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Virus pushes science and its controversies centre stage



Hydroxychloroquine, double-blind studies, convalescent plasma, herd immunity — the coronavirus pandemic has thrust the language of science into public view as never before.

Having escaped the confines of the laboratory, these and other once-obscure terms are fast becoming part of household parlance.

But familiarity with the terminology does not necessarily lead to a better understanding, especially when there is an avalanche of new findings, experts caution.

When researchers disagree or change their mind on the efficacy of a treatment or policy, the normal back-and-forth of the scientific process can breed confusion, they say.

This is only amplified by a 24-hour news cycle and social networks, they add.

The number of studies about the new coronavirus and the disease it causes has skyrocketed into the thousands, with hundreds more in the pipeline at any given time.

This is as it should be, said Serge Horbach, an expert on academic publishing at Radboud University in The Netherlands and author of a new study about the explosion in research sparked by the coronavirus pandemic.

In a public health crisis that, to date, has infected nearly five million people and killed more than 315,000, “the rapid dissemination of relevant scientific knowledge is of paramount importance,” he wrote.

As of mid-April, he had catalogued more than 2,000 so-called pre-prints, published without having gone through a scientific journal’s peer review, which normally takes many months.

Even the usual channel in which research is subject to scrutiny by peers or fellow experts before publication has been “considerably accelerated”, Horbach said.

In the current global health pandemic, articles have been going online or into print within 57 days, half-again as fast as usual, he has found.

Publishers have also made relevant studies freely available, and suspended the usual practice of releasing them under embargo which delays access even further.

For years, journals have been under pressure from frustrated authors and scientific institutions to speed up a practice that dates to the early 18th century.

And they have long “promised quicker and quicker peer review” in order to cater to readers and authors, said Ivan Oransky, co-founder of Retraction Watch, a US-based site that monitors corrections in scientific publications.

A ‘disenchanting effect’

The coronavirus epidemic is not the first public health crisis in which fast-track publication has become even faster.

The same rush for results happened in 2009 with the H1N1 flu pandemic, and with the SARS epidemic in 2002/3.

But the first turned out not to be the global killer feared, and the second — while devastating — remained regional, and had a limited death toll compared to the current pandemic.

However, the peer-review process takes time for a reason.

“One could wonder whether faster is always better,” Horbach said.

Experts worry that a deluge of often contradictory findings — Does this or that drug work? Are masks effective? — results in a media free-for-all that can damage the credibility of science itself.

“If you look at coverage by a lot of journalists of coffee, or red wine, or chocolate, it seems as though they’re helpful one week and they kill you the next, and no one’s quite sure,” Oransky said.

Additionally, a rush to publish is not necessarily driven exclusively by a sense of public service.

“There’s enormous pressure to publish in order to finance research,” said Anne-Marie Duguet, a specialist in medical ethics and health law at the Paul Sabatier University in Toulouse.

But a sudden torrent of studies is not in itself a problem, she argued.

“What is most important is their scientific and ethical rigour,” she told AFP, saying that it was up to scientists to “question themselves”, for example, when describing their findings as “promising”.

Duguet pointed to the controversy swirling around French professor Didier Raoult, who has aggressively promoted hydroxychloroquine to treat COVID-19 patients.

US President Donald Trump is the world’s most vocal champion of the drug, used historically to treat malaria, and on Monday made the surprise announcement that he has been taking it for about a week.

“In scientific conferences, controversies are enriching,” said Duguet. “But what does the public want? They expect us to find a miracle solution that works, and works quickly.”

“Why is Raoult so successful?” she continued. “Because he doesn’t show any doubts, he just goes forward.”

But a number of recent studies have found hydroxychloroquine — which can also have adverse side-effects — ineffective in the treatment of the new coronavirus.

The resulting controversies “can have a disenchanting effect,” said Benoit Gaultier, a professor at the University of Zurich and the co-director of the epidemiological research group at France’s prestigious College de France establishment.

“We wind up with the public saying, ‘What is this mess?'”

Content and photo: AFP


Nika Zorjan’s ‘V Postelji’ music video showcases timeless beauty of Maldives



Released just three weeks ago, Nika Zorjan’s latest music video, ‘V Postelji’ (meaning “In Bed”), has captivated audiences with its stunning cinematography set against the breathtaking backdrop of the Maldives. Directed by videographer Niko Karo, who accompanied Nika to film the video, the project was organised by Moji Maldivi, an agency based in Slovenia dedicated to promoting the Maldives as a premier holiday destination in Balkan region.

The video beautifully captures Nika strolling through serene pathways shaded by iconic coconut palm trees at Villa Park, later walking along the sun-kissed beaches of Villa Nautica, and finally enjoying the golden sunset on a bed at the beach of Furaveri Maldives. Each scene showcases the natural beauty and tranquil ambiance of the Maldives, enhancing the emotional depth and visual splendour of the music video.

Nika Zorjan, renowned as a Slovenian pop star and Eurovision contestant, has also gained fame for her cover songs, including her most popular rendition of Sia’s Cheap Thrills, which has amassed nearly 50 million views on YouTube, with over 60 million total views on the platform. “Shooting a video in the Maldives is heavenly,” she added. Filmed in one of the world’s most captivating tourist destinations, the Maldives serves as more than just a scenic backdrop; it becomes an integral part of the video’s narrative.

V Postelji not only showcases Nika Zorjan’s musical prowess but also pays homage to the Maldives’ timeless allure and cultural richness. The video has resonated deeply with audiences, garnering praise for its artistic vision and the mesmerising beauty of the Maldivian landscape. The lush greenery, crystal-clear waters, and pristine beaches depicted in the video create a sense of paradise that complements the song’s evocative lyrics.

