Jumat, 31 Agustus 2012

'At Least Three Dead' In New Jersey Shooting

At least three people have been killed after a multiple shooting in a supermarket in New Jersey, according to reports.

Emergency services were called to the Pathmark grocery store in Old Bridge, a suburb 25 miles from New York, at about 4am on Friday.

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X Factor-Style Kidney Donor Site Launched

A controversial X Factor-style website offering desperate patients the chance to plead for a kidney is being launched in the UK.

Matching Donors allows US patients to make emotional appeals via the internet to persuade potential donors to volunteer organs to keep them alive.

Some cry, sing, or put their children in front of the camera to beg people to save their life.

The website will allow UK patients to go private and bypass Britain's anonymous NHS scheme, where a medical panel decides who is in most need of an organ.

The non-profit organisation has matched around 250 strangers, more than twice as many as the NHS scheme, according to ITV.

There are 6,500 kidney patients in the UK waiting for a donor to save their life, but far less on the donor list, meaning three people die every day.

Matching Donors website Matching Donors allows patients and donors to exchange messages

A lucky few get theirs from a living donor - a person who decides to help others by living the rest of their life with just one kidney.

But only 117 people have donated kidneys in this way in the UK.

Those that do have to give their organ to the NHS - and so never know who received it, or have any choice who gets it.

But Matching Donors allows those in need of a transplant to make online pleas to donors, who can then choose who they give their kidney to.

The Human Tissue Authority (HTA), the UK's transplant watchdog, carried out a review which found the website could charge up to £377 for patients to register.

The website - which makes it clear that it is illegal to offer or receive payment for organs - claims "many patients" get their transplant within six months of signing up.

A kidney donor and patient A donor (left) meets a stranger whose life she saved (pic: Matching Donors)

Matching Donors spokesman Paul Dooley told ITV: "We have wanted to come to England for the longest time. We have the ability to take our system to the UK and save their lives."

Potential donor Rebecca Rogers, from Ramsgate, Kent, who has already signed up to the US version of the site, said: "With the American system you're personal and bonding with them.

"I like knowing who I am going to give my kidney to. You don't get that in the UK. You just go to the hospital and they expect you to give it up like that."

Allan Marriott-Smith, director of strategy and quality at the HTA, said: "We are not yet clear how it will operate here and the legal implications, and we have not had a conversation with the charity about these issues.

"Once we have more information, we can advise members of the public considering the possibility of arranging a donation through this route."

Dog Owner Jailed Over Savage Attacks

The owner of two dogs that savaged 10 people in an "horrific and nightmarish" street attack has been jailed for 12 months.

Unemployed father-of-one Spencer Brown, 22, pleaded guilty to 10 counts of owning dogs which were dangerously out of control in a public place.

The attacks happened after Brown's Staffordshire bull terrier crosses Tilly and Freak escaped from his East Sussex home at St Leonards-on-Sea on July 22.

Passers-by suffered bites to their hands, arms and legs as the two dogs roamed around the area with no leads on, while those who came to the victims'aid were also bitten.

Police eventually managed to subdue one of the animals with a fire extinguisher and a dog catcher pole while a passer-by dragged the other one into a cage.

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Clint Eastwood Mocks Obama At Convention

The Obama campaign team has shrugged off a bizarre attack on the president by Clint Eastwood at the Republican convention.

The Hollywood star, who is a staunch Republican supporter, appeared shortly before Mitt Romney's key speech and was supposed to be on stage for five minutes.

But he ended up speaking for 12 minutes in what was a surreal conversation with an imaginary Barack Obama on an empty chair beside him.

Eastwood told the chair where he felt Mr Obama had gone wrong and how he had failed to deliver on his promises, then declared that it was time for him to go.

"Mr. President, how do you handle promises that you have made when you were running for election, and how do you handle them? I mean, what do you say to people?," he asked.

Barack Obama tweet The Obama campaign hit back on Twitter

The 82-year-old actor and director also talked about the president's unfulfilled promise to close the US prison at Guantanamo, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and lawyers.

"When somebody doesn't do the job, you gotta let 'em go," Eastwood said. The tough guy actor of "Dirty Harry" fame then drew a finger across his throat.

The Obama campaign were unruffled by the sketch. His office posted a photo on Twitter of the back of the president's chair with Mr Obama's head visible and the caption: "This seat's taken."

Spokesman Ben LaBolt made his own surrealist joke when asked to comment, saying: "Referring all questions on this to Salvador Dali."

The 20th century artist was famous for his surrealist paintings which, as well as being considered technically brilliant, contained the element of surprise and absurdity that characterises the surrealist school of art.

Clint Eastwood speaks at the Republican National Convention Eastwood appeared with the Dirty Harry silhouette behind him

Mr Obama's team was not the only group to find the whole appearance slightly bizarre.

Within minutes, Twitter was alight with comments mocking the Oscar-winning director and one joker started an invisible chair account @invisibleObama that had soon amassed tens of thousands of followers.

"Clint, my hero, is coming across as sad and pathetic," tweeted film critic Roger Ebert. "He didn't need to do this to himself. It's unworthy of him."

"I heard that Clint Eastwood was channelling me at the RNC," tweeted comic actor Bob Newhart, known for his one-sided conversation bits. "My lawyers and I are drafting our lawsuit."

"Is this a segment for 'Mrs. Eastwood and Company'?" asked Star Trek actor Zachary Quinto, referring to the Keeping Up with the Kardashians reality series starring Eastwood's wife, Dina.

The Romney campaign insisted the crowd had lapped up the mock interview.

"Judging an American icon like Clint Eastwood through a typical political lens doesn't work," a spokesman said.

"His ad-libbing was a break from all the political speeches, and the crowd enjoyed it."

Roman Abramovich Wins £3bn High Court Battle

Russian oligarch Boris Berezovsky has lost his High Court battle with Chelsea Football Club owner Roman Abramovich.

Mr Berezovsky, 66, was seeking more than £3bn damages after accusing the 45-year-old Russian billionaire businessman of blackmail, breach of trust and breach of contract.

Mr Abramovich denied the allegations and denied that Mr Berezovsky was entitled to damages.

Mrs Justice Gloster, sitting at the High Court in central London, ruled in Mr Abramovich's favour after a three-month trial.

The legal fight centred on deals done in Russia following the break-up of the Soviet Union two decades ago.

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Eight Policemen In Hospital After Drugs Raid

Officers are being treated in hospital after exposure to an unknown substance, "possibly heroin and petrol", during a drugs raid.

West Midlands Police said eight officers experienced sickness and breathing difficulties while supporting colleagues from the Serious Organised Crime Agency (Soca) in Bordesley Green, Birmingham.

A police spokesman said early indications suggested the substance, found at a house in Mill Burn Way, was a mixture of petrol and an illegal drug, possibly heroin.

Three men, aged 21, 27 and 34, were arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to supply controlled drugs during the operation.

Officers forced entry to the premises at around midnight and seized a quantity of suspected Class A drugs with an approximate street value of around £250,000.

A police spokesman said: "While the arrests were being made, officers were exposed to an unknown substance, which caused ill-effects for both the officers and the people arrested, namely sickness and breathing difficulties.

"In total 11 people, consisting of eight police officers and three detainees, were taken to Heartlands Hospital.

"All were discharged early this morning and the three detainees remain in police custody, where they are being dealt with by Soca officers."

"Enquiries are ongoing to establish exactly what the liquid was, although early indications suggest it may have been petrol mixed with an illegal drug."

