|Oil leaking at rate of
25,000 barrels a day in Mexican gulf
Gulf of Mexico oil spill could be leaking at a rate of
25,000 barrels a day, five times the government’s current
estimate, industry experts say.
Basing their calculations on government data and standard
industry measurement tools, the experts said the Gulf spill
may already rival the historic 1969 Santa Barbara, Calif.,
and 1989 Exxon Valdez disasters.
Ian MacDonald, professor of oceanography at Florida State
University who specialises in tracking ocean oil seeps from
satellite imagery, said there may already be more than 9
million gallons of oil floating in the Gulf now.
Meanwhile engineers prepared to try containing the gushing
Gulf of Mexico oil well with giant underwater boxes and
siphons, as seaside towns braced for landfall of a giant
BP PLC, the oil giant that leased the rig whose sinking
last week caused the disaster, has failed in efforts using
unmanned submarines to activate a shutoff device on the
A stopgap solution BP is planning—covering the well with
containers and pumping the oil out—will take weeks to roll
out and is untested at the one-mile depth of this well,
however. BP said it would begin working this weekend on a
permanent solution to the crisis, drilling a new hole to cut
off the damaged well, but industry scientists said that
could take months.
The Deepwater Horizon, operated for BP by Transocean
Ltd., burned and sank last week, leaving 11 dead and an open
well on the ocean floor.
With a quick solution to shut off the spill looking out of
reach Friday, the government and the oil industry struggled
to contain the resulting slick and keep it from shore. The
American Petroleum Institute alerted members that Interior
Secretary Ken Salazar wanted advice from the industry on how
to manage the spill by the end of Friday.
The Deep Horizon slick began threatening the wetlands of
the Louisiana co.ast, raising fears of environmental
disaster in some of America’s richest shrimp, oyster and
fish breeding grounds. Strong winds and choppy seas hampered
efforts to hem in the oil. Several vinyl containment
barriers, known as booms, broke up in the rough weather.
Others remained on shore, as high waves - expected to
continue through the weekend - made it impossible to lay
them in the Gulf.
An equally pressing emergency loomed more than 40 miles
offshore, where the deepwater well kept spewing oil
Industry scientists say the permanent solution is to
close the entire well. To do that, they must drill another
hole - through 13,000 feet of rock a mile under the ocean’s
floor - that will intercept the leaking well. They can then
pump in cement to try to plug the leaks.
This operation will take up to three months and is highly
complex; the drills must precisely hit the leaking
well—which is just seven inches wide. When a well off the
coast of Australia blew out last year, it took five attempts
over 10 weeks to hit the old well and shut it down.
BP says it will begin drilling the new well this weekend.
Within hours of the explosion, BP was sending unmanned
submarines to the well to try to trigger a device called a
“blowout preventer,” which is essentially a powerful valve
meant to clamp down on the well and shut it off in case of
The device should have been triggered in the explosion, but
wasn’t; that failure will be a central question in the
In theory, the blowout preventer can also be activated by
underwater robots. BP has six robots working on it, and says
it will keep trying, but so far the valve has not worked.
“It’s just not functioning appropriately,” Tony Hayward, CEO
of BP, said in an interview this week.
For now, BP is trying a series of stopgap measures. The
company is constructing three steel boxes—each 40 feet tall
and weighing 73 tons—that it will place on top of the
gushing oil. Pipes running through the boxes will carry the
oil to a ship. - (Wall Street
|China back on the map by World Expo
At 63 metres high, the inverted crimson
pyramid hangs over Shanghai’s waterfront, dwarfing the 200
other newly built structures around it. Designed to resemble
an ancient crown, the China Pavilion in the centre of the
sprawling Expo 2010 grounds along the Huangpu River is very
much the powerful host surrounded by rings of
The opening of Expo 2010 following the spectacular
fireworks display that rivalled the stunning opening
ceremonies of the Beijing Olympics two years ago, represents
the fulfillment of a century-old Chinese ambition to hold
the World’s Fair in Shanghai. The near-full attendance at
the six-month-long event – 189 of the world’s 196 countries
are to take part – reflects how the Middle Kingdom has moved
from the ranks of the world’s envious to the envied.
