Archive for the ‘Top Stories’ Category
Rugged, volcanic Reunion is a territory of France in the Indian Ocean.
The densely-populated island once prospered from the cultivation of sugar cane, but tourism and financial aid from Paris now underpin its economy.
Reunion's culture, cuisine and ethnic mix reflect the story of its settlement. Overview
French colonists arrived on the island, then known as Bourbon, in the 1640s. Slaves from Madagascar and mainland Africa were brought in to work the island's coffee plantations. Later arrivals included labourers from south and east Asia.
The island was ruled as a colony until 1946, when it was made a "departement", or administrative unit, of France. The Reunionese are French citizens and many of them wish to remain so; independence movements have been sporadic and there is little will to sever ties with Paris.
Sugar cane was introduced during a brief period of British rule in the early 19th century. It provides the raw material for Reunion's main exports. Tourism is also important; attractions include spectacular gorges and "cirques" – natural amphitheatres surrounded by mountains.
A large wealth gap has fuelled social tensions. These spilled over into violence in 1991 when 10 people were killed in anti-government riots. Unemployment is high, particularly among the young, and migration is commonplace. Violence once again flared up in March 2009 in protest at rising food prices.
Reunion is home to one of the world's most active volcanos, the Piton de la Fournaise, which has erupted more than 170 times since the mid-17th century. Lava flows have closed roads and damaged buildings.
The territory is prone to tropical storms; a cyclone monitoring station in the capital serves the Indian Ocean region.
A man, said to be a well-known rebel fighter, carves into the body of a government soldier and cuts out his heart and liver.
“I swear to God we will eat your hearts out, you soldiers of Bashar. You dogs. God is greater!” the man says. “Heroes of Baba Amr … we will take out their hearts to eat them.”
He then puts the heart in his mouth and takes a bite.
A group loyal to President Bashar al-Assad posted the video online Monday. The group describes the mutilation as a “crime that crosses all lines.”
Editor’s note: H. Gilbert Welch is a professor of medicine at the Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice and a co-author of “Overdiagnosed: Making People Sick in the Pursuit of Health.”
Then I checked my e-mail messages — they all seemed to be about Angelina Jolie’s op-ed. Students in my undergraduate class wanted to discuss it in our next session. Colleagues expressed concern and wondered what the right response was. People I don’t even know sent e-mails.
One, from a research fellow at the International Agency for Research on Cancer, nicely summed up the general concern: “I fear that this disclosure will motivate other women to undergo preventive mastectomy, even though they do not need it.”
Wow. Maybe I should read it.
I did. I found it to be a moving story and understood her choice. What I couldn’t understand initially was the concern expressed by others.
As the day wore on, the story dominated the news. I didn’t fully appreciate how much Ms. Jolie is admired and respected and had neglected to consider just how powerful a celebrity personal anecdote could be.
If American women saw themselves in Angelina Jolie — then that would be a problem. Because the logical next question is: Should I get a preventive mastectomy?
Then I realized something was missing in her piece; something that should have been printed in big black letters:
NOTE: This story is not relevant to more than 99% of American women.
Why? Because more than 99% of women do not have the BRCA1 mutation — or the BRCA2 mutation, for that matter.
Let’s be clear, the BRCA1 mutation is a bad thing. Although I might quibble with the exact numbers in the piece, the big picture is this: the mutation increases the risk of developing breast cancer about five fold and increases the risk of ovarian cancer more than 10 fold.
It is a powerful risk factor for these cancers — almost as powerful as cigarette smoking is for lung cancer.
When people are at very high risk for something bad to happen, preventive interventions are more likely to be a good deal; that is, the benefits are likely to exceed the harms. I’m not saying that prophylactic mastectomy is the right choice for a woman with BRCA1, simply that it is a reasonable one.
When people are at average risk, the deal changes. The opportunity for benefit is less, simply because the bad event is less likely to happen. But the harms of preventive intervention remain roughly the same.
It is a fundamental precept of medicine — one I hammer home with undergraduates (future patients) and medical students (future doctors): Patients with severe abnormalities stand to gain more from intervention than patients with mild ones. Patients with mild abnormalities are more likely to experience net harm from intervention, simply because they have less opportunity to benefit.
The vast majority of women don’t have the BRCA1 mutation. They are at average risk for breast cancer. They are not Angelina Jolie. They should not have a preventive mastectomy.
A few weeks ago, in a New York Times Magazine piece, Peggy Orenstein related her first instinct when facing breast cancer recurrence: take the other breast too. Her oncologist responded with a simple question: “Would an average woman cut off her breasts?”
I hope not.
