News Article | May 12, 2017
KINSHASA (Reuters) - At least one person has died from the Ebola virus in Democratic Republic of Congo, the Health Ministry and the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Friday, signaling a new outbreak of the disease which killed thousands in West Africa.
News Article | May 22, 2017
Israeli police stand by the body of a Palestinian who was shot and killed after he attempted to stab an Israeli soldier at a checkpoint north of the West Bank city of Bethlehem , Monday, May 22, 2017. (AP Photo/Nasser Shiyoukhi). JERUSALEM (AP) — Israeli police said a Palestinian attacker was killed after he tried to stab officers near Jerusalem as President Donald Trump visited the city on Monday, while clashes erupted in the West Bank as Palestinians declared a strike in solidarity with hundreds of hunger striking prisoners held in Israeli jails. Police said the attempted stabbing occurred near Abu Dis, a Palestinian town on the outskirts of Jerusalem. She said the assailant was running at police officers with a knife when he was shot. Trump was visiting Jerusalem's Old City, just a few miles (kilometers) away, at the time. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas met Monday evening with families of some of the Palestinian prisoners observing the mass hunger strike. Abbas told them he is trying to reach an agreement with Israel to end the strike. Hundreds of Palestinian prisoners held by Israel are on an open-ended hunger strike, now in its 36th day, saying they seek to improve their prison conditions. Israel says strike leader Marwan Barghouti, a potential successor to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, is using it to raise his political profile. Israel has released footage it says shows Barghouti breaking his fast. Palestinians say it is a fabrication. Barghouti is serving five life sentences after being convicted by Israel of directing two shooting attacks and a bombing. The strike has wide support among Palestinians. After decades of conflict, hundreds of thousands of Palestinians have been imprisoned for acts ranging from stone-throwing to carrying out attacks that killed or wounded civilians and soldiers. There have been several large Palestinian protests in support of the strike since it began. Dozens of Palestinian youths clashed with Israeli troops, and Palestinian shopkeepers shuttered their stores across the West Bank and east Jerusalem in solidarity with the prisoners on Monday. The strike coincided with the arrival of Trump for a two-day visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories. Although the protests were not directly aimed against the president, organizers hoped to draw attention to their cause. The heaviest violence occurred at the Qalandia checkpoint on the outskirts of Jerusalem, where dozens of Palestinian youths set tires and garbage on fire and hurled bottles and stones at Israeli troops. The army said troops responded with tear gas and rubber bullets. The Palestinian Health Ministry said three people were wounded by live fire, a claim denied by the military. Protesters blocked roads elsewhere in the West Bank. Stores and government offices closed down, public transportation ground to a halt and main thoroughfares in Palestinian cities were empty of people and cars. Shop owners in east Jerusalem also closed their stores in solidarity. A Palestinian advocacy group says several of the hundreds of hunger striking prisoners have been hospitalized. The Palestinian prisoners' affairs committee called for a "day of rage" on Tuesday, when Trump visits the West Bank town Bethlehem, for "the voice of the prisoners to be heard by the president."
News Article | May 23, 2017
A medical professional wears his scrubs during an anti-government protest demanding Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro open a so-called humanitarian corridor for the delivery of medicine and food aid, in Caracas, Venezuela, Monday, May 22, 2017. At least 46 people have died during the two-month anti-government protest movement. (AP Photo/Fernando Llano) CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — Protesters set fire to late President Hugo Chavez's childhood home in western Venezuela on Monday, an opposition lawmaker said, as protests against the South American nation's socialist government grew increasingly hostile. While demonstrators are decrying current President Nicolas Maduro for the country's triple-digit inflation, rising crime and shortages of food and medicine, they have also destroyed at least five statues commemorating Chavez, Maduro's mentor and the founder of Venezuela's "Bolivarian revolution." Demonstrators lit the house in the city of Barinas where Chavez spent his early years aflame Monday afternoon along with several government buildings, including the regional office of the National Electoral Council, said Pedro Luis Castillo, a legislator who represents the area. The burnings capped a violent day in Barinas — known as the cradle of Chavez's revolution — during which protesters clashed with national guardsmen, businesses were shuttered and roads were blocked with fire-filled barricades. Nineteen-year-old Yorman Bervecia was shot and killed during a protest, according to the nation's chief prosecutor. His death brings to at least 49 the number killed in nearly two months of anti-government protests demanding new elections. "It is pretty symbolic that the citizens are venting their frustrations on the author of the Bolivarian revolution," said Eric Farnsworth, vice president of the Council of the Americas. The street clashes engulfing Venezuela appear to be turning increasingly violent, with both security forces and youth protesters looking more unruly. Residents of Caracas awoke to several smoldering barricades made of trash and torn-down street signs. Access to the capital's downtown was blocked at several points by heavily armed security forces looking to prevent a march to the Health Ministry to demand Maduro open a so-called humanitarian corridor for the delivery of medicine and food aid. On the outskirts of Caracas, where reports of nighttime protests and looting have become more frequent, the situation was even more tense: Young men with their faces covered or wearing gas masks put down barbed wire at roadblocks every few blocks and menacingly asked bystanders for contributions to their "Resistance" movement. Opposition leaders are urging restraint from their followers, but say security forces and pro-government militias — not the protesters — are behind the vast number of deadly attacks. Maduro accused protesters Sunday of setting fire to a government supporter, saying what he calls "Nazi-fascist" elements are taking root inside the opposition's ranks and contributing to a dangerous spiral of violence in the two-month anti-government protest movement. Maduro said that 21-year-old Orlando Zaragoza suffered burns to almost all his body when he was doused with gasoline and set on fire at a protest in Caracas a day earlier. Videos circulating