Daily Archives

Rocky start for Karzai’s Afghan peace bid

Reuters – Taliban suicide commandos attacked a huge gathering of Afghan leaders and notables on Wednesday as President Hamid Karzai launched an ambitious peace plan he hopes will persuade the insurgents to lay down their arms. Officials said three rockets fell short of a vast tent where the traditional jirga was being held — one to within 60 meters (yards) — followed by gunbattle that sputtered for hours. Read article

Visa Slaps Chinese Firm With Ban

Wall Street Journal – Visa Inc. said Thursday it is introducing a ban on banks using China UnionPay Co.’s network to process international transactions with credit cards bearing the Visa and UnionPay symbols. The move is likely to mainly affect Chinese cardholders traveling overseas. UnionPay has been giving cardholders favorable exchange rates on certain currencies. The move doesn’t affect transactions inside China, either by Chinese or foreign cardholders. Nevertheless, the move could be a sign of dissatisfaction by Visa with the limits on its operations in China. Read Article

Dogs can potentially sniff out prostate cancer, French researchers say

PhysOrg.com – Man’s best friend may cement his position if early results from French researchers can be replicated. A team of researchers from Tenon Hospital in Paris reported Tuesday at a San Francisco meeting of the American Urological Association that dogs can be trained to detect the characteristic odor of unique chemicals released into urine by prostate tumors, setting the stage for a new way to identify men who are most at risk from the cancer. If developed, the test might be more effective than the PSA test now used because it would have fewer false positives. Read Article

Japanese PM Yukio Hatoyama resigns amid Okinawa row

BBC – Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama has announced his resignation after just eight months in office. It comes after he broke an election pledge to move an unpopular US military base away from the island of Okinawa. Read article

U.K. Urges Euro Banks Stress Tests

Wall Street Journal – The U.K. Treasury has just joined the U.S. in urging European authorities to conduct what a Treasury minister calls “genuine, rigorous” stress testing of banks. In excerpts of a speech he’s due to deliver tonight in Brussels, Mark Hoban, financial secretary to the Treasury, says the tests are needed because “it is clear that doubts remain over the solvency of some European banks.” Read Article

First Paper ‘Dipstick’ Test for Determining Blood Type

ScienceDaily — Scientists are reporting development of the first “dipstick” test for instantly determining a person’s blood type at a cost of just a few pennies. Their study on the test, which involves placing a drop of blood on a specially treated paper strip, appears in ACS’ journal Analytical Chemistry, where the authors say it could be a boon to health care in developing countries. The test also could be useful in veterinary medicine, for typing animals’ blood in the field, they note. Read article

Afghan opposition leader Abdullah Abdullah vows to boycott ‘peace jirga’

Guardian – A three-day meeting of Afghanistan’s tribal leaders hailed by western leaders as a critical first step to peace was dismissed today as a “PR exercise” by the leader of the country’s opposition, who said he would not attend the event. Read article

Australia’s Economy Expands

Wall Street Journal – The Australian economy grew at a much slower pace in the first quarter than at the end of last year as the withdrawal of economic stimulus, surprise weakness in business investment and sluggish growth in export volumes took some of the steam out of activity. But economists say the moderation in the 1.2 trillion Australian dollar (US$1.0 trillion) economy will be short-lived as firms continue to plan significant investment, especially in the mining sector, while a substantial upswing in commodity prices is already washing through the economy. Read Article

Inside Gaza: blockade has brought the enclave’s economy to its knees

Times – There is no shortage of food in Gaza’s markets: Israel allows basic humanitarian goods through its tightly controlled crossings and smugglers on the Egyptian border bring in anything from cars to fridges and toasters. The problem is that the three-year blockade, and the devastating Israel offensive 18 months ago, have destroyed the enclave’s economy, creating mass unemployment while pushing up prices, so that ordinary Gazans can hardly afford to shop. Read article

Virulent wheat fungus invades South Africa

Nature – Mutating and migrating stem rust pathogen could soon spread across the world. Two new forms of a devastating wheat fungus, known as Ug99 stem rust, have shown up in South Africa, a study has found. The two South African forms are able to overcome the effects of two resistance genes in wheat that normally prevent stem rust from taking hold. They are two of the most important genes in wheat because they are selected for in crop-breeding programmes across the world. Read Article
Related Article: ‘Stem rust’ fungus threatens global wheat harvest (Editors Note: Published Thursday, 19 March, 2009; The Guardian.)