But there is a second question for women raised by Ms. Jolie’s piece: Should I be tested for BRCA1?
She seems to believe the answer is yes, pointing to the half-million women who die from breast cancer worldwide each year. But she neglects to point out that 90% of these deaths have nothing to do with the BRCA1 mutation. That’s because most women don’t have the mutation and because most breast cancer is sporadic.
The few women who are likely to have the mutation are also likely to know they may have it based on the oldest genetic test of all: a strong family history of cancer.
Population-wide screening raises complex issues. We would want to know more about how often the test is wrong, particularly how often the test is falsely positive. That’s important because women falsely diagnosed as a mutation carrier might undergo prophylactic mastectomy unnecessarily. Then there are the psychological effects, not only for the patient but also for her siblings and offspring.
We’d also need to know more about what a BRCA1 mutation means in the absence of family history. Ms. Jolie’s mother died of ovarian cancer at age 56. I’m no geneticist, but I can guess that puts her at higher risk — both for having the mutation and for developing a bad cancer.
And we’d certainly want an answer to the question: Must the test cost so much?
There’s no one right choice for a woman in Angelina Jolie’s position, but she may well have made the right choice for her. Luckily it is a choice most women don’t have to face.
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The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of H. Gilbert Welch.
By KYONG-AE CHOI And ALASTAIR GALE
SEOULâNorth Korea fired three short-range missiles Saturday into the sea off the eastern coast of the Korean peninsula, stirring tensions that had appeared to ease in the wake of a recent series of threats directed at South Korea and the U.S.
The missiles posed no danger to neighboring countries. Analysts said the launches were likely intended as a protest against joint South Korean-U.S. naval drills earlier this week.
South Korea’s defense ministry said that North Korea had fired two missiles into waters off the Korean peninsula in the morning, followed by a third missile in the afternoon.
“In our judgment, the missiles are short-range guided missiles, not midrange missiles such as the Musudan,” South Korean Defense Ministry spokesman Kim Min-seok said.
Attention has been focused on the deployment of two Musudan missiles on North Korea’s east coast last month for an expected test firing. Officials and media reports earlier this month said North Korea had moved the Musudan missiles away from the firing locations.
Rising Tensions on the Korean Peninsula
Threats by North Korea against its southern neighbor have escalated, deteriorating fragile relations between Pyongyang and Seoul. The threats are an annual occurrence during military exercises in South Korea but have been particularly vociferous this year.
The Musudan has a range of up to around 4,000 kilometers (just under 2,500 miles), meaning it could threaten U.S. bases in Guam and Japan. Tokyo put its missile defenses on alert in response to reports of the Musudan deployment.
North Korea launches smaller missiles with ranges of a few hundred miles, such as scud variants, in test firings from its coasts a few times each year. The last reported firing was in March.
North Korea made no immediate statement about the latest launch.
Shin Jong-dae, professor at the University of North Korean Studies in Seoul, said the launches were likely a means of drawing attention from the international community.
“North Korea is an expert at crisis diplomacy, or crisis marketing,” Mr. Shin said.
The firings come after Glyn Davies, the top U.S. envoy on North Korea, wrapped up a visit to Tokyo, Beijing and Seoul this week for talks on dealing with North Korea.
Pyongyang’s provocations, including threats of attack that escalated in recent months, are widely viewed as an attempt to generate enough fear to prompt other countries to consider concessions on security and aid, a game plan it has used repeatedly in the past.
Those threats peaked during annual military drills held by South Korea and the U.S. through the end of April, exercises that the North portrayed as a prelude to war. The heated rhetoric eased following the end of the drills, but fresh naval exercises this week have prompted renewed warnings of counterattack from Pyongyang.
The latest exercises have been led by the U.S. aircraft carrier USS Nimitz, a move that North Korea’s state media called “a grave military provocation.”
The missile launches also come during a low in inter-Korean relations as Pyongyang has rejected repeated calls from Seoul for dialogue over the closed Kaesong Industrial Complex.
The closure of the industrial complexâthe last outpost of inter-Korean economic cooperationâin turn followed weeks of near-daily verbal attacks by North Korea against the South and the U.S. after the U.N. imposed tougher sanctions against Pyongyang following its third nuclear test in February.
South Korea said it was monitoring for any further military activity in the North following Saturday’s missile launches. “South Korea’s military is on high alert to prepare for any hostile acts,” ministry spokesman Mr. Kim said.
Write to Alastair Gale at email@example.com
Long known for its pyramids and ancient civilisation, Egypt is the largest Arab country and has played a central role in Middle Eastern politics in modern times.
