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Have a look at the WorldInterface class in pr2_python. This gives examples for the functionality and I can confirm that it works this way. Even as a C++ guy you should be able to understand what is going on.

Note, that there is a delay after each publish, not sure how necessary that is.

As to the second question: No. This just resets the planning scene. The procedures above influence the world interface and your objects are stored there. However, before you use any component that uses the planning scene (as e.g. the planning scene display in rviz) you should do the reset to get your world updates into the planning scene.