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Reducing global warming can prevent millions of dengue cases: Study

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Limiting global warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius, as per the UN Paris Agreement, would stop dengue spreading to areas where incidence is currently low, say researchers.

Dengue is the fastest growing mosquito-borne disease across the world today, causing nearly 400 million infections every year.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), in the last 50 years, dengue has spread from being present in a handful of countries to being endemic in 128 countries and its incidence has increased 30-fold in this time period.

India reported a total of 99,913 dengue cases and 220 deaths in 2015.

The findings showed that limiting global warming to 2 degrees Celsius could reduce dengue cases by up to 2.8 million cases per year by the end of the century compared to a scenario in which the global temperature rises by 3.7 degrees Celsius.

A global warming trajectory of 3.7 degrees Celsius could lead to an increase of up to 7.5 million additional cases per year by the middle of this century.

Limiting warming further to 1.5 degrees Celsius produces an additional drop in cases of up to half a million per year.

"There is growing concern about the potential impacts of climate change on human health. While it is recognised that limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius would have benefits for human health, the magnitude of these benefits remains mostly unquantified," said Felipe Colon-Gonzalez, from the University of East Anglia in Britain's Norwich.

"This is the first study to show that reductions in warming from 2 degrees Celcius to 1.5 degrees Celcius could have important health benefits," he added.

The Paris Climate Agreement aims to hold global-mean temperature well below 2 degrees Celsius and to pursue efforts to limit it to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

"Warming has already reached 1 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, and the current trajectory, if countries meet their international pledges to reduce carbon dioxide (CO2), is around 3 degree Celcius -- so clearly a lot more needs to be done to reduce CO2 and quickly if we are to avoid these impacts," noted Iain Lake, from the UEA.

For the study, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), the team studied clinical and laboratory-confirmed dengue reports in Latin America and used computer models to predict the impacts of warming under different climate scenarios.

Dengue symptoms include fever, headache, muscle and joint pain. There is no specific treatment or vaccine for dengue and in rare cases, it can be lethal.

IANS

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French billionaire Serge Dassault dead at 93

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Serge Dassault, a French billionaire who owned the 'Le Figaro' daily and jet maker Dassault, has died. He was 93, the media reported.
 
In a short statement, the Dassault family announced that the industrialist and media magnate "died at his office on the Champs Elysees, following a heart attack (on Monday)", reports CNN.
 
Serge Dassault was one of France's richest men, with a fortune estimated by Forbes at about $26 billion.
 
In an article published on its website, Le Figaro described him as "the head of one of the wealthiest dynasties in France and one of the most influential and powerful family holdings".
 
The diversified group he inherited from his father - Marcel Dassault - employs about 18,000 people and is a world leader in aviation, making Falcon private jets as well as the Mirage 2000 and Rafale fighter aircraft.
 
It owns Dassault Systemes, which provides 3D computer-aided design software for industry, wine estates, an auction house and several very valuable works of art.
 
Serge Dassault also had a political career, serving as a conservative senator and mayor.
 
IANS
 
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Lab-on-a-chip technology can improve chronic disease diagnoses

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Researchers have developed a breakthrough lab-on-a-chip technology that reveals how human cells communicate, opening the path to new treatments for cancer and autoimmune disorders.

The researchers built a miniature optofluidic biosensor that allows scientists to isolate single cells, analyse them in real time over at least 12 hours and observe their complex signalling behaviour without disturbing their environment.

Single cell analysis holds great promise for developing new treatments for diseases but a lack of effective analysis technologies was holding back research in the field, said Arnan Mitchell, Professor at the RMIT University in Australia's Melbourne.

The new biosensor is "a powerful new tool that will give us a deeper fundamental understanding of cell communication and behaviour. These insights will open the way to develop radically new methods for diagnosing and treating disease", Mitchell said.

Human cells communicate that something is wrong in complex and dynamic ways, producing various chemical substances that signal to other cells what they need to do.

Understanding how individual cells interact and communicate is critical to developing new therapies for serious diseases, to better harness the power of the body's own immune system or precisely target defective cells, the researchers said.

For the study, published in the journal Small, the team demonstrated how the technology can be used to examine the secretion of cytokines from single lymphoma cells.

Cytokines are small proteins produced by a broad range of cells to communicate to other cells, and they are known to play an important role in responses to infection, immune disorders, inflammation, sepsis and cancer.

The study found the lymphoma cells produced cytokine in different ways, unique to each cell, enabling researchers to determine each cell's "secretion fingerprints".

"If we can build up a clear picture of this behaviour, this would help us sort good cells from bad and enable us to one day develop treatments that precisely target just those bad cells," Mitchell said.

IANS

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Robots won't render people jobless: Satya Nadella

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Even in a "runaway Artificial Intelligence (AI)" scenario, robots will not render people completely jobless, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella told The Sunday Telegraph in an interview.

People will always want a job as it gives them "dignity", Nadella said, adding that the focus should instead be on applying AI technology ethically.

"What I think needs to be done in 2018 is more dialogue around the ethics, the principles that we can use for the engineers and companies that are building AI so that the choices we make don't cause us to create systems with bias … that's the tangible thing we should be working on," he was quoted as saying.

According to a report in MIT Technology Review on May 25, Microsoft is building a tool to automate the identification of bias in a range of different AI algorithms.

The Microsoft tool has the potential to help businesses make use of AI without inadvertently discriminating against certain groups of people.

Although Microsoft's new tool may not eliminate the problem of bias that may creep into Machine-Learning models altogether, it will help AI researchers catch more instances of unfairness, Rich Caruna, a senior researcher at Microsoft who is working on the bias-detection dashboard, was quoted as saying by MIT Technology Review.

