Friday, April 27, 2007

Genetic variation in chimpanzees allows them to be divided into 3 distinct groups

University of Chicago Medical Center:

The largest study to date of genetic variation among chimpanzees has found that the traditional, geography-based sorting of chimps into three populations--western, central and eastern--is underpinned by significant genetic differences, two to three times greater than the variation between the most different human populations.

In the April 2007 issue of the journal PLoS Genetics, researchers from the University of Chicago, Harvard, the Broad Institute and Arizona State show that there has been very little detectable admixture between the different populations and that chimps from the central and eastern populations are more closely related to each other than they are to the western "subspecies."

They also devised a simplified set of about 30 DNA markers that zookeepers or primatologists could use to determine the origins of a chimpanzee with uncertain heritage.

"Finding such a marked difference between the three groups has important implications for conservation," said Molly Przeworski, PhD, assistant professor of human genetics at the University of Chicago and a senior author of the study. "It means we have to protect three separate habitats, all threatened, instead of just one."

To unravel the evolutionary history to chimpanzees, the research team collected DNA from 78 common chimpanzees and six bonobos, a separate species of chimpanzee, and examined 310 DNA markers from each.

They found four "discontinuous populations," three of common chimps plus the bonobos. Hybrids, those with at least five percent of their DNA from more than one common chimpanzee population were rare, with most of the hybrid chimps born in captivity.

"We saw little evidence of migration between groups in the wild," said Celine Becquet, first author of the paper and a graduate student in Przeworski's laboratory. "Part of that could stem from the gaps in our samples, but we think most of this separation is genuine, a long-term consequence of geographic isolation."

The original boundaries between groups may have been the emergence and growth of rivers, such as the Congo River, which is thought to be about 1.5 million years old. "Chimps don't swim," Becquet said. "For them, water provides a very effective border." The ongoing loss of habitat has increased the physical separation between the three groups.

The extent of accumulated genetic difference enabled the researchers to speculate about when the different populations separated. They estimate that bonobos, which live south of the Congo River, split off from the ancestors of modern chimpanzees about 800,000 years ago. Western chimps appear to have separated from central and eastern chimpanzees about 500,000 years ago and central and eastern chimps divided about 250,000 years ago.

"Even though the chimp genome has been sequenced, it's amazing how little we know about their evolution and the level of variation within chimpanzees," said Przeworski. "These are our nearest relatives, closer to humans than they are to gorillas, yet we know so little about them, and even less about gorillas and orangutans."

The chimpanzee genome differs from the bonobo genome by about 0.3 percent, which is one-fourth the distance between humans and chimps. Yet chimps and bonobos have radically different social systems, cultures, diets and mating systems.

On the other hand, in this study, looking at three "subspecies" of common chimpanzees, "we found significant genetic variation," said Przeworski, "but there's very little detectable difference between the populations in terms of appearance or behavior."

Most human-chimp differences due to gene regulation--not genes

Why Ebola is Killing Gorillas and Chimps

Mothers' sons

Genetic Structure of Chimpanzee Populations

Hispanics tend to have more negative opinions of Jews when compared to other ethnic groups

John DeSio:

"Existing research supports the conclusion that Hispanics hold more negative views of Jews than non-Hispanics do, but the extent of that difference and its pattern are unclear," writes Tom W. Smith, director of the General Social Survey at the National Opinion Research Center, University of Chicago, and author of the new American Jewish Committee report, “Hispanic Attitudes Toward Jews.”

The existing data, writes Smith, indicate a range of external and internal explanations for Hispanics having more negative views of Jews than non-Hispanics, including anti-Semitic elements in Latin American Catholicism; fascist political movements in Latin America; little positive exposure to the Jewish community in both Latin America and the U.S.; and socio-demographic and attitudinal differences separating the Hispanic and Jewish communities in the U.S.

"American Jews, and Americans in general, have good reason to care about the attitudes this highly diverse group holds toward Jews," said Dina Siegel Vann, director of AJC's Latino and Latin American Institute. "A majority of Hispanics and Jews end up on the same side of most issues," writes Smith, even though there are "large differences in socio-economic status, religion, immigration status and historical experiences" that separate the two communities.


Pakistan has more people imprisoned facing execution than any other country in the world

BBC News:

Nearly a third of the world's 24,000 death row prisoners are in Pakistan - "often held in extremely over-crowded conditions", Amnesty says.

Its annual report on the death penalty said the number of people executed in 2006 fell by 25%, compared with 2005.

But Pakistan was one of a few countries where executions rose sharply.

Pakistan's interior minister has dismissed any suggestion of abolishing the death penalty.

The Amnesty report said that at least 1,591 people had been executed in 25 countries last year, compared with 2,148 people in 2005.

It said the vast majority of those executed in 2006 were in China (1,010), followed by Iran (177), Pakistan (82), Iraq (65), Sudan (65) and the US (53).

The figure in Pakistan had nearly trebled from 31 the previous year, Amnesty said.

The group's UK Director, Kate Allen, said: "Last year saw a slight drop in execution numbers but it was another grim death toll around the world.

"We are particularly concerned about a disturbing 'revival' of executions in countries like Iraq, Sudan and Pakistan.

"We urgently need to see 'death penalty governments' issuing bans on all imminent executions, especially President Musharraf in Pakistan."