on social media show a man covered in flames fleeing a small mob. Maduro said he was being treated. It's not clear what triggered the attack, which is under investigation, although some eyewitnesses told local media that Zaragoza was caught robbing demonstrators who had gathered by the tens of thousands to protest Maduro's rule. "In Venezuela there's rising a counterrevolution of Nazi-fascist influence that that has infected the emotions and thinking of thousands of compatriots, who believe they have the right to pursue others for the simple crime of being Venezuelan or Chavista or revolutionary," Maduro said in his weekly TV program. "This is terrorism." Meanwhile, a retired army general opposed to Maduro denounced what he said are plans by the military in the central state of Lara to deploy snipers to control protests that turn violent. The plans were discussed in a month-old conversation among top generals in the state secretly recorded by one of the participants, according to retired Gen. Cliver Cordones, who on Monday sent a petition to Chief Prosecutor Luisa Ortega asking her to investigate the matter. Cordones, who broke with Maduro more than a year ago, said he obtained the recording and written transcript of the conversation in a pen drive left in an unmarked envelope at his residence. In it, a man identified as Gen. Jose Rafael Torrealba, the top military official in the state, discusses the need to start selecting soldiers with proven psychological and technical strength for use as sharpshooters. The context of the conversation is what the officer says is the increasing use of firearms by protesters to shoot at security forces. "The time will come in which we'll have to deploy them, and I want us to be ready for that moment," the man identified as Torrealba says. "The president won't just stay in his green phase gentlemen," he adds, referring to the first stage of a military plan to control the protests announced last month by Maduro. While some can be heard voicing support for the idea, at least one expresses concern that such plans, if acted on, could land commanding officers in jail. The Associated Press also obtained a copy of the recording from a person in contact with one of the participants. The source demanded anonymity for safety. But the AP was unable to verify its authenticity or the identities of those alleged to have taken part in the conversation. There has also been no response from Torrealba or the military since the recording was first reported last week by the Spanish-language affiliate of the Miami Herald.
News Article | May 26, 2017
Aftermath of attack on buses and truck carrying Coptic Christians in Minya Province, Egypt, May 26, 2017. EGYPT TV via REUTERS MINYA, Egypt (Reuters) - Gunmen attacked a group of Coptic Christians travelling to a monastery in central Egypt on Friday, killing 28 people and wounding 24, with many children among the victims, Health Ministry officials said. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack, which came on the eve of the holy month of Ramadan. It followed a series of church bombings claimed by Islamic State in a campaign of violence against the Copts. Islamic State supporters reposted videos from earlier this year urging violence against the Copts in Egypt. Eyewitnesses said masked men opened fire after stopping the Christians, who were in a bus and other vehicles. Local TV channels showed a bus apparently raked by gunfire and smeared with blood. Clothes and shoes could be seen lying in and around the bus, while the bodies of some of the victims lay in the sand nearby, covered with black sheets. The attack, which Egypt's Muslim leaders condemned, happened 15 km (10 miles) from the monastery, a security official on the scene told Reuters. Ambulance workers, monks and Muslim clerics were also present but declined to speak. Police armed with assault rifles formed a security perimeter and officials from the public prosecutor's office were gathering evidence and fingerprints. Heavily armed special forces arrived later wearing face masks and body armour. The injured were taken to local hospitals and some were being transported to Cairo. One of the vehicles attacked was taking men to carry out maintenance work at the monastery while another had children on board, officials said. Dozens of people gathered at the emergency area of a local hospital. Some carried a wooden coffin to a hearse. The Health Ministry said that among those injured were two children aged two. President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi called a meeting of security officials, the state news agency said, and the cabinet said the attackers would not succeed in dividing the nation. The grand imam of al-Azhar, Egypt's 1,000-year-old centre of Islamic learning, said the attack was intended to destabilise the country. "I call on Egyptians to unite in the face of this brutal terrorism," Ahmed al-Tayeb said from Germany, where he was on a visit. The Grand Mufti of Egypt, Shawki Allam, condemned the perpetrators as traitors. The Coptic church said it had received news of the killing of its "martyrs" with pain and sorrow. The attack took place on a road leading to the monastery of Saint Samuel the Confessor in Minya province, which is home to a sizeable Christian minority. An Interior Ministry spokesman said the unidentified gunmen had arrived in three four-wheel-drive vehicles. Security forces launched a hunt for the attackers, setting up dozens of checkpoints and patrols on the desert road. Coptic Christians, whose church dates back nearly 2,000 years, make up about 10 percent of Egypt's population of 92 million. They say they have long suffered from persecution, but in recent months the frequency of deadly attacks against them has increased. About 70 have been killed since December in bombings claimed by IS at churches in the cities of Cairo, Alexandria and Tanta. An Islamic State campaign of murders in North Sinai prompted hundreds of Christians to flee in February and March. Copts fear they will face the same fate as brethren in Iraq and Syria, where Christian communities have been decimated by wars and Islamic State persecution. Egypt's Copts are vocal supporters of Sisi, who has vowed to crush Islamist extremism and protect Christians. He declared a three-month state of emergency in the aftermath of the church bombings in April. But many Christians feel the state either does not take their plight seriously enough or cannot protect them against determined fanatics. The government is fighting insurgents affiliated to Islamic State who have killed hundreds of police and soldiers in the Sinai peninsula, while also carrying out attacks elsewhere in the country. Ishak Ibrahim of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights said the state of emergency was failing to prevent attacks. "The state is not addressing the root cause, which is the sectarian climate that encourages terrorism," he said. "There are no serious steps being taken to use culture or education to address this."