"Of course, we can't expect perfection -- there's always going to be some bias undetected or that can't be eliminated -- the goal is to do as well as we can," he said.

In the interview with The Sunday Telegraph, Nadella also said that as Microsoft's business model was based on customers paying for services, he believed the company was on "the right side of history".

"Our business model is based on our customers being successful, and if they are successful they will pay us. So we are not one of these transaction-driven or ad-driven or marketplace-driven economies," the Microsoft chief was quoted as saying.

IANS

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New Zealand to cull over 100,000 cows to eradicate Mycoplasma

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New Zealand will become the first country in the world to try to eradicate the Mycoplasma bovis cow disease by culling tens of thousands of cows in the largest mass animal slaughter in the country’s history.

Government and farming sector leaders have agreed to cull 126,000 cows and spend more than NZ$800m ($560 million) over 10 years in an attempt to save the national dairy herd and protect the long-term productivity of the farming sector, which is New Zealand's second biggest export earner, the Guardian reported on Monday.

Mycoplasma bovis was first detected in New Zealand in July 2017 and manifests in mastitis in cows, severe pneumonia, ear infections and other symptoms.

Since it was first discovered, 26,000 cows have been culled, and the disease is classified as "active" on 37 properties.

Despite initially being contained to farms in the South Island, the disease has continued to spread and reached the North Island earlier this year.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Monday: "This is a tough call... No one ever wants to see mass culls. But the alternative is to risk the spread of the disease across our national herd. We have a real chance of eradication to protect our more than 20,000 dairy and beef farms, but only if we act now."

Ardern said total eradication of the disease was possible as it was not yet widespread and had presented in only one strain.

New Zealand is the world's largest exporter of dairy, producing 3% of all the world's milk. It has 6.6 million dairy cows.

IANS

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19 IS militants killed in Afghan airstrikes

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At least 19 militants of the Islamic State (IS) terror group were killed in airstrikes targeting their hideouts in Afghanistan's Nangarhar province, the Defence Ministry said on Sunday.
 
"The strikes were conducted in Haska Mina district on Saturday, killing 19 militants," Xinhua news agency cited the ministry as saying in a statement. 
 
Among the killed were two IS divisional commanders named Qari Esrar and Mullah Hasghar, the statement said. 
 
However, it is uncertain whether the strikes were launched by the Afghan Air Force, NATO or the US-led coalition forces. 
 
IANS
 
 
 
 
 
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Apollo 12 astronaut Alan Bean dead at 86

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Alan Bean, a NASA astronaut who journeyed into space two times and, as part of the Apollo 12 mission in 1969, became the fourth man to walk on the moon, died at the age of 86 at a hospital in Houston, the US space agency announced.
 
NASA announced his death on Saturday night noting that he had fallen ill during two weeks of travel, reports The Washington Post.
 
Bean was born on March 15, 1932, in Wheeler, Tex., and completed high school in Fort Worth. 
 
He was a Navy test pilot first and later joined NASA's astronaut corps in 1963. 
 
He made his first voyage into space on November 14, 1969, four months after the historic first landing on the moon of Apollo 11, commanded by Neil Armstrong.
 
The three astronauts aboard Apollo 12 were Charles "Pete" Conrad Jr., the mission commander, Richard F. Gordon Jr., the command module pilot, and Bean, whose duty was as lunar module pilot.
 
After more than four days of flying through space, Conrad and Bean settled onto the lunar surface on November 19, landing in a broad plain called the Ocean of Storms. 
 
Four years later, Bean returned to space as commander of the second mission to the Skylab orbiting space station. He and two astronauts, Jack Lousma and Owen Garriott, stayed aloft for 59 days, conducting a variety of biological experiments to test the body's ability to endure the physical and psychological demands of prolonged space flight.
 
In the late 1970s, Bean became chief of the astronaut training programme, preparing for the first shuttle mission, which was launched in 1981, The Washington Post reported.
 
He soon retired from NASA and devoted himself to painting, a longtime hobby that had become an overriding passion.
 
His paintings have been exhibited at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington and have sold to collectors for well in excess of $100,000.
 
IANS
 
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Over 66% voters favour scrapping anti-abortion laws in Ireland

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A total of 66.4 per cent of voters voted to scrap the present anti-abortion laws in Ireland in a referendum, according to the final results announced by a returning officer here on Saturday.
 
A total of 33.6 per cent of voters chose to retain the present abortion laws, or widely known as the Eighth Amendment among locals, that virtually ban abortions in the country, said the returning officer Barry Ryan.
 
Ryan declared the above results of the referendum in front of a large cheering crowd of people gathering at a central count center at Dublin Castle, a main government complex in the Irish capital of Dublin, Xinhua reported.
 
According to Ryan, nearly 3.37 million voters were registered for the referendum and 64.1 per cent of them turned out in Friday's voting with some 6,000 votes declared invalid.
 
The turnout of the referendum was one of the highest in any referendums ever held in Ireland and this indicated how important the abortion issue was for the Irish people.
 
The referendum received an overwhelming victory in almost all the 40 constituencies across the country except in Donegal, a constituency in the country's northwest, with 51.9 per cent of voters voting against repealing the Eighth Amendment.
 
Dublin ranked in the first place in terms of Yes vote for ending the constitutional ban in the country with 75.5 per cent, followed by the eastern region of Leinster (66.6 per cent), the southwest region of Munster (63.3 per cent), and the midwest and northwest regions of Connacht and Ulster (57.5 per cent), according to the official results of the referendum.
 