Parts of the area are still cordoned off and a number of road restrictions are in place while forensic examinations continue.

West Midlands Police incident manager, Chief Inspector Lee Wharmby, said: "Police officers face threats on a daily basis and, on occasions, criminals will use extreme measures to resist arrest.

"Events such as this always raise concern in communities, but I want to be clear that this is about drugs alone and not connected to terrorism."

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Paralympics: Britons Chase More Gold Medals

Britain's Paralympians are aiming high on the second day of the Games after a seven-medal haul in the first 24 hours.

Friday's medal hopefuls include Hannah Cockroft, a double world champion wheelchair racer, who is going for gold in the women's T34 100 metres.

The team will seek to follow the success on Day One, when cyclist Sarah Storey and swimmer Jonathan Fox both bagged gold medals, and three silver and two bronze medals were also won for Britain.

Cockroft, from Halifax, has smashed four world records at the 2010 British Wheelchair Athletics Association International.

She also made history as the first athlete to set a world record in the Olympic Stadium in London in May 2012.

:: Click here to see the medals table

In the velodrome, double Paralympic cycling champion Jody Cundy and Jon-Allan Butterworth will battle it out in the C4/C5 one-kilometre time-trial.

Cundy, from Wisbech, Cambridgeshire, had his right foot amputated at age three and was then fitted with an artificial leg.

A former Paralympic swimming champion who switched to para-cycling in 2006 is aiming to defend his Beijing title but Butterworth, an ex-RAF serviceman who lost his left arm serving in Iraq, will be hoping he can snatch the gold.

Martine Wright Martine Wright, injured in the 7/7 bombs, is playing sitting volleyball

The 26-year-old from Sutton Coldfield made his journey to the Games via the battlefield and Help for Heroes' Battle Back scheme.

Inspired by watching athletes like Sir Chris Hoy in the 2008 Olympics, he went to a selection weekend in Newport and was accepted on to the British Paracycling Programme in January 2009.

He won gold and broke the world record in the C5 Kilo at his first World Championships last year and then also came away with a gold medal in this year's event.

Thursday's silver medal winner in the men's C1-3 one-kilometre Time Trial, Mark Colbourne, will also be back on the track as he competes in the C1 Individual pursuit.

Ex-soldier Derek Derenalagi, who lost his legs in Taliban blash in Afghanistan in 2007, is also sure to draw a crowd as he goes for gold in the F57 discus.

Derenalagi, who was born in Fiji but now lives in Hertfordshire, had his legs blown off in a Taliban blast in Afghanistan in July 2007.

After being airlifted to the hospital at Camp Bastion he was pronounced dead but amazingly one of the doctors saw a slight pulse movement.

Following a painful recovery and with two new prosthetic legs, the former soldier pulled off a surprise win at the European championships and is now hoping for Paralympic glory.

UK Sport has set ParalympicsGB the minimum target of winning 103 medals from at least 12 different sports, with the overall goal of once again finishing second in the medal table.

Britain is currently third after one day of competition. It finished second for the third time in a row in Beijing after bagging 102 medals, including 42 golds.

One of the biggest hopes for gold, swimmer Ellie Simmonds, will compete at the weekend - but her race has been hit by controversy after a row over reclassification.

World record holder and American paralympic swimmer Victoria Arlen was declassified on Monday after the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) ruled she was not disabled enough.

But the 17-year-old was reinstated on Thursday after an appeal by the US team was upheld. A final decision will now be made by the IPC after she has competed.

Romney Promises To Restore America's Vitality

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney will seek to persuade Americans that he was the best hope to lift the struggling US economy and "restore the promise of America".

Mr Romney's speech accepting his party's nomination is the climax of the three-day Republican National Convention and a milestone in his long, often-rocky quest for the presidency.

He will claim the honour he was denied when John McCain won the nomination four years ago.

This year, he had to fend off a series of Republican challengers, questions about his shifting positions and mutterings about his Mormon religion.

The ultimate prize, the White House, will be determined in a November vote.

Polls show Mr Romney and President Barack Obama in a dead heat with the economy the biggest issue in the campaign.

The United States is struggling with 8.3% unemployment and the slowest economic recovery in decades.

Mr Romney was planning to note the excitement Mr Obama's candidacy generated four year ago and say he hasn't delivered on his promise of "hope and change."

"You know there's something wrong with the kind of job he's done as president when the best feeling you had was the day you voted for him," he said in excerpts released ahead of the speech.

Prior to his speech, the crowd in Florida applauded wildly as veteran actor and director Clint Eastwood urged America to vote for Mr Romney.

Eastwood urged the US to vote for a president with a business background and not a lawyer, like Mr Obama.

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Squatters Face Jail After Rights Are Axed

Squatters who take up residence in property that does not belong to them now face prison or a fine following the scrapping of squatters' rights.

A new law comes in on Saturday for England and Wales making it an offence for squatters to enter or occupy an abandoned or empty property without the owner's permission.

The introduction of the offence - which will carry a maximum sentence of up to six months in jail for persistent offenders, a £5,000 fine or both - follows a Government consultation on the issue last summer.

Ministers said the move would shut the door on squatters once and for all and help protect homeowners.

"For too long, squatters have had the justice system on the run and have caused homeowners untold misery in eviction, repair and clean-up costs," Justice minister Crispin Blunt said.

"Not any more. Hard-working homeowners need and deserve a justice system where their rights come first - this new offence will ensure the police and other agencies can take quick and decisive action to deal with the misery of squatting."

Housing minister Grant Shapps added: "No longer will there be so-called 'squatters' rights'.

"We're tipping the scales of justice back in favour of the homeowner and making the law crystal clear - entering a property with the intention of squatting will be a criminal offence.

"And by making this change, we can slam shut the door on squatters once and for all."

Campaigners argue that criminalising squatting in residential buildings will lead to an increase in some of the most vulnerable homeless people sleeping rough.

Homeless charity Crisis said the new law would criminalise vulnerable people, leaving them in prison or facing a fine they cannot pay.

"It also misses the point," Leslie Morphy, the charity's chief executive, said.

"There was already legal provision that police and councils could, and should, have used to remove individuals in the rare instances of squatting in someone's home.

"And the new law also applies to empty homes - of which there are 720,000 in England alone, including many that are dilapidated and abandoned - criminalising homeless people when they are just trying to find a place off the streets."

'Dead' Soldier Ready For Paralympic Debut

A soldier who was declared dead after being hit by a landmine in Afghanistan is preparing to compete on Friday at his debut Paralympic Games.

Private Derek Derenalagi of the 2nd Battalion the Mercian Regiment will throw the discus in the F57 class for athletes who have amputations and spinal cord injuries.

He lost both his legs in the Afghan blast in 2007 after his patrol drove over a landmine concealed in a 44-gallon oil drum, packed with high explosives, nuts, bolts, nails and razor blades.

Derek remembers the immediate aftermath of the blast and speaking to a medic before blacking out.

Doctors at the scene declared him dead.

His wife Ana explained: "He was taken for dead. When they were trying to clean his body up, and put it into a body bag one of the medics found a pulse, they revived him and brought him back to life."

He was transferred to a hospital in Birmingham where he was in a coma for nine days.

His remarkable rehabilitation is put down to intense training - he spends seven hours a day preparing for competitions.

Already the 2012 European Champion, he can throw a distance of more than 41 metres. 

His mentor, Martin Colclough from Help the Heroes said: "This is the most important thing in his life.