Encouraged by the protests that overthrew the long-term leader of Tunisia, mounting popular anger burst to the surface in huge anti-government demonstrations in January 2011, which eventually led President Mubarak to step aside. He was arrested and sentenced to life imprisonment over deaths during the demonstrations.
The road towards democracy proved rocky, however, and post-revolutionary politics have become increasingly polarised between the newly ascendant Islamists on the one hand and liberal and secular forces on the other.
After the interim military administration's promised rapid transition ended up lasting more than a year, parliamentary elections finally held in December 2011 and January 2012 produced large majorities for Islamist parties.
Similarly, a presidential poll in May and June 2012 was won Islamist Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohammed Morsi, prompting fears among liberal activists about the prospects for democratic gains and women's and minority rights.
After his election, Mr Morsi quickly swept aside the army's attempt to hold on to extensive political powers, but a new dispute flared at the end of 2012, when the Islamist-dominated constituent assembly signed off on a constitution which the president put to a referendum on 15 December.
The move infuriated secular, Christian and women's groups and the liberal opposition, especially when the referendum approved the constitution. They say the constitution does not provide sufficient guarantees for freedom of expression and women's rights.
Egypt's teeming cities – and almost all agricultural activity – are concentrated along the banks of the Nile, and on the river's delta. Deserts occupy most of the country.
The economy depends heavily on agriculture, tourism and cash remittances from Egyptians working abroad, mainly in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf countries.
However, rapid population growth and the limited amount of arable land are straining the country's resources and economy, and continuing political turmoil has paralysed government efforts to address the problems.
Editor’s note: Paul Butler is a law professor at Georgetown University. He is the author of “Let’s Get Free: A Hip-Hop Theory of Justice.”
That is how President Obama should begin one of the most significant speeches of his presidency: the commencement address at Morehouse College this Sunday. Addressing the historically black all male institution gives Obama an opportunity to rectify his strategic neglect of African-Americans. In this high-profile talk to his own demographic, the president has some explaining to do.
Obama’s identity as a black man is usually communicated subliminally, with the swag in his walk, the basketball court on the East Lawn, the sexy glances at the first lady, his overall cool. Now, however, comes the time to be explicit: to speak out loud his affiliation, his fraternal pride and concern. That’s the good work that calling us “brothers” would do.
In appearances before African-American audiences, the president sometimes sounds like he’s saying the wrong thing. He told the Congressional Black Caucus to “stop grumbling, stop complaining, stop crying.” In a Father’s Day talk at a black church in Chicago, he criticized “too many fathers” for “acting like boys not men.”
African-American men certainly could use an intervention from the most successful African-American man in history. They are on the bottom of many indicators of achievement. They suffer the highest level of incarceration, and the largest homicide rates, of any Americans. In urban areas, fewer than half graduate from high school. Their unemployment is among the highest in the country.
“I’m sorry I haven’t done more.”
The president has not spoken out forcefully against racial profiling and mass incarceration. He has not memorialized the mainly African-American victims of gun violence in Chicago the way he has memorialized the mainly white victims of gun violence in Newtown and Columbine. Asked why he hadn’t done more to remedy the catastrophic rate of African-American unemployment, Obama said, “I can’t pass laws that say I’m just helping black folks. I’m president of the entire United States.”
“Thank you for your support.”
Nobody understands, like this audience will, the contortions a successful African-American man has to make to fit in but stand out, to be strong but not intimidate or frighten, to be black enough but not too black.
But in some ways the African-American community has been too understanding. Emanuel Cleaver, while chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, said “the president knows we are going to act in deference to him in a way we wouldn’t to someone white.” Politically it was not the smartest thing to say (the LGBT community didn’t turn Obama into the most gay friendly president in U.S. history by going easy on him) but any black man could understand the sentiment. That’s why the African-American turnout for the president’s re-election was higher than the white turnout.
Now blacks who supported the president are doing exactly what other groups responsible for his victory are doing: waiting for him to return the favor.
“We’ve all got to do better.”
The president isn’t the only black man who needs to step up support of his brothers. My friend runs a mentoring organization for black boys in Prince George’s County, Maryland, the nation’s most affluent black community. There is a long waiting list of boys, mostly without dads in the home, and only about 10 active African-American male mentors.
President Obama provides, for Morehouse men and everyone else, a 21st century model of African-American masculinity. His oft stated support for women’s rights is a crucial component. The casual misogyny of some black popular culture, especially hip-hop music and videos, is a disgrace. It’s OK for the president to note that not every aspect of black male culture is praiseworthy.
“That includes me.”
