When the stranger came to town
All the people watched with wonder
In their tattered clothes
Gathered round and raised their eyes up from the dirt
The blind man who was given the gift of sight by gene therapy
By Jeremy Laurance, Health Editor
Monday, 28 April 2008
A pioneering gene therapy trial has helped a blind man to see in a breakthrough that brings hope to millions affected by eye diseases. British scientists have claimed a world first for the revolutionary treatment, which involved a single injection into the retina at the back of the eye.
Steven Howarth, 18, from Bolton, who has a rare inherited eye disorder which has left him with extremely poor vision and completely unable to see in the dark, improved sufficiently after the treatment to be able to navigate a “maze” in conditions similar to street lighting at night.
Loan Industry Fighting Rules on Mortgages
WASHINGTON – The mortgage industry, facing the prospect of tougher regulations for its central role in the housing crisis, has begun an intensive campaign to fight back.
As the Federal Reserve completes work on rules to root out abuses by lenders, its plan has run into a buzz saw of criticism from bankers, mortgage brokers and other parts of the housing industry. One common industry criticism is that at a time of tight credit, tighter rules could make many mortgages more expensive by creating more paperwork and potentially exposing lenders to more lawsuits.
Brownsville’s Bad Lie
The fence is coming, and it’s causing Texas-size problems for the folks of one city in particular.
For five generations, the Benavidez family has lived on a seven-acre plot of serene farmland near the U.S.-Mexico border west of Brownsville, Texas. They’ve harvested cotton and squash and raised goats and pigs. They’ve helped sculpt the levee that snakes across the rear of the property. They’ve given birth there, married there and died there. Their connection to the land runs so deep that they can’t imagine parting with even a piece of it. So two weeks ago, when federal employees arrived asking to purchase a rectangular slice abutting the levee for $4,100 to make way for a border fence aimed at deterring illegal immigrants, they refused. “I don’t want to scare you,” Idalia Benavidez, 77, says one of the employees told her, “but whether you agree or not, the government’s going to make the fence.” If the Feds get their way, an 18-foot-high barrier will soon traverse the Benavidez property, cutting off their cows from a pasture south of the fence’s proposed path. “It’s going to be ugly,” says Benavidez. Worse still, she predicts, “it’s not going to work.”
UN troops ‘armed DR Congo rebels’
The UN has covered up claims that its troops in Democratic Republic of Congo gave arms to militias and smuggled gold and ivory, the BBC has learned.
The allegations, based on confidential UN sources, involve Pakistani and Indian troops working as peacekeepers.
The UN investigated some of the claims in 2007, but said it could not substantiate claims of arms dealing.
UN insiders told the BBC’s Panorama they had been prevented from pursuing their inquiries for political reasons.
Gold and ivory
The United Nations Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (Monuc) is the global body’s largest, with 17,000 troops spread across the country.
Zimbabwe opposition’s hold on parliament confirmed
Interim results of a recount of disputed seats confirm the opposition’s majority in Zimbabwe’s parliament, a government-run newspaper reported yesterday
Completion of the recount, expected today, should also pave the way for the first release of results from the 29 March presidential election, nearly a month after the polls were held.
But there was little appetite for celebrations amid reports of mounting violence and intimidation.
The top US envoy to Africa, Jendayi Frazer, called for international intervention. “When a government deploys its military – and its police and its intelligence operatives, as well as mobilising youth militia – then the international community has a responsibility to step in and to try to stop that government from beating its own population,” Ms Frazer told Associated Press in Zambia.
Apathy dooms plan to save Tempelhof, site of Berlin airlift
Berlin-Tempelhof – Hitler’s favourite airport and centrepiece of the city’s famous post-war airlift – faced the prospect of imminent closure last night after a referendum designed to keep open the loss-making Nazi relic appeared to have failed because too few Berliners could be bothered to vote.
Initial results of the city-wide referendum held in Berlin for the first time yesterday, showed 21.7 per cent of voters took part in the poll, which required at least 25 per cent to be legally valid.
The outcome was certain to be taken as a surprise victory for Berlin’s ruling Social Democrat/Left coalition government which has insisted on enforcing a permanent shut down at Tempelhof this autumn.
Satirical comedian Beppe Grillo may dictate outcome in Rome elections
Romans will discover tonight whether the Eternal City has elected its first right-wing mayor since the fall of Fascism.
