Archive for the ‘France’ Category

cross

A quartet of former Seventh Day Adventist Church members went on trial in France this week for nearly killing a 19-year-old girl they tied up during a crucifixion-like exorcism.

Three men — including the teen’s boyfriend, Eric Deron — and a woman allegedly bound the girl to a mattress and hung her in the position of Christ on the cross when they believed she was possessed by the devil in 2011, the Agence France-Presse reported.

Police found the girl, identified only as Antoinette, in the Grigny housing estate just south of Paris after she had been tortured for seven days. Officials said the girl was emaciated, dehydrated and showed signs of being beaten, the AFP reported.

The teen told investigators that the four religious fanatics had kept her alive by feeding her small amounts of oil and water.

Prosecutors said Deron, who had delusions of being a prophet, had instigated the disturbing act as part of a divine mission.

But all four, who are of French Caribbean origin, claim the girl consented to the exorcism after she allegedly pounced on her former boyfriend while babbling incoherently.

“To them, she was possessed. That is why they did not call a doctor,” their lawyer, Jacque Bourdais, told the AFP. “You call a doctor when someone is sick. When someone is possessed, you exorcise them.”

Antoinette met Deron and the three others through the Seventh Day Adventist Church about three years before the alleged attack.

The Protestant church, based in the United States and boasts 17 million followers throughout the world on their website, said they expelled the people involved a year before the exorcism — which they claimed could not be justified by any of their teachings.

Deron and the three others face a litany of charges that include kidnapping, acts of torture and barbarism.

Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/news/world/teenage-girl-allegedly-bound-mattress-crucifixion-like-exorcism-france-article-1.1480610#ixzz2iBfwDoXb

MERS-CoV

Saudi Arabia reported today that five more people have been infected with the Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV), as if to underline yesterday’s warning from the head of the World Health Organization (WHO) that the novel virus is a global threat.

In a brief statement, the Saudi Ministry of Health (MOH) said, “Within the framework of the epidemiological surveillance of the novel Coronavirus (MERS-CoV), the Ministry of Health (MOH) has announced that five novel Coronavirus cases have been recorded among citizens in the Eastern Region, ranging in age from 73 to 85 years, but they have all chronic diseases.”

Also, two more deaths from MERS have been reported in the past few days. Yesterday Agence France Presse (AFP) reported the death of France’s first MERS-CoV patient, a 65-year-old man whose illness was first reported on May 8. And on May 26 the Saudi MOH announced the death of an 81-year-old woman.

With today’s Saudi announcement, the unofficial global case count has reached 49; the death toll stands at 24, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Unofficially, Saudi Arabia has had 37 cases, with 18 deaths.

WHO concern
Deep concern about MERS-CoV was expressed yesterday by WHO Director-General Margaret Chan, MD, MPH, as she closed the annual World Health Assembly (WHA), the WHO’s policy-making body.

“Looking at the overall global situation, my greatest concern right now is the novel coronavirus,” she said as quoted in a WHO press release. “We understand too little about this virus when viewed against the magnitude of its potential threat. Any new disease that is emerging faster than our understanding is never under control.

“These are alarm bells and we must respond. The novel coronavirus is not a problem that any single affected country can keep to itself or manage all by itself. The novel coronavirus is a threat to the entire world.”

The WHO plans to send a second team to Saudi Arabia in coming weeks to help investigate the mysterious virus, according to a May 25 Arab News story that quoted Chan. The source of the pathogen remains unknown, but several case clusters have shown that it can spread between people in close contact.

“Without that proper risk assessment, we cannot have clarity on the incubation period, on the signs and symptoms of the disease, on the proper clinical management and then, last but not least, on travel advice,” Chan told Arab News.

The WHO, which sent a group of experts to Saudi Arabia earlier this month, will provide a fresh risk assessment ahead of this year’s Haj pilgrimage, which will take place in October, the story said.

Details on deaths
Concerning the five new cases, the Saudi MOH left many questions unanswered, including whether the patients are part of a hospital-centered outbreak of MERS-CoV that began in April in the Al-Ahsa region of Eastern province. The cluster has been reported to include 22 cases with 10 deaths. The statement gave no information on the patients’ conditions, gender, where they live, or how long they have been sick.

