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Showing posts from June 15, 2014

Cuban ballet defectors appear in Miami, seek U.S. careers

Six dancers who defected over the weekend from the famed National Ballet of class="mandelbrot_refrag"> Cuba appeared in Miami on Tuesday and said they planned to pursue careers in the United States. "The dancers defected because they need personal freedom and opportunity in their career," said Pedro Pablo Peña, founder of the Cuban Classical Ballet of Miami, a nonprofit dance organization. "It's a short career. Here they'll at least get paid more than they do in class="mandelbrot_refrag"> Cuba ," he added. It was the second major defection of Cuban ballet dancers in the United States in a little more than 12 months, though none are principals or soloists. Cuba is one of the world’s top producers of ballet talent but dancers are restricted from working abroad and some leave the island frustrated by lack of opportunity, and high paying salaries. At a press conference in Miami on Tuesday, the six dancers, aged between 21 and

Photos of Albert of Monaco's illegitimate son legal: court

A French court breached freedom of expression laws when it censured the glossy magazine Paris Match in 2005 for class="mandelbrot_refrag"> publishing photos and an article about the illegitimate son of Prince Albert of Monaco, Europe's human rights court ruled on Thursday. _0"> The Strasbourg-based European Court of Human Rights ruled that the article in which "Ms C" alleged that the ruler of Monaco had fathered her son, and photos of the prince with the child, fell outside the sphere of private life protected by French law. "As this was an issue of political significance, the court found that the public had a legitimate interest in knowing of the child's existence and being able to conduct a debate on the possible implications for political life in the Principality of Monaco," the court wrote.   true       Prince Albert II is the head of the centuries-old House of Grimaldi and son of the late Prince Rainier III and actress Grace

Recife steps up shark warnings for unwary World Cup fans

Soccer fans visiting Recife for the World Cup may be unaware that the city is not just famous for football - it is also one of the most dangerous places in the world to swim due to the risk of shark attacks. Supporters strolling on the sandy beaches of the city, which will host five World Cup matches, are being met by a forest of warning signs in English and Portuguese, and newly-built watchtowers where lifeguards keep a close eye on bathers. The Boa Viagem beach suffers a high number of shark attacks and an above-average number of fatalities, and local authorities are keen to avoid any incidents with unsuspecting soccer fans during the World Cup. "In the 20 kilometers of beach we have in the state of Pernambuco, we have an atypical concentration of sharks, above the world average," local lifeguard captain Helder Silva told Reuters in an interview at one of the many watchtowers along the shore. "Across these 20 kilometers of coastline we’ve had 59 incidents over 21

Hollywood duo Pitt, Jolie put spotlight on sexual violence in war

Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie appeared together on Thursday at a global summit on ending sexual violence in conflict, in a show of celebrity power that British Foreign Secretary William Hague said was helping put a spotlight on the issue of rape as a weapon of war. Dressed in black, Pitt and Jolie flanked Hague at the opening of the third day of a four-day summit in London that is the culmination of two years' joint work by the actress and Hague. Up to 1,200 government ministers, officials, activists and members of judiciaries and militaries from more than 120 countries are at the summit that aims to find practical steps to punish those responsible for sex violence and help victims.   true       Hague said his partnership with Oscar-winning Jolie, special envoy of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), had put the issue of sexual violence in conflict on the world agenda and was an example of how foreign policy could be conducted in the future. "She brings what gov

Some turn to bullet-resistant blankets after U.S. school shootings

An Oklahoma company that sells a blanket to protect children from gunfire has seen its business grow after a spate of U.S. school shootings has left parents and educators on edge. ProTecht of Oklahoma originally developed its "Body Guard" blanket product to keep children safe from high-speed debris flying through the air from the tornadoes that frequently hit the state, but many parents see it as armor against bullets, the company said on Thursday. "The government is not going to do anything in law about guns, and there is nothing else out there to protect the children," said Stan Schone, who helped develop the blanket. The 5/16th-inch (7.9 millimeter) pad is made from bullet-resistant materials that can be folded and strapped on the back and then unfurled to hide under in emergency situations. The blankets sell for about $1,000. The company declined to provide sales figures. Co-developer Steve Walker, an Oklahoma podiatrist, came up with the idea of a protec