News Article | May 23, 2017
Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro shows a document with the details of a "constituent assembly" to reform the constitution during a rally at Miraflores Palace in Caracas, Venezuela May 23, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria CARACAS/PUERTO ORDAZ, Venezuela (Reuters) - Venezuela's state prosecutor has panned unpopular President Nicolas Maduro's plan to create a grassroots congress, deepening a rare public split among the ruling Socialists as the death toll from two months of unrest hit 51. Chief State Prosecutor Luisa Ortega stunned the crisis-hit country in March when she lambasted the Supreme Court for annulling the powers of the opposition-led National Assembly. Since then, she has been a wild card within the publicly homogenous Venezuelan government, whose foes accuse it of seeking to dodge elections by creating a parallel assembly with powers to rewrite the constitution. Socialist Party official Elias Jaua, in charge of the "constituent assembly" project, confirmed on Monday that Ortega had written him to express her discontent in a letter that was previously leaked on social media. "It is my imperative to explain the reasons for which I have decided not to participate in this activity," Ortega's two-page missive reads. "Instead of bringing stability or generating a climate of peace, I think this will accelerate the crisis," she said, mentioning it would heighten uncertainty and alter the "unbeatable" constitution launched under late leader Hugo Chavez. Jaua acknowledged receipt of Ortega's letter, but quickly said she was merely expressing a "political opinion," without any power to change the situation. "We consider that the only organ the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela's constitution empowers to interpret the constitution is the Supreme Court's constitutional chamber," he said at a news conference, in reference to the pro-government top court. Venezuelans are scrutinizing Maduro's government and the armed forces for any cracks as protesters take to the streets daily to demand early elections, humanitarian aid to alleviate food and medicine shortages, and freedom for jailed activists. While there are no outward signs of major fissures that would destabilize 18-years of 'Chavista' rule, demonstrators have been cheered by Ortega's public dissent and by some public denunciations of officials by their relatives. While anti-government protests have brought hundreds of thousands to the streets, Venezuelans are increasingly concerned about spates of nighttime looting and barricades popping up in many neighborhoods. Masked youths man roadblocks, turning back traffic or asking motorists for a monetary "collaboration" to be allowed through. The worst nighttime unrest has largely been concentrated outside the capital, however, with the jungle and savannah state of Bolivar hard-hit overnight. Some 51 buses were burned after a group attacked a transport company in the city of Puerto Ordaz, the prosecutor's office said on Monday. Barricades and clashes with the National Guard were also rippling through the city on Monday, according to a Reuters witness. There also was trouble on Monday in Barinas, the rural state where Chavez was born and which is regarded by his supporters as the "cradle of the revolution." Mobs burned the headquarters of the Socialist Party in the state capital, and clashes and looting raged throughout the day, witnesses and authorities said. Several opposition leaders have condemned the violence, but the episodes highlight the risks of protests spinning out of their control amid widespread anger at Maduro, hunger, and easy access to weapons in one of the world's most violence countries. Maduro accuses his opponents of an "armed insurrection," backed by the United States, his ideological foe. His government blames "fascist" protesters for looting and deaths in the unrest since early April. The death toll increased to at least 51 people after a policeman, Jorge Escandon, died after being injured in Carabobo state and three people died in protests in Barinas, the prosecutor's office said on Monday. Hundreds of people also have been injured and more than 2,600 arrested, with about 1,000 still jailed, according to rights groups. On Monday, opposition supporters and doctors in white robes tried to march to the Health Ministry in Caracas to demand access to proper treatment amid major shortages of medicines ranging from painkillers to chemotherapy drugs. "Today, I'm not here as a lawmaker, I'm here marching for my sister who has a cerebral tumor, a tumor that is growing again and producing paralysis, a tumor for which Venezuela used to receive medicine and the injections for this not to happen," said opposition lawmaker Miguel Pizarro. "Today I walk for my brother, who is diabetic, and who, like my mom, can't find medicine," added Pizarro, part of a new generation of opposition leaders who have been at the forefront of protests and often been tear-gassed. In a scene repeated over and over in recent weeks, security forces fired tear gas at demonstrators and clashes erupted with hooded youths who threw rocks.
