english news

‘Antibiotic apocalypse’: doctors sound alarm over drug resistance

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Scientists attending a recent meeting of the American Society for Microbiology reported they had uncovered a highly disturbing trend. They revealed that bacteria containing a gene known as mcr-1 – which confers resistance to the antibiotic colistin – had spread round the world at an alarming rate since its original discovery 18 months earlier. In one area of China, it was found that 25% of hospital patients now carried the gene. Colistin is known as the “antibiotic of last resort”. In many parts of the world doctors have turned to its use because patients were no longer responding to any other antimicrobial agent. Now resistance to its use is spreading across the globe.

In the words of England’s chief medical officer, Sally Davies: “The world is facing an antibiotic apocalypse.” Unless action is taken to halt the practices that have allowed antimicrobial resistance to spread and ways are found to develop new types of antibiotics, we could return to the days when routine operations, simple wounds or straightforward infections could pose real threats to life, she warns.

That terrifying prospect will be the focus of a major international conference to be held in Berlin this week. Organised by the UK government, the Wellcome Trust, the UN and several other national governments, the meeting will be attended by scientists, health officers, pharmaceutical chiefs and politicians. Its task is to try to accelerate measures to halt the spread of drug resistance, which now threatens to remove many of the major weapons currently deployed by doctors in their war against disease.(theguardian)…[+]

LGBT people in Egypt targeted in wave of arrests and violence

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Members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community in Egypt are living in fear following a wave of arrests and violence. Rights groups say dozens of people have been detained in the crackdown, which began after rainbow flags were waved at a rock concert on the outskirts of Cairo last month, prompting a furious reaction in the Egyptian media.

The current spike in arrests is part of an ongoing climate of repression against the LGBT community in Egypt. LGBT people have long grappled with government repression, including online surveillance, entrapment and abuse in detention. Homosexuality is not illegal under Egyptian law, but homosexual acts in public are illegal, and members of the LGBT community are often arrested on euphemistic charges, such as “debauchery”.

“It’s truly messed up that the government leaves all the thuggery in the streets, poverty everywhere – and is concerned with what people are doing in their bedrooms,” said Abdel-Rahman, whose name has been changed for his safety. He is now avoiding meeting potential partners in public for fear of being tracked by authorities.(theguardian)…[+]

Trump says ‘only one thing will work’ with nuclear-armed North Korea

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Donald Trump on Saturday said “only one thing will work” in dealing with North Korea, after previous administrations had talked to Pyongyang without results. “Presidents and their administrations have been talking to North Korea for 25 years, agreements made and massive amounts of money paid,” Trump wrote on Twitter. “Hasn’t worked, agreements violated before the ink was dry, making fools of US negotiators. Sorry, but only one thing will work!“

Trump did not make clear to what he was referring. Amid rising tension and exchanges of insults with the nuclear-armed regime of Kim Jong-un, Trump has previously said the US will destroy North Korea if necessary to protect itself and its allies. Later on Saturday, Trump spoke to reporters at the White House before he left for a fundraiser in South Carolina. Asked to clarify his cryptic “calm before the storm” remark earlier this week, which was made to reporters ushered into a dinner with military leaders, he said: “Nothing to clarify.”

Trump also repeated that he and the secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, had “a very good relationship”. Tillerson has been the target of criticism from the president about his attempts to talk to North Korea and to engage China to rein in Pyongyang.(theguardian)…[+]

Nobel peace prize for anti-nuclear campaign is rebuke to armed nations

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An influential anti-nuclear campaign group has won the 2017 Nobel peace prize, in a decision that underlines the mounting danger of nuclear conflict amid simmering tensions between the US and North Korea and the increasing vulnerability of the Iran nuclear deal.  The chair of the Norwegian Nobel committee, Berit Reiss-Andersen, said the award to the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (Ican) had been made in recognition of the group’s work “to draw attention to the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of any use of nuclear weapons and for its ground-breaking efforts to achieve a treaty-based prohibition of such weapons”.

The committee’s choice amounts to a reprimand to the world’s nine nuclear-armed powers, all of whom boycotted negotiations for a treaty banning nuclear weapons – approved at the United Nations in July – and who described the treaty as dangerous.

The treaty was endorsed by 122 countries at the UN headquarters in New York after months of talks. None of the nine countries that possess nuclear weapons – the US, Russia, Britain, China, France, India, Pakistan, North Korea and Israel – took part. The treaty will only be enforced when 50 countries have signed and ratified it, a process that could take months or years. The committee said its decision came at time when “the risk of nuclear weapons being used is greater than it has been for a long time”.(theguardian)…[+]

The fall of Raqqa: hunting the last jihadists in Isis’s capital of cruelty

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Abu Awad, a stalwart fighter for Islamic State, was unsettled. His battered men, sheltering in the rubble of bombed-out buildings, were running low on supplies and they were losing patience – and discipline.

“Abu Osama,” he said on a radio frequency that his pursuers were monitoring two streets away, from the other side of the frontline of the battle for Raqqa. “We don’t have water for ablutions, and we don’t have enough medicine to treat our injured.”

“Cleanse yourself with dirt and I will get some to you in the morning,” a man replied in a tired voice.

A young Kurdish rebel was listening on a handheld radio and recognised the voice. “He’s Syrian,” he said, as others from his unit crouched around in the courtyard of a commandeered home. “That’s their leader, Abu Osama. One time [Isis] told us [on the same frequency]: ‘We will burn you, then bury you.’ There was no point replying.”