Drunk’ parrots struck down by mystery illness

Times online-It is usually the locals who go ‘troppo’ during the tropical wet season in Australia’s Northern Territory, however this year it is the native parrots. ‘Drunk’ red-collared lorikeets have been found stumbling around, falling out of trees, or simply passed out around Darwin after being struck down by a mystery illness which causes them to display classic signs of human drunkenness -Read Article

US military deaths in Iraq war at 4,400

Associated Press – As of Tuesday, June 1, 2010, at least 4,400 members of the U.S. military had died in the Iraq war since it began in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count. Read article

Temperatures reach record high in Pakistan

The Guardian-Mohenjo-daro, a ruined city in what is now Pakistan that contains the last traces of a 4,000-year-old civilisation that flourished on the banks of the river Indus, today entered the modern history books after government meteorologists recorded a temperature of 53.7C (129F). Only Al ‘Aziziyah, in Libya (57.8C in 1922), Death valley in California (56.7 in 1913) and Tirat Zvi in Israel (53.9 in 1942) are thought to have been hotter -Read Article

Farewell to the green zone: US leaves ‘privileged prison’

Times -Iraqis celebrated the end of a little-loved era yesterday when the American military gave up control of the fortified green zone from which it has ruled for the past seven years. A short ceremony on blazing hot tarmac, under the unrelenting morning sunshine, marked the moment when the last US soldiers withdrew from the checkpoints that ring the enclave in the heart of the capital. “Now it’s all an Iraqi problem,” said one uniformed American. “They are welcome to it.” Read article

Blood-Thinning Copycat Enters Malaria Fight

ScienceDaily — New treatments for malaria are possible after Walter and Eliza Hall Institute scientists found that molecules similar to the blood-thinning drug heparin can stop malaria from infecting red blood cells. Read Article

French bid for euro zone “government” gains ground

Reuters – French-inspired plans to create an “economic government” for the euro zone took a step forward on Wednesday when European Council President Herman Van Rompuy threw his weight behind the idea. The move raised pressure on Germany, Europe’s biggest economy and chief crusader for tougher budget discipline, to accept a new political forum to coordinate economic policy. Read article

Global arms spending hits record despite downturn

Reuters – Worldwide military spending surged to a record $1.5 trillion last year, defying an economic downturn caused by the global financial crisis, a leading think tank said on Wednesday. Military spending last year rose 5.9 percent in real terms compared to 2008 with the United States accounting for more than half of that increase, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute said in its annual report on arms spending. Read article

Study identifies surgical means for improving kidney cancer survival

PhysOrg.com – When kidney cancer spreads to other body parts, patients usually receive a poor prognosis. A new Mayo Clinic study examined the benefits of surgical treatment of kidney cancer, specifically renal cell carcinoma, and how patients saw improved prognosis of their cancer. These findings were presented today at the American Urological Association meeting in San Francisco. Read article

Israel to deport flotilla activists

ABC – Israel says it will immediately deport hundreds of foreign activists who were seized after commandos boarded an aid flotilla which was trying to break the blockade of the Gaza Strip. A spokesman for Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu said all 680 activists held would be freed, including two dozen Israel had earlier threatened to prosecute for allegedly assaulting its troops. Read article

Effort to contain Gulf oil stalls with stuck saw

AP– The risky effort to contain the nation’s worst oil spill hit a snag Wednesday when a diamond-edged saw became stuck in a thick pipe on a blown-out well at the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico. Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen said the goal was to free the saw and finish the cut later in the day. This is the latest attempt to contain — not plug — the gusher; the best chance at stopping the leak is a relief well, which is at least two months from completion -Read Article

Getting angry ‘can be good for you’

Daily Telegraph – Losing your temper could actually good for you, researchers have found, because letting off steam can lesson the effects of stress. The findings appear to back up the common psychological theory that venting emotions is better for mental health than keeping them locked up. Expressing anger increases blood flow to a part of the brain thought to be involved in feelings of happiness, the research found. Read Article