Newscast Media WASHINGTON—The Securities and Exchange Commission has charged the gatekeepers of a pair of mutual fund trusts with causing untrue or misleading disclosures about the factors they considered when approving or renewing investment advisory contracts on behalf of shareholders.
The five trustees named in the SEC enforcement action are: Michael Miola of Arizona, Lester M. Bryan of Utah, Anthony J. Hertl of Florida, Gary W. Lanzen of Nevada, and Mark H. Taylor of Ohio.
Some trusts are created as turnkey mutual fund operations that launch numerous funds to be managed by different unaffiliated advisers and overseen by a single board of trustees. The federal securities laws require all mutual fund directors to evaluate and approve a fund’s contract with its investment adviser, and the funds must report back to shareholders about the material factors considered by the directors in making these decisions. The SEC Enforcement Division’s Asset Management Unit has been fee arrangements in the fund industry.
An SEC investigation that arose from an examination of the Northern Lights Fund Trust and the Northern Lights Variable Trust found that some of the trusts’ shareholder reports either misrepresented material information considered by the trustees or omitted material information about how they evaluated certain factors in reaching their decisions on behalf of the funds and their shareholders. The trustees and the trusts’ chief compliance officer Northern Lights Compliance Services (NLCS) were responsible for causing violations of the SEC’s compliance rule, and the trusts’ fund administrator Gemini Fund Services (GFS) caused violations of the Investment Company Act recordkeeping and reporting provisions.
The firms and the trustees have agreed to settle the SEC’s charges.
“Determining the terms of the investment advisory contract, especially compensation of the adviser, is one of the most critical duties of a mutual fund board,” said George S. Canellos, Co-Director of the SEC’s Division of Enforcement. “We will aggressively enforce investors’ rights to accurate and complete information about the board’s process and decision-making.”
Newscast Media HOUSTON—The National Rifle Association (NRA) held its annual convention in Houston, Texas at the George R. Brown Convention Center, May 3-5, with over 7 acres of guns, gear and outfitters. Attendees also saw knives, wildlife art, shooting accessories, hunting gear, ATVs, and much more! Guests took their whole families to the exhibit with over 340,000 square feet of space, that had something for
everyone. Here are some of the highlights of the show>>
Newscast Media DAMASCUS—The leader of Lebanon’s Hezbollah militant group has warned that allies of the Syrian regime would not allow it to fall at the hands of rebel forces. He indicated that his Iranian-backed forces were ready to intervene.
In a speech aired by Hezbollah’s television Al-Manar on Tuesday, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah warned Syrian rebels would not be able to topple President Bashar al-Assad’s regime using force.
“Syria has real friends in the region and the world who will not let Syria fall in the hands of America, in the hands of Israel or in the hands of extremist groups,” the movement’s leader said.
“The battle is long … We tell you [Syrian rebels] that you will not be able to bring this regime down through military means,” he added.
Backed and allegedly financed by Iran, Hezbollah is a staunch ally of President al-Assad. Syrian rebels have accused both Iran and Hezbollah of sending fighters to assist Syrian troops in fighting mainly Sunni opposition forces.
The Shiite Muslim group has formally denied the allegations, admitting only to protecting Shiite villages along Lebanon’s border with Syria. It claims more than 30,000 Shiite Lebanese live in the affected villages.
“We say it clearly, we will not leave the Lebanese in the Qusair rural area vulnerable to attack by armed groups. Who ever needs help, we will not hesitate to give it,” Nasrallah said Tuesday.
His comments were the strongest indication yet that Hezbollah fighters would be open to greater participation in Syria “if the conflict escalates more.”
According to UN figures the two-year conflict in Syria has claimed the lives of more than 70,000 people. What started as an uprising against al-Assad’s regime has now deteriorated into a civil war, which threatens to exacerbate sectarian tensions throughout the region.