In Miami, expat Brazilians crowd cafes, bars to cheer national team

Elie Iskandar, a Brazilian who lives in the United States, could not afford to travel home to see the World Cup. So he opted for what he called the next best thing - his favorite Brazilian hangout in Miami. Expatriate Brazilians packed Miami-area bars and class="mandelbrot_refrag"> restaurants as the World Cup kicked off on Thursday, chanting, dancing and cheering on their national team in its opening 3-1 victory over Croatia. At the Brazilian bar and restaurant Boteco, a party atmosphere took hold, with virtually everyone dressed in Brazil's famed yellow and green jersey. Those not wearing the jersey drew the occasional cold stare.   true       Some fans sipped Caipirinhas, Brazil's national cocktail, while others nibbled on Brazilian cheese bread rolls known as pao de queijo. Iskandar said it was like a slice of home. "It's beautiful," he said. According to the 2010 U.S. Census, at least 325,000 Brazilians live in the United States, with si

Jamaica to decriminalize personal marijuana possession

The Jamaican government has decided to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana, joining the trickle of countries moving to soften laws on the drug known on the Caribbean island as "ganja." Minister of Justice Mark Golding made the announcement at an afternoon news conference on Thursday saying that Jamaica's Dangerous Drugs Act would be formally amended this summer. The cabinet of Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller made the decision on June 2, he said.   true       "Cabinet approved certain changes to the law relating to ganja. These relate to possession of small quantities of ganja for personal use, the smoking of ganja in private places and the use of ganja for medical-medicinal purposes," he said. "Approval has been given also to a proposal for the decriminalization of the use of ganja for religious purposes," he said. Uruguay recently became the latest country to legalize marijuana use, joining several countries in Europ

After major surgery, simple ice packs may help reduce pain

Patients given ice packs for the first 24 hours after major abdominal surgeries reported less pain and needed fewer narcotic painkillers, according to a new U.S. study. “We aren’t talking about saying to a patient, here is some ice and then cut off all their pain medication. The ice was only meant to increase the patient care,” Dr. Viraj Master told Reuters Health. Master, a urologist and professor at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, led the study. He said post-operative pain is an unavoidable consequence of major surgery. Although you can make it better with pain medication, those drugs are not without side effects like constipation, drowsiness and even dependence. “The idea was to keep patients out of pain but not have them suffer from using too many narcotics,” he said. “The physician could give the patient any medication he wanted, we just added the ice.” Using ice as a treatment for surgical wounds, known as cryotherapy, is not new, Master said. The cold reduces pai

Rate of smokeless tobacco use in U.S. unchanged: CDC

While the portion of U.S. working adults smoking class="mandelbrot_refrag"> tobacco shrank appreciably between 2005 and 2010, the use of smokeless tobacco remained steady, according to a new study. In 2005, 2.7 percent of working adults represented in the annual National Health Interview Survey used smokeless class="mandelbrot_refrag"> tobacco and in 2010, it was 3 percent. That’s still about 10 times higher than national public health policy goals, researchers said. “These findings highlight opportunities for reducing the health and economic burdens of tobacco use among U.S. workers, especially those in certain industries (e.g., mining) and occupations (e.g., class="mandelbrot_refrag"> construction and extraction) where use of smokeless tobacco is especially common,” the report’s authors write. Dr. Jacek Mazurek, of the Division of Respiratory Disease Studies, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health at the Centers for