If the Beijing Olympics marked the moment China asserted
itself as a global power after decades of isolation, the
Shanghai Expo represents the world’s acknowledgment of that
new status, with developing countries in particular fighting
an undeclared battle to show which among them is friendliest
with this emerging superpower.
“It’s a coming-of-age party,” said the Ottawa-born
television host, Mark Rowswell who is a massive celebrity in
China and Canada’s commissioner-general to Expo 2010. “The
Olympics was a chance for China to put on a show for the
world. The Expo is the flipside of that – the world trying
to put on a show for China.”
Indeed, some 95 percent of the 100 million people who are
expected to pass through Expo’s turnstiles over the coming
six months are expected to be Chinese. In true Chinese
style, it will be the largest and most expensive World Fair
in the 149-year history of the event.
Just as Beijing did two years ago, this city of 20
million people has transformed itself for Expo. Some
$59-billion was reportedly spent on the 5.3-square-kilometre
site that spans both sides of the Huangpu , as well as new
subway lines, a new airport terminal and an overhaul of the
city’s signature Bund riverfront stroll.
Since Queen Victoria summoned the world to Hyde Park for the
first World’s Fair in 1851, Expos have repeatedly been used
to herald the arrival of new forces on the international
stage. The Eiffel Tower was built in Paris for the 1889
World’s Fair, and a trio of early 20th century exhibitions
in the United States showcased the speed with which the U.S.
was overtaking the conflict-ridden powers of Europe.
The theme of Expo 2010 is urbanisation – the ubiquitous
motto is “better city, better life” – though as with past
world fairs, most national pavilions are dedicated to
showing off that country’s cultural and technological
Perhaps most symbolic of Beijing’s growing influence in
parts of the world the West once held sway over is the joint
African pavilion, which hosts 42 countries under one roof.
The largest pavilion on the site, the entire tab was picked
up by the Chinese government to ensure that as many
countries as possible were in attendance.
“China is very important to the whole of the world, and
especially to Tanzania and to Africa. China has contributed
a lot, first in the decolonisation process in Africa, and
after they have supported us economically,” Tanzania’s
ambassador to Beijing, Omar Mapuri said. “It’s a win-win
relationship for both. China is looking for resources in
Africa, and of course we’re looking for access to the
biggest market in the world.”
Critics say the international response is motivated
primarily by fear that those who did not attend would suffer
in terms of access to the world’s largest market. “You’ve
always had to pay the price if you want to do business here.
You have to pay tribute to the Emperor,” said a
Shanghai-based writer and consultant
Paul French. “Governments feel, and I don’t think they’re
wrong about this, that the Chinese would somehow penalise
them, as they do whenever a Western leader has a cup of tea
with the Dalai Lama.”
– (The Globe and Mail)
|Cheese and eggs: UK debate digested
Gordon Brown looked like a mouldy cheese, David Cameron a
fleshy buttock and Nick Clegg a scrambled egg. Britain’s
newspapers pulled no punches as they summed up the last of
the country’s pre-election leadership debates in typically
With the partisan press in broad agreement with opinion
polls that handed victory in the third televised encounter
to Conservative leader Cameron, many dwelled on Prime
Minister Brown’s failure to revive his chances ahead of the
May 6 vote.
And for some there was disappointment that more was not made
of the now-notorious gaffe that saw Brown caught on tape
calling a supporter of his Labour party - an elderly woman
by the name of Gillian Duffy - “bigoted.”
The Sun newspaper, a Rupert Murdoch-owned tabloid that has
declared its backing for Cameron, gave its reaction in image
form, picturing Brown’s face burned into a piece of bread
under the headline “Scrambled Clegg and Toast.”