Increased involvement from Hezbollah will almost certainly threaten stability in Lebanon, which is deeply divided along sectarian lines. It would also risk involvement from Iran and Israel. Assad’s Alawite sect, an offshoot of Shiite Islam, has the backing of Shiite Iran which has also previously indicated it would not allow the regime to fall to Sunni forces.
Newscast Media CARACAS—A brawl broke out in Venezuela’s parliament, amid disputes over the recent presidential election results. The physical altercation took place on Tuesday after the assembly passed a measure denying opposition members the right to speak in the chamber until they recognized President Nicolas Maduro’s April 14 victory.
“Until they recognize the authorities, the institutions of the republic, the sovereign will of our people, the opposition deputies will have to go and speak (to the private media) but not here in this National Assembly,” said head of parliament Diosdado Cabello. The government legislators also blamed the opposition for initiating the fighting.
“We knew the opposition came to provoke violence,” said Maduro after the incident, adding, “This must not be repeated.”
One assembly worker said the incident began when opposition legislators shouted “fascist” and the National Assembly leader raised a protest banner reading “parliamentary coup.”
Several were attacked and injured during the brawl, including Odalis Monzon, who is a government parliamentarian.
“Today again I had to defend the commander’s (late President Hugo Chavez’s) legacy,” said Monzon.
The opposition, on the other hand, blames Maduro’s supporters for the incident, as one parliamentarian later appeared on a local TV station showing his wounds. Maduro defeated opposition leader Henrique Capriles by receiving 50.7 percent of the vote against 49.1 percent, with a difference of 235,000 ballots.
Capriles refused to recognize his defeat alleging that irregularities had taken place. However, on April 28, Venezuela’s National Electoral Council said Capriles has failed to present any compelling proof that there were irregularities during the presidential election.
On May 1, both the government and opposition are holding rival marches in the capital, Caracas, to commemorate May Day.
Newscast Media VATICAN CITY—International Labor Day falls on May 1, and Pope Francis used the occasion to voice his concerns about unemployment. The Holy Father marked the feast of St. Joseph the Worker together with children and single mothers who are guests at the “Il Ponte” center for solidarity based in the port town of Civitavecchia north of Rome. Mass was concelebrated by the man who founded and runs the center for these families in need, Fr. Egidio Smacchia.
“A society that “does not pay a just wage, that does not give work to people; a society that that only looks to its balance books, that only seeks profit is unjust and goes against God. It is work – not power, not money, not culture – that gives men and women a sense of dignity. By stripping them of work, society strips them of their God given dignity, the Pope said.
“Work gives us dignity! Those who work have dignity, a special dignity, a personal dignity: men and women who work are dignified. Instead, those who do not work do not have this dignity. But there are many who want to work and cannot. This is a burden on our conscience, because when society is organized in such a way that not everyone has the opportunity to work, to be anointed with the dignity of work, then there is something wrong with that society: it is not right! It goes against God himself, who wanted our dignity, starting from here. ”
Pope Francis continued, that dignity is not found in power, money, or culture. But in work, in honest work, because today many social, political and economic systems have made the choice to exploit the person in the workplace. Pope Francis continued, that dignity is not found in power, money, or culture. But in work, in honest work, because today many social, political and economic systems have made the choice to exploit the person in the workplace.
“Not paying a just [wage], not providing work, focusing exclusively on the balance books, on financial statements, only looking at making personal profit. That goes against God! How many times – how many times – have we read in ‘L’Osservatore Romano’ …. A headline that impressed me so much the day of the Bangladesh tragedy, ‘Living on 38 euros a month’: this was the payment of these people who have died … And this is called ‘slave labor!’. And today in this world there is slavery that is made with the most beautiful gift that God has given to man: the ability to create, to work, to be the makers of our own dignity. How many brothers and sisters throughout the world are in this situation because of these, economic, social, political attitudes and so on … “.