Worldwide: New report shows world executions down, but 'disturbing revival' amongst minority of countries

Here is thy sting

Thousands of Iranian women have been cautioned over their poor Islamic dress and several hundred arrested in Tehran

Frances Harrison:

It is the talk of the town. The latest police crackdown on Islamic dress has angered many Iranians - male, female, young and old.

But Iranian TV has reported that an opinion poll conducted in Tehran found 86% of people were in favour of the crackdown - a statistic that is surprising given the strength of feeling against this move.

Police cars are stationed outside major shopping centres in Tehran.

They are stopping pedestrians and even cars - warning female drivers not show any hair - and impounding the vehicles and arresting the women if they argue back.

Middle-aged women, foreign tourists and journalists have all been harassed, not just the young and fashionably dressed.

Iran Cracks Down on Women's Dress

Caught on Tape: Shocking Video of Iranian Regime Cracking Down on Women!

Iran: The Burka Police Enforces “The Law”

A Nigerian lesbian who married four women in Kano State has gone into hiding from the Islamic police, with her partners

BBC News:

Under Sharia law, adopted in the state seven years ago, homosexuality and same-sex marriages are outlawed and considered very serious offences.

The theatre where the elaborate wedding celebration was held on Sunday has been demolished by Kano city's authorities.

Lesbianism is also illegal under Nigeria's national penal code.

Nigeria's parliament is considering tightening its laws on homosexuality.

Kano's Hisbah board, which uses volunteers to enforce Islamic law, told the BBC that the women's marriage was "unacceptable".

The BBC's Bala Ibrahim in Kano says Aunty Maiduguri and her four "wives" are thought to have gone into hiding the day after they married.

All five women were born Muslims, otherwise they would not be covered by Sharia law.

Islam says a man can take up to four wives if he is able to support them.

"As defenders of the Sharia laws, we shall not allow this unhealthy development to take root in the state," the Hisbah's Malam Rabo Abdulkarim told Nigeria's This Day newspaper.

Our correspondent says the theatre where the colourful wedding ceremony was held was flattened earlier this week.

Several reasons were given for the demolition, including the discovery that it was built on wrongly allocated land.

A Kano police spokesman told the BBC that his officers were not actively looking for the women, but would arrest them if need be.

The Hisbah group, which is run seperately from the police, receives state government support.

Two years ago, a Sharia court sentenced a man to six months in prison and fined him $38 for living as a woman for seven years in Kano.

Eleven other states in mostly Muslim northern Nigeria have adopted Sharia law.

Britain slams 'outright rigged' election in Nigeria

New York State: 45% of Hispanic high school students and 47% of black students graduated on time in 2006, compared with 79% of white students

David M. Herszenhorn:

The numbers showed some of the same vast disparities — between poor cities and rich suburbs, and also between white students and their black and Hispanic counterparts — that have persisted for years, with rich children and white children more likely to graduate on time.

Statewide, 45 percent of Hispanic students and 47 percent of black students graduated on time in 2006, compared with 79 percent of white students. And while the on-time completion rate was 91 percent in the wealthiest school districts, it was only 45 percent in Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse and Yonkers, the big cities other than New York.

The numbers also highlighted the enduring challenges for students with disabilities; only 37 percent statewide graduated on time, and only 48 percent did so after six years.

Students taking longer to graduate

Education commissioner: Progress too slow on graduation rates

HS grad rates inch up


African-American activist says that immigration amnesty is an immoral seizure of black jobs

Lesley Clark:

T. Willard Fair, the president of the Urban League of Greater Miami, is appearing in ads in The Washington Post and RollCall, a Capitol Hill newspaper, saying that "to black Americans, amnesty is an immoral seizure of our jobs."

"Amnesty for illegal workers is not just a slap in the face to black Americans. It's an economic disaster," he says in the ad, which identifies him as a civil rights leader.

The ad cites a 2006 National Bureau of Economic Research paper that suggests a "strong correlation between immigration, black wages, black employment rates and black incarceration rates."

The ads are sponsored by the Coalition for the Future American Worker, which wants to beef up border security, end illegal immigration and cut legal immigration in half:

"I see illegal immigration and the adverse impact that it has on the political empowerment of African-Americans, and the impact it has on the job market," Fair, a political independent, said in a telephone interview.

The ad quotes Fair saying that black Americans have lost "hundreds of thousands of jobs to foreign workers willing to work for next to nothing," and it blames undocumented immigrants for "40 percent of the decline in employment among black American men."

Fair said in the interview that he also was worried that unchecked immigration could cost blacks politically, by diluting mostly black congressional districts.

"As we are at a zenith of our political power, with what's happening with illegal immigration we could easily lose six or eight seats," he said.

Coalition For The Future American Worker


Race and murder in the United States

Linda Thom:

Because of the recent murders committed by a Korean immigrant, much discussion in the media surrounds gun control, violence on campus and mentally ill people.

Virtually no discussion, needless to say, surrounds immigration and violent crime.

Good data on immigrants and crime is notoriously hard to get. But health statistics from the Centers for Disease Control help. It a nutshell: they show that the Hispanic population engages in a high level of violent behavior. Young Asians generally behave much like their non-Hispanic, white counterparts—with the possible exception of some young males.

The government numbers come from vital statistics collected at the local level. Sometimes mistakes occur in reporting Hispanic ethnicity, especially on death certificates. Nevertheless, the numbers are consistent and plentiful so that conclusions can be drawn.

Death by homicide is my first data set. Why do I look at the victims and not the perpetrators? Because death certificates contain reasonably reliable information about race and ethnicity. And, generally speaking, people murder their own people—as the numbers will show.