“Cameron ran rings round exhausted Gordon Brown and
increasingly rattled Clegg as they traded blows over the
economy,” Sun Political Editor Trevor Kavanagh wrote. “The
Tory [Conservative] leader looked like a real prime minister
in waiting as he laid out his plans on tax, spending and
“Like a tired old stag cornered by two young bucks, Brown
put his head down and charged,” he added.
The left-wing Daily Mirror front paged an image of Cameron
next to a soap powder box bearing the words “New! Improved!
Spin.” Another headline added: “More fibs and froth than
The paper described Cameron as a “slippery salesman” trying
to “soft-soap the electorate on the economy.”
More surprising was a headline on the front page of the
Guardian, another left-leaning paper, which handed
unequivocal election victory to Cameron and his
Conservatives. “Barring an earthquake, Tory leader is on his
way to No. 10 [Downing Street],” it said. - (CNN)
|Bangkok loses 233 million dollars in
(The Hindu) - Anti-government
protests that have taken over Bangkok’s chief commercial
district have already cost the country an estimated 233
million dollars in forfeited tourism revenues, media reports
Followers of the United Front for Democracy against
Dictatorship (UDD), also called the red shirts for their
trademark protest attire, have been staging rallies in
Bangkok since March 12 calling on the prime minister to
dissolve parliament and hold new elections.
On April 3 the red shirts occupied Ratchaprasong Road in
the heart of the capital’s commercial district, forcing
scores of posh shopping centres and five—star hotels to shut
over security concerns.
The protests, which have claimed 27 lives and left more than
900 people injured in clashes between troops and red shirts
this month, are starting to have their toll on the country’s
tourism sector, still Thailand’s leading foreign exchange
earner, the Bangkok Post reported, citing government
In March, 1.34 million foreign visitors arrived at
international airports in Bangkok, Phuket, Hat Yai and
Chiang Mai, down 4.6 per cent compared with March 2008,
according to data compiled by the Tourism Authority of
In April, arrivals slumped 21 per cent compared with 2008
figures. The TAT compared 2010 arrivals to 2008 figures, the
most recent “normal” year for tourism, prior to last year’s
downturn as a result of the global financial crisis.
Revenues for tourism expenditure fell by 7.5 billion baht
(233 million dollars) during March and April, compared with
2008 expenditures, TAT estimated. TAT governor Surapol
Svetasreni said the downturn will force the agency to lower
its target for 15.5 million tourists this year, compared
with 14.4 million in 2009 and 14.6 million in 2008. A new
estimate will be announced after the end of the protest,
which is nowhere in sight.
|Belgium agrees to Burqa Ban, while
(Washington Post) –
Belgium’s vote to ban full face veils in public is the
furthest any European country has gone to confront a tiny
minority whose choice in clothing has come to symbolise the
issue of integrating some Muslim minorities.
The issue is being debated elsewhere in Europe, especially
in France, and the example of two countries moving toward a
ban has raised the stakes in a dispute pitting politicians
and public opinion against Muslim leaders and human rights
The lower house of parliament in Brussels passed the
draft law almost unanimously Thursday evening. It could
become law in the coming months as the Senate is not
expected to block it.
France, home to Europe’s biggest Muslim minority, is next in
line, planning to debate a draft law from mid-May and ban
all face veils in public within months. Polls say about 70
percent of voters want some ban, but not all back a complete
Full facial veils -- known as niqabs or burqas -- are
extremely rare in Europe, but the number of women wearing
them is rising. No exact figures exist, but estimates put
the totals at about 2,000 in France and a few hundred in
Promoters of a ban denounce the veils as a threat to public
security, an affront to women’s dignity, a negation of
gender equality or an intrusion of religion on public life.
Concern over radical Islamism echoes through their
In France this week, both the communist deputy Andre
Gerin and the far-right leader Marine Le Pen used the same
term -- “the tip of the iceberg” -- to urge a full ban on
“Once we solve the burqa problem, we’ll still have the
problem of polygamy, of praying in the streets of big
cities, of banning pork from cafeterias, in short all the
sectarian demands the French are confronted with daily,” Le
Bans are under debate in several other European states.