The Pope then quoted the reflections of a rabbi from the Middle Ages on the episode of the Tower of Babel, of how precious bricks were at that time:
“When a brick accidently fell, it was a tremendous problem, a scandal: ‘But look what you’ve done!’. But if one of those people building the tower fell: ‘Requiescat in pace!’ And they let him be … the person was more important than the brick. This is what the medieval rabbi told and this is what happens now! People are less important than the things that give profit to those who have political, social, economic power. What point have we come to? To the point that we are not aware of this dignity of the person; this dignity of labor. But today the figure of St. Joseph, of Jesus, of God who work – this is our model – they teach us the way forward, towards dignity. ”
The Pope quoted St. Paul who said: “He who will not work, will not eat,” but we have to say: “He who does not work, has lost his dignity”, because “he cannot find any opportunities for work”. On the contrary: “Society has stripped that person of dignity.”
Pope Francis concluded: “Today, it would do us good to listen to the voice of God, when he spoke to Cain, saying: Cain, where is your brother?. Today, however, we hear this voice: Where is your brother who has no work? Where is your brother who is subjected to slave labor?. Let us pray, let us pray for all these brothers and sisters who are in this situation. So be it’”.
Newscast Media WASHINGTON—Vice President Biden and Secretary of State John
Kerry met with senior Arab League officials to discuss the 10-year-old Arab Peace
Initiative’s role in helping to resolve the long-standing Arab-Israeli conflict.
“During the course of those discussions, on behalf of the president of the United
States, I underscored the Arab League’s very important role that it is playing and has
determined to play in bringing about a peace to the Middle East and specifically by
reaffirming the Arab Peace Initiative … with a view to ending the conflict,” Kerry said
at an April 29 press conference following their meeting.
Biden and Kerry met with Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jabr Al
Thani, chairman of the Arab Peace Initiative follow-up committee; Arab League
Secretary-General Nabil Elaraby; and senior officials from Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan,
Lebanon, the Palestinian Territories and Saudi Arabia at Blair House, across from the
The Arab Peace Initiative was proposed as a comprehensive plan at the 2002 Beirut
Summit of the Arab League by the then crown prince, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia.
It was re-endorsed at the 2007 Riyadh Arab League Summit.
The initiative calls for the following:
• An end to the Arab-Israeli conflict.
• The 22-member Arab League to provide full normalization of relations with Israel in
exchange for Israel’s withdrawal to its June 4, 1967, borders, including East
• A “just settlement” of the Palestinian refugee crisis based on U.N. General Assembly
Resolution 194, which ended the 1948 Arab-Israeli War and which resolves that any
refugees desiring to return to their homes and living in peace be able to do so or be
At the Blair House conference, Prime Minister Hamad told journalists that the league
reaffirmed its peace initiative based on a two-state solution. Hamad also said that
they agreed to a modification to the peace initiative which allows for a “comparable
and mutual agreed minor swap of the land” between the Israelis and Palestinians
recognizing the reality of burgeoning communities that have grown up in the years
Kerry told journalists after the meeting: “We’ve had a very positive, very constructive
discussion in the course of the afternoon with positive results.”
President Obama had outlined in May 2011 his vision of Middle East peace with the
two states — Israel and a Palestinian state — living side by side in peace and
security brought about through direct negotiations between the two parties. Obama
also stressed that the 1967 borders were part of the basis for an Arab-Israeli
The Arab Peace Initiative has the support of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud
Abbas and the Palestinian Authority.
Kerry said that U.S. officials and the Arab League delegation “agreed that peace
between Israelis and Palestinians would advance security, prosperity and stability in
the Middle East.” They also agreed to continue with the peace consultations. http://newscastmedia.com/arab-league.htm
Newscast Media LAGOS—A Nigerian human rights lawyer, Emmanuel Ogebe, has accused the U.S. Department of State of enabling Islamist militant group Boko Haram by mischaracterizing their actions in that country which have resulted in the death of more than 1,000 Christians and other civilians since 2012.