A breakdown of the voting results indicated that the more developed a region, the higher it has the Yes vote.
 
Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said the referendum marked a culmination of "a quiet revolution" which has taken place in the country over the last few decades.
 
IANS
 
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Weinstein pleads not guilty to rape, sexual assault

 
Weinstein surrenders himself on sex assault charges
 
 
Harvey Weinstein pleaded not guilty to charges of first- and third-degree rape and committing a criminal sexual act in the first degree at his arraignment on Friday in New York, his attorney said.
 
"Mr. Weinstein has always maintained that he has never engaged in non-consensual sexual behaviour with anyone. Nothing about today's proceedings changes Mr. Weinstein's position. He has entered a plea of not guilty and fully expects to be exonerated," Efe quoted Benjamin Brafman as saying in a statement.
 
Since October, dozens of women have brought accusations of serious sexual abuse against the once-powerful movie mogul who has been fired from his company, expelled from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences, abandoned by his wife and repudiated by his colleagues.
 
Weinstein, 66, surrendered to the New York Police Department early on Friday at a precinct in Manhattan, from where he was taken in handcuffs to his arraignment.
 
The producer of Hollywood blockbusters such as "Pulp Fiction" was charged "for incidents involving two separate women," the NYPD said.
 
While neither the NYPD or prosecutors identified the alleged victims, the charges are believe to be based on allegations from Paz de la Huerta, who says Weinstein raped her in 2010; and a former aspiring actress, Lucia Evans, who says the producer forced her to perform oral sex on him in 2004.
 
Under an arrangement between Brafman reached and the Manhattan District Attorney's office, Weinstein remains free on bond of $10 million, but is permitted to travel only within the states of New York and Connecticut.
 
IANS
 
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Learning physics may activate new brain areas

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Brain areas that are traditionally not associated with learning science can become active when people are confronted with solving physics problems, finds a study.

This shows that the brain's activity can be modified by different forms of instruction.

"The neurobiological processes that underpin learning are complex and not always directly connected to what we think it means to learn," said lead author Eric Brewe, Associate Professor at Drexel University in Pennsylvania, US.

The findings, published in the journal Frontiers in ICT, showed that newer brain regions associated with attention, working memory and problem solving -- the lateral prefrontal cortex and parietal cortex, sometimes called the brain's "central executive network" - showed activity when dealing with such problems.

Another area that became active was the posterior cingulate cortex, which is linked to episodic memory and self-referential thought.

"These changes in brain activity may be related to more complex behavioural changes in how students reason through physics questions post- relative to pre-instruction," Brewe noted.

"These might include shifts in strategy or an increased access to physics knowledge and problem-solving resources," he said.

Using fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging) to measure blood flow in the brain, the researchers looked to map what areas become active when completing a physics reasoning task, both before a course on the concepts and after.

A small group of students were taught a physics course that utilised "Modelling Instruction," a style of teaching which encourages students to be active participants in their learning.

"This suggests that learning physics is an imaginative process, which is not typically how people think of it," Brewe said, in reference to the study which aimed to further explore how students use their own mental models to understand new concepts.

"The idea of mental models is something that people who research learning love to talk about, but have no evidence of what is happening inside brains other than what people say or do," Brewe said.

"We are actually looking for evidence from inside the brain," he added.

IANS

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Harvey Weinstein surrenders over sexual misconduct charges

 
Weinstein surrenders himself on sex assault charges
 
 
Hollywood film producer Harvey Weinstein, accused by over 80 women of sexual harassment, on Friday surrendered to police here to face charges of sexual misconduct more than seven months after the allegations first surfaced publicly.
 
Weinstein, 66, turned himself into authorities at the first precinct in Manhattan on Friday. He was arrested shortly thereafter, the New York Police Department said. He is expected to be charged and brought on trial later on Friday, according to hollywoodreporter.com.
 
The Oscar-winning producer landed in a twin expose in The New York Times and The New Yorker that was published in October and chronicled a pattern of alleged harassment and sexual assault of both actresses and employees at Weinstein's studios Miramax and its successor, The Weinstein Co.
 
In no time, high-profile actresses like Ashley Judd, Rose McGowan, Mira Sorvino, Angelina Jolie and Gwyneth Paltrow came forward with claims against the producer.
 
Weinstein, wearing a white button-down shirt and light-blue sweater under a black blazer and grey pants and carrying two books, entered the first precinct police station in Manhattan's Tribeca neighbourhood. 
 
He remained silent even though the reporters, photographers and TV news crews camped outside of the police department shouted questions at him, including "What took you so long?"
 
He appeared rested and relaxed as he stepped out of the black SUV that transported him to the police station, getting more serious as he approached the precinct steps, hollywoodreporter.com said.
 
The "Shakespeare In Love", "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon", "Shall We Dance?" and "Lion" producer has been facing the prospect of criminal charges on multiple fronts, including in New York, Los Angeles and London.
 
He is expected to be be charged with assaulting former aspiring actress Lucia Evans, who was one of three women, along with Asia Argento, who said Weinstein had raped them. 
 
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The alleged incident took place at the former Miramax offices in Tribeca in 2004. Evans told investigators that Weinstein forced her to perform oral sex on him despite her verbal protests.
 
His arrest ends months of speculation over whether he would be held accountable for his alleged misdeeds. Weinstein had earlier evaded arrest in 2014 when he was investigated by the NYPD for groping then-22-year-old Italian model Ambra Battilana.
 