"He's throwing for himself of course, he's throwing for his family.

"He's very proud to be part of ParalympicsGB at the Games as it's taken us an awful long time where he's competing with the best in the world."

His wife and family have front row seats to the stadium tonight - and will be cheering him on.

Ana added: "I think I'm going to more nervous than he is.

"I've waited four long years since the day he said he wanted to represent Great Britain."

Legal Threat To Navy Seal Over Osama Book

The Pentagon has threatened to take legal action against a Navy Seal who has written a book about the controversial killing of al Qaeda figurehead Osama bin Laden.

The US military headquarters said the author of No Easy Day violated an agreement not to divulge military secrets.

The book suggested that bin Laden was unarmed during the raid on his Pakistan compound in May last year.

The Pentagon's top lawyer, Jeh Johnson, wrote a letter to the author reminding the serviceman that he had signed two nondisclosure agreements with the US Navy in 2007 that obliged him to "never divulge" classified information.

Mr Johnson said that after reviewing a copy of the book the Pentagon concluded that the author was in "material breach and violation" of the agreements.

Johnson addressed his letter to "Mark Owen," using quotation marks to signify that this is the author's pseudonym.

Last week media outlets revealed Owens' real identity as Matt Bissonnette but he has since referred requests for comment about the letter to his publisher.

Mr Johnson wrote: "I write to formally advise you of your material breach and violation of your agreements, and to inform you that the department is considering pursuing against you, and all those acting in concert with you, all remedies legally available to us in light of this situation."

Obama and Clinton join others in the operation room as Osama Bin Laden is killed The White House released a photo of officials apparently watching the raid

The Pentagon has not revealed how it got a copy of the book, which is scheduled to go on public sale next week.

It did not release copies of the nondisclosure agreements that it said Mr Bissonnette had signed, and Army spokesman Colonel Steve Warren said they were withheld as they include the author's real name and his signature.

In his book, Mr Bissonnette wrote that the Seal unit spotted bin Laden at the top of a darkened hallway and shot him in the head even though they could not tell whether he was armed.

Obama administration officials previously described that the Seals only shot bin Laden after he ducked back into a bedroom because they assumed he might be reaching for a weapon.

Syria’s Neighbors: Refugee Crisis Unsustainable

UNITED NATIONS — Syria’s neighbors, who have absorbed more than 220,000 refugees fleeing violence in that country, told the U.N. Security Council on Thursday that they need international assistance to meet the growing tragedy. Syria’s humanitarian crisis is spreading to its neighbors as they try to cope with a growing refugee crisis.

Turkey has so far taken in the largest number of Syrians -- around 80,000.  Ankara says it cannot handle much more than another 20,000, which it could reach soon.

Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu told the 15-nation Security Council that Turkey has spent more than $300 million, built 11 camps, and is finding it increasingly difficult to cope without international help.

“Yes, we are building new camps and will try to transfer them to these camps.  Yet, we are fast getting short of suitable areas to build camps and means to support them,” Davutoglu said.

The United Nations says there are more than 2 million displaced people inside Syria.

Davutoglu said something should be done to protect them.

“In the face of such a humanitarian disaster, the U.N. should initiate the establishment of IDP [i.e., internally displaced persons] camps within Syria without delay.  Needless to say, these camps should have full protection,” Davutoglu said.

The Turkish foreign minister also urged the Security Council to visit Turkey and other countries sheltering Syrian refugees, saying it would be useful for the ambassadors to hear the ordeals the refugees have been through.

Jordan’s foreign minister, Nasser Judeh, said some 12,000 Syrians have crossed into his country during the last four days alone, bringing registered totals there to more than 72,000 people.  He is heard here through a translator.

“Despite the challenges we face, given limited means in normal circumstances, we have not taken any measure to prevent the arrival of this increasing number of refugees.  Nevertheless, we would risk very quickly a situation which would go beyond double our capacity, and that massive flow could have social security implications,” Judeh said.

The United Nations says the number of registered Syrian refugees in Lebanon exceeds 57,000, while Iraq, which is making its own transition from conflict to stability, has more than 18,000.

The Security Council has been deeply divided on Syria, with Russia and China using its veto three times to block council action.  Thursday’s meeting was intended to focus on the humanitarian aspect of the Syrian crisis, something diplomats said they hoped they could all agree on, yet no unified statement came out of the session.

U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice said the situation in Syria is not based on a humanitarian crisis, but a political crisis caused by the “cruelty and callousness of the [Bashar al-]Assad regime.”

“No amount of humanitarian assistance will end the bloodshed and suffering.  That day will come only once [Bashar al-]Assad has departed and a peaceful Syrian-led transition to democracy has begun,” Rice said.

Earlier, Britain’s foreign secretary announced that his government would increase its humanitarian aid in response to the crisis by $4.75 million.  France’s foreign minister said Paris would contribute an additional $6 million.

The United Nations says more than 2.5 million people are in grave need of assistance and protection inside Syria as a result of the 18-month long crisis.  Activists and human rights groups estimate that at least 20,000 Syrians have been killed in the conflict.

Zambia Opposition Unhappy with Government ‘Intimidation’ Tactic

The leader of Zambia’s opposition United Party for National Development (UPND) says the government is using state security agencies to intimidate party supporters and needs to stop the practice.

Hakainde Hichilema said President Michael Sata’s government is intolerant of dissenting views.

“This is a clear demonstration by the ruling party that they are intolerant to people with diverging views,” said Hichilema. “Secondly, it is a clear affront against democracy.

“They will like to silence everybody and anybody [and] that is not just us in the opposition and it is also the church,” he added. “Not long ago, they deported a Catholic priest who talked about the growing gap between the rich and the poor.”

Hichilema’s comments came after police searched offices of the UPND for what officials said were possible seditious materials.  Police said later they did not find any such materials.

UPND lawyers are now considering their next move after accusing the government of intimidation and harassment, Hichilema said.

The opposition leader also demanded that Defense Minister Geoffrey Mwamba show prove his claims that the opposition had plotted to assassinate President Sata.

“I’m one of those people who has challenged the minister of defense to institute an investigation, as to who wants to assassinate the president,” Hichilema said. “I challenged the defense minister to substantiate, what he said, and I know what he said, has no validity, and this is unacceptable from a government minister.”                                

Hichilema was arrested recently after accusing the government of training a militia in Sudan to terrorize the opposition -- an accusation the government denied.

Supporters of the opposition leader said the government used state institutions to take away constitutionally guaranteed rights of free expression following Hichilema’s arrest.

But Information minister Kennedy Sakeni told VOA his government is making sure that the rule of law is respected by all Zambians.

“This gentleman was arrested and within a [span] of six hours he was taken before a court of law. He wasn’t detained or even questioned longer than necessary,” said Sakeni.

“The law [enforcers] do their business transparently and take matters before the courts of law. And as far as we are concerned as a government, we are on course.”

Clottey interview with Hakainde Hichilema, opposition UPND leader

Romney Vows to Restore 'Promise of America'

U. S. Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney will pledge to "restore the Promise of America" when he takes the stage to accept his party's nomination Thursday night.

Aides have been touting Thursday's address to the Republican National Convention, and to millions of American watching at home on television, as the speech of Mr. Romney's life.

In excerpts of his speech released to the media, Mr. Romney says "I wish President Obama had succeeded because I want America to succeed. But his promises gave way to disappointment and division."