Ogebe, special counsel for Justice for Jos is engaged at the International Criminal Court on crimes against humanity in Nigeria and is lead author of the 2012 report by Jubilee Campaign.
He was also among a group of regional experts on Northern Nigeria and that country’s Middle Belt who drew attention to the pre-genocide occurring in those areas at a Congressional briefing in Washington, D.C., last Thursday.
“Sadly the latest human rights report has taken it a step further with the State Department essentially advocating the establishment of Islamic law courts in Nigeria, a demand no one else in Nigeria is making, except the jihadist terrorists themselves,” explained Ogebe.
“One did not think it possible for the U.S. position to degenerate any further but there seems to be no depth that the State Department will not sink lower still to. Now they have gone from making ransom demands to making ideological demands consistent with the theology of Boko Haram,” he added.
On Monday, CP contacted the Department of State for comment but was told the relevant spokesperson, Hilary Renner, was unavailable. The Jubilee Campaign was also expected to send the Department of State their analysis its recently released country report on Nigeria.
In the analysis, organizations associated with the campaign raised particular concern about the State Department’s new call for a Sharia appeals court.
“The message needs to be conveyed to U.S. policy makers and the Department of State that extremism in Nigeria should not be rewarded with amnesty, but that victims should be compensated and security restored,” said Ann Buwalda, executive director of the Jubilee Campaign USA, who reported a large audience at Thursday’s Congressional briefing.
At the briefing, the Honorable Tigwar Zainab Naazem, a female Muslim member of the Plateau State House of Assembly also described how Muslim settlers in Nigeria’s Plateau state control Muslim institutions and how the Fulani herdsmen and Boko Haram are conducting killings in her state.
She explained that Muslim indigene constituents are discriminated against by Muslim settlers who have managed to convince the outside world that they are the ones facing discrimination.
Newscast Media MOSCOW—Russia has warned the West against using a search for chemical weapons in Syria as an attempt to topple the government of President Bashar al-Assad.
“There are governments and outside players that believe that all means are appropriate [to be used] to overthrow the Syrian regime,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Monday.
Referring to the use of chemical weapons by foreign-backed militants on March 19 near the city of Aleppo, where 25 people were killed and 86 injured, Lavrov criticized UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon for his call on a UN fact-finding mission to investigate unproven claims about the use of chemical weapons in Syria in December 2012.
“This demand by the [UN] secretary-general with reference to a forgotten
episode reminds us a great deal of attempts in Syria to introduce a
practice analogous to that which existed in Iraq, when they were looking
for weapons of mass destruction there,” Lavrov added.
The Syrian government requested top UN officials to open an investigation into the March 19 incident. However some Western nations are blocking the investigation, demanding that the commission should investigate a different case of supposed chemical attack near the city of Homs in December for which the militants blame government forces.
Newscast Media MOSCOW—African states are ready to provide favorable conditions for Russian business to join infrastructure projects, Russia’s foreign minister said on Monday after talks with the chairperson of the African Union Commission in Moscow.
“We spoke about the prospects for the participation of Russian companies in major infrastructure projects on the African continent. We noted there is a demand for Russian business in Africa,” Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said after talks with Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma.
Lavrov said meetings between African leaders and Russian President Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) summit in Durban, South Africa in March have given new impetus to African cooperation with Russian business.
How economic hitmen work
African states are interested in extending cooperation with Russia in both the social and economic spheres, and also logistics, Dlamini-Zuma said.
At the BRICS summit in Durban, the member countries set up a business council which is expected to increase partnership between the five nations. Russia’s presidential aide Yury Ushakov said previously the council’s main task would be implementing multilateral investment projects.
Newscast Media DAMASCUS—According to Al Manar news, Syrian Prime Minister Wael Al-Halqi’s envoy at Mazzeh district in Damascus, was the target of a terrorist explosion. The explosion killed the PM’s bodyguard and caused material damage to the place according to the Syrian Observatory.