News Article | May 1, 2017
It’s a fairly common tactic in Peru to issue a significant or potentially controversial decision or resolution when you hope no one is paying attention. 24, 26 or 31 December, for example. The Environment Ministry (MINAM) recently adopted that ploy by releasing, just before the Easter week holiday, proposals to dramatically roll back certain air quality standards across the country. The draft National Environmental Quality Standards for Air propose maintaining the maximum legal limits for nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide, hydrogen sulphide, lead and benzene, but doubling the limit for some particulate matter. Most startling, they propose increasing the limit of sulfur dioxide by more than 12 times. MINAM effectively claims that Peru is the global leader in sulfur dioxide limits because it is the “only country in the world” which meets World Health Organisation (WHO) recommendations. That limit is 20 micrograms per cubic metre over a 24 hour averaging period, compared with 210 in Australia, 250 in Chile and Colombia, 288 in Mexico, 300 in Canada and 365 in Brazil, according to the ministry. Elsewhere in the world - although these are not acknowledged by MINAM - the limit is 150 in China, 125 in the EU, 131 in South Korea and 80 in India. The current proposal is to raise Peru’s limit to 250. One justification is that “no clearly defined link exists” between sulfur dioxide and negative impacts on human health, MINAM claims, according to its interpretation of research by the WHO, the US’s Environmental Protection Agency and Health Canada, among others. Further justifications are that no other country in the world has a limit as stringent as 20 and adopting it was a mistake out of touch with “national reality.” It isn’t being complied with, the ministry argues, and therefore undermines the public’s faith in government and the law. “[The 20 limit] was adopted in a very short timeframe without a solid technical and economic argument and without considering sustainable development policy that involves taking acceptable risks to public health while at the same time introducing effective strategies to reduce environmental contamination,” MINAM states. The ministry’s proposals have met with serious concern and criticism from Peru’s Congressional Commission on the Environment, Ecology and Andean, Amazonian and Afroperuvian Peoples, NGOs, and many others. Lima-based APRODEH and the Interamerican Association for Environmental Defense (AIDA) say that MINAM is ignoring scientific evidence of the “serious health harms” caused by both sulfur dioxide and particulate matter. These include lung problems and premature death - with children, the elderly and people with asthma being particularly vulnerable. “There is overwhelming scientific evidence to conclude that sulfur dioxide pollution poses a serious health risk, particularly when the contamination reaches high levels over short periods of time, something the proposal does not take into account,” says AIDA’s co-director Anna Cederstav in a joint statement with APRODEH. Both organisations argue that MINAM’s proposals violate the American Convention on Human Rights and other international treaties binding on Peru. In addition, the public consultation was “flawed”, they state, with too little time for discussion and the scientific basis for the proposals not made public. That opinion is shared by the Congressional Commission on the Environment, which has written to Environment minister Elsa Galarza requesting a further 30 days for the public consultation process. The Commission is presided by Maria Elena Foronda, who has taken the lead in drawing public attention to the issue. “In the Commission’s view any law that would reduce environmental quality standards requires a responsible and timely technical evaluation, as much by members of congress as civil society,” Foronda says. “It’s appropriate to point out that MINAM is trying to establish parameters that are weaker than those recommended by the WHO.” Other NGOs like Red Muqui and the Sociedad Peruana de Derecho Ambiental (SPDA) have also issued critical statements. SPDA argues that the government is legally prohibited from weakening environmental standards, that MINAM failed to provide sufficient justification for its proposals, and that the WHO, contrary to the ministry’s interpretations of its research, has proved that sulfur dioxide negatively impacts human health. According to Red Muqui, a collective of 29 organisations across Peru, the proposals are “regressive” and ignore WHO recommendations. MINAM failed to coordinate with the Health Ministry, they argue, and the timeframe for public discussion was too short. “Life and health shouldn’t be dependent on economic interests,” Red Muqui states. “[The proposals] fail to consider that particulate matter is very fine and can easily penetrate respiratory tracts and blood, increasing the risk of morbidity and premature death following short- and long-term exposure.” Former high-ranking MINAM personnel are critical too. Ex-Environment minister Manuel Pulgar-Vidal was quoted in El Comercio newspaper saying the proposals would reduce air quality. Mariano Castro, former vice-minister, told the Guardian the proposals are “wrong”, “very risky” for Peruvians’ health, and ignore the “scientific evidence in epidemiological and toxicological studies that show the serious dangers that sulfur dioxide poses for peoples’ health.” So why propose raising the legal limits? According to AIDA, APRODEH and anyone else following the issue, the answer is an infamous poly-metal smelter in a town in Peru’s central Andes, La Oroya, which 10 years ago was named as one of the top 10 most polluted places on earth by the US-based Blacksmith Institute. Formally called the Metallurgical Complex of La Oroya, the smelter has been the property of Doe Run Peru since 1997, and ultimately under the control of the US’s Renco Group. It closed in 2009 and partially re-opened in 2012. Now it is administered by liquidators - and Peru’s sulfur dioxide limits are reported to be scaring off potential investors. This is despite the fact that La Oroya has been exempted from the national 20 limit. In recent years it was raised to 80 and then to 365 for a 14 year period until it is scheduled to revert to 80 again, according to APRODEH’s Christian Huaylinos. He told the Guardian that MINAM’s proposals are “completely