‘Dying of hunger’: Famine declared in South Sudan

Isaiah Chol Aruai, chairman of South Sudan’s National Bureau of Statistics, said some parts of the northern Greater Unity region “are classified in famine, or.

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.. risk of famine”.

Aid agencies said 100,000 people were affected by the famine, which threaten to affect a further one million people in the coming months.

“A formal famine declaration means people have already started dying of hunger. The situation is the worst hunger catastrophe since fighting erupted more than three years ago,” said a statement by the World Food Programme (WFP), UN children’s agency UNICEF and the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO).

Famine has been declared today in parts of #SouthSudan. 100k facing starvation, almost 5m urgently need aid 长沙桑拿,长沙SPA,/0TxKfgqfar pic.twitter长沙桑拿按摩论坛,/jJcT0of89x

— UNICEF (@UNICEF) February 20, 2017

South Sudan, the world’s youngest nation, was engulfed by civil war in 2013 after President Salva Kiir accused his rival and former deputy Riek Machar of plotting a coup against him.

An August 2015 peace deal was left in tatters when fighting broke out in Juba in July last year.

Violence — initially between ethnic Dinka supporters of Kiir and ethnic Nuer supporters of Machar — has since spread to other parts of the country, engulfing other ethnic groups and grievances.

The United Nations has warned of potential genocide and ethnic cleansing and there is no prospect of peace in sight.

Humanitarians under attack

Oil-rich Unity State, a traditional Nuer homeland and Machar’s birthplace, has been one of the flashpoints in the conflict and has flipped several times between government and rebel forces.

“The convergence of evidence shows that the long-term effects of the conflict coupled with high food prices, economic crisis, low agricultural production and depleted livelihood options” have resulted in 4.9 million people going hungry, Aruai said.

That figure represents 42 percent of the country’s population.

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The famine classification is made according to an internationally recognised sliding scale of hunger in which an extreme lack of food has led to starvation and death.

“The main tragedy of the report that has been launched today… is that the problem is man-made,” said Eugene Owusu, the United Nation’s Humanitarian Coordinator for South Sudan.

“The underlining drivers have been there for some time and we have all known that we have a major food crisis.”

He said conflict and insecurity for humanitarian workers, who had suffered attacks while carrying out their work, and the looting of “humanitarian assets” had exacerbated the crisis.

In September last year, several aid agencies had to pull out of the famine-hit area of Leer because of escalating fighting between the two forces.

“I would like to use this opportunity to call on the government, the warring parties and all actors to support humanitarians to provide the necessary access so we can continue to bring lifesaving services to those in need,” Owusu said.

Agriculture disrupted

According to aid groups, the number of people facing hunger is expected to rise to 5.5 million at the height of the lean season in July if nothing is done to curb the spread of the food crisis.

“Many families have exhausted every means they have to survive,” said the FAO’s representative in South Sudan, Serge Tissot.

“The people are predominantly farmers and war has disrupted agriculture. They’ve lost their livestock, even their farming tools. For months there has been a total reliance on whatever plants they can find and fish they can catch.”

The famine declaration comes as millions across the Horn of Africa are going hungry due to a devastating drought following two failed rainy seasons.

The UN said Monday it is “scaling up assistance and protection” in Somalia, as about 6.2 million Somalis, or half the country’s population, is in need of humanitarian assistance.

Nearly 1 million children will be acutely malnourished.

“The drought situation is deteriorating rapidly,” said Peter de Clercq, the humanitarian coordinator for Somalia. “Accelerated scale-up…assistance is required to avoid a dramatic rise in the number of malnourished children and a spike in mortality.”

Famine last hit the region six years ago, killing an estimated 260,000 people in Somalia.

The drought has also affected food security in South Sudan, however the biggest contributor to the famine is the inability of aid agencies to reach areas where the economy has collapsed due to the war.

Carr urges PM to take hard line with Israel

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull should take a hard line on Israeli settlements and push for a recommitment to the two-state solution with Palestinians when he meets Benjamin Netanyahu this week, former foreign minister Bob Carr says.