In, ­Deaths: Leading Causes for 2003, homicide is listed as the 7th leading cause of death among Hispanics; 21st for non-Hispanic whites and 6th for non-Hispanic blacks. For Asian/Pacific Islanders, homicide is not among the top ten causes of death.

This is somewhat misleading however, as Hispanics are younger than the white and black populations. When adjusted for age, blacks have the highest homicide rate, followed by Hispanics, Native Americans, then Asians and, last, whites.

After Virginia Tech: Are 60,000 Missing Foreign Students A Security Risk?

More people have been displaced in Somalia in the past two months than anywhere else in the world

BBC News:

Stephanie Bunker, spokeswoman for UN relief coordinator John Holmes, said at least 350,000 people had fled fighting in Mogadishu since February.

There is also concern for those trapped in the city, where more than 600 have died from acute diarrhoea and cholera.

A BBC correspondent says gunfire has stopped for the first time in 10 days.

AFP news agency is reporting that Ethiopians and government troops are moving house-to-house in northern districts arresting suspected insurgents.

However, the city's Coca-Cola factory, opened in 2004, was looted overnight by gunmen in 12 trucks.

"Our offices were broken into and all computers looted. We had supplies of sugar that were supposed to last the whole year - they were also looted," manager Bashir Mohamed Araye told Reuters news agency.

UN Chief 'Gravely Concerned' About Somalia

UN says One-Third of Mogadishu Population Has Fled Fighting

Ethiopia Finds Itself Ensnared in Somalia

In Somalia, Those Who Feed Off Anarchy Fuel It

Thousands flee as shelling by Ethiopian tanks kills hundreds of civilians in Somali capital

Mogadishu chaos engulfs the region

Looting breaks out during lull in Mogadishu fighting

England: An illegal immigrant from Uganda stabbed a cash office worker to death

John Scott:

AN illegal immigrant who stabbed a cash office worker to death when he was not paid had given incorrect bank details, an inquest heard yesterday.

Ugandan shop cleaner William Alikori — who had overstayed his visa — chased Rina Panchal, 26, round the TK Maxx store.

Alikori — who had mental problems — was heard yelling: “I’ve not been paid. I’ve got no money.”

He stabbed her with a kitchen knife in the chest and stomach 11 times during the attack in January in Thurmaston, Leics.

Hubby Jayant told the Loughborough inquest: “She was my best friend.”

Alikori, 31 — a sub-contractor for Ecoclean — was charged with murder but hanged himself in jail while awaiting trial.

Verdict: Unlawful killing. An inquest into Alikori’s death will take place at a later date.

Shopworker was unlawfully killed

Man is charged with murder of shop assistant

Gun violence has become an epidemic among San Francisco's African American boys and young men

Heather Knight:

The number of patients with gunshot wounds admitted to San Francisco General Hospital's trauma center has more than doubled over the past five years -- a sign of what the hospital's chief of medicine calls a genocide on the city's streets.

In 2003, 110 gunshot victims were admitted to the hospital. Last year, that figure spiked to 228.

The dramatic rise isn't mirrored in the city's homicide rate because fewer gunshot victims are dying thanks to advancements in medicine, a hospital official said. In 2003, 70 people were killed in the city. Last year, 85 were killed following a 10-year high in homicides the year before.

Dr. Andre Campbell, testifying before a Board of Supervisors committee meeting Monday, said gun violence has become an epidemic among the city's African American boys and young men.

"The rising tide of violence is staggering," he said, adding that while African Americans make up 6.5 percent of the city's residents, they comprise at least 70 percent of gunshot victims. "I characterize that as a genocide."

The hospital's ability to save more gunshot victims means more of them are left with spinal cord injuries or other debilitating health problems, he said. In 2003, five gunshot victims treated at San Francisco General were left with spinal cord injuries. Last year, that figure rose to 13.

"The cost of spinal cord injuries is staggering to our patients," Campbell said. "There is a physical, emotional and spiritual cost that cannot be measured in a dollar amount for these patients and their families."

It also means a tremendously burdensome financial weight on the victims' families, as well as on the city itself. Campbell cited a study from the University of Alabama's Spinal Cord Injury Center that found that care for a quadriplegic person costs about $2.9 million over the course of a lifetime.

But it's predominantly people who are poor and without resources who are served by the hospital's Trauma Recovery Center, said its director, clinical psychologist Alicia Boccellari.

"Violence and poverty go hand in hand," she said. "We know that violence robs people of their sense of safety in the world, disrupts peoples' lives and their relationships. It damages the spirit."

During the past four years, the recovery center, which offers a variety of services to victims of violent crimes, has treated 192 gunshot victims, Boccellari said.

Eighty-three percent were men, and 95 percent were minorities.

There is a similar problem in Britain:

In 2004-05, there were 78 fatal shootings in England and Wales. Of these, 40 of the victims were white, 25 black, seven Asian. The figures do not record the ethnicity of the killers but, by and large, murderers tend mostly to target members of their own ethnic group.

In 2005-06, there were 50 fatal shootings. Eighteen victims were white, 19 black and four Asian. That same year, 351 black people were injured by guns. For whites, injuries totalled 2,952.

The statistics confirm that the problem of gun crime is not unique to the black community, but they provide stark evidence that the black community is over-represented to a frightening degree.