Sierra Leone shuts borders, closes schools to fight Ebola

Sierra Leone shut its borders to trade with Guinea and Liberia on Wednesday and closed schools, cinemas and nightclubs in a frontier region in a bid to halt the spread of the Ebola virus. _0"> Sixteen people have died of Ebola in Sierra Leone, a figure that has doubled in the last week, Ministry of Health figures showed. Authorities will also mount health checkpoints in the eastern Kailahun district and mandated that all deaths there be reported before burial. Anyone who dies of the virus must be buried under the supervision of health personnel, the Information Ministry said. The decision to close district schools came after a nine-year-old whose parents died of Ebola tested positive for the virus, Deputy Minister of Information Theo Nicol told Reuters.   true       "There is more contacts between school-going kids than adults hence the closure of schools in the most affected district," he said. The ban exempted churches and mosques but religious leaders should

Skin moles tied to breast cancer risk: studies

The number of moles a woman has may be tied to her risk of developing breast cancer, according to two new studies. The studies don’t prove that moles cause breast cancer or that women with a lot of moles will definitely get breast cancer. Instead, they suggest there may be a small genetic or hormonal link between the two. “This shouldn’t be a concern for women with moles, because we don’t think the relationship is causal,” said Marina Kvaskoff, the lead author of one of the new studies. Kvaskoff is affiliated with INSERM - the French National Institute of Health and class="mandelbrot_refrag"> Medical Research - and the University of Paris 11. Researchers suspected that moles, also known as nevi, and breast cancer might share links to certain hormones and genes. That would mean moles could be used to help predict a woman’s breast cancer risk. “We always need to discover more causes of cancer and breast cancer in particular,” Kvaskoff said. “If more studies wer

New psych ward to open on California's death row : report

Under pressure to improve mental health treatment for inmates in California's massive prison system, officials plan to build a new psychiatric ward to provide inpatient mental health care for prisoners on death row, according to a court-ordered report. The new ward, set to open on Oct. 1, will serve severely mentally ill prisoners on death row at the San Quentin prison near San Francisco, said the report filed late Tuesday. Matthew Lopes, a special master overseeing mental health care in California's prisons, found that 37 severely mentally ill death row inmates at San Quentin prison near San Francisco were entitled to 24-hour inpatient care in a hospital but were not getting it. Lopes, assigned to develop the report by federal Judge Lawrence K. Karlton last December, said he had worked with state officials and lawyers representing inmates to draft plans for a new ward. "They were refusing to transfer them (to a mental hospital) because they said it was too dangerous

FDA aims to develop e-cigarette standards; nicotine policy

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is working to develop strong product standards for electronic cigarettes and other nicotine delivery devices that will protect public health and enable the agency to withstand legal challenges, its class="mandelbrot_refrag"> tobacco chief said on Wednesday. Mitchell Zeller, director of the FDA's Center for class="mandelbrot_refrag"> Tobacco Products, said the agency is exploring potential product standards in the areas of addiction, toxicity and product appeal as it prepares to gain regulatory authority over electronic cigarettes and other nicotine-delivery devices. The establishment of product standards is one of five priorities for the division over the next few years, Zeller said, outlining them publicly in the most comprehensive manner to date. They include putting in place regulations for approving new products and monitoring them after they reach the market, ensuring that the agency has in place a strong

Saudi MERS response hobbled by institutional failings

When class="mandelbrot_refrag"> Saudi Arabia announced last week it had found 113 more cases of the deadly Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), it didn't just force a rethink of the threat the virus poses, it exposed institutional failings.     Saudi health sources and international virologists said poor communication and a lack of accountability in government departments, inadequate state oversight and a failure to learn from past mistakes have all hindered Saudi Arabia's battle against the SARS-like virus.     They say it is too soon to tell if reforms introduced by a new acting health minister can overcome what they see as underlying problems.     Some top Saudi health officials say they accept that delays in reporting MERS cases were caused by poor communication between hospitals, laboratories and government departments, but they stress things have improved significantly since the appointment of the new minister in late April.     The health ministr