Earlier Thursday evening, former Florida governor Jeb Bush - the younger brother of former president George W. Bush - chastised Mr. Obama during his speech to convention delegates.  Bush said Mr. Obama should stop blaming his brother for the nation's woes, saying "a real leader would accept responsibility for his actions and you haven't done it."

Mr. Romney -- a one-time venture capitalist and former governor of Massachusetts -- says he can boost the country's sluggish economy with lower taxes and less government regulation.  But Mr. Obama, the Democratic incumbent, says a Romney presidency would result in a return to policies that led to the country's worst economic downturn since the 1930s.

Nationwide voter surveys show the two candidates in a virtual tie 10 weeks ahead of the November 6 election.  Voters say they think Mr. Romney would be better suited to fix the nation's economy, but they like Mr. Obama more.

Aides say Mr. Romney will also share more of his personal life, including about how he has been shaped by his Mormon religion, and ""talk about who he is."

Mr. Romney's running mate, Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan, Wednesday night promised an end to "excuses and idle words" when it comes to the economy, if Mr. Romney wins.

Ryan told the convention that "fear and division" is all the Democratic party has left, chastising Mr. Obama and his fellow Democrats for spending the past four years blaming others for problems instead of finding solutions.

Ryan said he and Mr. Romney will "meet serious challenges in a serious way," but he warned the country's economic problems are so big that there is not much time to fix them.

The 42-year-old lawmaker has energized conservative activists, even though he has been criticized for his proposals to impose deep cuts in social programs.  

In the state of Virginia Wednesday, President Obama called the Republican convention a "pretty entertaining show," but said voters will not hear Mr. Romney or other Republican party officials offer "a clear, serious path forward."

The Democrats will hold their convention next week in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Republicans Confident After Convention

TAMPA — U.S. Republicans hope their national convention this week in Florida will give presidential candidate Mitt Romney a major boost in what is expected to be a closely fought election campaign between now and November 6.  

Mother Nature threw the Republicans off-message at the start of their convention as Tropical Storm Isaac made its way into the Gulf of Mexico.

But the convention mood improved as the week went on, says Florida Congressman Dennis Ross.

"We started off Monday canceling the convention," said Ross. "We watched what happened and as the weather gets better the convention gets better, so I think we are going to see some momentum leaving here and we will ride a wave in the next 68 days and have a new president come November."

Unlike the past when U.S. party conventions actually chose presidential candidates, the modern convention aims to present the presidential nominee to a national audience and lay out the key themes of his campaign message.

That's especially important this year for Mitt Romney.  Mr. Romney is seen as less likeable than his opponent after months of attack ads, first from his conservative rivals in the Republican primaries and later from President Barack Obama's Democratic Party.

It was clear talking to delegates in Tampa that many Republicans still are motivated more by the goal of defeating Mr. Obama than by any love for Mr. Romney as a conservative leader.

Mark Shields is a syndicated columnist and a political analyst on the Newshour program on the Public Broadcasting System.

"The organizing principle of the Republican Party in 2012 is to defeat Barack Obama," said Shields. "It isn't necessarily adulation or an emotional connection with Mitt Romney."

Party leaders say they are confident their convention helped to build party unity, even if some delegates remain less than enthusiastic about Mr. Romney.

Senator Jon Kyl is a veteran Republican from Arizona.

"Look, he's not Ronald Reagan," said Kyl. "Who else is?  He does have the party unified.  He brings a lot of strengths to the top of the ticket.  And most of all, he will be seen as a person who is a very good man who has a great capability to fix what's wrong, and boy does this country need somebody like that now who understands what it takes.”

Some of those strains may have been eased when Mr. Romney chose Congressman Paul Ryan as his running mate, says conservative radio talk show host Roger Hedgecock.

"Romney has been all over the board on some issues," said Hedgecock. "Right now his platform is fantastic from a conservative point of view.  And Paul Ryan as a [vice presidential] selection, which is the first decision that the nominee Mitt Romney made, is a terrific decision, which has excited the conservative base a lot."

A familiar voice in that conservative base is commentator Ann Coulter.  She is warning Republicans to brace themselves for a fresh wave of attacks from Democrats.

"That is the only way they campaign against us by trying to make our candidates look stupid or scary, and you cannot make Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan look stupid or scary," said Coulter.

But analyst Mark Shields says Mr. Romney will need to find a way to connect with voters in a more personal way if he hopes to win the White House in November.

"We know that the failures of presidents over the past half century have been failures not of intellect, not of experience, but failures of personality or character," he said. "Personality in the case of Jimmy Carter, I think it's fair to say.  Character certainly in the case of Richard Nixon.  So they want somebody they are comfortable with.  They want to be sure and they want to be sure especially in 2012 that this is somebody who understands what I'm going through."

The Democrats get their turn beginning Monday when they gather in Charlotte, North Carolina, for their convention to nominate President Obama for a second four-year term.

Kamis, 30 Agustus 2012

5 Australian Soldiers Killed in Afghanistan

Five Australian soldiers have been killed in what Prime Minister Julia Gillard calls the country's "single worst day in Afghanistan."

NATO officials say a person wearing an Afghan National Army uniform shot and killed three soldiers late Wednesday at a base in southern Afghanistan.

Two others died early Thursday when their helicopter crashed in Helmand province.  NATO said there was no enemy activity in the area at the time of the crash, and that both incidents are under investigation.

Gillard says Australia cannot let such deaths change its strategy, and that the country remains committed to completing its mission. 

Australia has more than 1,500 troops in Afghanistan.  It announced earlier this year that its forces will withdraw from the country in mid-2013, a year earlier than previously planned.

The latest deaths bring the number of Australian troops killed in the Afghan war to 38.

Foreign combat troops are transferring security control to Afghan forces and are scheduled to be out of Afghanistan by the end of 2014.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

Scientists Question Quake Map Prediction Methodology

TOKYO — Some high profile researchers in the earth sciences are questioning several long-standing assumptions about predicting earthquakes. They contend it is time for a major reassessment on the methods used to forecast where and when killer earthquakes will strike.


Three recent major earthquakes: in Sichuan, China in 2008, in the Caribbean  nation of Haiti in 2010 and in northeastern Japan last year - have led to what some scientists acknowledge is an embarrassing failure.

They did not foresee such intense tremors would cause widespread destruction and casualties in those specific locations.

Tsunami rubble, Fukushima prefecture, Japan. (Photo by Mark Edward Harris)
​​Even in Japan, with state-of-the-art seismological and tsunami research and sophisticated hazard mapping, the size of the March 11 quake and the resulting tsunami were vastly underestimated.

Earth sciences professor Seth Stein at Northwestern University in Chicago says that was a sobering day for his field.

"One, our ability to assess earthquake hazards isn't very good," noted Stein. "And, second, the policies that we make to mitigate earthquake hazards sometimes aren't very well thought out in terms of whatever tens or a hundred billion dollars were spent on those tsunami defenses were largely wasted."

Expect the unexpected

Tokyo University seismologist Robert Geller is among co-authors, with Stein, of a new article intent on debunking some standard assumptions in their field, such as earthquakes occur in cycles.

"Many earth scientists still continue out of intellectual inertia to use terms like 'seismic cycle' or 'characteristic earthquake' or 'earthquake cycle" or things like that. So we've become prisoners to some extent of terms we use," explained Geller. "It's time for the field of seismology and earthquake science to rethink some of the basic precepts."

Geller says his colleagues around the world need to re-learn "to expect the unexpected" when it comes to earthquakes.

"Unfortunately we don't, at the present time, have the scientific ability to make specific predictions in their immediate advance, or, let's say, years in advance," he said. "All of those various kinds of predictions have in fact been made, but they usually don't work out."