According to the 2001 Home Office census, Britain's black community makes up just 2 per cent of the total population. Yet each year around a third of all shooting victims are black. About one in 10 victims are of Asian origin, a population that makes up just 4 per cent of Britain's total.

Police Searching For Suspects In Two S.F Shooting

S.F. gunshot injuries doubled since 2003

Irate Islamic lawmakers have persuaded the Pakistan government to stop a theatre group staging a satirical play about the burqa


"Burqavaganza" played earlier this month during an arts festival in Lahore, the eastern city regarded as Pakistan's cultural capital, and home to some of the most liberal and most puritanical parts of the Muslim nation's society.

"The burqa is part of our culture. We can't allow anyone to ridicule our culture," Culture Minister Sayed Ghazi Gulab Jamal told the National Assembly.

The minister announced Thursday that the government had barred the play, which had already ended its run in Lahore, from being performed in other Pakistani cities.

Veiled female parliamentarians and Islamist lawmakers cheered Jamal and thumped desks in approval, while trading barbs with women from both the ruling party and liberal opposition parties.

Described by critics as a romp, the play sought to highlight the impact of the veil on society, by showing how wearers use it as a way to hide what they want to keep private.

In the play, young men and women wore the burqa to go out on secret dates, and it featured a character called Burqa bin Badin.

The play also showed a burqa-clad married couple put to death for making love in public.

Predictably, religious conservative Pakistanis did not find it funny, going as far as to describe the play as blasphemous, a crime in Pakistan that can carry a death sentence.

"They have committed blasphemy against the Prophet (Mohammad)," Razia Aziz, a female lawmaker from the Islamist opposition alliance, told the National Assembly.

She demanded the government take action against people responsible for staging "Burqavaganza".

Mehnaz Rafi, a lawmaker for the ruling Pakistan Muslim League from Lahore, opposed the government giving in to the Islamists.

"A few people cannot dictate affairs of the state. Every person has the right to lead his life his own way. A few people cannot snatch freedom from society," Rafi said.

Shahid Nadeem, the director of the play, told the weekly Friday Times that the play aimed to raise awareness about a trend to force women to wear the veil.

Progressive Pakistanis have become increasingly shocked by how bold religious radicals have become in spreading their Taliban-style values in society.

Last month, burqa-clad female students from an Islamic school, or madrasa, raided a brothel in the capital, Islamabad, and abducted three women. The women were released only after they were made to repent before the media.

Students from Lal Masjid, or Red Mosque, and its adjoining madrasa have also pressured music and video shop owners to wind up their businesses as part of their anti-vice campaign.

Anger at Pakistan burka play ban

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Israel: Modesty buses and Orthodox Jewish power

Katya Adler:

The other day I was waiting for a bus in downtown Jerusalem. I was in the bustling orthodox Jewish neighbourhood of Mea Sharim and the bus stop was extremely crowded.

When the Number 40 bus arrived, the most curious thing happened. Husbands left heavily pregnant wives or spouses struggling with prams and pushchairs to fend for themselves as they and all other male passengers got on at the front of the bus.

Women moved towards the rear door to get on at the back.

When on the bus, I tried to buck the system, moving my way towards the driver but was pushed back towards the other women.

These are what orthodox Jews call "modesty buses".

The separation system operates on 30 public bus routes across Israel.

The authorities here say the arrangement is voluntary, but in practice, as I found out, there is not much choice involved.

Naomi Regen is one of a group of women now taking the separation bus system to court. She is an orthodox Jew herself.

"I wasn't trying to start a revolution, all I wanted to do was get home," she tells me.

"I was in downtown Jerusalem and I saw a bus going straight to my neighbourhood and I got on and sat down, in a single seat behind the driver.

"It was a completely empty bus, and all of a sudden, some men started getting on, ultra-orthodox men. They told me I was not allowed to sit there, I had to go to the back of the bus."

Not only is the segregation system discriminatory, says Ms Regen, but it can also be dangerous, she says, for those like her who ignore it.

"I said to him look, if you bring me a code of Jewish law and show me where it's written that I have to sit at the back of the bus I'll move.

"And he tried to gain support from the rest of the passengers and I underwent a half-hour of pure hell - abuse, humiliation, threats, even physical intimidation."

Supporters of the separation system say the buses involved serve mainly religious Jewish neighbourhoods - but not exclusively.

Many passengers are not happy. You will hear complaints at bus stops all over town.

One man told me that if some people wanted segregation buses they should pay a private company to provide them.

Another told me that in a society that is democratic and where the buses are subsidised by the government, a minority's concerns should not override those of the majority.

But Shlomo Rosenstein disagrees. He is a city councillor in Jerusalem where a large proportion of Israel's segregation lines operate.

"This really is about positive discrimination, in women's favour. Our religion says there should be no public contact between men and women, this modesty barrier must not be broken."

Opponents of the separation buses face an uphill struggle. Orthodox Jewish leaders are a powerful minority in Israel.

Naomi Regen says the buses are just part of a wider menacing pattern of behaviour towards women in parts of the orthodox Jewish community.

"They've already cancelled higher education in the ultra-orthodox world for women. They have packed the religious courts with ultra-orthodox judges.

"In some places there are separate sides of the street women have to walk on."

She says that there are signs all over some religious neighbourhoods demanding that women dress modestly.

"They throw paint and bleach at women who aren't dressed modestly and if we don't draw a line in the sand here with this seat on a bus, then I don't know what this country and this religion is going to look like in 20 years," Ms Regen said.