Weinstein's lawyer Benjamin Brafman said on Thursday that he would not comment on reports of Weinstein's surrender but he denied all allegations of non-consensual sex.
 
As part of a pre-negotiated bail package, Weinstein is expected to put up $1 million in cash and agree to wear a monitoring device. He will also surrender his passport, theguardian.com reported.
 
Before Weinstein's surrender, one of his accusers, actor McGowan, said: "I and so many of Harvey Weinstein's survivors had given up hope that our rapist would be held accountable by law... Today we are one step closer to justice."
 
Filmmaker Ava DuVernay also posted that "Karma never loses an address" while actress Lauren Sivan wrote: "It's been a long time coming and today my fellow victims and I rejoice and pray no one ever underestimates the power of women when we stand together + scream the truth."
 
In the wake of the mass allegations against Weinstein, McGowan had started the #MeToo campaign, which has turned into a global movement with victims of sexual harassment becoming more vocal than ever and demanding justice.
 
IANS
 
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15 injured in Canada Indian restaurant IED blast

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At least 15 people were injured following an improvised explosive device (IED) blast at an Indian restaurant in Canada's Mississauga city, police said.
 
A search operation has been launched for two male suspects who detonated the device inside the Bombay Bhel restaurant and fled the scene immediately after the blast, reports CBC Canada.
 
The incident took place at the restaurant located in the area of Hurontario Street and Eglinton Avenue East at around 10.30 p.m. on Thursday.
 
According to the police, one suspect was described as a tall, stockily-built male in his mid-20s. 
 
He is believed to have been wearing dark blue jeans, a hoodie pulled over his head, a baseball cap with a light grey peak, with his face covered with black cloth. 
 
The second suspect is a thinly-built male with fair skin, wearing faded blue jeans, a dark hoodie pulled over his head along with a grey T-shirt and dark skate shoes.
 
Peel Regional Paramedic Services paramedic Joe Korstanje said three of the injured suffered "critical blast injuries" and were taken to a trauma centre in the neighbouring city of Toronto.
 
The remaining 12 victims suffered minor and superficial injuries, CBC quoted Korstanje as saying.
 
However, the police has not given details about how many people were inside the restaurant at the time of the blast or where the explosion originated.
 
IANS
 
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Explosion in Canada Indian restaurant injures 15

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At least 15 people were injured following a blast in an Indian restaurant in Canada's Mississauga city, the media reported.
 
The incident took place in Bombay Bhel located in Hurontario Street and Eglinton Avenue East at around 10.30 p.m. on Thursday, reports CBC Canada.
 
According to paramedics at the scene, three of the injured suffered "critical blast injuries" and were taken to a trauma centre in the neighbouring city of Toronto.
 
A Peel Regional Paramedic Services spokesperson told Global News that the restaurant building appeared to be intact, but there were a lot of broken glass.
 
The cause of the explosion is under probe.
 
IANS
 
 
 
 
 
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Trump cancels Singapore summit with Kim Jong-un

 
Trump cancels summit with North Korea
 
 
United States President Donald Trump said on Thursday that the summit scheduled with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un on June 12 in Singapore has been cancelled.
 
In a letter to Kim, Trump said he made the decision based on the "tremendous anger and open hostility" in a recent North Korean statement.
 
The meeting, which would have marked the first face-to-face encounter between a sitting US President and a North Korean leader, was set for June 12.
 
The news came as North Korea made a show of dismantling a nuclear test site, but also on the heels of some sharp words from the North Korean government about America's denuclearization demands.
 
North Korea had abruptly cancelled talks with South Korea out of anger over joint military tests with the US in the Korean peninsula. 
 
While Trump had repeatedly played up the historic significance of the meeting, he also often leavened his optimism with a cautious "we'll see".
 
While much of the letter was written in conciliatory terms, including praise for North Korea's recent release of three American prisoners, Trump also appeared to issue a threat that conjured memories of his war of words with Kim last year.
 
"You talk about your nuclear capabilities, but ours are so massive and powerful that I pray to God they will never have to be used," Trump wrote in the letter tweeted by White House.
 
Trump left the door open for arranging a new meeting with Kim.
 
"If you change your mind having to do with this most important summit, please do not hesitate to call me or write," the President wrote. "This missed opportunity is a truly sad moment in history."
 
Trump said it would be "inappropriate" to hold the summit as scheduled in Singapore, adding he was very much looking forward to meeting him "some day".
 
IANS
 
 
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MIT scientists develop one-shot nanoparticle vaccine for polio

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A novel single-shot nanoparticle vaccine developed by MIT researchers could assist efforts to eradicate polio worldwide.

Currently, two to four polio vaccine injections are required to build up immunity, and because of the difficulty in reaching children in remote areas, the disease still prevails.

The novel vaccine delivers multiple doses in just one injection to prevent the paralysis caused by the poliovirus.

"Having a one-shot vaccine that can elicit full protection could be very valuable in being able to achieve eradication," said Ana Jaklenec, a research scientist at MIT's Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research in Cambridge, US.

"Children in some of these hard-to-reach developing world locations tend to not get the full series of shots necessary for protection. The goal is to ensure that everyone globally is immunized," Jaklenec added, in a paper appearing in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

To create a single-injection vaccine, the team encapsulated the inactivated polio vaccine in a biodegradable polymer known as PLGA.

This polymer can be designed to degrade after a certain period of time, allowing the researchers to control when the vaccine is released.

The researchers designed particles that would deliver an initial burst at the time of injection, followed by a second release about 25 days later.

