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Poison in wine distributed at funerals; 7 dead, 131 hospitalized after drinking fake wine in Cambodia

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A batch of rice wine, adulterated with a toxic substance, has killed 7 people and hospitalised more than 131 others in Cambodia, officials have said.

Residents of a remoe rural village in the central Kampong Chhnang province had gathered on Saturday at a funeral when the wine was drunk, according to Cambodia’s Health Ministry.

Officials believe the drink contained high levels of methanol, said ministry spokeswoman Or Vandine, which can be lethal even in small amounts.

Methanol is the simplest form of alcohol and is closely related to ethanol, the type of alcohol normally found in beer, wine and spirits – the difference being that methanol is much more toxic.

“An investigation conducted by a health ministry’s working group found that they had drunk contaminated rice wine during the villager’s funeral,” Ms Vandine told local media on Monday.

She also confirmed around 131 of the “hospitalised patients had recovered and returned home”.

Selling rice wine in the province has been temporarily banned after the incident, she said, while the Health Ministry said in a statement that it had sent three experts to the village on the day of the incident to investigate the situation and make sure sales and consumption of the wine were immediately stopped.

Rice wine is popular in Cambodia’s rural areas because it is cheap to both produce and buy, which residents do on a regular basis despite a number of accidental poisonings being reported each year.

The drink is typically homemade and is popular at social gatherings, although in at least one of the dozens of cases seen over the weekend the tainted wine was a bottled brand made in Phnom Penh, Cambodia’s capital, that had been sold in provincial markets for several years without injury.

It becomes toxic when not distilled properly, according to experts. Leigh Schmidtke, a senior lecturer in wine microbiology and production at Charles Sturt University, in Australia, has said before that issues arise from home distillation because the process “concentrates the levels of both ethanol and methanol”.

“There are no really safe ways of differentiating methanol from ethanol at home,” Mr Schmidtke told.

He said commercial alcohol is known to be safe because unlike home distillers, manufacturers use technologies specifically designed to ensure methanol is separated properly from ethanol – leaving the alcohol safe to drink.

In one of Cambodia’s worst incidents involving methanol-laced toxic wine, 14 villagers died and more than 200 others were left seriously ill in the northeastern province of Kratie in May 2018.

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Priests and monks abducted in Haiti have been released

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HAITI – The remaining Catholic clergy who were kidnapped in Haiti earlier in April have been released, a missionary group said Friday.

The Society of Priests of Saint Jacques said the clergy were freed but did not say if a ransom had been paid.

A total of 10 people were abducted in Croix-des-Bouquets, a town northeast of the capital Port-au-Prince, on April 11, including the seven clergy — three of whom have already been released.

The clergy members were a group of four priests and a nun from Haiti, as well as one priest and one nun from France. The three non-clergy were members of the family of a Haitian priest, who was not among those kidnapped.

“Our hearts are filled with joy because we have found our colleagues, the sisters and the family members of Father Jean Anel Joseph in good health,” the missionary society said in a statement, without specifying whether a ransom has been paid.

Haiti, the poorest country in the Americas, is plagued by insecurity and natural disasters.

Kidnappings for ransom have surged in recent months in Port-au-Prince and other provinces, reflecting the growing influence of armed gangs in the Caribbean nation.

Haiti’s government resigned and a new prime minister was appointed in the wake of the kidnappings, a move President Jovenel Moise said “will make it possible to address the glaring problem of insecurity and continue discussions with a view to reaching the consensus necessary for the political and institutional stability of our country.”

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New Jersey Government with the announced  give free beer to Covid vaccine recipients

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New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy on Monday announced a new bid to boost coronavirus vaccinations: Receive your first dose in May and get a free beer.

“We’re not going to be afraid to try new things,” Murphy said as he unveiled the new program, dubbed “Shot and a Beer,” at a press briefing.

Thirteen New Jersey-based breweries are participating in the program — which is only available to state residents ages 21 years and older, Murphy specified.

Those New Jerseyans will have to show their vaccine cards as proof before receiving their reward, the Democratic governor said.

The breweries themselves are footing the bill for the free drinks, said Murphy, who suggested more beer-makers could soon be added to the list.

The breweries currently participating are: Battle River Brewing, Bradley Beer Project, Bolero Snort Brewing Company, Brix City Brewing Company, Carton Brewing Company, Flounder Brewing Company, Flying Fish Brewing Company, Gaslight Brewery and Restaurant, Hackensack Brewing Company, Kane Brewing Company, Little Dog Brewing Company, Magnify Brewing Company and River Horse Brewing Company.

The program came from the New Jersey Department of Health in partnership with the Brewer’s Guild of New Jersey.

The Garden State is hardly the first to propose an outside-the-box incentive for people to get vaccinated.

West Virginia’s Republican Gov. Jim Justice last week announced an initiative to give $100 savings bonds to younger state residents who get vaccinated.

Connecticut is offering its own alcoholic incentive with its “Drinks On Us” campaign: Residents who get fully vaccinated and show their vaccine cards at certain restaurants will score a free drink between May 19 and May 31.

Incentive or no, vaccine rates are rising. More than 29% of the U.S. population is fully vaccinated, according to Johns Hopkins University, and cases and deaths from Covid are on the decline.

But a significant number of Americans say they are not willing to get vaccinated. A Monmouth University poll published in mid-April found that about 1-in-5 Americans say they won’t get the shot.

That’s prompting health officials and leaders at every level of government to urge more people to seek out and receive their vaccinations.

The “Shot and a Beer” campaign is just one piece of New Jersey’s broader slate of programs aimed at returning the state to a more normal summer as the fight against the pandemic continues.

Murphy announced the free-beer plan after detailing the “Grateful for the Shot” initiative, which makes it possible for congregants to go from religious services directly to vaccination sites.

It’s “perhaps at the other end of the spectrum” of incentives, Murphy said.

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