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Mr Netanyahu arrives in Sydney for a historic four-day visit on Wednesday, a week after US President Donald Trump called for Israel to pull back on settlement expansion on occupied Palestinian land and backed away from America’s long-standing support for a two-state solution to secure peace.

Mr Carr says Mr Turnbull should warn his Israeli counterpart he risks destroying the chances of establishing separate independent states for Israelis and Palestinians by expanding Jewish settlements on the West Bank and in East Jerusalem.

“The prime minister should make it clear that Australia and Australians are opposed to the spread of settlements on the occupied West Bank because they are steadily burying the prospect of a Palestinian state,” Mr Carr told AAP.

Israeli was condemned by the United Nations Security Council last December over its settlements, which were branded illegal under international law and are seen as a major obstacle to securing peace.

Mr Trump last week asked Mr Netanyahu to “pull back” on the settlements but said he could “live with” either a one-state or two-state solution as long as the Israelis and Palestinians were happy.

Mr Carr said Mr Turnbull should use his talks with Mr Netanyahu to challenge the notion of a one-state solution, which could involve a shared Israeli-Palestinian state covering all of Israel and the West Bank.

Some observers fear that Palestinians living in the shared state would not be granted equal rights to Israelis.

“Mr Turnbull should ask the Israeli prime minister whether under a one-state solution the Palestinians on the West Bank would have voting rights in Israeli national elections,” Mr Carr said.

“He should point out that without that, Israel would cease to be a democracy.”

The Israeli prime minister is currently in Singapore, where he told a state dinner he believed there was a chance to secure peace because he sensed a “great change in the Arab world” that he hoped would help solve the long-running conflict between his country and Palestinians.

Mr Carr is one of four senior ALP figures including former prime ministers Bob Hawke and Kevin Rudd who believe the time has come for Australia to grant diplomatic recognition to Palestinians.

“Given this talk of a one-state solution and given the 5000 new settlements that are being flung out over on Palestinian land the world has now got no alternative but to recognise the Palestinian state,” Mr Carr said.

“Given what’s happening and given the recent level of settlement activity and the Israelis retreating from the two-state solution Australia and like-minded countries should join the 138 nations that already recognise Palestine.”

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Rambling speech ‘may be sign of dementia’

Turning into an old windbag may be an early sign of mental difficulty that can lead to Alzheimer’s, research suggests.

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Rambling speech could provide the first indication of mild cognitive impairment (MCI), a condition marked by forgetfulness that pre-dates dementia, it is claimed.

US scientists conducted an experiment in which 24 healthy older individuals and 22 people with MCI were asked to create a sentence out of three words.

Lead researcher Dr Janet Cohen Sherman, of Massachusetts General Hospital, said: “The MCIs are very long-winded.

“One significant difference is the mean length of utterance, how many words MCI subjects used versus healthy older – it was a very significant difference.

“MCIs almost tended to get lost along the way and had more difficulty connecting the three words and also difficulty remembering the three words.”

One example of the test was having to construct a sentence out of the words “stove, water and pot”.

A simple solution would be: “I filled the pot with water and put it on the stove.”

“The healthy older individuals could give us a very concise sentence with the three words and so could the healthy young, but individuals with mild cognitive impairment struggled,” Dr Sherman said.

Dr Sherman hopes within five years to develop the test into a method of detecting early changes that are predictive of Alzheimer’s disease.

Speaking at the American Association for the Advancement of Science annual meeting in Boston, she said: “One of the greatest challenges right now in terms of Alzheimer’s disease is to detect changes very early on when they are still very subtle and to distinguish them from changes we know occur with normal ageing.”

He stressed it was the way a person’s speech patterns changed over time that was important.

Someone who had always rambled would not be considered at risk in the same way as a person who turned into a rambler.

Dees want Watts to lift performance in AFL

Often-maligned Melbourne forward Jack Watts has been told to lift his performance after a poor start to the AFL pre-season.

