Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Ebola: Guinea Facing 'Unprecedented Epidemic'

Doctors Without Borders has said a deadly Ebola outbreak in Guinea has become an "unprecedented epidemic", as neighbouring Liberia confirms its first cases.
In a statement, the charity, also known as Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) said the geographic scale of the epidemic was unmatched.
MSF coordinator Mariano Lugli said: "We are facing an epidemic of a magnitude never before seen in terms of the distribution of cases in the country."
Mr Lugli said previous outbreaks handled by MSF were "much more geographically contained and involved more remote locations."
He added: "This geographical spread is worrisome because it will greatly complicate the tasks of the organisations working to control the epidemic."
GUINEA-HEALTH-EBOLA Medics must wear sealed biohazard suits when caring for the victims
Guinea's health ministry has reported 122 suspected cases, with at least 78 deaths linked to the virus. Of those there are 22 laboratory confirmed cases.
Some of the cases are in Guinea's capital Conakry. Liberia also confirmed its first cases overnight on Sunday.
One of two women who tested positive for the virus has died, while the other, her sister, has been isolated in a medical centre outside the capital Monrovia.
Sierra Leone is investigating five suspected cases, although none have yet been confirmed.
Guinea map Macenta was one of the first towns in Guinea to report the virus
It is not only the geographic scale which makes this outbreak more severe.
There are five recognised strains of Ebola - four of which are deadly to humans.
The Guinean government says the strain it is currently observing is the 'Zaire' strain - the most aggressive of the five. It kills roughly 90% of its victims.
There is no known treatment or vaccine.
Ben Neuman, a virologist with the University of Reading, told Sky News: "The real worry is that this virus has been found in Conakry.
"This is a city where the population density is getting close to 10,000 per square kilometre and setting one of these at least mildly contagious viruses loose in that kind of population centre really has the makings of a humanitarian disaster."
A worker loads material including protection gear for the NGO Medecins sans Frontieres (Doctors without borders-MSF) at the airport of Conakry Aid workers are transporting tons of medical equipment to affected areas
The outbreak has also spread panic among other countries in the region.
Senegal has closed its border with Guinea and suspended weekly markets near the border to prevent the virus travelling further.
Sierra Leone has introduced a screening process on its border with Guinea, while regional airline Gambia Bird has delayed the launch of services to Guinea's capital.
MSF has sent dozens of aid workers into Guinea in an attempt to prevent a further spread.
It said a total of 60 people, experienced in working on haemorrhagic fever, will be in the country by the end of the week.
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GM Hires Attorney To Advise On Recall Victims

Updated: 6:45pm UK, Tuesday 01 April 2014

The US House Energy and Commerce Committee has compiled a timeline of events leading up to General Motors' ignition switch recalls.

Here are some events highlighted by the committee:

:: 2001 - A pre-production report for the 2003 Saturn Ion identifies issues with the car's ignition switch. The report indicates that a design change fixed the problem.

:: 2002 - Ignition switch manufacturer Delphi submits a document indicating GM approved switches despite sample testing falling short of the car maker's specifications.

:: November 2004 - GM opens engineering inquiry following complaint that 2005 Chevrolet Cobalt can be "keyed off with knee while driving".

:: March 2005 - GM rejects proposed solution for ignition problem, citing long lead times and high costs.

:: July 2005 - A 2005 Chevy Cobalt crashes in Maryland killing 16-year-old driver Amber Marie Rose.

:: August 2005 - A probe into the July crash finds that the car's airbag system did not deploy after the vehicle lost power.

:: December 2005 - GM issues a bulletin to its dealers identifying a problem with ignitions in the Cobalt, Chevy HHR, Saturn Ion and Pontiac Solstice. GM recommends that drivers remove heavy items from key rings.

:: April 2006 - GM engineer authorises Delphi to implement ignition switch modifications. Changes meant to increase torque performance, and began to appear in 2007 models.

:: October 2006 - A 2005 Cobalt crash in Wisconsin kills two teenagers. GM updates 2005 bulletin to include additional models, and provides key inserts to nearly 500 customers who brought their cars to the dealer for service.

:: March 2007 - GM begins probe into accidents involving failed airbag deployments. By the end of the year, the car maker identifies at least four instances when the car's ignition had been in the off position at the time of the crash.

:: November 2007 - A National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) official recommends an investigation into failed airbag deployments prompted by 29 complains, four fatal crashes and 14 field reports.

:: April 2009 - A 2005 Cobalt crashes in Pennsylvania, killing the driver and front passenger.