They injected the particles into rats and found that the blood samples from rats immunised with the single-injection particle vaccine had an antibody response against poliovirus just as strong as, or stronger than, antibodies from rats that received two injections of Salk polio vaccine -- the first polio vaccine, developed in the 1950s.

Furthermore, the researchers said that they could design vaccines that deliver more than two doses, each a month apart and hope to soon be able to test the vaccines in clinical trials.

They are also working to apply this approach to create stable, single-injection vaccines for other viruses such as Ebola and HIV.

IANS

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US Supreme Court to hear fishermen petition against IFC-funded Tata Power project

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The US Supreme Court has agreed to look into the so-called immunity provided to the International Finance Corporation (IFC) against the harm it may cause to the environment through its financing, in this case against the IFC-funded Tata Power Plant in Gujarat’s Kutch district.

The petition has been brought against the plant by local fishermen for environmental violations and destruction of livelihoods. IFC is the private lending arm of the World Bank Group with over 180 member countries.

The petition by local fishermen, represented by Earth Rights International and the Stanford Law School Supreme Court Litigation Clinic, challenges the long-held claim of "absolute immunity" of the IFC and other such international organisations from legal scrutiny.

In 2017, the US Court of Appeals for District of Columbia Circuit had held that IFC was immune from such litigation under the 1945 International Organizations Immunity Act.

The petitioner fishermen and farmers, led by Budha Ismail Jam, have alleged that the coal-fired Tata Mundra Power Plant had resulted in widespread environmental damages and destruction of livelihoods.

The Supreme Court's decision to hear their case means it will look at the immunity provided to international organisations "for their harmful conduct, or whether they enjoy the special status above the law that they claim," an EarthRights International spokesperson told IANS.

The Washington DC-based IFC Bank has provided financial assistance of $450 million to the project.

The US Court of Appeals had ruled last year that the IFC had "absolute immunity" and could not be sued for its role in the Tata Mundra coal-fired power plant for alleged environmental damages and destruction of livelihoods.

"International organisations like the IFC are not above the law and must be held accountable when their projects harm communities. The notion of ‘absolute immunity' is inconsistent with Supreme Court precedent, and it is contrary to the IFC's own mission as an anti-poverty institution. We are glad the Supreme Court has agreed to hear this case and hope it will correct this error," Richard Herz, Senior Litigation Attorney at EarthRights International stated.

Reacting to the Supreme Court's admission of the case, Jeff Fisher, head of the Stanford Supreme Court Litigation Clinic, said: "We're grateful the Court has taken an interest in the case and we look forward to presenting argument going forward."

IANS

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India, Russia agree on building multi-polar world order

India and Russia on Monday agreed on building a multi-polar world order after an informal summit between Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Russian President Vladimir Putin here.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi meeting Russian President Vladimir Putin at Sochi in Russia, on May 21, 2018.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi meeting Russian President Vladimir Putin at Sochi in Russia, on May 21, 2018.
India and Russia on Monday agreed on building a multi-polar world order after an informal summit between Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Russian President Vladimir Putin here.
 
"The two leaders agreed that the Special and Privileged Strategic Partnership between India and Russia is an important factor for global peace and stabilit," the Indian External Affairs Ministry said in a statement, adding that they agreed both nations "have an important role to play in contributing to an open and equitable world order".
 
"In this regard, they recognised each other's respective roles as major powers with common responsibilities for maintaining global peace and stability."
 
According to the statement, Modi and Putin held in-depth discussions on major international issues, agreeing "to intensify consultation and coordination with each other, including on the Indo-Pacific region".
 
This decision assumes significance after India, along with Japan, the US, and Australia revived a quad to work for the peace and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region.
 
"Both leaders expressed their concern over terrorism and radicalisation, and their determination to combat terrorism in all its forms and manifestations," the statement said.
 
"In this context, they endorsed the importance of restoring peace and stability in Afghanistan in an atmosphere free from the threat of terrorism, and agreed to work together towards achieving this objective."
 
According to the statement, Modi and Putin held detailed exchange of views on national development plans and priorities.
 
"They expressed satisfaction over the deep trust, mutual respect and goodwill that characterizes relations between India and Russia," it said.
 
"While expressing their satisfaction at the positive momentum since the last bilateral Summit in St. Petersburg in June 2017, the two leaders directed their officials to prepare concrete outcomes for the forthcoming Summit in India later this year."
 
India and Russia also agreed to institute a Strategic Economic Dialogue between India's NITI Aayog and Russia's Ministry of Economic Development, to identify greater synergy in trade and investment.
 
"They (Modi and Putin) noted with satisfaction the expanding cooperation in the energy sector and, in this regard, welcomed the arrival of the first consignment of LNG under a long-term agreement between Gazprom and GAIL, next month," the statement said.
 
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"The two leaders also reiterated the significance of longstanding partnership in the military, security and nuclear energy fields and welcomed the ongoing cooperation in these areas."
 
"Extremely productive discussions with President Putin," Modi tweeted following the informal summit earlier on Monday.
 
"Friendship between India and Russia has stood the test of time. Our ties will continue to scale newer heights in the coming years." 
 
"I am happy that today I got the opportunity to be a guest of President Putin and that too in Sochi," Modi said after being received with a warm hug by Putin at his summer residence, Bocharev Creek, in this resort city on the Black Sea coast.
 
"We have been regularly holding bilateral meetings but I am grateful to President Putin for inviting me for an informal summit which has taken our relationship to a new level."
 
On his part, Putin said that there is no need to explain Russian-Indian relations, since these have deep roots.
 
"However, we have been able to create additional momentum recently. Last year, our trade saw a significant increase, adding another 17 percent since the beginning of this year," he said.
 
