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News You Need To Know

China Genetically Modifying Cows To Produce Human Breast Milk

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BEIJING - Chinese scientists have genetically modified dairy cows to produce human breast milk, and hope to be selling it in supermarkets within three years.

The milk produced by the transgenic cows is identical to the human variety, with the same immune-boosting and antibacterial qualities as breast milk, scientists at China's Agricultural University in Beijing said.

The transgenic herd of 300 was bred by inserting human genes into cloned cow embryos which were then implanted into surrogate cows. The technology used was similar to that used to produce Dolly the sheep, the first mammal to be cloned by scientists, in Scotland.

The milk is still undergoing safety tests, but with government permission it will be sold to consumers as a more nutritious dairy drink than cow's milk.

Workers at the university's dairy farm have already tasted the milk -- and said it is sweeter and stronger than the bovine variety, according to Sky News .

"It's good," said worker Jiang Yao. "It's better for you because it's genetically modified."

The scientists have also produced animals that are resistant to mad cow disease, as well as beef cattle that are genetically modified to produce more nutritious meat.

The director of the research project, Professor Li Ning, said Western concerns about the ethics of genetic modification are misplaced.

"There are 1.5 billion people in the world who don't get enough to eat," he said. "It's our duty to develop science and technology, not to hold it back. We need to feed people first, before we consider ideals and convictions.

Published : Wednesday, 08 Jun 2011, 7:54 AM EDT




Sprouts not apparently cause of E.coli outbreak

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BERLIN (AP) -- German officials say initial tests show that sprouts from an organic farm in the country's north are not the cause of the E. coli outbreak.

Lower-Saxony state's agriculture ministry said Monday that 23 of 40 samples from the sprout farm suspected of being behind the outbreak have tested negative for the relevant bacteria.

It said further tests are pending.

The E. coli outbreak in Germany has killed at least 22 people and sickened more than 2,300 across Europe, leaving customers uneasy about eating raw vegetables.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

BERLIN (AP) -- Official test results Monday are likely to show that sprouts from an organic farm in northern Germany caused the E. coli outbreak that has killed 22 people, sickened more than 2,200 and left Europeans across the continent uneasy about eating raw vegetables.

If sprouts from the farm in the village of Bienenbuettel, between Hamburg and Hannover, are confirmed as the only source of the highly aggressive, "super-toxic" strain of bacteria, it could solve a mystery that has puzzled authorities for weeks. Suspicion for the cause of the deadliest known E. coli outbreak had fallen on lettuce, tomatoes and cucumbers, initially from Spain.

Even so, authorities say the danger is not over yet. More cases of the illness, which has hit Germany hardest, are likely for at least another week because the contaminated sprouts may have already been delivered to restaurants and grocery stores across Germany and could infect consumers.

And health officials still say they cannot yet rule out that there may be other sources for the infection as well. They warned against eating any sprouts and kept up a general warning for tomatoes, cucumbers and lettuces.

"While we have strong and clear indications that a farm in Uelzen is involved (in the E.coli outbreak), we have to wait for the official lab results," German Health Minister Daniel Bahr said late Sunday. "Until then, we cannot give an all-clear." The village of Bienenbuettel is next to Uelzen.

Spanish farmers expressed relief that the source appeared to have been identified, but complained that early accusations against Spanish cucumbers were still having a devastating financial effect.

"This is one of the demands we have been making, that they say clearly where the problem with the bacteria was," said Andres Gongora, the leader of a major Spanish farm association, COAG. "So we feel more at ease, although at no time did we ever harbor any doubt."

Gongora added: "With the same intensity with which it accused us, Germany must now clarify beyond the shadow of a doubt that that problem was not here, that it was not with Spanish agricultural products."

As farmers demand they be compensated for their losses, the European Union on Tuesday will hold an emergency meeting of farm ministers in Luxembourg to address the crisis and its economic impact, including a ban by Russia on all vegetables from the EU. The ministers will "look at how the EU can respond to the economic impact of the crisis," EU spokesman Roger Waite said.

At a regular meeting of EU health minister in Luxembourg on Monday, Germany defended itself against claims it had acted prematurely in pointing toward Spanish cucumbers. "The virus is so aggressive that we had to check every track," said Health State Secretary Annette Widmann-Mauz. "We owe it to the people."

Germany's Federal Institute for Risk Assessment had warned about the consumption of vegetable sprouts as early as June 2010.

In the meantime, opposition lawmakers criticized the government's handling of the health crisis.

"There is no crisis management at all," said Renate Kuenast, a leading lawmaker with the Green Party. "I'm asking myself what at all the health minister and the minister for consumer affairs are doing," Kuenast told Monday's daily Berliner Zeitung.

Sprouts have been implicated in previous E. coli outbreaks, particularly one in 1996 in Japan, in which tainted radish sprouts killed 12 people and reportedly sickened more than 12,000.