Newscast Media WASHINGTON—Some congressional leaders are looking at changing a part of the Affordable Care Act, or “Obamacare,” that requires members of Congress and their staff to get their health insurance from the new health care exchanges. Leaders from both parties have been in talks about making the change. Aware that they could be considered hypocrites for making the change, those meetings were in private. With the revelation of those secret meetings by Politico’s John Bresnahan and Jake Sherman, those congressional leaders now appear to be backing away from the idea.
The requirement that all members of Congress and their staff get their health coverage through the exchanges was an odd quirk in the law from the beginning. The ACA requires most Americans to obtain health insurance (the individual mandate).
It expands the availability of coverage by expanding Medicaid eligibility and requiring large employers to provide coverage to their employees. The state-level health care exchanges were set up for those who are not eligible for Medicaid or Medicare and do not get their coverage from their employer, either because the employer is small and not required to provide coverage, or the employer is large and decided to pay the fine (or tax) rather than provide coverage.
As The Washington Post’s Ezra Klein explains it, requiring federal employees to get coverage through the exchanges was intended to be a “gotcha” moment by Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) during debates over the law’s passage. Grassley’s proposal was more of a message, essentially saying – if Democrats think this law is such a good idea, then let them have the same coverage. Rather than be embarrassed by the ploy, Democrats decided to go along with the idea and the proposal was added to the bill. Grassley originally wanted all federal employees to go on the exchanges. That was narrowed to members of Congress and their staff.
One concern of House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), who first raised the issue, and other members of Congress who want the requirement changed, is that the coverage will be too costly for low-level staffers, some of whom make as little as $25,000 per year.
This may not be an issue, though. The Congressional Research Service has said that the government can contribute to the premium costs of Hill staffers. The final ruling on that, though, will have to be made by the Office of Personnel Management. If the OPM agrees with the CRS, a legislative fix will not be necessary. In a Thursday statement, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s office said a legislative fix is not necessary.
“Senator Reid is committed to ensuring that all members of Congress and Congressional staff experience the benefits of the Affordable Care Act in exactly the same way as every other American. He believes that this is the effect of the legislation as written, and that therefore no legislative fix is necessary.
There are not now, have never been, nor will there ever be any discussions about exempting members of Congress or Congressional staff from Affordable Care Act provisions that apply to any employees of any other public or private employer offering health care,” the statement said.
Newscast Media WASHINGTON—The WHO has announced the launch of an emergency program to tackle a strain of malaria in Southeast Asia that has proven resistant to artemisinin, the world’s most important anti-malarial drug. The program, which will cost $400 million, is designed to contain and one day eliminate what the World Health Organization (WHO) warns could prove “a serious global health threat.”
That threat comes in the form of the falciparum malaria parasite. In recent years a strain of falciparum has shown resistance to artemisinin-based combination therapy (ACT). That is important because ACT, in which artemisinin is combined with one of a number of other anti-malarial drugs, is at the heart of global wins over malaria over the past decade or so.
“If resistance to artemisinin emerges elsewhere – particularly in Africa, which has the world’s greatest number of malaria cases – the consequences for global health could be incalculable,” says Dr Shin Young-soo, WHO’s regional director for the Western Pacific.
Dr. Robert Newman, the director of the WHO’s Global Malaria Programme, says that if the resistant falciparum strain were to escape the region – and currently it has been found in four countries – it could reverse the gains made worldwide against malaria.
“If history is any guide [and] if we were not to contain this problem, then it is very likely to spread elsewhere,” Newman says. “Especially risky is sub-Saharan Africa where the greatest [malaria] burden still exists. And if we were to lose the efficacy of the ACTs today, this really would be a public health catastrophe in Africa.”
As Newman points out, history has shown what can happen: in the 1950s, a strain of malaria resistant to the drug chloroquine emerged in Cambodia and spread across the world. The chloroquine-resistant strain of malaria still kills hundreds of thousands of people a year, most of them children in Africa.