Geller has a closet filled with publications,  produced by scientists and charlatans alike, proclaiming earthquake forecasting methods, all of which he has made an effort over the years to debunk.


Rescue teams search for victims in the earthquake-stricken village of Varzaqan near Ahar, in East Azerbaijan province, August 12, 2012.
​​At Northwestern University's Department of Earth and Planetary Science, Stein says, in hindsight, it was probably a mistake to rush with such enthusiasm into earthquake hazards mapping without noting the limitations.

"Now we've got these maps out there. Every country has a government agency that makes these maps and engineers look at them," Stein noted. "There's some good sense in them, but there's a lot of problems with them too and the uncertainties in there are a lot bigger than we use to think they were."

Geller sees some of those hazard maps as a hazard, themselves.

"They're based on one assumption piled on top of another. If you treat them as being something you can literally rely on as extremely accurate then you're in trouble," he said.

Better maps

That has led to a greater awareness about creating better hazard maps and the scientists are trying to figure out how to do that.

Meanwhile, Stein acknowledges that nature has the upper hand.

"We're playing a game against nature. It's a very high stakes game," Stein said. "We don't really understand all the rules very well. We need to very carefully try to formulate the best strategies we can, given the limits of our knowledge."

One answer lies with more fully analyzing the existing data, going back much farther in time.

Eyewitness accounts from historical times, combined with geological sampling will produce more accurate records of where and when huge waves triggered by the biggest quakes struck the coasts of Japan and other countries.

Geller says those methods possibly could prevent future tragedies.

"These mega tsunamis, you had three of them in 3,000 years, once every thousand years or so. So, if you have a nuclear plant with a 50-year operating lifetime you're talking about a five percent chance of a mega tsunami [during the plant's operation]," Geller explained. "So that's enough [of a chance] that you should worry about it."

New policies

Geller is disappointed that not much has changed in Japan after March 2011 when it comes to reassessing assumptions and making new policies on disaster mitigation.

Geller had warned, before last year's magnitude 9.0 quake, that it was flawed to assume locations such as the coast of Fukushima were at lower risk for such huge temblors.

"I'm not really happy about that. I wish I hadn't been correct," he said. "There's not much pleasure in saying 'I told you so' when so many people lost their lives or their houses or the nuclear accident caused the evacuation and so on."

Interior of No. 4 reactor building at TEPCO's tsunami-crippled Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Plant, Futaba District, Japan, Nov. 8, 2011.
​​Wednesday, Japan's government significantly increased its estimate of the death toll should a historic quake hit the central and western part of the country, similar in intensity to the one in the Tohoku region last March.

The cabinet office's central disaster prevention council now estimates such a big temblor could kill up to 323,000 people with most of the deaths being caused by a resulting tsunami, just as was the case in 2011. But it says, echoing something heard prior to last year's disaster, that the probability of such a powerful quake along the Nankai Trough is “extremely low.”

Iran's Khamenei Rules Out Nuclear Bomb

Iran's Supreme Leader says his country will never develop an atomic bomb, but will not abandon its controversial nuclear program.

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei told leaders of developing nations Thursday at the Non-Aligned Movement summit in Tehran that Iran will "not give up its national right to peaceful nuclear energy."

The supreme leader's speech also took aim at the U.N. Security Council, describing it as illogical, unjust and a defunct relic of the past that the United States uses "to impose their bullying manner on the world."

Visiting United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon also addressed the summit, urging Iran to comply with U.N. resolutions demanding it curb its nuclear activities. Ban warned that heightened international rhetoric over the issue risked degenerating into "war."

The U.N. chief also reprimanded Iran for "outrageous" comments denying the Holocaust and Israel's right to exist, and called on the two foes to drop threats against each other.

Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi attended the summit, making him the first Egyptian leader to visit Iran in decades. Iran cut diplomatic relations following the 1979 Islamic revolution due to Egypt's support for the overthrown Shah and its peace accord with Israel.

In comments that embarrassed Tehran, Morsi harshly criticized what he called Syria's "oppressive regime." Shi'ite Iran strongly supports the Damascus government while there is widespread sympathy in Egypt for the mostly Sunni rebels seeking to oust Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Egypt's Islamist leader has not addressed the issue of whether ties with Iran would be upgraded, only promising a more balanced foreign policy. Iran welcomed Egypt's 2011 revolution that brought Morsi to power.

At the summit, the Egyptian president is to transfer the rotating leadership of the Non-Aligned Movement to Iran.

The NAM is a Cold War organization that was supposed to provide a forum for countries that were allied with neither the United States nor the Soviet Union. But since the Soviet Union was dissolved in 1991 the group has struggled for both identity and clout.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters

22 Rescued After Boat Sinks Near Indonesia

An Australian Navy patrol boat has rescued 16 people and a merchant vessel pulled six others to safety after a boat carrying asylum seekers sank in the waters off Indonesia.

Rescuers are still looking for another 128 people who were on board the boat Wednesday when someone made a distress call to Australian authorities and reported engine trouble.

Many of those rescued Thursday spent more than a day in the water southwest of Java.

Australian Home Affairs Minister Jason Clare says there are "grave concerns" for those yet to be found.

Asylum seekers frequently attempt the dangerous trip from Indonesia to Australia's Christmas Island, often with the aid of smugglers.

Officials say nearly 1,000 people have died trying to reach Australia by boat since 2001.

Australia recently passed new laws to try and deter such trips by setting up offshore processing camps for asylum seekers.

Right groups criticize the plan, saying it is a major setback for Australian refugee policy.

Hacking: Ex-News International Lawyer Held

Former News International legal manager Tom Crone has been arrested by police investigating phone hacking, Sky sources have said.

The 60-year-old was detained at his home in south west London at 6.45am.

He was held on suspicion of conspiring to intercept communications and is being questioned at a south London police station.

So far 25 people have been arrested in connection with Operation Weeting, the investigation into allegations of phone-hacking.

More follows...

Rebels 'Shoot Down Syrian Warplane'

Rebels claim they shot down a Syrian fighter plane in the northwestern province of Idlib near the Turkish border.

The Syrian Martyrs Brigade said in a statement the plane was brought down near the town of al-Thayabiya.

Video footage on al-Arabiya television showed what appeared to be smoke in the sky and a person parachuting down.

An army helicopter hovered over the area, apparently in search of the pilot.

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ParalympicsGB Begins Hunt For Gold Medals

Britain's Paralympians will be hoping for an early gold rush as the Games gets under way in earnest.

Last night saw a stunning opening to the London 2012 games as more than 62,000 fans packed into the Olympic Stadium in Stratford to officially open the event.

Now it is the turn of the competitors, with early medal hopes pinned on swimmer-turned cyclist Sarah Storey, shooter Di Coates and Ben Quilter, who will be going for gold in judo.

Paralympics veteran Storey, 34, has already achieved 18 medals - 16 of which were awarded as a swimmer before her switch from the pool to the bike ahead of Beijing 2008.

Storey, who was born with a deformed left hand, will appear at the velodrome in the C5 Individual Pursuit, having won the C4 in Beijing. This is her sixth Games and she is chasing her eighth gold.

Also appearing on the track is six-time Paralympic champion Darren Kenny, who has restricted movement down his right side following a car crash aged 18.

GB Paralympic Athlete Ben QuilterGB Paralympic Athlete Di Coates Ben Quilter (L) going for gold in Judo and Di Coates in shooting

He defends his 1km Time Trial title alongside fellow Brit Rik Waddon.