Preliminary epidemiological tests found Sunday that bean sprouts and other sprout varieties from the farm Gaertnerhof Bienenbuettel could be traced to infections in five German states. Many restaurants had received deliveries of the sprouts, which are often used in mixed salads.

The farm in Bienenbuettel was shut down Sunday and all its produce recalled, including fresh herbs, fruits, flowers and potatoes. Two of its employees were also infected with E. coli, Lower Saxony Agriculture Minister Lindemann said Sunday. He said 18 different sprout mixtures from the farm were under suspicion, including sprouts of mung beans, broccoli, peas, chickpeas, garlic lentils and radishes.

Klaus Verbeck, who is in charge of sprouts at the farm, was quoted as saying he had no idea where the allegations were coming from.

Verbeck told the daily Neue Osnabruecker Zeitung on Sunday that he grows the sprouts only with water and does not use any kind of manure or fertilizer.

However, the agricultural minister said that Verbeck's sprouts grow with steam in barrels at 38 degrees Celsius (100 degrees Fahrenheit) which he called an ideal environment for bacteria to multiply.

He said it is possible that the water was contaminated with E. coli or that the sprout seeds -- purchased in Germany and other countries -- contained the germ. He said the farmers had not used any manure, which is commonly spread on organic farms and has been known to cause E. coli outbreaks.

Officials at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say two previous reports of a similar strain have occurred elsewhere. One involved a 29-year-old woman in South Korea, reported in 2006. The other was a small cluster of cases in the Republic of Georgia in 2009.

E. coli can be found in the feces of humans and livestock and can spread to produce through sloppy bathroom habits among farmworkers and through animal waste in fields and in irrigation water. Organic farms tend to use more manure than other producers do.

Different kinds of sprouts from the organic farm in the greater Uelzen area, between the northern cities of Hamburg and Hannover, could be traced to infected persons in five different German states, Lower Saxony Agriculture Minister Gert Lindemann told reporters. The farm was shut down Sunday and all of its produce _ including fresh herbs, fruits, flowers and potatoes_ was recalled. At least one of the farm's employees was also infected with the E.coli bacteria, the minister said.

Associated Press On Monday June 6, 2011, 9:24 am EDT

Goldman Offered Libya Huge Stake

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Everything You Need to Know About the Libyan Investment Authority

Goldman Sachs traipsed into financial bed with Libya’s sovereign wealth fund, and it didn’t turn out very well for either side, as our Journal colleagues Margaret Coker and Liz Rappaport reported today.

Here is a look at the Libyan government’s investment fund, controlled by Col. Moammar Gadhafi:

Libyan Investment Authority

Headquarters: Tripoli

Assets: $40 billion, as of  June 2007 when it launched; $53 billion as of June 2010.

Key Players:

One of Col. Gadhafi’s sons, Saif al-Islam Gadhafi

Saif al-Islam Gadhafi, The London School of Economics-educated son of Col. Moammar Gadhafi wooed Western politicians and businesses with talk of economic and political reform. Mohamed Layas, chairman of the Libyan Investment Authority

Hatem el-Gheriani, chief investment officer

Mustafa Zarti: The deputy chairman of the LIA and close associate of Mr. Gadhafi. He quit in February and is now in Austria.


The history of the Libyan Investment Authority begins in 2004.

Col. Gadhafi, in an effort to come in from the cold, pledged to abandon weapons of mass destruction and paid reparations to families of the airline bombing over Lockerbie, Scotland. In return, sanctions against Libya were lifted, allowing Western corporations and banks to do business the country. Libya’s oil began flowing to the West.

In 2007, Libya, flush with cash from oil, decided to follow in the footsteps of other oil-producing nations and establish a sovereign-wealth fund to invest its riches. The creation of the Libyan Investment Authority also was part of Mr. Gadhafi’s efforts to prove Libya was open to the West.

Goldman was hardly alone in coming knocking at LIA’s door. U.S. and European banks such as J.P Morgan, Société Générale and HSBC, private-equity firms including Blackstone Group and Carlyle, and hedge funds like Och-Ziff Capital Management Group all wanted a piece of Libya’s investment money.

That year, the Libyan Investment Authority had begun making investments, primarily in European companies. Italian firms were of particular focus. Italy buys nearly 80% of its oil from Libya, and Col. Gadhafi made 11 state visits to the country. The LIA, meanwhile, took stakes of between 2% and 3% in Italian bank UniCredit and Italian aerospace and defense company Finmeccanica. It also took a 7.5% stake in the Italian soccer club Juventus.

Other notable investments included a 0.7% stake in Belgian financial group Fortis, a 3% stake in British publisher Pearson and a 1% stake in Russian aluminum company Rusal.