connected” to the proposed Doe Run Peru sale. “[In the long-term the limit] continues being 80, which is a very demanding standard that I imagine has discouraged possible bidders for Doe Run Peru, given that it would require serious investment in new technology,” Huaylinos says. “So that’s where the issue of relaxing the standards comes in. Now they would no longer have to adjust from 365 to 80, but 365 to 250.” Tenders have been held for Doe Run Peru as recently as March this year, but no offers were reportedly received. “Now, given the lack of offers, MINAM has put forward a law to relax the limits, the aim of which is to facilitate the next tender round,” Huaylinos told the Guardian. “[This would seriously affect] the rights to health and clean environment of the people living in La Oroya.” The connection between MINAM’s proposals and Doe Run Peru also seems obvious to AIDA’s Victor Quintanilla, who told the Guardian that government representatives have said publicly that modifying environmental standards is part of promoting the smelter’s sale and re-opening. Such representatives include president Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, congressman Moisés Guía Pianto, Environment minister Galarza, and Energy and Mines minister Gonzalo Tamayo. On Friday Gestion newspaper stated that potential bidders for Doe Run Peru have been lobbying for changes to the sulfur dioxide limits - something that the Congressional Commission on the Environment has noted too. Pablo Peschiera, from DIRIGE, the liquidators, reportedly said that the next tenders will be held in July and MINAM’s proposals would save investors huge sums. “Under the previous [current] standards an investment of US$788 million [in the smelter] had been foreseen, and even then there was no guarantee of meeting the 80 standard,” Peschiera was quoted as saying in Gestion. “There was a low probability of complying even after making that investment. Now [if MINAM’s proposals are approved], with the limit being 250, the amount needed to invest will be lower.” Liliana Carhuaz, an Oroya resident and member of the Movimiento por la Salud de La Oroya (MOSAO), told the Guardian she rejects MINAM’s proposals and believes the sulfur dioxide limit should be 20. She said that local people didn’t agree with the suggested changes either, and she cited respiratory problems and lead poisoning as ongoing health impacts. “After so many years of contamination in La Oroya [the ministry’s proposal] to increase the permitted levels is not just,” she says. Last year, just before the end of the previous government, MINAM published a dossier on Doe Run Peru which included six reasons why air quality standards shouldn’t be weakened, although it acknowledged that the contamination in La Oroya was so severe that it would be impossible for the smelter to ever meet any standards, no matter how “flexible.” The dossier cited Health Ministry statistics from 2007 saying that during some hours the sulfur dioxide levels reached 28,300 and average daily emissions were over 2,000 - which MINAM alleged was one of the reasons why Doe Run Peru hadn’t yet been sold. “It’s clear that with daily emissions and yearly averages such as these, La Oroya, if its copper circuit is working, wouldn’t even comply with the most flexible environmental standards in the world,” stated the dossier, dated July 2016. In comments sent by AIDA and APRODEH to MINAM as part of the public consultation, they noted that the proposed 250 limit would permit severe short-term spikes in contamination. “With the new proposed daily average (250 micrograms per cubic metre), it would be possible to have every day a period of two hours of contamination at a level of 1,500 and another five hours of contamination at 500 without exceeding it,” the two organisations stated. “However, it is known that these levels of contamination are severely dangerous to human health.” Mariano Castro believes that this is a key weakness of MINAM’s proposals: there are no limits for short periods of time - just one hour or three hours - which would prohibit severe peaks in contamination. In Colombia, he says, the limit for 24 hours is 250, as proposed for Peru, but crucially there is also a limit for three hours set at 750. “Without this  limit on short-term peaks, you could get up to levels around 2,000 for several hours over a 24 hour period and never exceed the daily limit,” Castro told the Guardian. “The dangers to human health and the environment would be irreversible. Under no condition should an increase in the 24 hour limit be permitted if an appropriate limit for just one hour is not established, as in other countries.” Fernando Serrano, a scientist at Saint Louis University in the US who has conducted research in La Oroya and testified before US Congress about it, agrees with Castro. “The proposed new air standards for sulfur dioxide don’t include a hourly standard and therefore don’t hold the smelter responsible for the hourly peaks that are far greater than anything that is acceptable,” he says. “The most effective way to protect people’s health and environmental quality is to reduce smelter emissions through technical measures and to enact and enforce air quality standards and other regulations that prevent health and environmental risks.” Serrano describes the La Oroya smelter as for years “serving a toxic cocktail of metals” including lead, cadmium, arsenic and air pollutants like sulfur dioxide. “This mix of contaminants has gravely affected the health of the people of La Oroya and surrounding areas,” he told the Guardian. “The only time people enjoyed a cleaner and safer environment - low sulfur dioxide levels, decreasing blood lead levels - is when the smelter closed, which shows that it is the primary source of contamination.” The appalling health impacts of the smelter on La Oroya’s inhabitants have been reported for many years, with the government concluding almost two decades ago that more than 99% of children living nearby suffered from lead poisoning. A series of legal actions have been taken against the Health Ministry in Peru, against the Peruvian state at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, and against Doe Run in the US. Peru’s Congressional Commission on the Environment is scheduled to discuss MINAM’s proposals tomorrow, 2 May, and has requested Environment minister Galarza to attend. MINAM did not respond to questions.