As viewers continue to immerse themselves in the captivating visuals and emotive melodies of V Postelji, it reinforces the Maldives’ reputation as a destination where natural beauty and tranquility converge effortlessly. Nika Zorjan’s collaboration with Niko Karo underscores their shared appreciation for the Maldives’ serene ambiance and its ability to inspire creativity and emotional expression. This partnership, facilitated by Moji Maldivi, highlights the agency’s dedication to showcasing the Maldives as an unparalleled holiday destination to the Balkan market.

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Emirates undertakes largest known fleet retrofit project



Emirates has kick-started its plans to upgrade the entire interior cabins of 120 Airbus A380 and Boeing 777 aircraft – two of the largest commercial aircraft types in service today.

This ambitious project, representing a multi-billion dollar investment to ensure Emirates’ customers “fly better” for the coming years, officially commences in November and is managed entirely by Emirates’ Engineering team.

The target is to completely retrofit four Emirates aircraft from start to finish every month, continuously for over 2 years. Once the 67 earmarked A380s are refreshed and back in service, 53 777s will undergo their facelift. This will see nearly 4,000 brand new Premium Economy seats installed, 728 First Class suites refurbished and over 5,000 Business Class seats upgraded to a new style and design when the project is complete in April 2025.

In addition, carpets and stairs will be upgraded, and cabin interior panels refreshed with new tones and design motifs including the iconic ghaf trees which are native to the UAE.

No other airline has handled a retrofit of this magnitude in-house, and there’s no blueprint for such an undertaking. Therefore Emirates Engineering teams have been planning and testing extensively, to establish and streamline processes, and identify and address any possible snags.

Trials began on an A380 in July, where experienced engineers literally took each cabin apart piece-by-piece and logged every step. From removing seats and panelling to bolts and screws, every action was tested, timed and mapped out. Potential impediments to completing the installation of Emirates’ new Premium Economy Class or the retrofit of the remaining three cabins in just 16 days were flagged and documented for expert teams to review and address.

As part of the programme, new purpose-built workshops will be set up at Emirates Engineering to repaint, re-trim and re-upholster Business and Economy Class seats with new covers and cushioning. First Class suites will be carefully disassembled and sent to a specialised company to replace the leather, arm rests and other materials.

From the trials, Engineers discovered several unexpected solutions for instance: that existing food catering trucks could be easily repurposed to move parts destined for refurbishment from the aircraft to the workshop for their refresh, as these vehicles had doors of the right width and offer sufficient space.

Until the retrofit programme starts in earnest in November, a cross-disciplinary team has been assembled to regularly review the planning process, address any issues, and track updates on various aspects of the project such as procurement, staffing, and training.

Emirates’ new Premium Economy cabin class, which offers luxurious seats, more legroom, and a service to rival many airlines’ business offering, is currently available to Emirates customers travelling on popular A380 routes to London, Paris, Sydney. More customers will be able to experience the airline’s new Premium Economy cabins starting from year end, as the retrofit programme picks up momentum.

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Eleanor helps over 30 Maldives hotels elevate guest services



Eleanor has been named as one of the top 10 concierge software providers globally.

Based on accurate, timely reviews from real users, the HotelTechAwards rank the world’s best hotel software firms and products and it also provides hoteliers direct access to a growing network of hotel technology professionals and decision-makers.

“The guest experience is the cornerstone of our platform. Our unified resort wide solution, Eleanor, has been built for resorts off the back of many years working in the industry and addresses the needs of both Sales and Marketing departments and perhaps just as importantly, the operational requirements of the team on the ground at the property. The days of resorts working with disjointed systems are now behind us,” says Darren Caple, co-founder and CEO.

“We are on a mission to make the guest’s resort experience as easy and as frictionless as possible. Whereas traditional providers in the market have come at this purely from a guest communication perspective, our background in resorts has allowed us to combine this basic requirement with the streamlining of operational processes. The result is truly a resort wide solution that removes the need for countless different systems to be deployed.

Eleanor allows resorts to deliver consistent, superior service levels to guests across all stages of their journey with contactless features helping to alleviate sensitive touch-points in the post pandemic period. More than 30 properties in the Maldives use our Eleanor platform to help butlers and guest services elevate the guest experience. These properties are seeing an increase in incremental revenue by over 30% and operational efficiencies of 600+ man hours per month. We are also beginning to roll out the platform in some Caribbean properties!”

Eleanor is making waves in the hospitality industry by pushing the conventional limits of what a resort guest app can achieve through its unique ability to facilitate direct bookings for services and activities. The traditional ‘request to book’ feature that is common amongst almost all other hotel apps is removed by a power booking and operational platform sitting at the heart of the solution that covers all the resorts’ departments. It’s this module which realises enormous operational benefits and insights for the resort.

“We, at Eleanor, are humbled and honoured that our clients have provided such positive reviews. Feedback from our clients, partners and hoteliers are incredibly valuable for us and we will continue to improve our offering and services”, said Caple.

To celebrate this success, Eleanor is currently offering resorts a free one month trial, together with free setup and training and discounted monthly fees.

Eleanor, founded in 2018 and has its headquarters in the United Kingdom. Created from over 15 years of hands-on expertise, Eleanor allows resorts to deliver consistent, superior service levels to its guests across all stages of their journey with contactless features helping to alleviate sensitive touch-points in the post pandemic period. Eleanor also helps to unlock operational efficiencies and boost incremental revenue and guest loyalty.

Hotel Tech Report’s Best Concierge Software 2022 Runner Up, reviewed as a preferred and reliable hotel software product by the global hotelier community.

For more information, visit

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