The balance of power was held last night by an antipolitics movement led by a comedian, amid a lower than expected turnout on the first day of run-off polls. Ballots close at 3pm today. The two main candidates are Francesco Rutelli, 54, of the centre-left Democratic Party, already twice mayor from 1993 to 2001, and Gianni Alemanno, 50, of the post-Fascist Alleanza Nazional (National Alliance) Party. Mr Alemanno’s group is part of the new Popolo della Libertà (Freedom Party movement led by the media tycoon Silvio Berlusconi, which won the general election this month
Israeli attack kills four children of Palestinian family
Four Palestinian children were killed today in an Israeli attack on the northern Gaza Strip, medical officials said.
The attack took place in Beit Hanoun, a town near the Israeli border that is often used by Palestinian militants to fire rockets into southern Israel.
Palestinian medics identified the dead children as sisters Rudina and Hana Abu Meatik, aged six and three respectively, and their brothers, Saleh, four, and Mousab, 15 months. The children’s mother was in a critical condition.
The Israeli army said it used tanks and aircraft to target a group of gunmen who had approached the border. Palestinian militants have carried out a series of attacks along the border in recent weeks.
Warring factions to gather in Iraq
UMass scholar sets new round of talks
WASHINGTON – After a weekend of closed-door negotiations in Helsinki, a group of rival members of Iraq’s parliament and tribal leaders are set to announce today that they will gather in Baghdad for the first time for a further round of talks that they hope will lay the foundation for peace in their troubled country.
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“Progress has been made,” Padraig O’Malley, the UMass-Boston professor and veteran peace activist who organized the meeting, said in a phone interview from the Finnish capital.
O’Malley said the participants agreed upon all but three of 16 broad principles, which he hopes the Iraqi Parliament will eventually endorse, laying the framework for negotiations to reconcile Iraq’s warring parties and militias. He said the participants hoped that that their talks would lead to a detailed agreement on core issues that have plagued Iraq, including disarming militias associated with political parties, protecting the rights of minorities, and reducing corruption in government.
For Chinese Athletes, Western-Style Perks
Sponsorships, Bonuses Showcase Shift to Capitalism in Sports
BEIJING — As China embraces capitalism, its athletic teams are cashing in.
The national men’s field hockey squad, for one, has been eager to collect. Twenty years ago, before the rise of China’s market economy, the team didn’t stand to win prize money or sponsorships. Competitions were for the glory of the country, not the kind of fame lavished on athletes in the West.
Today, with the Olympic Games in Beijing less than four months away, the team is sponsored by Nike. It has an expert coach from South Korea, expensive protective equipment made by a U.S. firm and access to a professional psychologist through the state sports administration.
North Korean officer defects to South: military
SEOUL (Reuters) – A North Korean officer fled across the heavily armed border with the capitalist South, the first officer to do so in about 10 years, a South Korean military official said on Monday.
A Joint Chiefs of Staff official said the defection took place on Sunday. Yonhap news agency quoted a government official as saying it was near the Panmunjom truce village set up in the Demilitarised Zone (DMZ) that has divided the peninsula for more than 50 years.
“We cannot comment on the rank or route the person used, because the officer is still under interrogation,” the official told Reuters.
The officer was only identified by his family name Ri. South Korea usually keeps high-profile defectors under wraps for months or even years as it debriefs them on the inner-workings of the secretive, Communist North.
Mexico City gives girls a party to remember
They entered Mexico City’s great Zócalo plaza in open-topped double decker buses to the strains of Carmina Burana – a cloud of floor-length frocks, fancy hairdos, tiaras and fantasies of a different life.
“When would we have ever been able to do something like this,” said Atenas, one of the 282 girls and young women who had signed up for a mass quinceañera party organised by the city council for those whose economic limitations precluded an individual bash. “It’s the one chance we will get to feel like princesses.”
Coming-of-age quinceañera parties held when girls reach 15 can put families in debt for years. For Saturday’s event, businesses donated the dresses, and beauty salons provided 150 stylists who worked on the girls all morning before they were paraded through the city, ending up on a stage by the cathedral. There they performed a dance they had rehearsed for weeks, cut a huge cake and then danced at a hip-hop concert.