Petitioners like Naomi Regen have asked Israel's High Court to either ban the segregation buses altogether or to force bus companies to provide parallel bus routes for passengers wanting to sit where they like.

This should be ceased, immediately

Sweden: Integration of refugees not going well

The Local:

Swedish authorities have been criticized for their handling of the introduction of new refugees into the country.

A new report from the Swedish Integration Board (Integrationsverket) has shown that the government has a lot of work to do if it is to reach its goal of getting refugees to learn Swedish and join the labour market as soon as possible after they first receive a residence permit.

"Measures are needed quickly to change the current situation," said Integration Board analyst Gisela Andersson.

The report - 'One Lost Year' - is based on interviews with 2,803 refugees and their supervisors in 255 municipalities, as well as information from databases.

Half of those newly arrived in the country had no contact with the labour market in the year after they received permission to stay in Sweden.

Of those who participated in local introductory schemes, only four percent had received work experience, three percent had taken part in labour market training programmes, and six percent had their skills validated. Just eleven percent managed to get jobs.

"Unfortunately this has clear parallels with what we have seen in previous studies," said Andersson.

Less than half of those surveyed had received a medical examination or received information in their own language about the Swedish health system.

Only 27 percent of those studied had achieved a passing score after a year's participation in Swedish for Immigrants (Svenska för Invandrare - SFI) courses.

"If SFI is not combined with another form of education, work experience or actual work it does of course become more difficult to learn a new language," said Andersson.

She also noted that the same shortcomings had been exposed repeatedly over the last ten years, yet still the problems continue.

Cost of receiving immigrants 'to double' by 2010

Mainstream media and illegal immigration

Lou Dobbs:

The Bush administration and the leadership of the Democratic Party are preparing to take another legislative leap at imposing a massive illegal alien amnesty on American citizens.

And the mainstream media are complicit in advancing this thinly veiled blanket amnesty. Instead of asking and answering important questions about why our immigration laws aren't being enforced and why we're permitting pervasive document fraud, the national media seem hell-bent on trying to obfuscate the issue, shamelessly playing with language, equating legal immigration with illegal immigration while obviously trying to preserve the illusion of objectivity.

Too often, the language of the national media describes illegal immigration as "migration" and illegal aliens as "undocumented immigrants," even though many of them have lots of documents, most of which are fraudulent or stolen. Some media outlets have taken to calling illegal aliens "entrants." Whether such language is meant to engender sympathy or to intentionally blur the distinction between legal and illegal, the mainstream media are taking sides in this debate.

The Arizona Republic, for example, used "undocumented immigrant" more than 80 times in 36 separate stories in the past month alone; the term appeared as many as 12 times in one article on "migration," according to our Lexis-Nexis search. At the same time, "illegal alien" appeared a total of only nine times during that span, with seven of the references coming from readers' opinions, one from a quotation and one from an editorial.

The mainstream media report as if America would no longer be a welcoming nation if we stopped illegal immigration. Nothing could be further from the truth. Why do the national media conveniently and routinely neglect to report that the United States brings in more lawful immigrants than the countries of the rest of the world combined? Each year, we accept 2 million immigrants legally. We give a million legal immigrants permanent residency every year. We bestow citizenship on 700,000 people a year and provide almost half a million work-related visas a year.

Illegal immigration, in fact, has the potential to change the course of American history: Demographers at the Brookings Institution and the Population Reference Bureau paint a troubling picture of the future of our democracy. As more illegal aliens cross our borders and settle in large states like California, Texas and Florida, congressional seats will be redistributed to these bigger states following each decennial Census. States with low levels of immigration will ultimately lose seats as a result. Unfortunately for American citizens, this seismic shift in political representation will be decided by noncitizens that cannot vote.

Nice job by Lou Dobbs

Mother accused of negligence in her baby’s death

Sara Agnew:

Nicole West

Both sides agree Nicole West had grown frustrated with her baby girl’s crying on the day after Christmas in 2005. For 20 minutes, the 6-month-old had been screaming while strapped in a car seat in a bedroom.

West, then 23, told police she had fed her daughter and changed her diaper. There seemed to be no consoling the infant. So she removed Deja West from her car seat, placed the infant facedown on a pillow on a bare mattress on the floor and covered her body, including her head, with an adult-size blanket.

What happened next was either an unintentional crime that followed months of indifference and neglect or the unexplainable loss of a baby’s life. West is charged with second-degree involuntary manslaughter, child endangerment and misdemeanor possession of marijuana.

It’s up to a Boone County jury to decide whether to convict her in the death of her daughter, whose lifeless body was discovered by the young mother two hours after placing the infant facedown on a pillow.

In an opening statement yesterday in Boone County Circuit Court, Assistant Prosecutor Merilee Crockett told a jury that after closing her daughter off in the bedroom, West spent the next two hours in the Quail Drive apartment. She said West drank two glasses of Southern Comfort whiskey, some Boone’s Farm wine and King Cobra malt liquor and smoked a marijuana cigarette while watching a movie.

"She made a choice that led to Deja’s death," Crockett said, "so she could drink and enjoy a movie and joint without being bothered."

Crockett said West didn’t check on the child again until her boyfriend returned home. During a 911 call, Crockett said, West’s voice appeared void of emotion while her boyfriend can be heard in the background, screaming and hysterical.

"Nicole is calm and collected," Crockett said.