Coates - who at 58 is taking part in a British record-equalling eighth games - will be gunning for her fourth title in the women's R2 10m Air Rifle standing event.

She is Britain's most experienced competitor and the star, who has spina bifida, is the only person to have competed in front of a British Paralympian crowd before.

The 1984 Paralympics was split between New York and England when wheelchair athletes with spinal injuries competed at Stoke Mandeville in Buckinghamshire.

GB Paralympic Athlete Darren Kenny Darren Kenny is a six-time Paralympic champion

UK Sport have set ParalympicsGB the minimum target of winning 103 medals from at least 12 different sports, with the overall goal of once again finishing second in the medal table.

Britain won 102 medals, including 42 golds, in Beijing four years ago to claim second place for a third consecutive Paralympic Games.

Ben Quilter, who is visually impaired, will be going for gold on the mat, as he takes part in the under 60kg category in judo.

More Than 2,000 Uni Students Face Deportation

More than 2,000 students could be kicked out of the country after the Government stripped a university of its right to admit foreigners.

London Metropolitan University has had its Highly Trusted Status (HTS) for sponsoring international students revoked and will no longer be allowed to authorise visas, according to the institution's website.

The move could mean more than 2,000 students being deported within 60 days unless they find another sponsor, according to the National Union of Students (NUS).

Universities Minister David Willetts last night announced the formation of a task force to help overseas students affected by the decision.

He said: "It is important that genuine students who are affected through no fault of their own are offered prompt advice and help, including, if necessary, with finding other institutions at which to finish their studies."

London Metropolitan University's HTS status was suspended last month while UKBA examined alleged failings.

A statement posted on the university's website last night read: "The implications of the revocation are hugely significant and far-reaching, and the university has already started to deal with these.

"It will be working very closely with the UKBA, Higher Education Funding Council for England, the NUS and its own Students' Union.

"Our ABSOLUTE PRIORITY is to our students, both current and prospective, and the University will meet all its obligations to them."

A UKBA spokesman said: "London Metropolitan University's licence to sponsor non-EU students has been revoked after it failed to address serious and systemic failings that were identified by the UK Border Agency six months ago.

"We have been working with them since then, but the latest audit revealed problems with 61% of files randomly sampled."

Nine Kids Hurt As Driver, 100, Mounts Kerb

Nine children have been injured after a 100-year-old man drove his car onto a pavement outside a school in south Los Angeles.

LA fire Captain Jaime Moore said four of the children were in critical condition when firefighters arrived but were stabilised and are now in a serious condition at a hospital.

Capt Moore said some of the victims were trapped under the blue Cadillac before witnesses helped pull them out.

Two adults were also injured in the incident.

Police identified the driver as Preston Carter. Investigators are interviewing him and have said he is being cooperative.

More follows...

Sex Offender Lie Detector Tests 'A Success'

A pilot programme that required high-risk sex offenders to undergo regular polygraph tests has had a significant impact on cutting re-offending, according to organisers.

Following the apparent success of the pilot, the government is now planning to roll out mandatory lie-detector tests for high risk sex offenders across England and Wales.

The study was carried out in the East and West Midlands between April 2009 and October 2011.

More than 600 sex offenders who were freed on licence were tested every six months in an attempt to find out if they had breached the terms of their release.

The pilot identified that offenders were two to three times more likely to admit to potential breaches of their licence, often before they had even undergone the test procedure.

Those in charge of the study believe the pilot prevented numerous new offences from being committed.

Pilot organiser Professor Don Grubin said: "Successes of course are always invisible, but I have no doubt that a number of offences were prevented in the course of the pilot.

"On some occasions it's offenders who have been recalled to prison who said if they hadn't been recalled when they were, they would have reoffended."

In one example, an offender who had previously assaulted an eight-year-old girl, groomed through friends of his partner's children, was found to be lying about contact he had with his partner.

Authorities discovered he had booked guest house accommodation where he planned to meet his partner and her children. He was immediately recalled to prison.

Crispin Blunt Probation Minister Crispin Blunt says the tests will help manage offenders

In another case, a man released on licence for rape and attempted rape, admitted in his pre-polygraph interview that he had masturbated outside near a public footpath and had been in contact with other sex offenders. He was also taken back into custody.

Polygraph tests measure blood pressure, heart rate, breathing and levels of perspiration. These vital signs display subtle changes when someone is deliberately evasive and polygraph experts can usually determine if that person is lying.

Studies have shown that polygraph tests are accurate around 85% of the time.

Ministers believe they are particularly effective in helping offender management teams determine whether the likes of paedophiles and rapists are complying with the terms of their licence.

Probation Minister Crispin Blunt said: "I think it's going to be an important tool for probation officers in managing sex offenders on licence in that second part of their licence when they've been released from custody and are liable to recall to prison if their behaviour gives any cause for concern."

An offender can be immediately returned to prison if the lie detector test, coupled with other information, indicates they have broken their licence conditions.

The government is now planning to introduce legislation in parliament to allow the Midlands pilot to be rolled out across England and Wales.

Mandela Dream Still Project in Process

It’s been nearly 20 years since Nelson Mandela first took office, and 13 years since he stepped down as South Africa’s first black president.

A new book by Douglas Foster, associate professor at the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois looks at the struggle for freedom in post-apartheid South Africa and poses the question whether the dreams that Mandela promised South Africa will be fulfilled. 

Foster said while the political and economic governance of South Africa is a project in process, there is a strong realization that the promises of the Mandela revolution of 1994 have yet to be fulfilled.

“Like in much of the rest of the world, the political liberation has not been followed by social justice and economic justice. In the South African context, you had a very unequaled system in which class and race were completely intertwined, and the tremendous inequalities that were created as a result of that. So, I think the answer to that is it’s a project in process, and there’s a very real and sometime quite vibrant and even violent fight to remind people who are running the country that the promises of 1994 have not been fulfilled yet,” he said.

Foster said he believes the primary dissatisfaction among South Africans since the Mandela revolution of 1994 is the widening gap between rich and poor, as reflected in the recent strike at the Lonmin Marikana platinum mine.

“I think the kind of frustration you hear often on the streets and among young people, particularly in working class and poor communities is, is the ANC (African National Congress) in office but not in power. And what that standard phrase means is that there hasn’t been enough change in terms of distribution of wealth, that control of the main economic levers, ownership of a vast proportion of the wealth is still wealth held in the hands of minority whites,” Foster said.

Butty interview with Foster

He said the level of dissatisfaction in the ruling ANC is so prominent that some members are calling for a change in leadership in the same manner as at the 2007 ANC congress in Polokwane when there were concerns as to whether then South African President Thabo Mbeki should continue as president of the party.

“I think you see the exact same kinds of questions being raised now about the leadership of President Jacob Zuma, and certainly it looks as though there is unfolding at the moment an effort to replace him with his deputy president [Kgalema Motlanthe]. So, in some way the more things change, the more they stay the same,” he said.

Foster agreed that other factors might have contributed to the delay in achieving social and economic progress in South Africa, including the HIV/AIDS pandemic, global capitalism and corruption.

Coincidently, South Africa's Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe warned Wednesday that the country’s growing wealth inequality could lead to a second revolution. He told journalists that the country’s “conspicuous consumption…in the midst of grinding poverty” was an “ingredient for a revolution.”