The French patient who died became ill on Apr 23, six days after he returned home from a vacation in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Another person contracted the virus after sharing a hospital room with him from Apr 27 to 29.

The 81-year-old Saudi woman who died was among the previously announced cases in Al-Ahsa governorate, the Saudi MOH said in a May 26 statement. It said she was suffering from chronic kidney failure and other chronic diseases.

Her case appears to be the one announced by the WHO on May 18. That announcement said the 81-year-old’s illness was the 22nd case in the hospital-centered cluster in Al-Ahsa.

The May 26 MOH statement also said that nine other case-patients have recovered and been discharged from hospitals since the first MERS-CoV in Saudi Arabia, which occurred in June 2012.

MERS-CoV designation

In other developments, the WHO announced today that it is accepting the name MERS-CoV for the novel virus, despite a general aversion to geographic references in the names of newly discovered viruses.

“Given the experience in previous international public health events, WHO generally prefers that virus names do not refer to the region or place of the initial detection of the virus,” the agency said in a statement. “This approach aims at minimizing unnecessary geographical discrimination that could be based on coincidental detection rather than on the true area of emergence of a virus.”

The name was proposed by the Coronavirus Study Group of the International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses, the WHO noted. The statement said the term emerged from consultations with a large group of scientists and represents an acceptable consensus

Patent issues
Also today, a story in BMJ offered more details on intellectual property issues related to MERS-CoV. Albert Osterhaus, DVM, PhD, head of viriology at Erasmus Medical Center in the Netherlands, told the journal that Erasmus has applied for patents on MERS-CoV genetic sequences and on possible related products such as diagnostics and vaccines.

Erasmus scientists were the first to analyze the virus and identify it as novel last year, after an Egyptian physician working in Saudi Arabia sent them a sample. Last week Chan and Saudi officials complained that restrictions imposed by Erasmus on use of MERS-CoV samples that it has supplied to other labs were impeding the investigation of the outbreak.

Erasmus officials have rejected the criticism and said they have supplied samples to all labs that want to use it for public health research and are equipped to handle if safely. But Osterhaus told BMJ, “We have patent applications submitted and that is on the sequences and the possibilities to eventually make diagnostics, vaccines, antivirals, and the like. It’s quite a normal thing if you find something new to patent it.”

He added that Erasmus has not made a deal with any company yet, because it’s too early. “At the end of the day, if you want something to happen for the benefit of public health—including making a vaccine, antivirals, whatever—you need to have at least some intellectual property. Otherwise the companies will not be interested,” he said.

http://www.cidrap.umn.edu/cidrap/content/other/sars/news/may2813corona.html

sn-hyrax

When it comes to peering into Africa’s climate past, the ancient homes of hyraxes are number one. Paleoclimatologists typically dig up muddy core samples and analyze their pollen content for clues to long-ago weather, but parts of southern and central Africa are too dry to preserve such evidence. Enter the rock hyrax (Procavia capensis) (inset), a furry mammal that looks like a large groundhog but is actually a distant cousin of the elephant. Brian Chase, a geographical scientist at the University of Montpellier in France, turned to urine accretions left by the animals thousands of years ago; hyrax colonies use the same rock shelters for generation after generation, depositing pollen, calcium remnants, charcoal particles, stable isotopes, and other detritus in their urine (black splotches on rock in main image). Most climate models predict arid conditions in southern Africa 12,000 years ago, but the pollen content of hyrax urine from that period indicates that they ate grasses, which flourish in wetter conditions Chase, who reported his findings here today at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (which publishes ScienceNOW), believes his method can be used to give researchers a wealth of data to improve their models of Africa’s paleohistory. “You can turn a 2-meter pile of pee into a very nice section which you can bring back to the lab,” he told the audience. “These are very high-resolution records.”

http://news.sciencemag.org/sciencenow/2013/02/scienceshot-ancient-pee-provides.html?ref=hp

Thanks to Dr. Rajadhyaksha for bringing this to the attention of the It’s Intereting community.

dn23276-1_300
A drug-free life beckons for some people with HIV

Two weeks after the revelation that a baby has been “cured” of HIV, reports suggest that a similar treatment can cure some adults too. Early treatment seems crucial, but does not guarantee success.

