play their 1,000th senior men’s international on Thursday and a win at Wembley would book a spot at Euro 2020 with one qualifying game to spare.

The Three Lions are top of Euro 2020 Qualifying Group A, three points clear of the Czech Republic and four ahead of Kosovo with the top two nations advancing.

A win for Southgate’s side will see them qualify, while a point will also be enough if the match between the Czech Republic and Kosovo also ends in a draw.

England then play their final group match away in Kosovo on Thursday, 17 November.

More to follow.

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Russia throws more weight behind Haftar in Libya

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