News Article | May 8, 2017
"Our goal is to develop breakthrough technologies that improve people's lives, and we thank the HAS and the French Health Ministry for recognizing the great benefit FreeStyle Libre has and for ensuring that people in France have wide access to this innovation," said Jared Watkin, senior vice president, Diabetes Care, Abbott. "We share a common goal—to make the best technology available to people with diabetes so that they have access to the information that they need to live healthier lives." The FreeStyle Libre system eliminates the challenges of routine finger sticking1 for people with diabetes. With the data from the device, they can have a better understanding of their glucose levels through the Ambulatory Glucose Profile (AGP), a chart generated by the software that provides a visual snapshot of glucose levels, trends and patterns over time. It also provides doctors with deeper insights to make more informed treatment decisions. "People with diabetes find finger sticking painful and cumbersome so they often don't test as frequently as they should," said Hélène Hanaire, M.D., University Hospital Center of Toulouse, Toulouse, France. "Having easier access to technology like FreeStyle Libre is going to increase freedom for individual patients on a larger scale, and ultimately change how they—and we—manage diabetes going forward." Abbott's FreeStyle Libre system was introduced across Europe in 2014, and is now available in more than 30 countries and used by more than 300,0004 people with diabetes around the world. Two published clinical trials5 and real-world evidence from more than 50,000 users6 show that people who use FreeStyle Libre system test their glucose levels an average of at least 15 times per day. The studies show that people who scan more frequently spend less time in hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) or hyperglycemia (high blood sugar) while having improved average glucose levels, demonstrating improved glucose control overall. About the FreeStyle Libre System Abbott's FreeStyle Libre system is designed to change how people with diabetes measure their glucose levels and ultimately help them achieve better health outcomes. The system reads glucose levels through a sensor that can be worn on the back of the upper arm for up to 14 days, eliminating the need for routine finger sticks1. In addition, no finger stick calibration is needed—a key differentiator from current continuous glucose monitoring systems. In the U.S., the FreeStyle Libre system is currently under review by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration7. About Abbott At Abbott, we're committed to helping people live their best possible life through the power of health. For more than 125 years, we've brought new products and technologies to the world -- in nutrition, diagnostics, medical devices and branded generic pharmaceuticals -- that create more possibilities for more people at all stages of life. Today, 94,000 of us are working to help people live not just longer, but better, in the more than 150 countries we serve. Connect with us at www.abbott.com, on Facebook at www.facebook.com/Abbott and on Twitter @FreeStyleDiabet, @AbbottNews and @AbbottGlobal. 1 A fingerstick test using a glucometer is required during times of rapidly changing glucose levels when interstitial fluid glucose levels may not accurately reflect blood glucose levels; or if hypoglycemia or impending hypoglycemia is reported by the system; or when symptoms do not match the system readings 2 Data on file, Abbott Diabetes Care, Inc. 3 A caregiver at least 18 years old is responsible for supervising, managing, and assisting the child or young person ages 4-17 years old in using the FreeStyle Libre system and interpreting its readings 4 Data on file, Abbott Diabetes Care, Inc. 5 Bolinder J, Antuna R, Geelhoed-Duijvestijn P, Kroger J, Weitgasser R. Novel glucose-sensing technology and hypoglycaemia in type 1 diabetes: a multicentre, non-masked, randomised controlled trial [published online September 12, 2016]. Lancet. 2016 6 Data on file. Dunn T, Xu Y, Hayter G; Evidence of a Strong Association Between Frequency of Flash Glucose Monitoring and Glucose Control Measures During Real-World Usage 7 Pending FDA approval. Not available for sale in the United States To view the original version on PR Newswire, visit:http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/abbott-announces-national-reimbursement-for-freestyle-libre-in-france-providing-access-to-revolutionary-technology-for-people-with-diabetes-300452755.html
News Article | May 4, 2017
NEW YORK, NY--(Marketwired - May 4, 2017) - iBio, Inc. ( : IBIO), a leader in developing plant-based biopharmaceuticals, announced today that it provided a corporate update at its Annual Shareholders Meeting held in Bryan, TX. Robert B. Kay, iBio's Chairman and CEO, stated, "Our achievements over the past year have transformed iBio's business. In this period, we completed the acquisition, recommissioning and expansion of our Texas plant and equipment for development and cGMP biopharmaceutical manufacturing. This enables advancement of our lead proprietary therapeutic candidate for fibrotic diseases toward human clinical trials. It also enables us to operate the facility as a contract development and manufacturing organization (CDMO), constituting a separate line of revenues for the Company. The CDMO is capable of using our proprietary technology to move projects from feasibility confirmation, through development, clinical trial support, and full-scale manufacture, for our collaborators and biotech clients." Barry Holtz, PhD, President of iBio CMO LLC, reviewed the Company's recommissioning and expansion of its pilot and large-scale manufacturing facility. Dr. Holtz reported, "We are now capable of operating under cGMP compliance and moving biopharmaceutical product candidates toward full-scale engineering batches to support clinical development activities. We completed construction of a new product/process development laboratory that tripled our capacity to provide proteins to current and potential clients who engage iBio CMO in early stage feasibility studies." iBio's pilot scale plant production capacity has been doubled. All large-scale automated systems have been commissioned or recommissioned, and new staff members