FDA lifts partial hold on study testing Geron's only drug

class="mandelbrot_refrag"> Geron Corp said the U.S. Food and Drug Administration had lifted a partial clinical hold on a study testing its sole drug as a treatment for myelofibrosis, a rare form of blood cancer, sending the company's shares soaring in morning trading. Enrollment in the early-stage trial, sponsored by the Mayo Clinic, was halted in March over concerns about liver toxicity pending followup data from Mayo's investigator on the possible reversibility of the liver damage. Enrollment for the study ceased in January, and about 20 of the 79 patients dropped out. Geron, whose shares rose as much as 33 percent on Thursday, did not then disclose the reason behind the dropouts, but said the remaining enrolled patients would continue to receive the drug, imetelstat.   true       However, in March the FDA also imposed a halt on separate company-sponsored trials evaluating the use of the drug in thrombocythemia and multiple myeloma, citing similar concern

Weight gain differs with various antidepressants

People who take antidepressants tend to put on a few pounds, a new study confirms, and some of the drugs are linked to more weight gain than others. Using health records from one New England healthcare system, researchers studied 19,244 adults treated with antidepressants, recording their weights over the course of a year. The results showed that people taking citalopram (Celexa), from a class of antidepressants known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs, gained more than two and a half pounds, on average. Other SSRIs were associated with weight gain similar to citalopram, with people taking fluoxetine (Prozac) gaining on average a pound and a half and those taking sertraline (Zoloft) gaining nearly two pounds, the authors write in JAMA Psychiatry. On the other hand, people taking bupropion (Wellbutrin) lost on average nearly half a pound. The tricyclic antidepressants nortriptyline and amitriptyline were also linked with significantly less weight gain than th

Shire to test its ADHD drug in 4 to 5-year olds in U.S.

Shire Plc SHP.L has agreed to a U.S. Food and Drug Administration request to study its stimulant Vyvanse in preschool children as concern rises over the diagnosis and treatment of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, the drugmaker said on Thursday. _0"> A report last year by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that the number of children diagnosed with ADHD increased 41 percent from 2003 to 2011 and that 6.4 million children, or 11 percent of those aged 4 to 17, have been diagnosed with that condition. Drugs treatments include Ritalin, Adderall and Vyvanse. Only Adderall, which is also made by Shire, is approved to treat children under the age of 6. Yet children much younger are taking the drugs and the FDA wants additional information to ensure they are safe in this very young population.   true       Gwen Fisher, a spokeswoman for U.K.-based Shire, said the company is designing three clinical trials for children aged 4 to 5. One will examine how the

Ackman seeks court ruling on Allergan special meeting

William Ackman's Pershing Square Capital Management said it had filed a lawsuit seeking confirmation that its request to hold a special shareholder meeting of class="mandelbrot_refrag"> Allergan Inc would not trigger Allergan's poison pill takeover defense. _0"> Ackman, who owns nearly 10 percent of Allergan, last week filed documents with the Securities and Exchange Commission to call a shareholder meeting to elect new directors to the company's board. The Botox maker has rejected a $53 billion joint offer from Ackman and Canadian drugmaker class="mandelbrot_refrag"> Valeant Pharmaceuticals International . An Allergan spokeswoman declined to comment immediately. Allergan adopted the one-year shareholder rights plan on April 22, the day Valeant and Ackman made the offer, saying it needed time to consider takeover proposals.   true       Allergan's shareholder rights plan, or poison pill, will be triggered if a person or gro

