Decoded genome gives hope in fighting disease
Finding may help identify genetic roots of some of the deadliest illnesses
The New York Times
Two research teams have independently decoded the entire genome of patients to find the exact genetic cause of their disease. The approach may offer a new start in the so far disappointing effort to identify the genetic roots of major killers like heart disease, diabetes and Alzheimers.
In the decade since the first full genetic code of a human was sequenced for some $500 million, only a handful of genomes have been decoded, all of healthy people.
Geneticists said the new research shows that it is now possible to sequence the entire genome of a patient at reasonable cost and with sufficient accuracy to be of practical use to medical researchers. One subject’s genome cost just $50,000 to decode.
Kim Jong-il’s personal shopper reveals how the North Korean leader lives in luxury
A North Korean colonel has revealed that he spent two decades going on lavish shopping sprees in Europe for his country’s leaders, while ordinary people starved to death in the impoverished nation.
By Malcolm Moore in Shanghai
Published: 7:00AM GMT 11 Mar 2010
Kim Jong Ryul, 75, has spent the last 16 years in exile in Austria after fleeing North Korea and still fears for his life. In a new book, At the Dictator’s Service, he recounts the luxury in which North Korea’s leaders live.
Using the code name Emil, Kim travelled through Europe on a diplomatic passport and with a suitcase full of cash, procuring cars, planes, guns and special food for both Kim Il-sung and his son, Kim Jong-il.The goods and money would be channelled through Vienna, to take advantage of banking secrecy, lax trade rules and minimal checks on aircraft.
Mr Kim said the North Korean leaders had dozens of villas, some of which were built underground, that were stuffed with chandeliers, silk wallpaper and expensive furniture. He said some of the villas were equipped with special ventilation systems in case of a nuclear attack.
Investors can soon make bets on movie box office
Two new futures exchanges will let studios spread the financial risk of creating films.
By Nathaniel Popper and Ben Fritz
March 11, 2010
Reporting from New York and Los Angeles — Welcome to Hollywood’s newest version of risky business: movie derivatives.
Two trading firms, one of them an established Wall Street player and the other a Midwest upstart, are each about to premiere a sophisticated new financial tool: a box-office futures exchange that would allow Hollywood studios and others to hedge against the box-office performance of movies, similar to the way farmers swap corn or wheat futures to protect themselves from crop failures.
The Cantor Exchange, formed by New York firm Cantor Fitzgerald and set to launch in April, last week demonstrated its system to 90 Hollywood executives in a packed Century City hotel conference room.
Governors, state school superintendents propose common academic standards
By Nick Anderson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, March 11, 2010
Maryland and several other states are pushing rapidly toward adoption of new academic standards proposed Wednesday for English and math, adding momentum to the campaign to establish common expectations for public school students across the country.
The District also is on track to adopt the common standards drafted by experts in a project led by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers. However, it is possible that Virginia will not join the apparent surge toward approval.
Widespread adoption of common standards would mark a watershed for schools, triggering consequences for curricula, textbooks, testing and teaching.
Merkel’s ‘dream team’ begins to unravel
Criticism mounts of her coalition partner, liberal leader Guido Westerwelle
By Tony Paterson in Berlin Thursday, 11 March 2010
The parties in Angela Merkel’s increasingly embattled government were struggling to digest their worst popularity rating in nearly a decade yesterday, less than six months after the German Chancellor had described her ruling alliance of conservatives and liberals as the country’s “dream” coalition.
The damning appraisal came from the Forsa poll group, which found that a massive 84 per cent of Germans thought that Ms Merkel’s coalition partners were locked in perpetual dispute. Only 8 per cent believed that the government showed unity of purpose.
Chief exorcist Father Gabriele Amorth says Devil is in the Vatican
From The Times
March 11, 2010
Richard Owen in Rome
Sex abuse scandals in the Roman Catholic Church are proof that that “the Devil is at work inside the Vatican”, according to the Holy See’s chief exorcist.
Father Gabriele Amorth, 85, who has been the Vatican’s chief exorcist for 25 years and says he has dealt with 70,000 cases of demonic possession, said that the consequences of satanic infiltration included power struggles at the Vatican as well as “cardinals who do not believe in Jesus, and bishops who are linked to the Demon”
‘I saw Israeli bulldozer kill Rachel Corrie’
Briton tells court of the moment he saw American activist fall as she tried to defend Palestinian homes
By Donald Macintyre in Haifa Thursday, 11 March 2010
The final moments of Rachel Corrie, the American peace activist crushed to death beneath a pile of earth and rubble in the path of an advancing Israeli army bulldozer, were described to an Israeli court by an eyewitness yesterday.
The parents of the 23-year-old, who was killed by the bulldozer in March 2003, were present to hear the harrowing account on the first day of hearings in a civil lawsuit they have brought against the state of Israel. The country has never acknowledged culpability over Ms Corrie’s death.