Infant’s death not caused by SIDS, examiner says

The growing polarization of Israel's Jewish and Arab communities

Claire Bolderson:

Arabs make up nearly 20% of the population, but they have long complained of discrimination, and official figures tend to back their case.

Arab villages for the most part receive less in state aid even though they are generally poorer than Jewish ones.

Life expectancy of Arabs is lower, so is educational achievement.

But just as bad, say Israeli Arabs, is the general attitude of the Jewish majority.

"When they look in your eyes you know. They don't have to speak to you, you know if someone likes you or not," says 18-year-old Ahlam over coffee in a Nazareth cafe.

She plans to go to university but complains that she will have to work twice as hard as any Jewish student to get a place, just because she is an Arab.

It is grievances like that that have prompted Israeli-Arab leaders to come up with a series of reports on the status of Israeli Arabs - or Palestinian citizens of Israel as many call themselves - and to suggest solutions.

Most provocative for Jewish Israelis was one commissioned by the mayors of Arab towns and written by leading Arab academics.

The report, entitled the Future Vision of the Palestinians in Israel, does not just list the problems of discrimination.

It calls for Israel to stop being a Jewish state.

Out would go the national anthem and the Star of David flag.

Israel would become a state of two equal peoples, Jewish and Arab.

To make that happen, the report says, Arabs should have much more autonomy politically and culturally with their own school system and separate curriculum for example.

All of that is completely out of the question for Israeli Jews across the political spectrum.

"Israel belongs not only to its citizens but also the Jewish people of the world," says one left-wing commentator.

"We want to preserve our uniqueness and if there's a threat to that then we're frightened," he says.

The Future Vision document has given Israeli Jews a reason to be frightened.

At the moment what little peace process there is with Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, is based on the notion that one day there will be two states, one Jewish and one Palestinian, living side by side.

But what the Israeli Arabs have done is raise the spectre of two states, neither of which will be Jewish.

And that has confirmed the old fear of Israelis that they will never be accepted in the region.

Israel probes Arab politician accused of aiding Hezbollah

Britons' concern over an influx of immigrants is a mounting theme in the run-up to local elections in May

Simon Rabinovitch:

Immigration Minister Liam Byrne wrote last week that the country has been "deeply unsettled" by the more than half million east Europeans, largely from Poland, who have arrived over the past three years.

82 percent of 2,254 Britons questioned in a recent YouGov poll said the government does not have immigration under control. Only 31 percent said immigrants were good for the national economy.

Their views are reflected in newspapers publishing a steady flow of articles calling for tighter restrictions.

"We must regain control of our borders -- now," read a recent opinion column in the Daily Telegraph. "Immigrant baby boom: NHS (National Health Service) under strain from east Europeans," was a headline last month in the Daily Mail.

Public attitudes to immigration are hardening in Britain:

The YouGov poll in January showed that 63 percent of Britons strongly agreed there should be limits to the number of immigrants allowed in each year: up from half of respondents 10 months earlier.

Such discontent is potentially fruitful for the British National Party. The far-right party with an anti-immigrant message is fielding a record 827 candidates in the May 3 local elections, more than double its roster last year.

Although the BNP is still a fringe actor in British politics, the mainstream is also raising questions.

Immigration minister Byrne wrote: "It's not racist for (the governing labor Party) to debate immigration; it's the real world -- the world in which the people we represent live."

The government is planning a points system to manage migration from non-EU countries. Limits were placed on the number of workers allowed in from new EU members Romania and Bulgaria -- a shift from the open-door policy for Poland and other east European nations in 2004.

And even the businesses that welcome migrant workers worry that dependence on imported skills might mean Britain neglects the skill levels of its own children.

Immigration must be fair - Reid

Immigration 'threat to UK status'

Migration 'tipping point reached'

A nation of newcomers

1.2 Million European Immigrants in the UK by 2010? We can only estimate

Yet More Demographics

In Mississippi, infant deaths among African-Americans rose to 17 per thousand births in 2005 from 14.2 per thousand in 2004

Erik Eckholm:

For decades, Mississippi and neighboring states with large black populations and expanses of enduring poverty made steady progress in reducing infant death. But, in what health experts call an ominous portent, progress has stalled and in recent years the death rate has risen in Mississippi and several other states.

The setbacks have raised questions about the impact of cuts in welfare and Medicaid and of poor access to doctors, and, many doctors say, the growing epidemics of obesity, diabetes and hypertension among potential mothers, some of whom tip the scales here at 300 to 400 pounds.

“I don’t think the rise is a fluke, and it’s a disturbing trend, not only in Mississippi but throughout the Southeast,” said Dr. Christina Glick, a neonatologist in Jackson, Miss., and past president of the National Perinatal Association.

To the shock of Mississippi officials, who in 2004 had seen the infant mortality rate — defined as deaths by the age of 1 year per thousand live births — fall to 9.7, the rate jumped sharply in 2005, to 11.4. The national average in 2003, the last year for which data have been compiled, was 6.9. Smaller rises also occurred in 2005 in Alabama, North Carolina and Tennessee. Louisiana and South Carolina saw rises in 2004 and have not yet reported on 2005.

Whether the rises continue or not, federal officials say, rates have stagnated in the Deep South at levels well above the national average.

Most striking, here and throughout the country, is the large racial disparity. In Mississippi, infant deaths among blacks rose to 17 per thousand births in 2005 from 14.2 per thousand in 2004, while those among whites rose to 6.6 per thousand from 6.1. (The national average in 2003 was 5.7 for whites and 14.0 for blacks.)