Measures to prevent infection include teaching people how to avoid contracting it, providing hundreds of thousands of insecticide-treated bed nets, and spraying for mosquitoes. Efforts on the treatment side saw two people in every at-risk village trained to test residents for malaria and to provide free treatment to those who were infected.
Newscast Media TEL AVIV—Israeli officials at Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv say they have been authorized to continue demanding access to tourists’ email accounts and to deny them entry if they refuse.
Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein confirmed the authorization on Wednesday in a written response to the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI), which had asked for clarification back in June 2012.
ACRI cited the document as saying that the practice was limited to cases where “relevant suspicious signs” were evident and only done with the tourists’ “consent”.
However, the attorney general’s office noted, “It will be made clear to him that his refusal will be taken into consideration along with other relevant factors, in deciding whether to allow him entry,” the rights group added.
This follows an uproar last year when tourists were ordered to open their e-mails after hours of interrogation and two Palestinian-American women were consequently denied entry.
ACRI’s attorney for criminal justice issues condemned the policy as a “drastic invasion of privacy,” and mocked the notion of “consent” while refusal could result in expulsion.
Tourists, who are interrogated at the airport and whose email accounts are accessed by security forces, are “in no position to give free and informed consent,” Lila Margalit stated.
“Such ‘consent’ — given under threat of deportation — cannot serve as a basis for such a drastic invasion of privacy,” she said.
Newscast Media KNOXVILLE—Research by a University of Tennessee, Knoxville professor has found that about a thousand bird species became extinct following human colonization.
Research by Alison Boyer, a research assistant professor in ecology and evolutionary biology, and an international team studied the extinction rates of nonperching land birds in the Pacific Islands from 700 to 3,500 years ago. Some of the birds studied included birds of prey and ducks. The team uncovered the magnitude of the extinctions and insight into how and why human impacts varied across the region. The findings are published in the current issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Scientists had long known extinction rates were high but estimates varied from 800 to 2,000 species due to an incomplete fossil record on the islands. The researchers used fossil records from 41 Pacific islands such as Hawaii and Fiji to run an analytical technique called the Bayesian mark-recapture method. This allowed them to model gaps in the fossil record for more than 300 Pacific islands and estimate the number of unknown extinct species.
“We used information on what species are currently on the islands and what species are in the fossil record to estimate the probability of finding a species in the fossil record,” Boyer said.
Boyer and her colleagues found that nearly 983, or two-thirds, of land bird populations disappeared between the years of the first human arrival and European colonization. Disappearances are linked to overhunting by people, forest clearance and introduced species.
“We calculate that human colonization of remote Pacific islands caused the global extinction of close to a thousand species of nonperching land birds alone,” said Boyer. “However, it is likely there are more species that were affected by human presence. Sea bird and perching bird extinctions will add to this total.”
Researchers found the extinction rates differed depending on island and species characteristics. For example, larger islands had lower rates of extinction because they had larger populations of each bird species. Islands with more rainfall also had lower extinction rates because they experienced less deforestation by settlers. Bird species that were flightless and large-bodied had a higher rate of extinction because they were easier and more profitable to hunt and their lower rates of population growth inhibited recovery from overhunting or habitat loss.
“Flightless species were 33 times more likely to go extinct than those that could fly,” said Boyer. “Also, species that only populated a single island were 24 more times likely to go extinct than widespread species.”
Source: University of Tennessee at Knoxville – Whitney Heins
Newscast Media WASHINGTON—Russia on Monday criticized the U. S. 2012 report on human rights and accused it of applying double standards, the Foreign Ministry said Monday.
Russia believes the 2012 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, which was submitted to the U.S. Congress by Secretary of State John Kerry on April 19, misused the humanitarian and human rights topics in favor of Washington’s political interests, said the ministry’s Envoy for Human Rights, Democracy, Supremacy of Law Sergei Dolgov in an online comment.
“The report suffers from the same shortcomings the previous similar reports used to do,” Dolgov said, adding the report is lack of sources behind its conclusions, including the Russia chapter.