:: February 2010 - Calspan Crash Data Research Center releases findings from 2009 Pennsylvania crash, saying it was unable to determine why air bags did not deploy.

:: August 2011 - GM initiates a Field Performance Evaluation to examine frontal impact crashes involving 2005 to 2007 Cobalts and the 2007 Pontiac G5.

:: May 2012 - GM engineers test the torque performance of ignitions switches on over 40 cars across a range of make and models. Engineers find that the majority of vehicles from model years 2003 to 2007 exhibited torque at or below below the car maker's specifications.

:: April 2013 - GM hires outside engineering firm to conduct a thorough ignition switch investigation.

:: January 2014 - Mary Barra named GM's new chief executive.

:: February 2014 - GM announces recall of 2005 to 2007 model year Cobalts and Pontiac G5 vehicles. Recall later expanded to include 2003-2007 Saturn Ion, 2006-2007 Chevy HHR, Pontiac Solstice and 2007 Saturn Sky.

:: March 2014 - NHTSA launches probe into GM's handling and reporting of safety-related issues.

:: March 2014 - GM again expands the ignition switch recall to cover all model years of the Cobalt, HHR, Pontiac G5, Solstice, Saturn Ion and Sky in the US.


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Torture 'Did Not Lead To Bin Laden'

Waterboarding and other harsh interrogation methods provided no key evidence in the hunt for Osama bin Laden, a Senate investigation has concluded.
The report by the Senate intelligence committee examined the treatment of several high-level terror detainees and the information they provided on the man widely considered to be responsible for the 9/11 attacks.
The CIA disputes the conclusions and the intelligence agency is locked in a fight with the committee over the case.
Former Bush administration figures and top CIA officials said trailing bin Laden to his compound in Pakistan was vindication of the "enhanced interrogation techniques" they authorised after the September 11 attacks.
But Democratic and some Republican senators have called that account misleading, saying waterboarding – where a detainee is subjected to simulated drownings - sleep deprivation and other such practices were cruel and ineffective.
The 6,200-page report backs the latter. The document is still secret but a congressional vote on Thursday may look to declassify a summary.
Aerial view of compound The Abbottabad compound where bin Laden was tracked down and killed
The most high-profile detainee linked to the bin Laden investigation was Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who is of accused of masterminding 9/11 mastermind and who was waterboarded 183 times.
Mohammed confirmed after his 2003 capture that he knew an important al Qaeda courier with the nom de guerre Abu Ahmed al Kuwaiti.
The Senate report concludes such information was not critical.
Mohammed only discussed al Kuwaiti months after being waterboarded, while he was under standard interrogation, according to congressional aides familiar with the report.
And Mohammed neither acknowledged al Kuwaiti's significance nor provided interrogators with the courier's real name.
The courier eventually led US intelligence to the Pakistani military town of Abbottabad, where bin Laden was hiding.
Jessica Chastain in Zero Dark Thirty (Universal Pictures) Jessica Chastain in Zero Dark Thirty, the movie on the hunt for bin Laden
There, in May 2011, Navy SEALs killed bin Laden in a secret mission.
The issue of whether torture was instrumental in leading US officials to bin Laden was also hotly debated after the release of the Oscar nominated movie Zero Dark Thirty, a dramatisation of the hunt for the terror chief.
The movie shows torture to have played an important role in finding bin Laden, but group of US senators disputed that view.
Critics also said the movie endorsed torture, though this was dismissed as "absurd" by star Jessica Chastain and others involved in the film.
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The 21 Facial Expressions We All Pull Revealed

Scientists have identified 21 facial expressions we all pull, more than three times the number previously thought.
Researchers at Ohio State University used computers to map the full range of human expressions.
Until now, experts based their work on six basic emotions - happy, sad, fearful, angry, surprised and disgusted.
It is hoped the findings will be a breakthrough for cognitive scientists tracking the genetic and chemical pathways that govern emotion in the brain.
Dr Aleix Martinez, who led the research, said: "We've gone beyond facial expressions for simple emotions like 'happy' or 'sad.'
"We found a strong consistency in how people move their facial muscles to express 21 categories of emotions.
"That is simply stunning. That tells us that these 21 emotions are expressed in the same way by nearly everyone, at least in our culture."
The scientists took photos of mostly student volunteers - 100 male and 130 female - making faces in response to verbal cues.
The phrase "you just got some great, unexpected news", produced a "happily surprised" expression, while "you smell a bad odour" was met with a "disgusted" face.
A body language analysis database called the Facial Action Coding System (FACS) was then searched for similarities and differences in the 5,000 images produced.
The research team looked closely at key points on the face for muscles, such as the corners of the mouth or outer edge of the eyebrow, as they worked to match movements to emotions.
A "happy" face appeared the same way with 99% of volunteers, who drew up their cheeks and smiled, while surprise involved widening the eyes and opening the mouth 92% of the time.
But the study - published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences - identified hybrid emotions, such as "happily disgusted", which involved scrunching up the eyes and nose while also smiling.
Dr Martinez said it would be the emotion people feel when something "gross" but hilarious happens.
The new computer model could potentially help with the diagnosis and treatment of mental conditions like autism and post-traumatic stress disorder, the researchers said.
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FBI Confirms Probe Into High-Speed Trading