Austrian Chancellor Werner Faymann said this week a veil ban
was “conceivable” there, and his minister for women
supported one in public buildings, banks, hospitals and
Far-right leader Geert Wilders, whose political clout
could grow in the Dutch general elections in June, advocates
outlawing face veils there. Right-wing groups in Switzerland
and Italy have also urged bans, but no action seems likely
The moves toward a full veil ban have evoked protests from
Muslim leaders in Europe, many of whom do not consider
veiling obligatory in Islam but resent laws that single out
In Paris, head of a civic group, M’Hammed Henniche, called
UAM 93, told officials the planned ban there was spreading
“panic” in the city’s sensitive northern suburbs. “The
community feels like this is a rape,” he said.
Details of bans
Under Belgium’s draft law, wearing a full facial veil
could lead to fines of 15-25 euros (about $20 to $33) and
imprisonment for up to seven days.
According to the Paris daily Le Figaro, Paris plans to slap
a 150 euro ($200) fine on women wearing full veils, with
stiffer penalties for people who force others to veil
|Rescuing girls from sex slavery
A group fights to prevent sexual trafficking of Nepal’s
women and girls. Anuradha Koirala, 61, started Maiti Nepal
following an abusive relationship, in a country where more
than 12,000 Nepali women and girls have been rescued and
rehabilitated since 1993
Geeta was 9 when she began wearing makeup, staying up until
2 a.m. and having sex with as many as 60 men a day.
“I used to be really sad and frustrated with what was
happening in my life,” she said.
The daughter of Nepalese peasant farmers, Geeta - now 26 -
had been sold to a brothel in India by a member of her
extended family. The family member had duped Geeta’s
visually impaired mother into believing her daughter would
get work at a clothing company in Nepal.
“The brothel where I was ... there were many customers
coming in everyday. The owner used to verbally abuse us, and
if we didn’t comply, she would start beating us with wires,
rods and hot spoons.”
It was not until Geeta was 14 that a police officer rescued
her and brought her to a safe house compound run by Anuradha
Koirala. The 61-year-old woman and her group, Maiti Nepal,
have been fighting for more than 16 years to rescue and
rehabilitate thousands of Nepal’s sex trafficking victims.
“Families are tricked all the time,” said Koirala. “The
trafficking of the girls is done by people who are basically
known to the girls, who can lure them from the village by
telling them they are getting a nice job. It’s a lucrative
By raiding brothels, patrolling the India-Nepal border and
providing safe shelter and support services, Koirala and
Maiti Nepal have helped rescue and rehabilitate more than
12,000 Nepali women and girls since 1993.
According to the U.S. State Department, some 10,000 to
15,000 women and girls from Nepal are trafficked to India
and then sexually exploited each year.
Koirala’s own history in an abusive relationship led her to
her crusade. For most of her young adulthood, she taught
primary school English in Nepal. But when her relationship
took a violent turn, her life’s “purpose and responsibility
completely changed,” she said.
“Every day, there was battering. And then I had three
miscarriages that I think were from the beating. It was very
difficult because I didn’t know in those days where to go
and report it, who to ... talk to.”
After the relationship ended, Koirala used a portion of her
$100 monthly salary to start a small retail shop to employ
and support displaced victims of sex trafficking and
By the early 1990s, an increasing demand for help and
persistent cases of violence against women compelled Koirala
to do more. Maiti Nepal was her brainchild for giving voice,
legal defense and rehabilitation to victims of sex
trafficking. – (CNN)
|Ten-year-old girl survives lethal box
A ten-year-old girl has become
the first person ever to have survived an attack from a
lethal box jellyfish, the world’s most venomous creature.
Rachael Shardlow was stung by the creature while swimming in
the Calliope River, near Gladstone, in Queensland,
Rachael’s 13-year-old brother pulled her on to the
riverbank. She told him she could not see or breathe, and
fell unconscious with the jellyfish’s tentacles still
strapped to her limbs.