Asier Sáez-Cirión of the Pasteur Institute’s unit for regulation of retroviral infections in Paris analysed 70 people with HIV who had been treated with antiretroviral drugs (ARVs) between 35 days and 10 weeks after infection – much sooner than people are normally treated.

All of the participants’ drug regimes had been interrupted for one reason or another. For example, some people had made a personal choice to stop taking the drugs, others had been part of a trial of different drug protocols.

Most of the 70 people relapsed when their treatment was interrupted, with the virus rebounding rapidly to pre-treatment levels. But 14 of them – four women and 10 men – were able to stay off of ARVs without relapsing, having taken the drugs for an average of three years.

The 14 adults still have traces of HIV in their blood, but at such low levels that their body can naturally keep it in check without drugs.

On average, the 14 adults have been off medication for seven years. One has gone 10-and-a-half years without drugs. “It’s not eradication, but they can clearly live without pills for a very long period of time,” says Sáez-Cirión.

Last week, a baby was reported to have been “functionally cured” of HIV after receiving a three-drug regime of ARVs almost immediately after birth. Sáez-Cirión warns that rapid treatment doesn’t work for everyone, but the new study reinforces the conclusion that early intervention is important.

“There are three benefits to early treatment,” says Sáez-Cirión. “It limits the reservoir of HIV that can persist, limits the diversity of the virus and preserves the immune response to the virus that keeps it in check.”

Further analysis confirmed that the 14 adults were not “super-controllers” – the 1 per cent of the population that are naturally resistant to HIV – since they lack the necessary protective genes. Also, natural controllers rapidly suppress their infections, whereas these 14 mostly had severe symptoms which led to their early treatment. “Paradoxically, doing badly helped them do better later,” says Sáez-Cirión.

The researchers are trying to identify additional factors that could explain why early intervention only works on some people, hopefully extending the scope for more functional cures.

“This whole area is fascinating, and we’ve been looking very closely at issues of early initiation of treatment, and the potential for functional cures,” says Andrew Ball, senior adviser on HIV/AIDS strategy at the World Health Organization in Geneva.

“The big challenge is identifying people very early in their infection,” says Ball, adding that many people resist testing because of the stigma and potential discrimination. “There’s a good rationale for being tested early, and the latest results may give some encouragement to do that,” he says.

Journal reference: PLoS Pathogens, DOI: 10.1371/journal.ppat.1003211

http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn23276-more-hiv-cured-first-a-baby-now-14-adults.html

France’s annual agricultural fair has been in full swing in Paris this week: a chance for farmers from across the country to show off their wares, and for city-dwellers to come and gawk.

One of the big crowd-pullers every year is the national pig-noise contest, where people compete to produce the most convincing grunts and squeals.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-21624696

new-micro-continent-found-near-mauritius_64654_600x450

Evidence of a drowned “microcontinent” has been found in sand grains from the beaches of a small Indian Ocean island, scientists say.

A well-known tourist destination, Mauritius (map) is located about 1,200 miles (2,000 kilometers) off the coast of Africa, east of Madagascar. Scientists think the tiny island formed some nine million years ago from cooling lava spewed by undersea volcanoes.

But recently, researchers have found sand grains on Mauritius that contain fragments of the mineral zircon that are far older than the island, between 660 million and about 2 billion years old.

In a new study, detailed in the current issue of the journal Nature Geoscience, scientists concluded that the older minerals once belonged to a now vanished landmass, tiny bits of which were dragged up to the surface during the formation of Mauritius.

“When lavas moved through continental material on the way towards the surface, they picked up a few rocks containing zircon,” study co-author Bjørn Jamtveit, a geologist at the University of Oslo in Norway, explained in an email.

Most of these rocks probably disintegrated and melted due to the high temperatures of the lavas, but some grains of zircons survived and were frozen into the lavas [during the eruption] and rolled down to form rocks on the Mauritian surface.”

Jamtveit and his colleagues estimate that the lost microcontinent, which they have dubbed Mauritia, was about a quarter of the size of Madagascar.

Furthermore, based on a recalculation of how the ancient continents drifted apart, the scientists concluded that Mauritia was once a tiny part of a much larger “supercontinent” that included India and Madagascar, called Rodinia.

The three landmasses “were tucked together in one big continent prior to the formation of the Indian Ocean,” Jamtveit said.