The fund’s investments have stirred nervousness in some European countries.  In Italy, for example, UniCredit’s CEO stepped down amid growing concerns over Libya’s involvement in Italian finance. The LIA also ranked among worst SWFs in compiling Santiago Principles, a set of guidelines designed to regulate such funds.

Since the Libyan civil war broke out, the U.S., United Nations and European Union instituted sanctions against the country and froze assets. The U.S. froze about $37 billion in Libyan assets.

Egyptian general admits 'virginity checks' conducted on protesters

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altMAY 31, 2011
Cairo (CNN)
 -- A senior Egyptian general admits that "virginity checks" were performed on women arrested at a demonstration this spring, the first such admission after previous denials by military authorities.

The allegations arose in an Amnesty International report, published weeks after the March 9 protest. It claimed female demonstrators were beaten, given electric shocks, strip-searched, threatened with prostitution charges and forced to submit to virginity checks.

At that time, Maj. Amr Imam said 17 women had been arrested but denied allegations of torture or "virginity tests."

But now a senior general who asked not to be identified said the virginity tests were conducted and defended the practice.

"The girls who were detained were not like your daughter or mine," the general said. "These were girls who had camped out in tents with male protesters in Tahrir Square, and we found in the tents Molotov cocktails and (drugs)."

The general said the virginity checks were done so that the women wouldn't later claim they had been raped by Egyptian authorities.

"We didn't want them to say we had sexually assaulted or raped them, so we wanted to prove that they weren't virgins in the first place," the general said. "None of them were (virgins)."

This demonstration occurred nearly a month after Egypt's longtime President Hosni Mubarak stepped down amid a wave of popular and mostly peaceful unrest aimed at his ouster and the institution of democratic reforms.

Afterward, Egypt's military -- which had largely stayed on the sidelines of the revolution -- officially took control of the nation's political apparatus as well, until an agreed-upon constitution and elections.

Mubarak denies ordering shootings

The March 9 protest occurred in Tahrir Square, which became famous over 18 historic and sometimes bloody days and nights of protests that led to Mubarak's resignation.

But unlike in those previous demonstrations, the Egyptian military targeted the protesters. Soldiers dragged dozens of demonstrators from the square and through the gates of the landmark Egyptian Museum.

Salwa Hosseini, a 20-year-old hairdresser and one of the women named in the Amnesty report, described to CNN how uniformed soldiers tied her up on the museum's grounds, forced her to the ground and slapped her, then shocked her with a stun gun while calling her a prostitute.

"They wanted to teach us a lesson," Hosseini said soon after the Amnesty report came out. "They wanted to make us feel that we do not have dignity."

The treatment got worse, Hosseini said, when she and the 16 other female prisoners were taken to a military detention center in Heikstep.

There, she said, she and several of other female detainees were subjected to a "virginity test."

"We did not agree for a male doctor to perform the test," she said. But Hosseini said her captors forced her to comply by threatening her with more stun-gun shocks.

"I was going through a nervous breakdown at that moment," she recalled. "There was no one standing during the test, except for a woman and the male doctor. But several soldiers were standing behind us watching the backside of the bed. I think they had them standing there as witnesses."

The senior Egyptian general said the 149 people detained after the March 9 protest were subsequently tried in military courts, and most have been sentenced to a year in prison.

Authorities later revoked those sentences "when we discovered that some of the detainees had university degrees, so we decided to give them a second chance," he said.

The senior general reaffirmed that the military council was determined to make Egypt's democratic transition a success.

"The date for handover to a civil government can't come soon enough for the ruling military council," he said. "The army can't wait to return to its barracks and do what it does best -- protect the nation's borders."

Disney Withdraws Navy SEAL Trademark Application

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LOS ANGELES -- The Walt Disney Co. said Wednesday that it has withdrawn its application to trademark the phrase "SEAL Team 6," the elite unit that killed Osama bin Laden, after the Navy moved to protect its rights and the entertainment giant endured a wave of criticism and late-night jibes.

Disney sought the trademark rights on May 3, two days after U.S. operatives raided a luxury compound in Pakistan and killed the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks.

Disney's ABC subsidiary wanted to develop a TV show along the lines "NCIS" and "JAG," which are also real-life Navy units, and would have focused on the drama and heroism of the special forces members.

But it drew flak for not only its rapid filing, but also for a trademark application that included items like Christmas stockings and snow globes.

Comedy show host Jon Stewart needled the company on his "Daily Show": "I can't wait for the Happy Meal."

Navy spokeswoman Amanda Greenberg said the Navy already had rights to the SEAL trademark but recently submitted two new applications for trademarks of "Navy SEALs" and "SEAL Team."

"The Navy is fully committed to protecting its trademark rights as it pertains to this matter and is currently examining all legal options," she said.

Disney/ABC spokesman Kevin Brockman said the company pulled the plug on its bid "in deference to the Navy's application."

Disney is still interested in producing a show based on the unit's operatives although it would likely be produced by a third-party studio.

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