By Hannah Thomas-Peter, New York CorrespondentThe Federal Bureau of Investigation has been investigating high-speed trading firms for “several months”, Sky News has confirmed.
High frequency or high speed trading involves the use of extremely fast computer networks to shave fractions of a second off the time it takes companies to place electronic orders, potentially giving them a huge advantage over traditional rivals.
Companies using the technology can, for example, identify a large, slower order for stock from an ordinary investor, buy that stock ahead of them, and sell it back at a profit.
The practice accounts for about 50% of trading on New York stock exchanges, and is not illegal.
But the FBI wants to know if companies are using their speed advantage in an illegal way.
According to an FBI spokesman the ongoing, wide-ranging investigation includes a number of different companies and concentrates on practices including the front running of shares, 'spoofing' shares, phantom trading, insider trading and other market manipulation.
The FBI is not the only authority investigating the issue.
Among others, the SEC and the New York Attorney General’s Office are also probing how it works and whether in some circumstances it is illegal.
News of the FBI’s criminal investigation comes at the same time as high-profile financial author Michael Lewis released a book revealing details of the high-frequency trading market.
He told CBS’ 60 Minutes programme that the stock market was “rigged”, and high frequency traders were profiting at the expense of ordinary investors.
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Drone Crashes Near Disputed Korean Border

An unmanned drone has crashed on a South Korean island close to the disputed maritime border with the communist North.
The unidentified aircraft fell on Baeknyeong island on the same day as artillery fire was exchanged in the area between forces from the North and South.
The South Korean military are reported to be examining any possible link to spying operations by Pyongyang.
An official is reported as saying the drone is up to 10 feet long, with a Japanese engine and Chinese parts, along with a small camera.
North Korean drones North Korean "drones" on show at a military parade last year
The drone is similar to another found in a border city last month.
North Korea released footage last year of practice drones modified to crash into set targets, but is not thought to have unmanned craft capable of carrying out air strikes or long-range surveillance flights.
The discovery is likely to further heighten tensions in the area after Pyongyang carried out live firing drills that saw more than 100 shells fall in South Korean waters.
Seoul responded to what it branded "premeditated provocation", with its own artillery and scrambled fighter jets.
The US also condemned North Korea's actions as "dangerous and provocative".
Anxious residents sought refuge in shelters on Yeonpyeong island, where North Korean artillery killed four South Koreans in 2010.
Joint US and South Korean military exercises The US and South Korea are carrying out joint military exercises
The de facto maritime border between the two countries - the Northern Limit Line - is not recognised by Pyongyang.
The artillery exchange came a day after North Korea warned it had not ruled out a fourth test of its nuclear deterrent in retaliation for the US conducting "madcap nuclear war" exercises in South Korea this month.
Every year the US and South Korea conduct joint battle exercises involving around 12,500 US and as many as 200,000 South Korean troops.
The annual drills are regularly condemned by the North as preludes to a US invasion, though Washington insists the exercises are defensive.
China called for calm, while Russia said it was "worried" by Pyongyang's declaration it may conduct a further nuclear test.
North Korea last week tested two missiles capable of hitting Japan.
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Truck Driver Killed In Long Island Bus Crash

The driver of a pickup truck has been killed after a head-on collision with a charter bus on Long Island.
Police say the crash took place around 9am local time at Albertson, in Nassau County, New York.
A police spokesman said the truck driver may have crossed a double-yellow line prior to the crash.
New York bus crash One person is taken away from the crash scene on a stretcher
Pictures from the crash site showed emergency services working to free the bus driver from the wreckage.
Several ladders were perched on the side of the bus, reaching into the vehicle through the windows.
The bus appeared to have crashed into a tree after colliding with the truck.
New York bus crash Police say the truck driver may have crossed a double-yellow line
At one point during the rescue operation, a stretcher is passed through a window.
One person has been taken from the scene of the crash on a stretcher.
The identity of the truck driver has yet to be released.
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