But like a prehistoric Atlantis, Mauritia was eventually drowned beneath the waves when India broke apart from Madagascar about 85 million years ago.

Scientists have long suspected that volcanic islands might contain evidence of lost continents, and Jamtveit and his team decided to test this hypothesis during a layover in Mauritius as part of a longer research trip in 1999.
The stop in tropical Mauritius “was a very tempting thing to do for a Norwegian in the cold month of January,” Jamtveit said.

Mauritius was a good test site because it was a relatively young island and, being formed from ocean lava, would not naturally contain zircon, a tough mineral that doesn’t weather easily.

If zircon older than nine million years was found on Mauritius, it would be good evidence of the presence of buried continental material, Jamtveit explained.

At first, the scientists crushed rocks from Mauritius to extract the zircon crystals, but this proved difficult because the crushing equipment contained zircon from other sites, raising the issue of contamination.

“That was a show stopper for a while,” Jamtveit said.

A few years later, however, some members of the team returned to Mauritius and this time brought back sand from two different beaches for sampling.

The scientists extracted 20 zircon samples and successfully dated 8 of them by calculating the rate that the elements uranium and thorium inside of the samples slowly break down into lead.

“They all provided much older ages than the age of the Mauritius lavas,” Jamtveit said. “In fact they gave ages consistent with the ages of known continental rocks in Madagascar, Seychelles, and India.”

Jérôme Dyment, a geologist at the Paris Institute of Earth Physics in France, said he’s unconvinced by the work because it’s possible that the ancient zircons found their way to the island by other means, for example as part of ship ballast or modern construction material.

“Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, which are not given by the authors so far,” said Dyment, who did not participate in the research.

“Finding zircons in sand is one thing, finding them within a rock is another one … Finding the enclave of deep rocks that, according to the author’s inference, bring them to the surface during an eruption would be much more convincing evidence.”

Dyment added that if Mauritia was real, evidence for its existence should be found as part of a joint French and German experiment that installed deep-sea seismometers to investigate Earth’s mantle around Réunion Island, which is situated about 120 miles (200 kilometers) from Mauritius.

“If a microcontinent lies under Réunion, it should be depicted by this experiment,” said Dyment, who is part of the project, dubbed RHUM-RUM.

But Conall Mac Niocaill, a geologist at the University of Oxford in the U.K. who was also not involved in the study, said “the lines of evidence are, individually, only suggestive, but collectively they add up to a compelling story.”
The zircons “produce a range of ages, but all yield ages older than 660 million years, and one is almost 2 billion years old,” he added.

“There is no obvious source for them in Mauritius, and they are unlikely to have been blown in by the wind, or carried in by human activity, so the obvious conclusion is that the young volcanic lava sampled some older material on their way through the crust.”

Based on the new findings, Mac Niocaill and others think other vanished microcontinents could be lurking beneath the Indian Ocean.

In fact, analyses of Earth’s gravitational field have revealed other areas in the world’s oceans where the rock appears to be thicker than normal and could be a sign of continental crusts.

“We know more about the topography of Mars than we do about the [topography] of the world’s ocean floor, so there may well be other dismembered continents out there waiting to be discovered.”

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2013/02/130225-microcontinent-earth-mauritius-geology-science/

snow-rabbitNeanderthals1

Neanderthals became extinct as they were unable to adapt their hunting skills to catch small animals like rabbits, a new study has claimed.

For the study, John Fa of Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust in Trinity, Jersey, and his colleagues counted skeletons of animals that were found in three excavation sites in Spain and southern France.

The team found that up until 30,000 years ago, the skeletons of larger animals like deer were plentiful in caves.

But around the same time, coinciding with Neanderthals’ disappearance, rabbit skeletons became more abundant.

The team postulated that humans succeeded far more at switching to capturing and eating rabbits than Neanderthals, New Scientist reported.

Fa said that it is still not clear as to why Neanderthals had trouble changing their prey.

He said that maybe the Neanderthals may have been less able to cooperate and rather than using spears, early humans probably surrounded a warren and flushed out rabbits with fire, smoke or dogs.

http://www.phenomenica.com/2013/03/inability-to-catch-rabbits-may-have-led-to-demise-of-neanderthals.html