Zoology and tropical ecology associate professor at James
Cook University, Jamie Seymour, says the girl’s survival
after such an extensive sting is unheard of.
‘I don’t know of anybody in the entire literature where
we’ve studied this where someone has had such an extensive
sting that has survived,’ he told ABC news in Australia.
‘When I first saw the pictures of the injuries I just went,
‘you know to be honest, this kid should not be alive. I mean
they are horrific.’
‘Usually when you see people who have been stung by box
jellyfish with that number of the tentacle contacts on their
body, it’s usually in a morgue.’
Associate professor Seymour says the university is
interested to see how long it takes for Rachael to recover,
as well as whether there are any long-term effects.
‘From our point of view it’s really useful information that
you very seldom, if ever, get your hands on,’ he told the
Aussie TV station.
Rachael’s father, Geoff Shardlow, says his daughter has
scarring as well as some short-term memory loss.
‘We’ve noticed a small amount of short-term memory loss,
like riding a pushbike to school and forgetting she’s taken
a pushbike,’ he said.
‘The greatest fear was actual brain damage [but] her
cognitive skills and memory tests were all fine.’
Shardlow says it is vital there are more jellyfish warning
signs erected throughout central Queensland.
– [Daily Mail]
|In the Land of Music
With 268 armed gangs or
neighbourhood ‘corner crews’ locked in deadly turf wars,
Jamaica is one of the most violent societies on earth.
With a population of less than three million people, police
kill hundreds of people every year in what they claim are
crime-related shootouts, making Jamaica’s police force among
the deadliest in the world.
Rights groups say that these shootings add up to a campaign
of extra-judicial executions carried out by police who have
taken the law into their own hands.
The official police response to these allegations cannot
be recorded - the commissioner has issued standing orders
which ban all officers from speaking to foreign journalists.
But, as reporter Simon Ostrovsky discovered, many others in
Jamaica are prepared to speak out. One of them, Robert Hill,
an entertainer, actually warned of his own impending death.
“Hello Jamaica. I’m Robert Hill AKA Kentucky Kid. I really
don’t know what is going on but all I know, police are
covering up for each other and they’re trying to kill me,”
Hill explained in a video message.
Hill went on to explain how his car had been hit by a police
car that had passed through a red light.
Hills car was badly damaged in the incident and he was taken
to the police station to give a written statement.
But after waiting for four hours, Hill was sent home and
told to return within 24 hours to submit the statement.
When he returned the following day, the police told him that
they could not take his statement.
“They told me that they could not take my statement, [and
asked] why I did not give it at the time of the accident. I
told them that Sergeant Gardener told me to return to give
it,” Hill explained.
When he refused to leave without providing a statement, Hill
said he was physically forced out of the building.
“All I know is I can’t get any justice. Who will fix my car?
Who will take care of my health?” Hill asked in his video
Kimmo Matthews, a reporter for the Jamaica Observer, says
Hill was concerned for his safety.
“The first time he came in and spoke to us it was evident
that he was really concerned. He had mentioned that police
had threatened him at his home and they were intimidating
Hill saw a legal aid lawyer who advised him to install a
camera in his house. He followed their advice.
“After installing the camera he came to me three days later
showing me some video footage of what appeared to be police
manhandling him along with his wife. It appeared they were
holding him and pushing him around in a room and they were
asking him questions,” Matthews says.
Hills wife was eight months pregnant when she was beaten by
police along with her husband.Hill told Matthews that
members of the police wanted him to drop his case and had
resorted to intimidation and physical violence to make him
When Hill took the video of the violence to the police
high command, he said nobody was willing to help him.
“I can’t get any justice from anyone in Jamaica. All I know
is everywhere I go for justice in the police force there is
someone there trying to kill me or someone there trying to
set me up with the police,” Hill said.