US Unions See Wages Fall

Labor Day in the United States is a time to honor the contribution of workers.  Recently, workers in the U.S. have fallen on tough times.  Unemployment is high, while wages and benefits continue to decline -- along with the ranks of organized labor.  With the presidential campaign in full swing, both candidates are claiming they can do what's best for the American worker.

Tom Lee is a former president of the American Federation of Musicians, the largest musicians' union in the world.

He began his career with the  U.S. Marine Corps Band and played many performances at the White House.

Although unions have lost stature in the U.S. in recent decades, Lee believes they still have an important role to play.

“I do believe that unions have helped the American people. Even those who have not been in unions make great strides in terms of wages, in terms of benefits,” Lee said.

But union membership has declined by about 50 per cent over the past 40 years.

And last year, the state of Wisconsin stripped most public workers of their collective bargaining rights.

Many economists think the decline in membership is an important factor in the drop in wages, adjusted for inflation.  

Lawrence Mishel is president of the liberal Economic Policy Institute.

“And this is because we have had excessive unemployment for many years recently, but over the last 30 years, we have had globalization where American workers have been pitted with workers with much lower wages.  We have had erosion of unionization,” Mishel said.

According to Mishel's own report, the productivity of U.S. workers has risen by 80 percent over the past three decades.  But hourly wages have only risen 11 percent.

Conservative economists disagree.  Andrew Biggs is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute.

“We have had significant differences in the way employee compensation is paid out.  More goes to health care today than in the past.  Less goes to wages and benefits. That is not a function of exploitation.  That is a function of rising health care costs and those have to be borne out somewhere,” Biggs said.

Biggs argues that bringing down health care costs and increasing productivity will lead to higher wages.  

Mishel does not believe that's true.

“...  because we see wages have gone down for segments of the population that don’t even get health insurance,” Mishel said.

Meanwhile, union leader Tom Lee says he believes wages will continue to decline unless workers organize and press for policies that focus on economic security for all.

Ryan's Speech Excites Republican Delegates

U.S. Republican vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan has promised an end to "excuses and idle words" when it comes to the economy if voters elect the party's presidential candidate Mitt Romney in the November election.

Ryan gave a strongly-worded acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida, Wednesday night.

He told the convention that "fear and division" is all the Democratic party has left, chastising President Barack Obama and his fellow Democrats for spending the past four years blaming others for problems instead of finding solutions.

Ryan said he and Mr. Romney will "meet serious challenges in a serious way" but warned the country's economic problems are so big that there is not much time to fix them.

The 42-year-old lawmaker from Wisconsin has energized conservative activists, even though he has come under fire for his proposals to impose deep cuts in social programs.  

Earlier, former Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice echoed the party's stance on strict budgeting, saying "the world knows that when a nation loses control of its finances, it eventually loses control of its destiny."

She also warned that the world is "chaotic and dangerous" when friends and foes do not know "clear and unambiguously" where America stands on issues of global importance.

In Virginia Wednesday, President Obama called the Republican convention a "pretty entertaining show," but  said voters will not hear Mr. Romney or other Republican party officials offer "a clear, serious path forward."

Mr. Obama also defended his health care policy, called "Obamacare" by Republicans.  The president said he calls Mr. Romney's plan "Romney doesn't care."

The president spoke at about the same time Mr. Romney addressed war veterans at an American Legion Convention ((in Indianapolis, Indiana)).

The Republican presidential candidate bashed Mr. Obama's record on jobs, saying  "this president's greatest failure" is that he's not delivered jobs. Romney promised that if president, he would "get America to work again."

The Democrats will hold their convention next week in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Study Reveals Alarming Levels of Drug-Resistant Tuberculosis

Alarming levels of extensively drug-resistant tuberculosis have been found around the world. A new study says the findings signal an urgent need for improved testing and the development of better drugs to fight the deadly lung infection.  

Researchers from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, tested samples from more than 1,200 TB patients from eight countries who were classified as having multi-drug resistant tuberculosis.  The infection was resistant to one or both of the older, first-line drugs, rifampacin and isoniazid.

But investigators found 6.7 percent of the patients were infected with extensively drug resistant TB, known as XDR.  The XDR-TB patients did not respond to a regimen that included the first-line treatments, and quinolone drugs and newer injectable drugs.

Investigator Tracy Dalton, of the CDC’s Division of TB Elimination, led the study.  “So, what this presents is a really worrying trend in increasing XDR in the world,” she said.

Before the study, the World Health Organization estimated that just more than five percent of all resistant cases of TB were XDR.

Dalton says resistance to at least one newer anti-TB drug was detected in 44 percent of the patients, ranging from 33 percent in Thailand to more than 60 percent in Latvia.  Other countries in the study were Estonia, the Philippines, Russia, South Africa, South Korea and Peru.

Dalton says the increased availability of newer tuberculosis drugs increases the likelihood they are not taken as prescribed, which causes the TB bacterium to become less sensitive to the stronger drugs.  Dalton says the biggest predictor of whether someone in the study was infected with XDR TB was whether they had previously been treated for tuberculosis.  

“What we found in many of these sites is that there was resistance to all of these second-line drugs.  And we need more drugs to be available, and that is a high priority in TB control right now,” Dalton said.

Dalton says it is critical to take immediate steps to contain the spread of extensively drug resistant tuberculosis, including building more and better lab facilities to test for TB.

“There is a lot going on in molecular testing of drug resistance, which would be a rapid diagnosis of these patients,” Dalton said.

Since Dalton’s study, the WHO has revised its estimate of the number of global XDR-TB cases upward, to 10 percent of all patients diagnosed with drug-resistant tuberculosis.

A study on extensively drug -resistant tuberculosis by Tracy Dalton and colleagues at the Centers for Disease Control is published in the journal The Lancet.

Rabu, 29 Agustus 2012

Ukraine High Court Denies Tymoshenko Appeal

Ukraine's high court has rejected former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko's appeal against her conviction on charges of abuse of office.

A judge said Wednesday the court could not approve the appeal by Tymoshenko, who is serving a seven-year sentence.

The ruling comes a day after her lawyers argued before the European Court for Human Rights that she was held before her trial illegally and under inhumane conditions.

The charges are linked to a natural gas deal she brokered with Russia in 2009 while serving as prime minister.

She faces separate charges of embezzlement and tax evasion.  A trial in that case is expected to resume September 11.

Tymoshenko was a co-leader of the 2004 pro-democracy Orange Revolution.  She says both cases are part of a political vendetta against her by President Viktor Yanukovych, who narrowly defeated her in a 2010 vote.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and Reuters.

Republican Platform Outlines Tough China Stance

The Republican party has adopted a platform that is strongly critical of China, even as Chinese state media slammed the party's presidential nominee, Mitt Romney, for having what it termed a "Cold War mentality."

The Republican platform, approved Tuesday at the party's national convention in Tampa, promises to get tough on China for the alleged undervaluing of its currency and theft of intellectual property. It also condemns what it calls China’s “destabilizing claims in the South China Sea” and vowed to continue U.S. arms sales to Taiwan, two issues that have riled China in the past.

The tougher rhetoric mirrors that of Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, who has promised to designate China as a currency manipulator on his first day in office, if elected.

Beijing, which does not officially take sides in the election, this week lashed out at Romney’s China policies in a series of state media editorials. The official China Daily describes his policies as “pugnacious,” saying they will “poison” U.S.-China relations, if implemented.

U.S. political strategists say criticizing the incumbent’s policies toward China is not only common, but can be politically beneficial, especially while the American economy is struggling to recover from a recession. This is something that Chinese officials have been quick to point out, accusing both Obama and Romney of pandering to what they call the “anti-China vote.”