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The former No.1 draft pick is coming off a season in which he finally managed to harness his considerable talent and finished in the top five in the Demons’ best-and-fairest count.

But he was left out of Saturday’s pre-season opener against the Western Bulldogs after being overtaken in the Melbourne’s pecking order.

The Demons have denied that Watts showed up out of shape or presented attitude problems but admit he hasn’t performed as well as some of his younger teammates.

Key defender Tom McDonald says Watts has since lifted his standards and will be considered to play against Carlton on Sunday.

“Jack’s had a really good two or three weeks and understands what’s required to be selected in the team,” McDonald said on Tuesday.

“He’s probably really improved in the last few weeks and he’s in line to play again soon.

“I think it was just realigning what’s important for the team … understanding that there’s roles that have to be played and it’s not about kicking goals and getting touches, it’s about doing the things that are required for the team.”

Watts didn’t miss a game in 2016, kicking 38 goals and often working as a link-man for spearhead Jesse Hogan.

But after a strong pre-season from the likes of Aaron Vandenberg and Sam Weideman, he is no certainty to be picked when Melbourne begin their season proper against St Kilda on March 25.

The 25-year-old has faced immense scrutiny after being picked ahead of West Coast superstar Nic Naitanui in a deep 2008 draft which also featured All-Australians Dan Hannebery, Rory Sloane, Steele Sidebottom and Dayne Beams.

Demons ruckman Max Gawn on Tuesday backed Watts to continue his strong 2016 form, saying he expected him to play in at least one of the two remaining pre-season matches.

“The Jack Watts we saw last year will be the Jack Watts we see this year,” he told SEN radio.

Trump tweets response to Sweden terror incident remarks

US President Donald Trump has tweeted that he was referring to a Fox News report when he appeared to refer to Sweden as the site of a terror incident – the latest of several instances where his administration appeared to reference non-existent attacks.

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My statement as to what’s happening in Sweden was in reference to a story that was broadcast on @FoxNews concerning immigrants & Sweden.

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 19, 2017

Earlier, the White House said Donald Trump was not referring to a specific incident when he made remarks about a terror incident in Sweden on Saturday, and that the president may also have seen a Fox report on crime in Sweden.

Fox News, a US channel that has been cited favorably by Trump, ran a report Friday about alleged migrant-related crime problems in the country.

A White House spokeswoman told reporters on Sunday that Trump had been referring generally to rising crime, not a specific incident in the Scandinavian country.

Sweden’s crime rate has fallen since 2005, official statistics show, even as it has taken in hundreds of thousands of immigrants from war-torn countries like Syria and Iraq.

Trump’s comment confounded Stockholm. “We are trying to get clarity,” Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Catarina Axelsson said.

Sweden’s embassy in the United States repeated Trump’s tweet about having seen the Fox report, and added, “We look forward to informing the US administration about Swedish immigration and integration policies.”

We look forward to informing the US administration about Swedish immigration and integration policies. 长沙桑拿,长沙SPA,/x5G3euOWRh

— Embassy of Sweden US (@SwedeninUSA) February 19, 2017

President Trump was addressing a campaign-style rally in Florida when he launched into a list of places that have been targeted by terrorists.

“You look at what’s happening in Germany, you look at what’s happening last night in Sweden. Sweden, who would believe this? Sweden. They took in large numbers. They’re having problems like they never thought possible,” he said, provoking mockery on social media.

Trump’s speech was aimed at defending his order last month that blocked refugees and travelers from seven majority-Muslim countries from entering the United States.

The order has been suspended by a federal appeals court, and Trump vowed to introduce a new order this week as a means of protecting Americans at home.

He went on to name Brussels, Nice and Paris – European cities that have been struck by deadly terror attacks.

Sweden’s embassy in Washington asked for an explanation, the foreign ministry in Stockholm said Sunday.