“So I would like the whole world to check this out, listen
to this, and know that if I’m dead or anything happens to
me, it’s the Jamaican police that carry out that work or
On December 8, 2009 Robert Hill was shot dead by the Jamaica
Constabulary Force (JCF). The police report said they were
forced to shoot because Hill had a gun. Kumiko, Hill’s wife,
said Hill had received a call that night from someone who
said they wanted to see a car that he was selling. He told
her he was going out to show it to them but would be right
back. His cousin accompanied him, but Hill had forgotten the
car key and asked his cousin to return to the house for it.
“The Robert Hill case perhaps is a nadir for Jamaica
because Robert went and caught the people on tape,” says
Carolyn Gomes, a medical doctor and the executive director
of Jamaicans for Justice.
“You can see them, their faces, you can see them beating him
and his wife. You can see them threatening him, and he took
that tape to the police high command and they came back and
“It was too much. It was too much for me to bear. Up to this
point I cannot believe that he is dead, that he is gone,
just because of a car,” says Hills mother, Caroline.
Robert Hill was one of 224 people killed in police shootings
“In the last ten years, 1,900 of our Jamaican citizens,
officially, have been killed by the police, more than 1,900.
In that time, one policeman has been convicted of
manslaughter and he has been freed on appeal,” Gomes says.
|Indian ‘holy man’ perplexes doctors
Doctors and experts are baffled by an Indian man who claims
not to have eaten or drunk anything for 70 years - but is
still in perfect health.
A team of scientists and doctors in Sterling Hospital, in
the western Indian city of Ahmedabad, are studying the
claims of Prahlad Jani, a local holy man, who is over 70
He claims to have been blessed by a goddess when he was
8-years-old, which has enabled him to survive without
sustenance and that he derives energy through meditation.
Most people can live without food for several weeks, with
the body drawing on its fat and protein stores. But the
average human can survive for only three to four days
NEWS IN BRIEF
Middle East talks ‘set to begin’
The US secretary of state has said that the Middle East
peace process will get back on track next week, with
indirect Israeli-Palestinian talks.
Hillary Clinton said on Friday that George Mitchell, the US
special Middle East envoy, would travel to the region to
mediate the peace negotiations.
“We will be starting with proximity talks next week,”
Clinton said the US expected an Arab foreign ministers
meeting on Saturday to endorse the new talks.
But Saeb Erekat, the Palestinian chief negotiator, told Al
Jazeera that the beginning of the talks was not yet a done
“We are making every possible effort to begin these
talks. Every effort is being made to do this. But the
official decision will be made by the Arab foreign ministers
and the PLO executive committee,” he said.
“Keep in mind that we have agreed as Arabs and Palestinians
to begin the proximity talks last March, and then the
Israeli government decided to introduce 1,600 housing units
on occupied land in East Jerusalem which sabotaged that
“Now, I hope that once the Arab foreign ministers and the
PLO executive committee meet next week we can have an answer
on whether to begin these talks.”
There was no immediate reaction from Israeli government
officials. - (Al-Jazeera)
India and Pakistan seek thaw
The prime ministers of India and Pakistan have agreed that
the two countries relations should be normalised after
months of diplomatic deadlock prompted by the attacks on the
Indian city of Mumbai in 2008, according to officials.
India’s Manmohan Singh met Yusuf Reza Gilani, his
Pakistani counterpart, on the sidelines of a two-day summit
of South Asian leaders in Bhutan’s capital, Thimpu, on
Nirupama Rao, India’s Foreign Secretary, said that the two
men had “very good talks” and asked their officials to take
steps as soon as possible to normalise relations, signalling
an unexpected thaw.
“The idea was on renewal of dialogue; to understand the
state of affairs,” Rao told reporters after the meeting.
“There was a lot of soul-searching here. The searchlight is
on the future, not on the past.”
She said the two prime ministers had asked their foreign
ministers and foreign secretaries to meet “as soon as
possible to work out the modalities for restoring trust” and
taking the dialogue forward.
India broke off a peace dialogue with Pakistan after 166
people were killed as armed men rampaged through Mumbai in
Since then, New Delhi has repeatedly rejected Islamabad’s
calls for talks resumption, insisting that not enough has
been done to bring members of the Pakistan-based group,
which India blames for the attacks, to justice.