“U.S. partners do not want to notice the large-scale work of Russian leadership to enhance political and judicial systems, reforming the law-enforcement agencies and penitentiary establishments, fighting corruption,” said the diplomat.
He stressed that no country was immune to problems in human rights sphere, the U.S. has not been an exception.
Meanwhile, Moscow was puzzled by the report’s statements that an alleged conflict in the North Caucasus between Russian federal troops and rebels, radical and criminal groups created “atmosphere of impunity” and human rights abuses.
Dolgov said in the North Caucasus, Russian law-enforcement agencies counter terrorism threat which is an essential task for the U.S. too, as the recent tragic bombing event in Boston showed.
Russia “categorically cannot accept such an openly politicized substitution of notions,” he said.
He added that Moscow expected a more objective and balanced approach of the U.S. to the human rights issues. Russia was ready for an open, constructive, equal, mutually respectful dialogue and cooperation with the U.S. on human rights problems, he noted.
Newscast Media BEIJING—An international team of disease experts is investigating the emergence of a new strain of bird flu that is sickening humans, but not birds. The World Health Organization (WHO) and China’s National Health and Family Planning Commission are leading the team with specialists from Australia, Europe, Hong Kong and the United States.
“This mission is an opportunity for international influenza experts to learn from people at the frontlines of their findings on this new virus,” said Dr. Michael O’Leary, a WHO representative in China who briefed reporters on the field work the team is doing. O’Leary said the experts may offer some recommendations on prevention and control of the new strain, identified as H7N9.
The WHO representative said Chinese health authorities have demonstrated their capabilities to cope with the outbreak, which began at the end of March. The presence of the international team does not signify any heightened level of concern about the seriousness of the situation or the capability of the novel virus to become virulent and cause a pandemic.
“We have not seen easy and sustained person-to-person transmission,” O’Leary said. “This is the situation for which we are most vigilant.”
The origins and “reservoirs” of the H7N9 strain have not been identified as cases have appeared in eastern China. It is apparently not in flocks of birds, as has been the case with previous appearances of a novel virus. More than 80,000 birds have been tested so far, and fewer than 40 were positive for the virus, according to WHO. Even the birds testing positive showed no sign of sickness.
“With this different situation in animals, the presumed source of infection,” O’Leary said, “we are still uncertain about the source of illness in people.”
A total of 104 cases of H7N9 have been laboratory confirmed, according to China’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (China-CDC), resulting in 21 deaths. A few disease “clusters” have occurred where an infected person has passed the virus to a family member providing care. But hundreds of other friends, neighbors and caregivers exposed to the sick people have not become ill, the basis for the conclusion that the virus has not mutated to become easily transmissible between humans.
China-CDC has made genetic information on H7N9 available to a team of U.S. and Japanese experts. Their analysis, supported by the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH), identified possible related viruses from which H7N9 might have derived. They also detected a mutation that allows greater viral reproduction in human cells, leading to infection that spreads throughout the body in humans and other mammals but does not occur in birds.
Having these insights into the genetic composition of H7N9 at this early stage is important, according to U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases director Dr. Anthony Fauci.
“Having rapid access to the viral genetic information is essential to understanding how the virus is evolving and ultimately to developing a caudate vaccine, if warranted,” Fauci said in a statement issued by NIH.
Newscast Media TEHRAN—Iran has denied allegations that it has ties with al-Qaeda, after Canada claimed that al-Qaeda had operations in Iran, and planned attacks inside Canada. The New York Times reported on Monday that two suspects had been arrested in connection with a plan to derail a passenger train. The Times said the two suspects had been given direction by al-Qaeda iniside Iran.
Iran’s Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi has reportedly denied the accusations according to the Tehran Times.
“This is the most ludicrous thing I have heard in my 64 years,” Salehi told reporters. Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said, “We are opposed to any kind of violent actions that put the lives of the people in danger. The extremist Canadian government has put the Iranophobia project on its agenda over recent years and has pursued hostile measures.”