Stating that Russia and India are proactive in their foreign policy cooperation, including within international organisations such as the UN, BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) and now the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), Putin said: "We have established close contacts and collaboration between our defence agencies. All this is indicative of the high level of strategic relations between our countries."
 
Modi arrived here earlier on Monday on a nine-hour visit for the informal summit proposed by Putin soon after his re-election as Russian President.
 
The Indian leader's visit comes after National Security Adviser Ajit Doval and Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale visited Moscow earlier this month to discuss a way out of the US sanctions on Russian firms.
 
The sanctions against Russian oligarchs and companies, including Rosoboronexport, the state-owned Russian weapons trading company, has raised concerns in India about a possible impact on India's military buys from Moscow.
 
The withdrawal of the US from the Iran nuclear deal can be seen as another major reason for the informal summit.
 
Putin is expected to visit India later this year for the annual bilateral summit.
 
Following Monday's summit, Modi and Putin took a boat ride on the Black Sea and, according to Indian External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar, the two leaders "had plenty to discuss".
 
The Sochi meeting came after a similar informal summit Modi held with Chinese President Xi Jinping in China last month.
 
IANS
 
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Informal summit takes India-Russia ties to new level: Modi

Stating that Russia has always been a true and fast friend of India, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday said that his informal summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin will take bilateral ties to a new level.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi meeting Russian President Vladimir Putin at Sochi in Russia, on May 21, 2018.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi meeting Russian President Vladimir Putin at Sochi in Russia, on May 21, 2018.
Stating that Russia has always been a true and fast friend of India, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday said that his informal summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin will take bilateral ties to a new level.
 
"I am happy that today I got the opportunity to be a guest of President Putin and that too in Sochi," Modi said after being received by Putin here for the informal summit.
 
"Russia has always remained a true and fast friend of India," he said. 
 
"We have been regularly holding bilateral meetings but I am grateful to President Putin for inviting me for an informal summit which has taken our relationship to a new level."
 
On his part, Putin said that the India-Russia bilateral relationship has deep roots.
 
"Last year, we saw a considerable increase in mutual trade," he said.
 
Stating that Russia and India cooperate actively on multilateral forums, Putin said that there is close cooperation between the militaries, economies and diplomats of the two sides.
 
Modi arrived here earlier on Monday on a nine-hour visit for the informal summit proposed by Putin soon after his reelection as Russian President.
 
The Indian leader's visit comes after National Security Adviser Ajit Doval and Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale visited Moscow earlier this month to discuss a way out of the US sanctions on Russian firms.
 
The sanctions against Russian oligarchs and companies, including Rosoboronexport, the state-owned Russian weapons trading company, has raised concerns in India about a possible impact on India's military buys from Moscow. 
 
The withdrawal of the US from the Iran nuclear deal can be seen as another major reason for the informal summit.
 
Putin is expected to visit India later this year for the annual bilateral summit.
 
The relationship between India and Russia was elevated to that of a Special and Privileged Strategic Partnership during Putin's visit to India in 2010. 
 
In his remarks, Modi congratulated Putin for being reelected for the fourth time with a huge majority.
 
"Since 2000 when you assumed this office, you have maintained a close relationship with India," he said. 
 
"When you came to India for the first time after becoming President and when Atal Bihari Vajpayee was the Prime Minister of India, you had said that our ancient civilisations and strong and vibrant democracies. People of India still remember this."
 
Stating that Russia and Putin hold special significance in his own political journey, Modi said in 2001, after he became Chief Minister of Gujarat, within one month he got the opportunity to visit Russia along with Vajpayee. 
 
"In Moscow, as Chief Minister, the first world leader I met was you and in a way I got introduced to foreign relations through you," he said. 
 
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Recalling that 18 years ago, Vajpayee and Putin sowed the seeds of the India-Russia Strategic Partnership, Modi said: "Together, both of us can today proudly say that the seeds that Atalji and you sowed have grown to a Special and Privileged Strategic Partnership. This in itself is a very big achievement." 
 
The Indian leader said that he too had the chance work shoulder-to-shoulder with Putin for the last four years whether it be bilateral relations or international ties. 
 
"We had the opportunity to openly discuss all issues and together move ahead and I am happy about it," he said.
 
Repeating Vajpayee's words in 2000 during Putin's visit, Modi said that being a friend of Russia for a long time, India would like to see Russia as a powerful and confident nation, which, in a multipolar world, can play a significant role.
 
"It is a matter of happiness for us that whether it be the SCO (Shanghai Cooperation Orgnaisation), in which you have played a very big role for India's membership, the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China) Summit, CECA (Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement) or the (International North-South Corridor), we have been working together in a number of mechanisms and have successfully moved forward," the Indian Prime Minister said.
 
He also extended his best wishes to Russia for hosting this year's FIFA World Cup.
 
IANS
 
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Toll in Cuba plane crash rises to 110

 
Plane with 104 on board crashes in Cuba
 
 
The toll from Friday's Boeing 737 crash in Cuba, close to Havana's Jose Marti International Airport, has risen to 110, officials said.
 
Transportation Minister Abel Izquierdo told a press conference on Saturday that of the 110 dead, 99 were Cubans, 11 foreigners including 6 Mexican crew members, 2 Argentines, 1 Mexican and 2 temporary foreign residents, Xinhua news agency reported.
 
Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel on Saturday visited the survivors and relatives of the victims the crash.
 
The Cubana airlines flight on Friday plummeted to the ground and burst into flames.
 