Around 300 Isis fighters are all that are thought to be left in the city, clinging to a corner of the capital of their so-called caliphate, which five months of relentless battle has reduced to three annihilated neighbourhoods. The Old City mud wall that had stood for more than a millennium flanks one side of the battleground, and a wasteland that was once an industrial area is on the other. Smoke from burning buildings mixed with raised grey dust from airstrikes shrouds both under an already dull autumn sky.(Theguardian)…[+]

Iceland PM sold bank assets hours before financial crash, leaks show

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The current prime minister of Iceland sold almost all his remaining assets in a major Icelandic bank’s investment fund on the day the government seized control of the country’s collapsing financial sector at the peak of the 2008 crash.

According to leaked documents, Bjarni Benediktsson, then an MP on the parliament’s economy and tax committee, sold several million króna of assets in the Glitnir bank’s fund in the final days and hours before an emergency law placed Iceland’s failed financial institutions under state control. The documents suggest Benediktsson, whose name appeared in the Panama Papers offshore scandal that toppled Iceland’s previous prime minister, talked to senior Glitnir executives on 6 October 2008, as the country’s banking bubble was on the point of bursting.(theguardian)…[+]

Poor body image makes girls less assertive and risks health, study finds

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A majority of girls with low body esteem will skip meals and avoid seeing friends and family, participating in extra-curricular activities or seeing a doctor, a large survey has found. The research, based on interviews with 5,165 girls aged 10 to 17 in 14 countries, also found that more than half of girls with low body esteem struggle to be assertive.

The survey, carried out by Edelman Intelligence for the 2017 Dove Global Girls Beauty and Confidence Report, found that only 46% of girls globally had high body esteem, while the figure was even lower in the UK (39%). Of the countries included, only China and Japan fared worse.

The co-author Phillippa Diedrichs, associate professor from the Centre for Appearance Research, University of the West of England, said: “These findings indicate that, despite valiant efforts, body image remains an issue for girls not only in the UK, but globally, too. We still have an enormous amount of work to do in helping girls develop the resilience they need to overcome the impact of beauty and appearance pressures.

“We also need to change the social and cultural environment directly so that girls are not judged on their looks and are not held back from getting a seat at whatever table they want, be it in the boardroom, or in parliament, because of body image concerns.”(theguardian)…[+]

‘There are better things than turnips’: Navalny plans Putin birthday protests

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The Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny is plotting to spoil Vladimir Putin’s 65th birthday celebrations with nationwide protest rallies on Saturday, including in the Russian president’s home town. “Let Putin listen and go into deserved retirement,” Navalny said in an angry message dictated from prison in which he likened the president to a turnip. “He’s been in power for 18 years, which is long enough.”

Navalny, 41, an anti-corruption lawyer who wants to run for president next year, urged his supporters to demand that the Kremlin allow genuine political competition. The opposition leader’s campaign team says protests are being organised in 80 cities across Russia. The rallies are the latest stage in Navalny’s months-long bid to force his way on to the ballot for the March 2018 presidential elections.Russia’s government-controlled election committee says he is ineligible to stand for public office because of a previous conviction for fraud. Navalny, who is currently serving his third prison sentence since March, says the charges were trumped up to stifle his political ambitions.(theguardian)...[+]

Kazuo Ishiguro wins the Nobel prize in literature 2017

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The English author Kazuo Ishiguro has been named winner of the 2017 Nobel prize in literature, praised by the Swedish Academy for his “novels of great emotional force”, which it said had “uncovered the abyss beneath our illusory sense of connection with the world”. With names including Margaret Atwood, Ngugi Wa Thiong’o and Haruki Murakami leading the odds at the bookmakers, Ishiguro was a surprise choice. But his blue-chip literary credentials return the award to more familiar territory after last year’s controversial selection of the singer-songwriter Bob Dylan. The author of novels including The Remains of the Day and Never Let Me Go, Ishiguro’s writing, said the Academy, is “marked by a carefully restrained mode of expression, independent of whatever events are taking place”.

Speaking on Thursday afternoon, the writer said it was “amazing and totally unexpected news”. “It comes at a time when the world is uncertain about its values, its leadership and its safety,” Ishiguro said. “I just hope that my receiving this huge honour will, even in a small way, encourage the forces for goodwill and peace at this time.” Ishiguro’s fellow Booker winner Salman Rushdie – who is also regularly named as a potential Nobel laureate – was one of the first to congratulate him. “Many congratulations to my old friend Ish, whose work I’ve loved and admired ever since I first read A Pale View of Hills,” Rushdie said. “And he plays the guitar and writes sings too! Roll over Bob Dylan.”(theguardian)…[+]

Amazon ordered to repay €250m by EU over ‘illegal tax advantages’

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Amazon has been ordered to repay €250m (£222m) in illegal state aid to Luxembourg, as EU authorities continue their campaign against sweetheart deals that help the biggest corporations slash their tax bills. The European commission also announced on Wednesday that it planned to take the the Irish government to the European court of justice (ECJ) over its failure to collect €13bn in unpaid taxes from Apple, in relation to an earlier ruling. Margrethe Vestager, the EU commissioner in charge of competition, said Luxembourg’s “illegal tax advantages to Amazon” had allowed almost three-quarters of the company’s profits to go untaxed, allowing it to pay four times less tax than local rivals.

“This is about competition in Europe, no matter your flag, no matter your ownership,” Vestager said, dismissing suggestions she was targeting non-European companies. “Paying taxes is part of doing business in Europe.” The commission said Amazon had benefited from an illegal tax deal granted by the Luxembourg authorities that allowed the company to artificially reduce its tax bill by €250m from 2006 to 2014. The company has been ordered to repay the full amount plus interest.(theguardian)…[+]