Tag Archives: DW Documentaries

Documentary: Lebanon’s Historic Economic Crisis

Lebanon is now going through the worst economic crisis in its history. 80 per cent of the population lives below the poverty line. In one year, food prices have jumped 500 per cent due to galloping inflation. Lebanon was long regarded as the Switzerland of the Middle East.

But those days are gone. A series of crises have plunged the nation into the abyss. And its people are suffering. For Riad, who runs a grocery store in the suburbs of Beirut, business has become hellish. Every morning, calculator in hand, he changes the labels of his products according to the day’s exchange rate. An operation made all the more complex by the fact that his store is plunged into darkness, due to a lack of electricity.

The Lebanese government no longer provides more than two hours of electricity per day in the country. It is impossible for the population to heat, light or use their refrigerators. Taking advantage of the situation, a network of private generators has emerged. The Lebanese pound, the local currency, has lost 90 per cent of its value.

The only people unaffected are those paid in dollars. The greenback, which can be exchanged for a small fortune against the local currency, has created a new privileged social class in the country. A salesman in an international pharmaceutical company, Joseph lives like a king in a ruined Lebanon. Thanks to his new purchasing power, he repaid his mortgage in two months, instead of… twenty years!

In a bankrupt state, plagued by corruption, six out of ten Lebanese now dream of leaving the country. In Tripoli, in northern Lebanon, Mohammed and his son set out for Germany by sea. Even though the trip was cut short off the Turkish coast, the young father is still ready to take all possible risks to reach the European Eldorado.

Healthy Living: Can The Aging Process Be Halted?

Can the aging process be reversed – or even halted, altogether? If we manage to decode this final mystery of our human biology, we might soon be able to eradicate age-related illnesses like cancer, dementia and heart problems. The race to invent the miracle pill is well underway.

Today, international researchers are getting astonishingly close to realizing humanity’s dream of immortality. The hunt for immortality gained traction with the discovery of Costa Rica’s so-called “Blue Zone,” by Luis Rosero-Bixby. In the “Blue Zone,” on the Nicoya Peninsular, he found a remarkable number of centenarians.

Here, male life expectancy is the highest in the world. Their healthy lifestyle is one factor, but the promise of longevity is probably also because their telomeres – sections of DNA found at the end of chromosomes – are longer than those of the average person. It’s a field of research currently being explored by Maria Blasco in Madrid.

But this is just one of many possible factors influencing the process of aging. Senescent cells may also play a key role. Also known as “zombie cells”, these attack our body in old age and flood it with alarm signals until, at some point, we collapse under their weight. That’s a theory proposed by another researcher in Spain, Manuel Serrano. A billion-dollar industry is already knocking impatiently at the lab doors.

The first to market the miracle pill is guaranteed incredible wealth. That’s why investors are sponsoring young bio-startups in Hong Kong. Keen not be left out, US Big Tech is vying for the world’s best scientists. Alex Zhavoronkov has secured a slice of that pie, with a cash injection of more than 250 million dollars for his company’s work on aging research. Whereas some pioneers’ visions burst like bubbles, others rush to get other, rather more dubious products onto the market. But their efficacy is now measurable.

The epigenetic clock devised by Steve Horvath can measure our biological age, regardless of our actual age in years. With his research on the thymus gland, California’s Greg Fahy managed to not only decelerate the aging process, but reverse it. His initial study on humans showed that a particular drug cocktail took an average two-and-a-half years off their age.

Young biohackers like Nina Khera from Boston want everyone to benefit from this research. Together with friends, she’s working on the “epigenetic clock for all”. But while we’re busy trying to counter the aging process and all the illnesses it entails, fundamental questions arise: Should we be messing with nature like this? Are we about to overwhelm the planet with more and more people? Criminal biologist Mark Benecke in Cologne says that these questions are coming far too late.