The Boeing 737, which was rented from Mexican airline Damojh, was carrying 113 people at the time of the accident, Yzquierdo said.
 
Diaz-Canel visited the three women who survived, but were in serious condition and receiving treatment at the Calixto Garcia Hospital in Havana, according to a national television news broadcast. 
 
The President also met with the relatives of the victims as they arrived at the Forensics Institute in Havana to help identify their loved ones.
 
Authorities are investigating what went wrong with the domestic flight, which crashed shortly after taking off from Havana's main airport on its way to the eastern province of Holguin.
 
The Cuban government arranged for the relatives to stay at a hotel, as most came to Havana from Holguin, around 700 km from Havana.
 
Flags were flying at half mast on Saturday as part of two days of mourning following the worst air disaster in Cuba in three decades. 
 
IANS
 
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This natural antioxidant can cut heart disease risk

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Higher levels of bilirubin -- a natural antioxidant -- within the normal range in our blood may lower the rates of cardiovascular diseases (CVD) like heart failure, heart attack and stroke, finds a study.

A yellow-orange pigment, formed after the breakdown of red blood cells and removed from our body by the liver, bilirubin has beneficial effects by acting as an antioxidant or interfering with atherosclerosis -- a condition where fats, cholesterol etc. accumulate on artery walls.

It acts as a natural defence and can prevent or limit the damage that occurs to blood vessels in individuals with arterial blockage.

According to the researchers from the Emory University in US' Georgia state, the antioxidant effect of bilirubin could be harnessed to reduce the chronic disease morbidity risk.

Higher levels of bilirubin meant a lower risk of heart attack, heart failure or stroke, the study found.

People with the highest level of bilirubin had 76% of the risk for combined cardiovascular events as the group with the lowest level, with effects seen even in people without the liver disease.

The study, published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, was conducted on 100,000 participants, with an average of 48 years, including people with and without HIV infections

The study specifically looks at people living with HIV and at an anti-HIV drug, atazanavir, known to elevate bilirubin, but did not see an independent effect of atazanavir on cardiovascular risk.

Even if well-controlled by antiretroviral drugs, HIV infection has negative effects on cardiovascular health, said lead author Vincent Marconi, Professor at the varsity.

IANS

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Cuba plane crash kills over 100, three survive

 
Plane with 104 on board crashes in Cuba
 
 
More than 100 people were killed after a Cubana de Aviacion Boeing 737-200 crashed soon after takeoff from Havana's Jose Marti International Airport, a media report said on Saturday. Three female passengers are in critical condition after surviving the crash.
 
Flight DMJ 0972 heading from Cuba to Holguin was carrying 111 people, including 105 passengers and six crew members, when it plummeted at 12.08 p.m. on Friday in Santiago de Las Vegas, just miles from the runway, CCN reported.
 
Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel, who was at the scene of the accident, later offered his condolences to the victims' families. He said the cause of the crash was under investigation.
 
The Boeing was owned by the Mexican airline Aerolïneas Damojh and leased to Cubana de Aviacion, the Civil Aviation Authority said in a statement. The chartered flight "suffered a failure". 
 
The plane appeared to swerve to one side and revved its engines before crashing, said an eyewitness. A large fireball followed by a plume of smoke was visible near the airport, added witnesses.
 
Search and rescue personnel descended on the area--with some residents helping--as firefighters tried to extinguish the flames.
 
Cuba announced two days of mourning, during which flags will fly at half-staff.
 
Boeing issued a statement of condolence and said, "A Boeing technical team stands ready to assist as permitted under US law and at the direction of the US National Transportation Safety Board and Cuban authorities."
 
In November 2010, a domestic passenger plane with 61 passengers and 7 crew members crashed in Cuba while travelling from Santiago de Cuba to Havana.
 
IANS
 
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AI-based software may help predict risk of dementia

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Researchers have developed a new artificial intelligence-based software which may identify and measure the severity of common causes of strokes and dementia.

Small vessel disease (SVD) is a very common neurological disease among older people that reduces blood flow to the deep white matter connections of the brain, damaging and eventually killing the brain cells.

It causes stroke and dementia as well as mood disturbance. SVD increases with age but is accelerated by hypertension and diabetes.

The software can help physicians administer emergency treatment more quickly and also predict the one's chances of developing dementia.

It also provides 85% accurate prediction results than current methods.

"Current methods to diagnose the disease through CT or MRI scans can be effective, but it can be difficult for doctors to diagnose the severity of the disease by the human eye," said lead author Paul Bentley from the Imperial College London.

"The importance of our new method is that it allows for precise and automated measurement of the disease," Bentley added in the study published in the journal Radiology.

He explained that this software could help doctors administer more personalised medicine during an emergency. For instance, treatments such as "clot-busting medications" during a stroke can be quickly administered to unblock an artery.

However, Bentley also warned that these treatments can be hazardous as they may cause bleeding which becomes more likely as the number of SVD increases.

The study used data from 1,082 CT scans of stroke patients across 70 hospitals in Britain.

The software identified and measured a marker of SVD and then gave a score indicating how severe the disease was ranging from mild to severe.

IANS

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Sexual intimacy in old age not linked with memory loss

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Getting naughty under the sheets as well as remaining emotionally attached to romantic partners in old age may not be linked to a decline in memory skills, finds a study.

Although lifestyle factors, level of education, smoking and drinking habits and physical activity all play a role in the rate and extent of the age-related cognitive decline, the study now shows that there is no link between sexual activity and rate of cognitive decline.

"Decline in memory performance over time was unrelated to sexual activity or emotional closeness during partnered sexual activity," said Mark Allen of the University of Wollongong in Australia.