@fuadmb About #swedenincident #lastnightinsweden unclear to us what President Trump was referring to,have asked US officials for explanation

— Embassy of Sweden US (@SwedeninUSA) February 19, 2017

For Donald Trump’s supporters, the social media and reporting frenzy is yet more evidence of what they see as pervasive media bias against President Trump.

“We all make mistakes or misspeak on some facts,” said Michelle Mesi from Texas.

“But let’s face it, those misspeaks don’t change the fact that terror is a reality and we are owed due diligence to keep America safe.” she said.

Massachusetts Trump voter Joe Hession said the media has been obsessed over the “smallest dumb stuff.”

“They will nit-pick anything he does or says,” Mr Hession said.

Users on Twitter, Trump’s favorite communication platform, cracked jokes about the apparent miscue using the hashtags #lastnightinSweden and #SwedenIncident.

I’m safe! In fact, we’re all safe here in Sweden.#lastnightinsweden @POTUS @realDonaldTrump pic.twitter长沙桑拿按摩论坛,/tdZnX0O0Qn

— Kenneth Bodin (@KennethBodin) February 19, 2017

Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom appeared to respond to Trump on Saturday by posting on Twitter an excerpt of a speech in which she said democracy and diplomacy “require us to respect science, facts and the media.”

Her predecessor was less circumspect.

Former Swedish prime minister Carl Bildt asked: “Sweden? Terror attack? What has he been smoking? Questions abound.”

Sweden? Terror attack? What has he been smoking? Questions abound. 长沙桑拿,长沙SPA,/XWgw8Fz7tj

— Carl Bildt (@carlbildt) February 19, 2017

Gunnar Hokmark, a Swedish member of the European Parliament, retweeted a post that said “#lastnightinSweden my son dropped his hotdog in the campfire. So sad!”

Hokmark added his own comment: “How could he know?”

Numerous internet wags responded with Ikea-themed tweets. Some posted photos of the impossible-to-understand instructions for assembling Ikea furniture, calling it “Secret Plans for the #SwedenIncident.”

It wasn’t a pretty sight #lastnightinsweden #DonaldTrump #jesuisikea pic.twitter长沙桑拿按摩论坛,/SMa8jc8K7G

— Dimitri Verbelen (@DimitriVerbelen) February 19, 2017’Nothing has happened’

Posts flooded into @sweden, the country’s official Twitter account which is run by a different Swede each week.

This week’s curator, Emma, who describes herself as a school librarian and mother, said the account had received 800 mentions in four hours.

“No. Nothing has happened here in Sweden. There has not (been) any terrorist attacks here. At all. The main news right now is about Melfest,” she said, referring to the competition to pick the performer who will represent Sweden at the Eurovision singing contest.

Top Trump aides in his month-old administration have faced criticism and ridicule after speaking publicly about massacres that never took place.

White House counselor Kellyanne Conway — who famously coined the term “alternative facts” — referred to a “Bowling Green massacre” during an interview.

She later tweeted that she meant to say “Bowling Green terrorists” — referring to two Iraqi men who were indicted in 2011 for trying to send money and weapons to Al-Qaeda, and using improvised explosive devices against US soldiers in Iraq.

And White House spokesman Sean Spicer made three separate references in one week to an attack in Atlanta.

He later said he meant to say Orlando, the Florida city where an American of Afghan origin gunned down 49 people at a gay nightclub last year.

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Step count apps may do more harm than good

Step-counting apps could be doing harm by driving people to chase overambitious goals, a leading computer scientist says.

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Dr Greg Hager, of Johns Hopkins University in the US, maintains “very few” of the estimated 165,000 available healthcare apps are based on scientific evidence.

Yet after being downloaded more than a billion times, they were likely to have an enormous impact on public health.

Dr Hager was especially critical of apps and devices that set the user a target of 10,000 steps.

Speaking at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) annual meeting in Boston, he said: “Some of you might wear Fitbits or something equivalent, and I bet every now and then it gives you that cool little message: ‘You did 10,000 steps today’.

“But why is 10,000 steps important? What’s big about 10,000?