The government’s primary intervention for black men is to lock them up. President Obama cannot, on his own, reverse this course, but he can do much more than he has to disrupt the flow of the one in three young black men who are headed to prison. One example would be to speak in favor of decriminalizing marijuana, as have other politicians like New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
Black men are selectively arrested for marijuana crimes, and these arrests have a stigmatizing effect on future employment and earnings that redounds to the detriment of African-American families. Barack Obama was once a young black man who smoked pot, and it would be surprising if he actually believes that it’s fair for other young black men to be selectively prosecuted for that.
“I am the most powerful man in the world, and I’ve got your back.”
Those are words profound enough to make a black man cry. I believe them to be true, but hearing them proclaimed out loud would be incredibly meaningful. African-American men feel a special kinship with this president. How inspiring it would be for the president to acknowledge this connection, in his words and in his actions. What a difference it might make for the millions of black boys who now are headed to destinies very different from graduating from Morehouse College or becoming president of the United States.
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The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Paul Butler.
Bollywood star Sanjay Dutt has been allowed to take a mattress, pillow, fan, toiletries and mosquito repellent to jail with him.
The court also allowed the actor access to medicines and food from home during his stay in the prison.
On Thursday, the actor returned to jail to finish his sentence for firearms offences linked to blasts which killed 257 people in Mumbai in 1993.
He has already served 18 months of his five-year term.
He was convicted for illegally possessing a rifle and a pistol which he bought from the bombers.
He had sought to delay his return to prison to finish a number of films, but the court rejected his appeal.
On Thursday night, the actor was sent to Mumbai's Arthur Road prison and Indian media reports say he is expected to be soon moved to Pune's Yerwada prison where he will spend the rest of his sentence.
The court allowed the 53-year-old actor to take with him copies of the Bhagvad Gita, Ramayan and Hanuman Chalisa – all Hindu religious texts – in addition to toiletries, including toothpaste, shampoo, slippers and clothes.
But Judge GA Sanap rejected Dutt's request to take an electronic cigarette with him, Press Trust of India reported. Instead, the judge advised him to quit smoking, it said.
Dutt was convicted in 2006 of buying arms from the bombers but cleared of conspiracy. The attacks left 713 others injured.
The son of a Hindu father and a Muslim mother, Dutt said the weapons were necessary in order to defend his family during the Hindu-Muslim rioting of 1993 which followed the destruction by Hindu zealots of the Babri mosque in the northern town of Ayodhya.
Dutt, one of Bollywood's most bankable stars, is hugely popular for his role as a lovable gangster in the Munnabhai movies. He has also dabbled in politics.
In 2006, a special anti-terror court convicted 100 people for the blasts. Twelve were given the death penalty and 20 others sentenced to life imprisonment.
Dutt, the most high-profile among the convicts, was originally charged with five offences, including criminal conspiracy and possession of illegal weapons.
In March 2013, India's Supreme Court upheld his conviction, but reduced his sentence from six to five years.
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To activate the service, the customer sends the code 144 to 902 and he will receive a text message showing how to subscribe and recharge as well as the service features. It is to be noted that messages to 902 are free and without any charges even if the customer is outside the kingdom.
Story By: by Emily Harris
The webpage Google.ps used to read “Google: Palestinian Territories.” On May 1, the company quietly changed that regional search page to say “Google: Palestine.”
Google didn’t announce the name change, but it didn’t have to. In a place where small gestures can carry great symbolism, Palestinians noticed right away.
“Everybody knows about it and they screenshot [and] post on Facebook: ‘Yay Google, thank you,’ ” says Mohammad Kumboz, a 22-year-old graphic designer and computer programmer who lives in the Gaza Strip.
Kumboz knows having Google call Gaza and the West Bank Palestine isn’t as official as the United Nations perhaps.
The U.N, over Israeli and U.S. objections, upgraded the Palestinians to a non-member observer state last fall. But Kumboz says that to him, Google’s move is more meaningful.
“Google means a lot to us,” he says. “[No day passes] without using Google.”
That might be especially true for Kumboz.
He is part of Gaza Sky Geeks, an incubator for nascent IT businesses. It was started by Mercy Corps and is funded by a $900,000 grant from Google’s charitable arm. So far, Kumboz has developed a game, called Mighty Cow, in which players help save a rather sweet-looking cow from the butcher’s knife.
Google started funding the IT training program in Gaza a couple years ago after a chance meeting with Andy Dwonch. Dwonch is Mercy Corps’ director of social innovations and previously ran Mercy Corps’ work in the West Bank and Gaza.
“From the very beginning I thought there could be some potential partnership, but I really frankly didn’t understand what made Google tick,” Dwonch says. “I didn’t necessarily understand what they were interested in.”