For the study, published in the journal Archives of Sexual Behaviour, the team used data from more than 6,000 adults aged 50 and over.

Participants completed an episodic memory task and a questionnaire where they reported the frequency of intimate activities such as kissing, sexual touching and intercourse.

Allen found an overall decline in all participants' score on the memory test over time.

Further, the study builds on previous experimental work that showed sexual activity enhances elderly rodents' ability to recognise objects and, therefore, ultimately their episodic memory workings and overall brain health.

It stimulated the growth of neurons in the hippocampus, a part of the brain that is activated when episodic and spatial memory tasks are performed.

IANS

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Author Tom Wolfe passes away at 88

 
Author Tom Wolfe passes away
 
 
Award winning writer and journalist Tom Wolfe, who is noted for works like "The Bonfire of the Vanities", "The Right Stuff" and "The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test" has passed away in the US. He was 88.
 
Wolfe who pioneered "new journalism" passed away in Manhattan on Monday, his agent confirmed the news to the New York Times on Tuesday. He had been hospitalised with an infection.
 
Wolfe, who began working as a journalist for the New York Herald Tribune in 1962, was a pioneer of "new journalism", which melded traditional reporting methods and literary fiction techniques.
 
Born in Richmond, Virginia, in 1930, Wolfe attended Washington and Lee for undergraduate and Yale for his Ph.D. before moving to New York in the 1960s, the New York Post reported.
 
Wolfe worked as a reporter at the Springfield Union in Massachusetts and as the Latin American correspondent for the Washington Post.
 
His first book "The Kandy-Kolored Tangerine-Flake Streamline Baby" was a collection of essays originally published in Esquire magazine. 
 
While the stories have no connecting theme, this is the first book that gave early examples of New Journalism.
 
Wolfe's other books include "The Pump House Gang", "Radical Chic & Mau-Mauing the Flak Catchers", "The Painted Word" and "Mauve Gloves & Madmen, Clutter & Vine" which includes his well-known essay about the "Me Decade."
 
His best-selling book "The Right Stuff" which is about rocket airplane experiments after World War II and the Project Mercury astronauts, won the American Book Award for nonfiction, the National Institute of Arts and Letters Harold Vursell Award for prose style, and the Columbia Journalism Award.
 
Wolfe's first novel "The Bonfire of the Vanities," was first serialised in Rolling Stone magazine and came out as a book three years later. It followed the greed, racism and social classes of New York City in the 1980s.
 
Wolfe is survived by his wife, Sheila, and two children, Alexandra and Tommy.
 
IANS
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Gaza death toll reaches 61, more protests expected

 
Dozens killed in Gaza protests ahead of embassy opening
 
 
The number of Palestinians killed by the Israeli forces rose to 61 on Tuesday, as more protesters succumbed to their injuries following mass demonstrations along the Gaza-Israel boundary on Monday against the opening of the US embassy in Jerusalem.
 
Monday's protests drew a level of bloodshed not seen in Gaza since a 2014 war with Israel and more could be ahead as residents bury the dead and prepare to mark the anniversary of Israel's founding, known to Palestinians as the "Nakba" or "Catastrophe".
 
More than two-thirds of Gaza's population is descended from refugees who were displaced at the time of Israel's creation 70 years ago. 
 
Israeli officials, however, justified the military's tactics as necessary to stop the Palestinians from breaking into Israel, which has blockaded Gaza for more than a decade after the militant group Hamas took control of the area.
 
Omar Abu Fool, 30, was the latest protester to die, Efe news agency quoted Ashraf al-Qedra, the Ministry of Health spokesperson in Gaza, as saying while another 2,771 Palestinian protesters were wounded by the Israeli army, 225 of whom were minors.
 
Shortly before dawn on Tuesday, Doctors Without Borders (MSF) stated that "it was unbearable to witness such a massive number of unarmed people being shot in such a short time".
 
"Our medical teams are providing surgical and post-operative care, they will continue to do so as long as they are needed," MSF said via its official Twitter account.
 
The US embassy move from Tel Aviv was widely denounced as a blow to peace efforts in the region and a slap at the Palestinians, who consider part of Jerusalem the capital of a possible future state.
 
UN Human Rights spokesman Rupert Colville on Tuesday said that while Israel had a right to defend itself, lethal force should be a last resort and was not justified on people just approaching the fence. He condemned Monday's "appalling deadly violence", the Washington Post reported.
 
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Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas also condemned the continuing "massacre" of the Palestinian people. Turkey and South Africa announced they were recalling their envoys from Israel.
 
Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim called on Muslim countries to review their ties with Israel in the wake of the violence.
 
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu later attacked Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Twitter, saying that he "is one of the great supporters of Hamas, and there is no doubt that he understands terror and the massacres well, and I suggest that he not preach morality to us".
 
Israeli newspapers contrasted the upbeat inauguration ceremony for the US Embassy with pictures of the violence on the border but couched it in terms of the country protecting itself.
 
"Every country must protect its borders," wrote Netanyahu in a tweet. "Hamas is a terrorist organisation that states its intention to destroy Israel and it sends thousands of people to breach the border fence to realize this goal. We will continue to act firmly to protect our sovereignty and our citizens."
 
He was backed by the Trump administration, which blamed Hamas for the loss of life. "The responsibility for these tragic deaths rests squarely with Hamas," deputy White House Press Secretary Raj Shah told reporters at a briefing.
 
Since the "Great March of Return" protests began on March 30, at least 109 Palestinians have been killed and 12,000 injured.
 
IANS
 
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