have been added to fill out the CDMO team. Multiple new proteins are under development for several clients. Terry Ryan, PhD, iBio's Chief Scientific Officer, outlined the progress made during the year on IBIO-CFB03, the Company's lead proprietary therapeutic candidate for fibrotic diseases. Dr. Ryan remarked, "We are working steadily towards filing an IND for IBIO-CFB03, and are encouraged by our progress. During this year, we obtained Orphan Drug Designation from the FDA. We also achieved key development milestones with regard to the Company's lead candidate CFB03, including: Robert Erwin, iBio's President, discussed recent business strategy developments and provided the following update on client commitments for use of the Company's technology and CDMO services: Bio-Manguinhos, the unit of the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation (Fiocruz) in Brazil responsible for the development and production of vaccines, reagents and biopharmaceuticals suitable to meet the demands of public health and linked to the Health Ministry of Brazil, is extending and broadening its commitment to work with iBio. iBio and Bio-Manguinhos/Fiocruz have agreed in principle to enter into a collaborative relationship for the mutual development of certain products and facilities utilizing iBio and Bio-Manguinhos/Fiocruz intellectual property and services, and are working together to develop formal agreements to govern their relationship. The first such agreement is planned to be a Master Services Agreement to provide a general infrastructure for the overall relationship between iBio and Bio-Manguinhos/Fiocruz. The separate product and facilities projects will be described in detailed addenda to be attached to and governed by the Master Services Agreement. The first project is expected to address development of a new Yellow Fever Vaccine based upon iBio's recombinant, plant-based technologies. A prior agreement governing early-stage, pre-clinical work expired in March 2017. Bio-Manguinhos/Fiocruz and iBio intend to collaborate on further development of the antigen, production of vaccine material for clinical trials, supervision of execution of Phase I clinical trials in the United States and further activities based upon the results of such trials. The need for a new Yellow Fever vaccine is accentuated by the current outbreak of Yellow Fever that has killed at least 240 people in Brazil in recent months, according to the Brazilian Health Ministry. The disease has already spread to Brazil's most populous states: Minas Gerais, Rio de Janeiro, and Sao Paulo, and U.S. infectious disease specialists have expressed concern that the virus might "jump the Panama Canal" and also reach Puerto Rico and the continental United States. Meanwhile, the CDC warned of a shortage of the current Yellow Fever vaccine in the United States because of recent manufacturing problems. Other joint project plans include the development of a bio-better monoclonal antibody product aimed principally for the Brazilian market, and the design and implementation of a Brazil-based manufacturing facility owned by Bio-Manguinhos/Fiocruz, in both cases utilizing iBio intellectual property in addition to Bio-Manguinhos/Fiocruz intellectual property. The planned activities can become legally binding on iBio and Bio-Manguinhos/Fiocruz only after detailed definitive agreements have been executed by the parties. AzarGen Biotechnologies (Pty) Ltd, has expanded its collaboration with iBio under a newly agreed Memorandum of Understanding. Based in South Africa, AzarGen is a biotechnology company focused on developing human therapeutic proteins using advanced genetic engineering and synthetic biology techniques in plants. iBio and AzarGen will continue development of AzarGen's surfactant protein therapeutic and initiate development of a "bio-better" version of a therapeutic monoclonal antibody therapeutic product for the South African market. Mr. Erwin noted, "Projects are underway for several additional clients based on iBio's ability to rapidly achieve early production of multiple product variants and save time on the execution of preclinical product down-selection processes. These clients and their product candidates are currently confidential, but include several antibody candidates and growth factor proteins. We expect current work on some or all of these product candidates to lead to expanded opportunities for both commercial license agreements and significantly higher service-based revenue." iBio, a leader in developing plant-based biopharmaceuticals, provides a range of product and process development, analytical, and manufacturing services at the large-scale development and manufacturing facility of its subsidiary iBio CMO LLC in Bryan, Texas. The facility houses laboratory and pilot-scale operations, as well as large-scale automated hydroponic systems capable of growing over four million plants as "in process inventory" and delivering over 300 kilograms of therapeutic protein pharmaceutical active ingredient per year. Facility capacity can be doubled by adding additional plant growth equipment in a space already reserved for that purpose. iBio applies its technology for the benefit of its clients and the advancement of its own product interests. The Company's pipeline is comprised of proprietary candidates for the treatment of a range of fibrotic diseases including idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, systemic sclerosis, and scleroderma. IBIO-CFB03, based on the Company's proprietary gene expression technology, is the Company's lead therapeutic candidate being advanced for IND development. Further information is available at: www.ibioinc.com STATEMENTS INCLUDED IN THIS NEWS RELEASE RELATED TO IBIO, INC. MAY CONSTITUTE FORWARD-LOOKING STATEMENTS WITHIN THE MEANING OF THE PRIVATE SECURITIES LITIGATION REFORM ACT OF 1995. SUCH STATEMENTS INVOLVE A NUMBER OF RISKS AND UNCERTAINTIES SUCH AS COMPETITIVE FACTORS, TECHNOLOGICAL DEVELOPMENT, MARKET DEMAND, AND THE COMPANY'S ABILITY TO OBTAIN NEW CONTRACTS AND ACCURATELY ESTIMATE NET REVENUES DUE TO VARIABILITY IN SIZE, SCOPE AND DURATION OF PROJECTS. FURTHER INFORMATION ON POTENTIAL RISK FACTORS THAT COULD AFFECT THE COMPANY'S FINANCIAL RESULTS CAN BE FOUND IN THE COMPANY'S REPORTS FILED WITH THE SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION.
