Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Denmark piracy raid off Somalia leaves two dead

The Absalon was patrolling the Gulf of Aden under Nato command, reports say.

The Danish ship fired at the pirate ship to force it to stop, the Danish navy said on its website.

There were 17 pirates and 18 hostages on board the pirate ship, said its statement. Two hostages were found wounded and "could not be saved".

Absalon had for several days been watching a pirate mothership off the Somali coast, the statement said.

"Overnight Sunday to Monday, when the pirates tried to leave the coast, Absalon intervened and stopped the mothership, before it could pose a threat to shipping in the open sea," it added.

It fired at the mothership and its crew was then able to take control of the pirate ship.

Two of the hostages were found badly injured, and the Absalon doctor was unable to save them, the statement said.

The Danish warship is part of a Nato-led counter-piracy mission off Somalia and the east coast of Africa.

Nato said the incident was being investigated.

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French election: Hollande wants 75% tax on top earners

"Above 1m euros [£847,000; $1.3m], the tax rate should be 75% because it's not possible to have that level of income," he said.

Speaking on prime time TV, he promised that if elected, he would undo tax breaks enacted by Nicolas Sarkozy.

The tax proposal was condemned by his political opponents.

Opinion polls suggest the gap between the Socialist candidate and Mr Sarkozy has narrowed.

The two are tipped to reach the run-off on 6 May, after eliminating other rivals on 22 April.

Taxation for the rich has become a hot campaign issue, with tax advisers in neighbouring Switzerland saying that higher taxes for the wealthy in France could spark an exodus, Reuters news agency reports.

Many of France's richest celebrities already live abroad.
'Patriotic' tax

The French right-of-centre newspaper Le Figaro reports that Mr Hollande's announcement on the TF1 channel appeared to take party colleagues by surprise.

Jerome Cahuzac, responsible for budgetary affairs on Mr Hollande's campaign team, was questioned about the 75% rate on another channel, France 2, just minutes afterwards.
“Start Quote

Valerie Pecresse Nicolas Sarkozy's budget minister

"You are asking me about a declaration which, for my part, I haven't heard," he said.

Mr Hollande himself renewed his call on Tuesday, saying the 75% rate on people earning more than one million euros a year was "a patriotic act".

"It's a signal that has been sent, a message of social cohesion, there is an effort to be made," he explained.

"It is patriotic to agree to pay a supplementary tax to get the country back on its feet."

Centrist presidential candidate Francois Bayrou dismissed the idea.

He told another TV channel, BFMTV: "I think it was [French film director Michel] Audiard who used the rather rough phrase: the rubbish-ometer [French: deconnometre] is working overtime."

Ministers from Mr Sarkozy's ruling UMP party also attacked the proposal.

Francois Hollande "invents a new tax every week without ever proposing the smallest saving", said Budget Minister Valerie Pecresse and Foreign Minister Alain Juppe denounced the plan as "fiscal confiscation".

When Mr Sarkozy came to power in 2007, he introduced a "tax shield" that capped tax at 50% of all income.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

UK stem cell stroke trial passes first safety test

The world's first clinical trial of brain stem cells to treat strokes is set to move to its next phase.

An independent assessment of the first three patients to have had stem cells injected into their brain at Glasgow's Southern General Hospital has concluded it has had no adverse effect.

The assessment paves the way for the therapy to be tested on more patients to find a new treatment for stroke.

The hope is that the stem cells will help to repair damaged brain tissue.

The trial is being led by Prof Keith Muir of Glasgow University. He told BBC News that he was pleased with the results so far.

"We need to be assured of safety before we can progress to trying to test the effects of this therapy. Because this is the first time this type of cell therapy has been used in humans, it's vitally important that we determine that it's safe to proceed - so at the present time we have the clearance to proceed to the next higher dose of cells."

An elderly man was the first person in the world to receive this treatment last year. Since then it has been tried out on two more patients.

Global trials

The patients have received very low doses of stem cells in trials designed to test the safety of the procedure.

Over the next year, up to nine more patients will be given progressively higher doses - again primarily to assess safety - but doctors will also be using this clinical trial to assess the best ways of measuring the effectiveness of the treatment in subsequent larger trials, which would not begin for at least 18 months.

Critics object as brain cells from a foetus were originally used to create the cell treatment. Michael Hunt, Chief Executive Officer of the company that produced the stem cells, Renuron, said that the technology used to grow the cells is such that no further foetal tissue will be required.

There are a growing number of well-regulated clinical trials of stem cell treatments now under way in various parts of the world, including one which also began last year by the US firm Geron to develop a treatment for paralysis.

The development of stem cell treatments is still at an early stage and it is likely to be many years before these treatments become widely available. According to Mr Hunt:

"The earliest a treatment could be widely available if everything goes very well is five years. It is very much a case of so far, so good. It is still at a very early stage but we draw great comfort from these results."

Strokes kill about 67,000 people in the UK every year, according to the Stroke Association.

The charity says it is the third most common cause of death in England and Wales after heart disease and cancer.