Ultimately, Google’s foundation funded a two-year program of training and support for Palestinians in Gaza who wanted to start their own Web businesses or learn skills to hire themselves out as programmers to companies anywhere.
Google has offices in a Tel Aviv skyscraper and just off the beach in the northern Israeli city of Haifa. Google employs a couple hundred Israeli engineers and looks for Israeli companies to buy. Google knows the territory, but Israel’s Foreign Ministry thinks the company is misguided in its latest move.
“Google can do anything they want. They’re not a diplomatic entity so they can do Google La-la Land if they want to and that’s fine,” says Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor. “Still, the question remains, this is a highly sensitive international politics issue, so what made Google decide they wanted to take a position on this?”
Google wouldn’t talk about this, but the company put out a statement saying it was following the lead of the United Nations and other international organizations. It also provided several examples of other name changes.
Israel’s deputy foreign minister sent a letter to Google CEO Larry Page, saying Google’s move could hurt peace negotiations.
“I can tell you that it has no diplomatic meaning, and it hasn’t,” says Palmor. “But if people on the Palestinian side believe that they can get anything they want through unilateral steps by international bodies, well in that case they will be more reluctant to talk to Israel.”
Ordinary Palestinians don’t get to make that call. But as boys laugh and play online shooter games in an Internet cafÃ© in the Palestinian city of Bethlehem in the West Bank, cafÃ© owner Johnnie Skafi says Google pulled his “would-be nation” one more step up the ladder.
“Palestinian Territories means under the occupation,” Skafi says. “Palestine [means] without occupation. That’s what I think is the difference.”
By INTI LANDAURO And NADYA MASIDLOVER
PARISâHours after the Cannes Film Festival premiered Sofia Coppola’s “The Bling Ring,” depicting a gang of Hollywood jewel thieves, a real-world heist lifted $1.4 million of jewelry from a hotel in Cannes, French prosecutors said.
The jewels were stolen in the early hours of Friday from an employee of Swiss jeweler Chopard, an official sponsor of the Cannes festival and maker of its iconic Palme d’Or award, prosecutors said.
Chopard said the jewels weren’t part of the collection to be worn by actresses at the festival, and that the value of the stolen pieces was “far lower than those in the figures circulating in the media.” The company didn’t give an estimated value of the stolen goods.
The employee had left the jewelry in the safe of her hotel room at the four-star Novotel in Cannes, they said. Upon returning to her room at 2 a.m. on Friday, the employee saw that the safe had been taken off the wall and stolen, prosecutors said. Preliminary investigation suggests it was a burglary, said Jean-Michel Caillau, the prosecutor in the nearby town of Grasse, who is conducting the probe.
“The majority of the jewels belong to the company Chopard, but it seems some are owned by other private persons, we have no detailed inventory yet,” he said.
The Novotel hotel chain’s parent company Accor SA
declined to comment.
Local police were interviewing witnesses and watching video footage from security cameras, Mr. Caillau said. He declined to say whether police had identified any suspect.
Mr. Caillau said similar thefts have happened in Cannes in the past. “This is a risk that we are aware of,” he said.
The Palme d’Or wasn’t involved in the theft and is still set to be awarded on May 26 at the end of the festival to the winner of the Best Film prize, according to a spokeswoman for the festival organizers. Since 1998, when Chopard was enlisted to redesign the event’s trophy, the company has crafted the award in its workshops.
The Swiss luxury jewelry and watchmaker, founded in 1860, rose to fame in recent decades with a number of high-profile ventures including its partnership with Cannes Film Festival, where it uses the red carpet to display its works. Jewels are typically lent to the stars to be worn during award ceremonies and parties.
This year, stars including Spain’s Blanca SuÃ¡rezâwho played in Pedro AlmodÃ³var’s film “The Skin Ilive In”âand Chinese actress Fan Bingbing have sported pieces made by Chopard at the festival.
In “The Bling Ring,” which is based on a real-life story, a group of juvenile thieves accumulated high-end branded goods from celebrities’ homes.
Friday’s apparent burglary in Cannes followed a string of high-profile luxury-goods thefts in the country. In March, Louis Vuittonâthe main brand of the world’s largest luxury company LVMH MoÃ«t Hennessy Louis Vuitton
âsaw its store in the northern French town of Deauville attacked by masked gunmen in broad daylight. Last month, a truck carrying products made by HermÃ¨s, was the victim of a holdup orchestrated by robbers masquerading as police officers, according to press reports.
A version of this article appeared May 18, 2013, on page A8 in the U.S. edition of The Wall Street Journal, with the headline: Jewels Stolen At Cannes Film Festival.