The two men last met on the sidelines of a summit of the
Non-Aligned Movement in Egypt, where they agreed in a joint
statement that action on terrorism “should not be linked” to
peace talks. - (Al-Jazeera)
Australia overhauls cigarette packs
Australia is set to ban branding, logos, promotional text
and colourful images from all packets of cigarettes in
attempt to dramatically cut the number of smokers in the
From 2012, all packets of cigarettes will look almost
identical, carrying prominent, graphic health warnings while
the brand will be relegated to a small, generic font at the
“Cigarettes are not cool. Cigarettes kill people.
Therefore, the government makes no apology whatsoever for
what it’s doing,” Kevin Rudd, the prime minister, told
reporters on Thursday.
“The cigarette tobacco companies will hate this measure,
they will oppose it. Nonetheless, we believe, this and other
measures help to reduce smoking.”
Canberra has said that it wants one million fewer
Australians to smoke by 2020.
Rudd said that about 15,000 Australians die of
smoking-related diseases every year, and that tobacco use
costs the country $31.5b a year in healthcare and lost
The government also announced a 25 percent hike in the tax
on cigarettes from midnight on Thursday.
Tobacco companies immediately condemned the packaging rules
and vowed to challenge them in court.
“Introducing plain packaging just takes away the ability of
a consumer to identify our brand from another brand and
that’s of value to us,’’ Cathie Keogh, a spokeswoman for the
Imperial Tobacco company, told local radio.
“It really affects the value of our business as a commercial
enterprise and we will fight to support protecting our
international property rights.” – (Al-Jazeera)
Prostate cancer vaccine approved
A “vaccine” which harnesses the body’s own immune system to
fight prostate cancer has been approved for use by US drug
Provenge - which is designed to be used in men with advanced
disease - is the first of its kind to be accepted by the
Food and Drug Administration.
Each dose has to be individually tailored and it is an
expensive treatment at $93,000 per patient.
It will add to, rather than replace, existing treatments,
Doctors have been working on therapies that prompt the
immune system to fight tumours for decades.
Potential success stories include an experimental vaccine
for melanoma which is in the late stages of development.
This latest therapy is made by collecting special blood
cells from each patient that help the immune system
recognise cancer as a threat.
These are then mixed with a protein found on most prostate
cancer cells and a substance which kick-starts the immune
The drug is not a “cure” but is used in advanced prostate
cancer that has spread to other sites in the body and is no
longer responding to standard hormone treatment.
Clinical trials showed that the treatment extended the lives
of patients by four months.
This compares with an average of three months with
Chilli peppers key to killing pain
Studying chilli peppers is helping scientists create a new
type of painkiller which could stop pain at its source.
A team at the University of Texas says a substance similar
to capsaicin, which makes chilli peppers hot, is found in
the human body at sites of pain.
And blocking the production of this substance can stop
chronic pain, the team found.
They report their findings in the Journal of Clinical
Capsaicin is the primary ingredient in hot chilli peppers
which causes a burning sensation.
It does this by binding to receptors present on the cells
inside the body.
Similarly, when the body is injured, it releases
capsaicin-like substances - fatty acids called oxidized
linoleic acid metabolites or OLAMs - and these, via
receptors, cause pain, the researchers have found.
Dr Kenneth Hargreaves, senior researcher at the Dental
School at the University of Texas, and his team next set out
to see if they could block these newly discovered pain
Lab work on mice showed that by knocking out a gene for the
receptors, there was no sensitivity to capsaicin.
Armed with this knowledge they set about making drugs to do
Dr Hargreaves said: “This is a major breakthrough in
understanding the mechanisms of pain and how to more
effectively treat it.
“We have discovered a family of endogenous capsaicin-like
molecules that are naturally released during injury, and now
we understand how to block these mechanisms with a new class
of non-addictive therapies.”
Ultimately, he hopes the drugs will be able to treat
different types of chronic pain, including that associated
with cancer and inflammatory diseases such as arthritis and