News from a World gone mad

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January 30, 2016

GMO mosquitoes could be cause of Zika outbreak, critics say

© Josue Decavele

The latest contagious virus freaking out the globe, particularly women worried about birth defects, may have been caused by the presence of genetically-modified mosquitoes (GMMs) in Brazil.

With international health experts convening in Geneva to discuss the outbreak of and possible cures for the Zika virus, questions are being raised as to whether the GMMs are to blame.

In mid-2012, British biotech company Oxitec released the super bugs with the aim of reducing the overall mosquito population that spreads dengue fever, the Zika virus, and chikungunya in northeast Brazil.

At the time, concerns were raised about the release of GMMs without further studies into possible side effects.

“It’s a very experimental approach which has not yet been successful and may cause more harm than good,” Dr Helen Wallace, director of GeneWatch, told the Guardian in 2012.

The first cases of Zika in humans were reported in the south American country last May with up to 1.5 million now thought people affected by the virus, which Oxitec’s critics note is the same area where the GMMs were released.

full story at RT










Zika: Colombia cases in pregnant women double in a week

A pregnant Colombian woman, infected with the Zika virus, sits in a clinic

The number of pregnant women in Colombia infected with the Zika virus has doubled in a week, officials said.

Almost 2,000 pregnant women now have the virus, Colombia’s National Health Institute said, out of the more than 20,000 people infected across Colombia.

The mosquito-borne virus has been linked to babies being born with abnormally small brains.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has warned Zika is “spreading explosively”, predicting up to 4m cases this year.

On Monday, the WHO meets to decide whether Zika should be treated as a global emergency.

Brazil has been worst affected by the outbreak, followed by Colombia, but more than 20 other countries have seen cases.

Jamaica and Peru reported their first confirmed cases over the weekend, with Peruvian President Ollanta Humala urging calm and stressing that the patient contracted the disease outside of the country.

More at BBC NEWS









Family converts school bus into beautiful cottage on wheels (Video)

Von Thompsons

When we hear of vans and school buses converted into full-time homes for people, we often think of cash-strapped students, freewheeling travelers on the festival circuit, or maybe couples looking for a bit of an adventure on the road. We don’t usually think of a young family of three living out of an old school bus, but that’s exactly what Jeremy and Mira Thompson of Key Peninsula, Washington, are doing with their 2-year-old daughter Carys. With a lot of imagination, design savvy and skillful craftsmanship, they’ve managed to transform this vehicle into a whimsical, modern cottage on wheels. We get a two-part tour from the couple themselves:

What’s most striking about this project is the fact that the cottage was built directly into the bus frame. The couple worked on their current home over the space of two years. Previously, they had done a simpler version of a RV converted from a smaller bus, living on the road for a couple of years. They loved the experience and decided to take the plunge by putting their efforts into doing a bigger and better version, suitable for a baby that was now on the way.

full article and more pictures at The Treehugger









Styrian Armoury

In what was once a militarily vital section of Europe sits the Styrian Armory, a massive collection of murder equipment that began as a true armory and is now one of the most extensive collections of historical weaponry in the world.

Caught between centuries of fighting between the Ottoman Empire and Hungary, the Austrian state of Styria need weapons. Rather than depend on imported, or arms made for demand, the locals and nobility established the “State Armoury” in the mid-1600’s. The five-story building contained only one floor of administrative space with the remaining four floors of the building given over to the storage of weapons and armor including swords, shields, guns, and primitive rocket-making equipment were all kept on hand. The armory was in use for a little over a century before it was decommissioned when Austria centralized their military forces. The building and its weapons were almost disbanded, but the Styrian citizens managed to get the site saved as a museum.

full story at Atlas Obscura





Migrant crisis: Grenade thrown at asylum hostel in Germany

Police vehicles outside a migrant shelter that was targeted with a grenade

entified attackers threw a live hand grenade at a migrant hostel in south-western Germany, officials say.

The grenade was found during the night near buildings housing 170 people in the town of Villingen-Schwenningen. Its pin had been pulled out but the explosives failed to detonate.

Justice Minister Heiko Maas said it was a new level of “hate and violence”.

There were 1,005 attacks on refugee homes in Germany last year – five times more than in 2014.

Some of the migrants at the Villingen-Schwenningen hostel were evacuated while bomb disposal experts carried out a controlled explosion.

Police spokesman Thomas Kalmbach said it was “just luck” no-one was hurt.

full story at BBC NEWS

India, Egypt say no thanks to free Internet from Facebook

— Connecting people to the Internet is not easy in this impoverished farming district of wheat and millet fields, where working camels can be glimpsed along roads that curve through the low-slung Aravalli Hills.

So when Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg helicoptered in about a year ago to visit a small computer lab and tout Internet for all, Osama Manzar, director of India’s Digital Empowerment Foundation, was thrilled.

But when Manzar tried Facebook’s limited free Internet service, he was bitterly disappointed. The app, called Free Basics, is a pared-down version of Facebook with other services such as weather reports and job listings.

“I feel betrayed — not only betrayed but upset and angry,” Manzar said. “He said we’re going to solve the problem with access and bandwidth. But Facebook is not the Internet.”

Zuckerberg launched his sweeping initiative in 2013 as a way to provide 4 billion people in the developing world with Web access, which he says he sees as a basic human right.

But the initiative has hit a major snag in India, where in recent months Free Basics has been embroiled in controversy — with critics saying that the app, which provides limited access to the Web, does a disservice to the poor and violates the principles of “net neutrality,” which holds that equal access to the Internet should be unfettered to all.

Activist groups such as Save the Internet, professors from leading universities and tech titans such as Nandan Nilekani, the co-founder of Infosys, have spoken out against it. Another well-known Indian entrepreneur dubbed it “poor Internet for poor people.”

The debate escalated in recent weeks after India’s telecommunications regulator suspended Free Basics as it weighs whether such plans are fair, with new rules expected by the end of the month.

A week later, Free Basics was banned in Egypt with little explanation, prompting concern that the backlash could spread to other markets. More recently, Google pulled out of the app in Zambia after a trial period. An estimated 15 million people are using Free Basics in 37 countries, including 1 million in India.

full story at WashingtonPost






Calais refugee children wait to be allowed into UK

Hundreds of children living alone in a refugee camp in northern France are waiting to find out if they can travel to Britain to be reunited with their families.

It follows a legal test case last week in which four young people were allowed into the UK.

Their situation only came to light thanks to one British woman who gave up her job to work with the children.

Al Jazeera’s Laurence Lee reports from Calais.

‘Hundreds-strong’ mob of masked men rampage through Stockholm station beating up refugee children

Mob of black-clad masked men went on a rampage in and around Stockholm's main train station targeting refugee children 

A mob of black-clad masked men went on a rampage in and around Stockholm’s main train station last night beating up refugees and anyone who did not look like they were ethnically Swedish.

Before the attack, the group of 200 people handed out xenophobic leaflets with the message ‘Enough now’.

Swedish media reported that the thugs, allegedly linked to Sweden’s football hooligan scene, were targeting unaccompanied minors with a ‘foreign’ background.








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