News Article | February 15, 2017
Burnt beyond recognition from an accident at home with gasoline, clinging for life in a hospital at age 9, John O’Leary’s mother asked him if he wanted to live or die. O’Leary remembers thinking only how much trouble he was going to get in with his dad. “The only other thing I was thinking was. ‘Do I have the strength to take the next step in my journey?" says O’Leary, now married, a best-selling author and inspirational speaker. O’Leary is also the keynote speaker for the 2017 Refresh Your Soul Conference, presented annually by the Parish Health Ministry of Episcopal Retirement Services (ERS), an event expanding in exponential fashion next year with a two-day symposium in partnership with Xavier University. To be held at The Cintas Center March 13 and 14, the 2017 Refresh Your Soul Conference, the primary fundraising vehicle for Parish Health Ministry, promises to be as insightful, thought-provoking, informative and fun as ever. A longtime service of ERS, Parish Health Ministry serves as the ecumenical outreach between ERS (http://www.episcopalretirement.com) and 70+ churches across Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana. Mr. O’Leary will be sharing his inspirational life story and buoyant messages to a crowd of caregivers and health care professionals seeking to understand more about life-changing conditions such as Alzheimer’s and dementia. He will be joined by renowned industry speakers Loretta Anne Woodward Snow and Teepa Snow; Ms. Snow spoke last year. “Alzheimer’s & Dementia: Overcoming the Struggles and Living Inspired” is the theme; day two is the annual Xavier Dementia Care Summit. Tickets are on sale for a $59 early-bird price good until Feb. 22, 2017, after which the fee is $69. Contact Hours are available for continuing education and professional accreditation purposes (RN/LPN, Social Worker, Nursing Home Administrator, etc.) Ms. Veney is an author and well-known speaker who has motivated, taught and trained audiences throughout the U.S. and Europe. She is the founder and principal consultant of Superior Training Solutions, LLC. She has delivered numerous presentations on dementia and elder care planning for the Alzheimer’s Association, support groups, and memory care communities. She chronicles her nine-year journey with her Mom’s dementia as their parent/child roles have reversed in her book, "Being My Mom's Mom - A Journey through Dementia from a Daughter's Perspective." Their journey has been faithful, funny, heartbreaking and hopeful. Teepa Snow is one of America’s leading educators on dementia. Working as a Registered Occupational Therapist for more than 30 years, her experience has led her to develop Positive Approach™ to Care techniques used by families and professionals working or living with dementia throughout the world. She has an independent practice as well as clinical appointments with Duke University and University of North Carolina Chapel Hill. She is an enlightening, witty, entertaining, and energetic speaker. Registration, exhibitors and continental breakfast starts at 8 a.m. Luncheon presentations will be offered by Mr. O’Leary and Ms. Veney, entitled “ON FIRE: The 7 Choices to Ignite a Radically Inspired Life” and “Lifting the Spirit of Caregivers,” respectively. For tickets, registration and additional information, please visit: http://www.episcopalretirement.com/parish-health-ministry/refresh-your-soul-conference. To help meet the long-term goal of Parish Health Ministry becoming self-supporting, this event is the primary fundraiser for the ministry. One hundred percent of the proceeds from this conference will benefit ERS Parish Health Ministry. Parish Health Ministry, a program of Episcopal Retirement Services (ERS), assists congregations of all denominations throughout Cincinnati, Columbus, Dayton and Southeastern Ohio develop or enhance their own faith community nurse/health ministry. The ministry was founded in 1998 and currently serves 70 congregations across southern Ohio. Since 1951, ERS has dedicated itself to improving the lives of older adults through innovative, quality living environments and in-home and community-based services delivered by experienced and compassionate professionals.
News Article | February 28, 2017
RAFAH, Gaza Strip (AP) — Israel carried out a series of airstrikes on militant sites across the Gaza Strip on Monday, wounding at least four people, officials said, following a rocket attack on southern Israel that caused no casualties. Explosions could be heard and smoke rose into the air in the southern town of Rafah, on the Gaza-Egypt border. "The Israeli entity bears full responsibility for the continuation of this dangerous escalation against Gaza. Continuing the targeting of the resistance sites and other properties and structures to deliberately blow up the situation is unacceptable," said Fawzi Barhoum, spokesman for the ruling Hamas militant group. The Israeli military said it had targeted five Hamas positions throughout Gaza in response to the earlier rocket strike. The Israeli military "holds Hamas accountable for any attacks from the Gaza Strip that jeopardize the safety of Israelis and breach Israel's sovereignty," said Lt. Col. Peter Lerner, a military spokesman. Hamas security forces blocked journalists from approaching one of the targets in Rafah, suggesting a sensitive installation had been hit. The local Health Ministry said four people were slightly or moderately wounded. Local media said training bases used by the ruling Hamas militant group, as well as the smaller Islamic Jihad militant group, were also struck in central and northern Gaza. Earlier Monday, a rocket was fired from Gaza into Israel, landing in an empty field. There were no reports of injuries. Since a 50-day war between Israel and Gaza militants in the summer of 2014, a cease-fire has largely held. But militants in Gaza occasionally fire rockets at Israel's south. Israel typically responds to any rocket fire from Gaza. Although most rocket fire since the war has come from smaller rivals of Hamas, Israel holds the Islamic militant group, which has controlled Gaza for a decade, responsible for all attacks emanating from the territory. There was no immediate claim of responsibility in Gaza for the rocket. A Jihadist group that supports the Islamic State group has taken responsibility for similar attacks in the past.