“Turns out in 1960 in Japan they figured out that the average Japanese man, when he walked 10,000 steps a day burned something like 3000 calories (12552 kilojoules) and that is what they thought the average person should consume so they picked 10,000 steps as a number.

“But is that the right number for any of you in this room? Who knows? It’s just a number that’s now built into the apps.”

A survey of several hundred mental health apps used for coaching and diagnosis found only five that could be linked to an evidence base, he said.

None of those were available to the public; they were all research tools.

“I think apps could definitely be doing more harm than good. I am sure that these apps are causing problems,” Dr Hager said.

“Without any scientific evidence base, how do you know that any of these apps are good for you? They may even be harmful.

“The 10,000 steps example typifies the problem in many ways.

“We all know that probably the more you exercise, the better it is for you. But if you are elderly or infirm then this is not going to be good for you.”

Gabon’s forest elephants slain for ivory at alarming rate

Some 25,000 elephants have been slaughtered in Minkebe National Park, an area that had been considered a sanctuary, said the report in the journal Current Biology.

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“Because Gabon is thought to hold the largest remaining population of forest elephants, the implication is that forest elephants are in even more trouble than previously believed,” said researcher John Poulsen of Duke University and the Agence Nationale des Parcs Nationaux in Gabon.

“With less than 100,000 elephants across all of Central Africa, the subspecies is in danger of extinction if governments and conservation agencies do not act fast.”

The poachers are primarily coming into Gabon from the bordering country of Cameroon, the report said.

“We can no longer assume that apparently large and remote protected areas will conserve species — poachers will go anywhere that a profit can be made,” said Poulsen.

To estimate the number of elephants in the forest in 2014, researchers surveyed dung in the forest.

They then compared population size estimates for 2014 to estimates calculated in the same way in 2004.

A key driver of the poaching is demand for ivory, which must be curtailed, researchers said.

“China’s recently announced ban of domestic ivory trade will help enormously, if it is effectively implemented,” said Poulson.

“The international community needs to put pressure on all remaining nations that allow the trade so that all legal trade is stopped.”

Another strategy is to recognize forest elephants as a distinct species from African savanna elephants, to draw attention to their often forgotten plight.

Gabon has taken steps to protect elephants since 2011, elevating forest elephants’ conservation status to “fully protected,” creating a National Park Police force, doubling the national park agency’s budget, and becoming the first African nation to burn all confiscated ivory, the report said.

However, Poulsen said more action is needed, such as coordinated international law enforcement to prosecute wildlife criminals and new multinational protected areas.

“The clock is ticking,” he said.

Hope for better Ross River virus treatment

Australian researchers have made an exciting discovery that could lead to the better treatment of those with mosquito-borne diseases like Ross River virus.

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The current Ross River outbreak along the east coast of Australia has left many of those infected with severe joint pain due to the arthritis associated with the virus.

Researchers at QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute have now discovered an enzyme in the immune system that promotes the arthritis following infection of chikungunya virus, a mosquito-borne disease related to Ross River virus.

Professor Andreas Suhrbier from the Inflammation Biology Laboratory at QIMR Berghofer led the international study and says the finding is a massive step forward in their understanding of the disease.

The mouse study has also led to hope that existing drugs may already be available to target the debilitating and “hard to treat” inflammation it causes.

“We’ve got a brand new drugable target that will hopefully lead to better treatment for this kind of disease and hopefully also related diseases like Ross River disease,” Prof Suhrbier told AAP.

“And perhaps also other viral arthritic disease,” he said.

Like Ross River virus, chikungunya virus can cause severe, chronic polyarthritis – inflammation in multiple joints – and/or polyarthralgia (pain in multiple joints).

Standard anti-inflammatory drugs are usually not very effective in reducing the inflammation or pain.

Researchers at QIMR Berghofer used RNA-sequencing technology to examine inflammatory responses following infection with chikungunya in the immune system.

It found the granzyme A enzyme promotes arthritis following infection with chikungunya virus.

When granzyme A was missing, chikungunya virus caused far less swelling and arthritis, said Prof Suhrbier.