The overall jump in Mississippi meant that 65 more babies died in 2005 than in the previous year, for a total of 481.

Groups team up to study black infant mortality rate

The European Parliament has added its voice to those calling on World Bank boss Paul Wolfowitz to resign over a promotion row involving his partner

BBC News:

MEPs voted by 332 to 251 to ask Germany, which currently holds the EU Presidency, to call for his departure at next week's EU-US summit.

Their resolution states his resignation would be a "welcome step" in supporting the body's anti-corruption strategy.

Mr Wolfowitz is accused of intervening to secure a big salary for Shaha Riza.

The former US deputy defence secretary has been under pressure since it emerged that he sought a promotion and a $200,000 (£100,000) salary for Ms Riza in 2005.

Mr Wolfowitz has apologised for his actions and pledged "major changes" in the way that his office is run in light of the episode.

But his position at the head of the global lending body remains insecure with unions, former bank officials and politicians across Europe calling for him to step down.

He has hired a leading US lawyer to defend him while the Bank's board of directors considers his long-term future.

The motion passed by the European Parliament stated that Mr Wolfowitz's "withdrawal from the post would be a welcome step towards preventing the bank's anti-corruption policy from being undermined".

During a debate on the issue, a succession of MEPs called on him to stand down.

"Our message for him must be it is time for you to go," said Graham Watson, leader of the liberal and democrats' alliance.

Martin Schulz, leader of the socialist group, said Mr Wolfowitz's position was "untenable".

Swiss urge Wolfowitz to reflect if "right person"

Going on the offensive, Wolfowitz accuses World Bank directors


The Southern Poverty Law Center versus Kevin MacDonald

Louis Sahagun:

The Southern Poverty Law Center on Tuesday called for an investigation into the campus activities of Kevin MacDonald, a Cal State Long Beach psychology professor whose writings about Jews have been used to support the views of white supremacists.

Of particular concern, according to a center report to be published this week, are MacDonald's theories suggesting that "Jews, who have typically been in the minority in countries around the world, are compelled by an evolutionary strategy that makes them push for liberal policies, like immigration and diversity, with the intent of weakening the power of the majority that rules them."

The law center, which has collected statistics for years on what it considers hate groups, wants Cal State to look into what MacDonald is teaching students and wants to shine a light on his voluminous writings on Jews.

"What we would like to know is why the university seems intent on protecting Kevin MacDonald rather than looking at his possible violations of policy in the classroom," said Heidi Beirich, the center's deputy director and author of the report. "Our primary intent is not to get rid of Kevin MacDonald, but to show the world who he is, what he is doing."

In an interview in his office Tuesday, the tall, lanky MacDonald — a fully tenured professor with a doctorate in behavioral sciences from the University of Connecticut — insisted that although he has written books on what he calls the evolutionary psychology of Jews, "I have never talked about Jews in my courses."

But he acknowledged that his scholarly research has convinced him that not every instance of anti-Semitism is "irrational."

"Jews, as a group, have interests that sometimes conflict with the interests of the people they live among," said MacDonald, who teaches students seeking a degree in child development. "In general, Judaism is considered a complex and successful survival mechanism, and at times they've been victimized for it. I do think there is a biological element at work here that's existed throughout the centuries."

As for the law center report's allegation that his work has been used to lend a kind of legitimacy to neo-Nazi and white supremacist groups, he said, "I do not agree with all the views people have, but there is little I can do about that."

Beirich sees it differently: "Not since Hitler's 'Mein Kampf' have anti-Semites had such a comprehensive reference guide to what's 'wrong with Jews.' His work is widely advertised and touted on white supremacist websites and sold by neo-Nazi outfits like National Vanguard Books, which considers them 'the most important books of the last 100 years.' "

One of MacDonald's essays on Jews is highlighted on the official website of former Ku Klux Klan member David Duke, who said it contains "a deeper intellectual understanding of the nature of Jewish supremacism and its implications for European Americans."

MacDonald, 63, is no stranger to controversy. In 2000, he testified on behalf of David Irving, a controversial World War II historian who suffered a stinging defeat in a London courtroom in a libel suit he filed against another writer who described him as a Holocaust denier. Irving also served 13 months in prison in Austria after pleading guilty to denying the Holocaust, a crime in that country.

MacDonald's actions caused an uproar on the Cal State campus and the creation of rules regarding the use and abuse of academic material. They included a warning that it is unethical for faculty to allow their work to be used to support groups that disseminate racial or ethnic superiority or racial or ethnic hatred.

Yet, in a recent posting on his website, MacDonald said that "I would like to suppose that my work on Judaism at least meets the criteria of good social science, even if I have come to the point of seeing my subjects in a less than flattering light. In the end, does it really matter if my motivation at this point is less than pristine? Isn't the only question whether I am right?"

That kind of talk makes some of his colleagues in the psychology department at Cal State Long Beach uncomfortable.

Professor Martin Fiebert said he welcomed the law center's report about his colleague of 20 years. "I think exposing bigotry and cultural insensitivity is a good thing to do," he said. "It may help him sell more books, but it will also reveal his views to a larger audience."

Fiebert added: "The most troubling development lately has been that [MacDonald] is widely cited in neo-Nazi and white supremacist web pages. Some of their issues were framed around his willingness to say that being anti-Semitic is a sort of badge of courage.

"But even talking about these things is tricky," he said. "The last time things heated up, Kevin went to his lawyer, then came back and said if his job was threatened, he'd sue. So people stopped talking about Kevin MacDonald."