Although President Obama has refused to label China a currency manipulator, he has strongly criticized Chinese economic policies and brought a series of high-profile trade disputes against China. But the Republican platform accuses the president of a “virtual surrender” in responding to alleged Chinese trade violations.

The GOP promises to impose duties on Chinese goods, if China does not change its policies and threatens punitive measures on foreign businesses that steal American technology and property. If China does not adhere to World Trade Organization standards, the platform warns that the U.S. government will “end procurement of Chinese goods and services.”

Party platforms are a symbolic statement of generally agreed-upon principles and are not binding upon the nominee or any of the party’s politicians.

Nonetheless, the increased rhetoric appears to represent a shift in the Republican party’s traditional views, which have long been supportive of free trade. But observers say it remains unclear whether many big business-oriented factions of the party are willing to further anger China and risk starting a trade war with the world’s second largest economy.

Photo Gallery: Republican National Convention Begins


Assad Says His Government Facing a 'Global Battle'

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said Wednesday his government is fighting a "regional and global battle" and that more time was needed to win the conflict against anti-government rebels trying to overthrow him.

His comments came as renewed fighting broke out between rebels and Syrian forces near the Taftanaz military airport, located between the northern cities of Aleppo and Idlib.

Taftanaz has been targeted several times by rebels entrenched in the two cities, which have suffered daily shelling by government troops.

In excerpts from an interview with Syria's Addounia television to be broadcast in full later Wednesday, Assad described the situation on the ground as "better," but still unresolved.

The Syrian leader, who has vowed to defeat rebels he describes as Islamist terrorists, praised the army and security forces for their "heroic conduct." He also dismissed as "unrealistic" the idea of creating humanitarian buffer zones within Syria.

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said Wednesday that Turkey has discussed with the U.N. the possibility of housing Syrian refugees inside Syria and that Ankara expected the world body to take concrete steps towards this.

Turkey has proposed the idea of a "safe zone" to be set up for civilians under foreign protection as fighting intensifies in the 17-month uprising. Up to 5,000 refugees a day have been crossing into Turkey over the past two weeks and the U.N. warned Tuesday that up to 200,000 people could settle there if the conflict worsens.

A Turkish aid official said about 80,000 refugees are registered in camps along the country's 900-kilometer-long border with Syria and that new camps will increase this capacity to 120,000 within the next 10 days.

The news came as the United Nations refugee agency called for increased international assistance to help Turkey and Jordan cope with the surge in the number of Syrian refugees seeking shelter.

The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees said Tuesday the number of Syrians fleeing to Jordan has doubled in recent days, with 10,200 arriving in the past week.
An agency spokeswoman said the new arrivals at the Za'atri camp in northern Jordan are mainly from Syria's southern flashpoint area of Daraa.

Also Tuesday, the Syrian military dropped thousands of leaflets over Damascus and its suburbs, urging rebels to hand over their weapons or be killed.

Syrian authorities blame the uprising on a foreign conspiracy and accuse oil-rich Gulf countries Saudi Arabia and Qatar, in addition to the United States and Turkey, of backing "terrorists" seeking to oust Assad's government.

Activists say at least 20,000 people have been killed since the insurrection broke out in March last year, while the United Nations says more than 214,000 people have fled to neighboring countries.

England Captain Andrew Strauss Retires

England test captain Andrew Strauss has announced his retirement from professional cricket with immediate effect.

"After much thought over the last few weeks, I have decided to step down as England Test captain and announce my retirement from all forms of cricket," Strauss said in an England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) statement issued ahead of a news conference at Lord's.

During the press conference he said the Kevin Pietersen incident did not contribute to his decision to retire.

Alastair Cook, already England's one-day captain and Strauss's opening partner in the five-day game, was announced as the new skipper of the test team.

Mr Cook told reporters that he will meet the challenge head on, adding he had "huge boots to fill".

Mr Cook's first test as captain will be the first of a four-match series in India in November.

More follows...

Olympic Gold Medallist Has Bicycle Stolen

An Olympic gold medal-winning cyclist has had his bike stolen during a raid of his home.

Philip Hindes, who topped the winner's podium in the Team Sprint alongside Jason Kenny and Sir Chris Hoy, used the bicycle to train on.

It was taken, along with his car, in a burglary of his home in West Didsbury, Manchester, sometime between last Thursday and Sunday.

Police said thieves smashed through patio doors and ransacked the house, which was unoccupied, during the burglary.

Philip Hindes, Jason Kenny and Sir Chris Hoy of Great Britain celebrate with their gold medals during the medal ceremony after setting a new world record in the Men's Team Sprint Track Cycling final on Day 6 of the London 2012 Olympic Games at Velodrome on August 2, 2012 in London, England. Philip Hindes (l) on the podium with Jason Kenny and Sir Chris Hoy

The culprits stole the bike along with the keys to a blue Volkswagen Golf which they drove off in.

The bike is described as being a Pinarello Paris which is red, white and blue and has a Sky sticker and Hindes' name on.

It is used in training and was not the bike which Hindes rode when he won his Olympic medal.

The car was later found burnt out by police on Princess Parkway.

Philip Hindes (front), Jason Kenny (C) and Sir Chris Hoy (rear) Hindes in action with Sir Chris Hoy and Jason Kenny

Police have appealed for information on the break-in, which took place between 7.30pm on August 23 and 11pm on August 26.

Greater Manchester Police Detective Constable Rob Southern said: "The reason we have publicised this theft is so that we can catch the people responsible and return the bike to its rightful owner.

"I would therefore ask anyone who is offered a bike matching this description and the image we have released to call police immediately.

"It might be the thieves try and offload the bike onto a sports memorabilia collector so I would urge anyone who is offered the chance to buy such a bike to call police immediately as you could be vital to helping get this bike back.

"I would also ask anyone who has information about the burglary itself, or who might have been involved, to come forward.

:: Anyone with information is asked to call police on 101 or the independent charity Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555 111.

Hit-And-Run Children's 'Miracle' Survival'

The father of two children left for dead by a hit-and-run driver has hailed the "miracle" survival of his son after the boy left hospital.

Mohammed Saleem Rafique said he was overjoyed to have Rayhan, two, home after he and his sister were hit by the car earlier this month.

The two-year-old and Sabah, 10, were knocked down as they went to a local shop in Hyde Park, Leeds.

Sabah, who is thought to have stepped in front of the car to save her brother, remains in hospital in Leeds but is no longer in intensive care and is expected to make a full recovery.

"It has been brilliant to have Rayhan back considering the injuries he sustained," Mr Saleem Rafique told ITV's Daybreak. "It has been a miracle."

Mr Saleem Rafique said Rayhan, who thinks he fell while playing on a swing, has no memory of the accident.

"He has no recollection of what happened. I think that's a good thing as it would have led to him being traumatised and having nightmares," he said.

"I can't thank the public enough. Everybody's been praying for them."

He said Sabah was also recovering well, although it is still not possible to say when she will be released from hospital.

"It's really heart-warming to hear her speak a few words," he added.

West Yorkshire Police have arrested a 36-year-old man on suspicion of dangerous driving, failing to stop at the scene of an accident and failing to report an accident.

Police also arrested a 39-year-old man on suspicion of dangerous driving and a 26-year-old man on suspicion of assisting an offender.

All three men, from Leeds, are currently on bail and have not been charged, a police spokesman said.