“We also found that when we inhibited the enzyme, there was far less swelling and arthritis,” he added.

This is very significant because for a long time there has been debate about what granzyme A actually did, said Prof Suhrbier.

Prof Suhrbier says the evidence is “clear as day” that the enzyme actually causes inflammation.

“Get rid of granzyme A and the arthritis is much reduced, ” he said.

While the drugs used to inhibit granzyme A in the mice don’t work in humans, there may already be existing anti-inflammatory drugs that inhibit the very thing the enzyme targets to cause the inflammation, said Prof Suhrbier.

“That would be a shortcut to a treatment because those drugs have already been developed and we don’t have to start from scratch to try to make a human granzyme A inhibibtor” Prof Suhrbier said.

However he did acknowledge more research is needed to confirm the findings, published in journal PLOS Pathogens.

Queensland scientists make chronic fatigue breakthrough

Chronic fatigue syndrome sufferers have been given new hope after Queensland researchers found strong evidence it is caused by a dysfunctional immune system.

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Griffith University’s National Centre for Neuroimmunology and Emerging Diseases identified a defective cell receptor that appeared to be central to the development of CFS and the related myalgic encephalomyelitis.

Queensland’s Science Minister Leeanne Enoch said the breakthrough was a world-first in this area of research.

“This discovery is great news for all people living with CFS and the related Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME), as it confirms what people with these conditions have long known – that it is a ‘real’ illness – not a psychological issue,” she said on the Gold Coast on Tuesday.

“CFS and ME are notoriously difficult to diagnose, with sufferers often going for years without getting the proper care and attention they need.

“Currently, there is no effective treatment.”

The two diseases are believed to affect 250,000 Australians, with diagnosis, treatment and management estimated to cost more than $700 million annually.

The state government has funded the NCNED since 2008, while it also recently received a $4 million grant from the Stafford Fox Medical Research Foundation.

NCNED professor Don Staines said the funding would be used to investigate the commercialisation of a diagnostic test currently under development, as well as possible treatments.

“This is a huge boost to our research effort, enabling us to really look at how we can overcome this debilitating illness,” he said.

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Yoyo dieting may be beneficial: study

Yoyo dieting benefits health and can be compared to going to the dentist, according to a scientist whose research appears to support the extreme slimming method.

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US biostatistician Dr David Allison found repeated crash diets did no harm to obese mice.

In fact, serial dieting animals lived longer than those that remained obese.

He questions the widely held view that yoyo dieting is harmful and should be avoided.

Dr Allison, of the University of Alabama in Birmingham, said: “If you go the dentist for your six-month evaluation, they find there’s some plaque around your teeth and scrape it off, and then they give you a toothbrush and piece of string and send you out and say keep up the good work.

“And six months later, guess what, the plaque is back on. Just like weight loss. Nobody says dentistry is a failure. They say that’s OK.”

Speaking at the American Association for the Advancement of Science annual meeting in Boston, Massachusetts, he added: “We think it’s probably not a bad idea to lose weight even if you are going to gain it back and redo it every few years.”

Leading nutritionist Susan Jebb, professor of diet and population health at Oxford University, said it was better to try losing weight than to do nothing.

“I agree with the notion that losing weight is generally worthwhile, even if you put the weight back on again,” she said.

“We have good evidence from long-term follow up studies after controlled intervention studies in humans that there is a benefit.”

But Professor Tim Spector, of King’s College, London, author of The Diet Myth, spoke out strongly against yoyo dieting.

“Data in humans shows that yoyo dieting makes you gain weight long term. In our study of 5000 twins, the yoyo dieter was usually heavier long-term than the identical twin who didn’t diet,” he said.

A recent Israeli study in mice had linked yoyo dieting to a massive change in gut microbe population that permanently altered energy regulation, Prof Spector said.

The bugs caused obesity when transplanted into other mice.

“So the evidence for me shows crash calorie restriction dieting is to be avoided at all costs,” Prof Spector said.