Vermont climate change report warns of catastrophic flood risk

A warming world could pose a risk of more frequent catastrophic flooding but also be a long-term boon for Vermont farmers and a shorter-lived thrill for its skiers, according to a state report released on Tuesday. The Vermont Climate Assessment found that higher rates of precipitation expected to come with climate change could bring heavier winter snows over the next 25 years, good news for ski resorts until the state becomes too warm to sustain significant amounts of snow. It was the first state report to follow the model of the National Climate Assessment released last month by the White House, which was intended to help U.S. states prepare for concrete ways a changing climate could affect agriculture, transportation and other aspects of life. The report, based on records from weather data to farmers' observations on when ice thaws on ponds and plants bloom, found that average temperatures in Vermont have risen by 1.3 degrees Fahrenheit (0.7 C) and average annual rainfall ha

Chile rejects HidroAysen, hydro power project can appeal

A special Chilean ministerial committee on Tuesday canceled the massive HidroAysen hydro-power project's permit, after environmentalists protested it would wreck pristine valleys in Chile's wild south. While the decision is a big blow to the controversial project, it is not deadly. HidroAysen can still tweak the project or take its case to courts, suggesting more bitter legal wrangling over the fate of the 2,750 megawatt project may still be ahead. Still, the $8 billion-plus project faces a steep uphill battle if it decides to fight on in court. "Although the project isn't formally dead the litigation strategy has become a lot harder for the company now," said Luis Cordero, law professor at the Universidad de Chile, who estimated a fresh legal battle would yield a final decision in about a year. The HidroAysen joint venture, made up of leading generators Endesa Chile and partner Colbun, was not immediately available for comment. Some industry observers said

U.S. judge orders ExxonMobil produce documents on Arkansas spill

A U.S. federal judge has denied ExxonMobil Corp's bid to dismiss a government lawsuit and instead ordered the oil giant to hand over documents going back decades on a pipeline that ruptured last year and inundated an Arkansas town with oil. U.S. District Judge Kristine Baker ruled on Tuesday the company must hand over requested information on the entire 850-mile (1,370-km) Pegasus pipeline, which spilled about 5,000 barrels of class="mandelbrot_refrag"> crude oil in a residential neighborhood in Mayflower, Arkansas, in March 2013. She also said ExxonMobil should speed up the handover of documents sought by the state's attorney general and the U.S. Department of Justice, which brought the case, and set a deadline of July 10.   true       The company had said it needed more time to go through millions of electronic and paper records to comply with requests from overlapping state and federal cases related to the spill. "The court understands the defenda

EU agrees tougher nuclear safety rules after Fukushima disaster

The European Union has agreed a new law to strengthen safety standards and improve supervision of nuclear facilities in response to lessons learned from the Fukushima nuclear disaster in class="mandelbrot_refrag"> Japan , the European Commission said on Wednesday. _0"> In March 2011, an earthquake and tsunami caused the world's worst nuclear accident in 25 years, spewing radiation over a swathe of Fukushima and forcing 160,000 people from their homes. The European Union, in response, carried out a series of stress tests to examine the resilience of  class="mandelbrot_refrag"> nuclear power stations and used the results to draft a response plan based on the latest international standards. "We need to put all our efforts into making sure that the highest safety standards are followed in every single class="mandelbrot_refrag"> nuclear power plant across the EU," Energy Commissioner Guenther Oettinger said in a statement

EU, Faroe Islands reach deal to lift herring ban soon

The European Commission could lift its import ban on herring from the Faroe Islands within months after reaching a deal to protect fish class="mandelbrot_refrag"> stocks in the Atlantic, it said on Wednesday. EU authorities banned imports of herring and mackerel from the Faroe Islands in August in a row over alleged over-fishing, with the world's biggest fish importer saying it had to protect a fish stock referred to as the Atlanto-Scandian herring. The Faroe Islands, a self-governed territory within the Danish Realm and not part of the European Union, said at the time that the EU rules do not give it a sufficient share of the herring catch and that a higher quota is justified by an increase in the number of herring in its waters.   true       On Wednesday, the European Commission said the Faroe Islands had agreed to a new catch limit for Atlanto-Scandian herring. Once that limit is fixed, the EU would end the ban on Faroese herring imports. "After long an