Iran believes the hostility directed toward it by the West in unjustified, and that U.S. officials are seeking to serve their interests in the region.
The Islamic Republic has also said that the crisis in Syria can only be resolved through diplomatic means.
Newscast Media RIGA, Latvia—After six years of painstaking research, scientists at Latvia’s Biomedical Research and Study Center in Riga are starting to see the fruits of their labor. Last year they made one of the most significant achievements in science in Latvia—they came a step closer towards inventing a new method for diagnosing gastric cancer in its initial stages before it’s too late for treatment.
They have discovered auto-antibodies that may work against tumor-associated antigens. Antibodies are proteins produced by B-cells in the human immune system. Their task is to fight viruses and bacteria. But the immune system can also produce auto-antibodies.
Auto-antibodies see the body’s own tissues as foreign and so try to neutralize them. The antibodies identify the foreign elements by way of antigens—substances that cause the immune system to react to unknown objects.
It’s these antigens that are the basis of the study, published in the “International Journal of Cancer” earlier this year.
“In the first step we tried to identify the so-called cancer immunome,” says Aija Line, the chief scientist of the Latvian Biomedical Research and Study Centre. “Basically, it is a set of antigens that the human immune system can recognize and produce antibodies against.”
Stomach cancer is caused by the Helicobacter pylori which are commonly found in the stomach. According to the International Agency for Research on Cancer, gastric cancer is the fourth most widespread form of cancer in the world.
Rolando Herrero, the head of Prevention and Implementation Group at the International Agency for Research on Cancer, says the Latvian scientists have made an important discovery. But he says it is too early to say whether it will solve every problem.
Newscast Media ATLANTA—The End It Movement, a coalition of organizations fighting to end human slavery, led by Pastor Louie Giglio of Passion City Church in Atlanta, has posted a powerful new video showcasing a group of sex slaves being driven around a transparent bus, prompting shocked reactions from onlookers.
“We are here to shine a light on slavery. No more bondage. No more sex trafficking. No more child laborers. No more, starting now,” the End It movement says. “Slavery still exists. We want every man, woman and child to know that there are 27 million men, women and children, just like them, living in the shadows, working as slaves, in 161 countries, including our own.”
END IT Movement Anti-Slavery/Human Trafficking Video
A man posing as one of the kidnappers shouts at the captives, as the people looking at the truck react with disbelief, shock and confusion.
“Every year, women are trafficked to major sporting events to be sold as sex slaves,” reads the side of the truck driving through the city.
While the truck with the sex slaves is a staged re-enactment, the responses from the onlookers are real – the movement says that the footage was filmed “at a national sporting event in Atlanta, Ga., on the weekend of April 6th.”
The End It Movement held its “Shine a Light on Slavery” day on April 9, where tens of thousands of people across America participated by marking or wearing the symbolic red X, the group’s logo, and encouraged others to find out more about human trafficking and what they can do to help.
“Then people have to ask – ‘what is this?’ At that point, we as a nation can raise our voice in honor of the 27,000,000 slaves. The hope of the movement [is] for everyone to know. Indifference is NOT an option,” Masi Willis, project manager of the End It Movement, previously shared with The Christian Post. The video ends with the question: “If you could see it, would you end it?”
Newscast Media HOUSTON—While most people would discard an old smartphone and replace it with a newer version, NASA used smartphone components to build and successfully launch satellites. Three smartphones destined to become low-cost satellites rode to space Sunday aboard the maiden flight of Orbital Science Corp.’s Antares rocket from NASA’s Wallops Island Flight Facility in Virginia.
The trio of “PhoneSats” is operating in orbit, and may prove to be the lowest-cost satellites ever flown in space. The goal of NASA’s PhoneSat mission is to determine whether a consumer-grade smartphone can be used as the main flight avionics of a capable, yet very inexpensive, satellite. CONTINUE TO FULL STORY>>