Lebanon resumes defense talks on Hezbollah’s military wing
The most powerful politicians in Lebanon resumed discussions on national defense, with questions of how to rein in Shiite political party Hezbollah’s powerful military wing on the table.
By Nicholas Blanford Correspondent / March 10, 2010
Lebanon’s top politicians have resumed a series of round-table discussions to devise a national defense strategy, at the heart of which is finding a compromise over the militant Shiite Hezbollah’s powerful military wing.
Although Lebanon is enjoying a taste of political stability and a buoyant economy after several years of internal violence and a war with Israel in 2006, the rival political factions of this tiny Mediterranean country are still divided over Hezbollah’s continued armed status.
The dispute is underlined by persistent fears here that another devastating war is brewing between Hezbollah and Israel, possibly as an outcome of intensifying efforts to forge an international consensus to curb Iran’s nuclear ambitions. Given the rising tensions and recent strengthening of an Iran-led alliance in the Mideast, a war between Hezbollah and Israel could expand to become a regional conflagration involving Iran and Syria, both of which support the Lebanese Shiite party.
Great Himalayan Trail: trekking’s holy grail
For the first time walkers can take a guided trek traversing the entire length of the Himalayas in Nepal
guardian.co.uk, Thursday 11 March 2010 07.00 GMT
Have you got six months off? Do you fancy a long walk? If so, World Expeditions may have just the holiday for you. They have become the only trekking outfit to offer a guided trip along the first completed section of the Great Himalayan Trail (GHT).
Stretching for 1,700km along the length of Nepal, the GHT will take you a mere 157 days to complete. You’ll see eight of the world’s 14 peaks over 8,000m, including Everest, and cross passes reaching up to 6,000m, climbing a total of 150,000m. That’s a Snowdon every day for half a year. Oh, and it will set you back £20,500.
Hundreds rounded up in Tibet crackdown
From The Times
March 11, 2010
Jane Macartney in Beijing
Hundreds of Tibetans are being rounded up and detained in Lhasa and armed paramilitary groups are patrolling the streets in advance of the anniversary of fatal riots in 2008, The Times has learnt.
Authorities are anxious to avoid a repeat of the anti-Chinese attacks, in which about 20 people were killed when Tibetans rampaged through the city, setting fire to shops and offices.
This month marks a particularly sensitive period in the region as March 10 is also regarded by Tibetans as the anniversary of the start of an abortive uprising against Chinese rule in 1959 that resulted in the Dalai Lama’s flight into exile in India.
Lhasa residents told The Times that as many as 400 to 500 people had been detained in the latest crackdown. The number could not be independently confirmed and officials declined to comment.
Why do Egyptians love Avatar?
Parallels between the Na’vi and oppressed people in the Arab world are flimsy – and imply the need for a foreign saviour
guardian.co.uk, Thursday 11 March 2010 07.00 GMT
The gigantic blue Na’vi of Pandora have captured Egyptianand Arab minds over the past few months. When they were snubbed at Sunday’s Oscar ceremony in favour of The Hurt Locker, the Twittersphere and blogs were ablaze with people crying foul. How, they cried, could a politicised movie glorifying war in Iraq win over a film, Avatar, which “so resembles the causes of struggling people”?
The battle between Avatar and The Hurt Locker has revealed a great divide in the culture of Egypt and the Arab world, where films that show brutal reality are often shunned in favour of the otherworldly tale of the Na’vi, which had made more than 8m Egyptian pounds (£1m) by mid-February. It is still number four in the Egyptian box office chart.
Ex-rebels accused of extortion in DR Congo mines
Former rebels in the Democratic Republic of Congo who now serve in the army are running mafia-style extortion rackets in the mines, campaigners say.
By Karen Allen
The country has some of the world’s richest mines, which provide minerals to the global electronics industry.
Ex-rebels of the CNDP group are said to have gained far greater control of the mines than they did as insurgents.
Campaign group Global Witness says the government and international community have failed to demilitarise the mines.
The ongoing conflict in Eastern Congo, which has claimed some six million lives in a little more than a decade, has long revolved over access to its mineral wealth, not just by DR Congo but also its neighbour Rwanda through its proxy forces.
Chile’s new leader Sebastian Pinera to be sworn in
Chilean tycoon Sebastian Pinera is due to be sworn in as president of the country, which was recently devastated by a massive earthquake and tsunami.
The BBC Thursday, 11 March 2010
Mr Pinera not only faces the challenge of reconstruction, but takes over from a highly popular outgoing leader.
Michelle Bachelet leaves office with a record 84% popularity rating despite criticism of the government’s slow reaction to last month’s disaster.
Meanwhile, Chile’s disaster management chief has resigned over the response.
Carmen Fernandez is the second Chilean official to leave her post in the aftermath of the 27 February quake and ensuing tsunami that killed close to 500 people.