Cal State Long Beach psychology professor William Kelemen said MacDonald's notions about Jews "make me uncomfortable."

"It's a radioactive topic," he said, "and it's drawing a lot of attention, most of it negative.

"What is bizarre about it all," he added, "is that these controversies seem to surface every few years, yet no one seems to know what to do about it."

In a prepared statement Tuesday, university officials would say only that "academic freedom does not constrain or restrict the spectrum of knowledge, whether that knowledge is popular or unpopular."

Professor of Hate?

Jewish Intellectuals Endorse Kevin MacDonald's Theory of Jewish Eugenic Breeding!

Ethnic Nepotism

MidEast Policy—Immigration Policy: Is The Other Boot About To Drop?

Understanding Jewish Influence I: Background Traits for Jewish Activism

The Culture of Critique: An Evolutionary Analysis of Jewish Involvement in Twentieth-Century Intellectual and Political Movements

An illegal immigrant from Ecuador admits to helping a rapist - an illegal alien from Honduras - commit a sexual assault

Peggy Wright:

A 25-year-old painter admitted Tuesday that he helped a stranger pin a woman to the ground in Morristown so the man could have an easier time raping her.

Juan Antonio Amendano, who is in this country illegally from Ecuador, pleaded guilty in state Superior Court, Morristown, to aggravated sexual assault on July 10, 2005, on a woman who was identified as an intern from London temporarily living in Morristown.

Morris County Assistant Prosecutor Maggie Calderwood offered Amendano a plea deal of 10 years in prison, which could be lowered to eight years if he fully cooperates in the prosecution of co-defendant Joel A. Romero of Morristown.

A 27-year-old illegal alien from Honduras, Romero is accused of the sexual assault, while Amendano admitted Tuesday to acting as an accomplice .

Romero has not accepted a 30-year plea offer but was brought into court Tuesday so Amendano could identify him.

Both men have been held in the Morris County jail on $250,000 bail since their arrests moments after the attack was cut short by police. Amendano was transferred after his plea to the Sussex County jail because he believes his life may be in danger in the Morris jail. At his bail hearing in 2005, he told a judge: "I wish them to forgive me for what I did."

Amendano, through a Spanish-to-English interpreter, gave Judge Joseph A. Falcone the following sequence of events:

He said he and two friends parted ways during their walk home from a night of drinking at another friend's home. Alone, Amendano said, he heard a scream coming from the vicinity of a set of railroad tracks and a market.

Authorities have said the then-20-year-old woman got separated from friends at a pub on Dehart Street and started walking home alone around 2 a.m. She was grabbed from behind on Lafayette Avenue around 2:05 a.m. and dragged into woods between the Staples parking lot on Lafayette Avenue and Olyphant Drive.

Amendano told Falcone that he set down the beer he was carrying and went to investigate the screams and a choking noise.

"When I got there, the guy was on top of the lady," Amendano said.

He said neither the woman nor the stranger had on clothes, and he realized the woman was in the process of being raped. He said the stranger -- whom he later learned was Romero --told him to cover the woman's mouth, punch her stomach or choke her to stop her struggle. At one point he said he also got on top of the woman but then said he held down her chest and stomach.

Amendano agreed when the judge asked: "Did you believe he was asking you to give him a better shot at raping her?"

"I saw that he was on top of her and she was screaming,"Amendano said. "It came to my mind he was abusing her -- he was having sex with her."

He said he started running when he heard police sirens. Neighbors who heard screams had called 911. Officers nabbed Amendano as he ran and Romero was caught, allegedly in the act of assaulting the woman.

Amendano's sentencing was tentatively set for Aug. 3, but it could be delayed if Romero goes to trial in May. He also must be evaluated for sexual deviations at the state's Adult Diagnostic and Treatment Center at Avenel. He was told he would have to register as a convicted sex offender under Megan's Law once released from prison, but defense lawyer Anthony Alfano said that Amendano, who is married, most likely will be deported to Ecuador when his sentence is over.

These two filthy animals should be executed!

African-American father/white mother families tend to invest fewer resources into kids than do black monoracial couples and white monoracial couples

Robin Lloyd:

The study, detailed in the American Journal of Sociology, examined data collected in 1998–1999 as part of a large national survey of U.S. families, with a focus on those with kindergarteners. A total of 1,599 couples were part of the new analysis.

Powell and his colleague Simon Cheng at the University of Connecticut found one exception to the "biracial advantage." Black father/white mother families tend to invest fewer resources into kids than do black monoracial couples and white monoracial couples.

This could be because families in which one of the parents is black likely experience greater prejudice and disapproval from their extended families than do non-black interracial couples, Powell and Cheng wrote. Also, there seem to be greater social challenges faced by couples in which a non-white man is involved with a white woman, they wrote.

The study also highlighted the great variation in U.S. biracial couples. Couples with one black parent and one white parent made up the smallest set — just 143 couples, compared to 601 in which one parent was Latino and the other white. There were 174 white and Asian couples and 191 couples who were white and "other," which referred to Native Americans among others.

Crossing Racial Boundaries: Changes of Interracial Marriage in America, 1990-2000

Race and social distance: intermarriage with non-Latino Whites

France: African immigrants threaten violence if Sarkozy wins

Adam Sage:

Koné Jaoussou stood in a doorway on the infamous Grande Borne council estate, shaking his head at the prospect of a victory for Nicolas Sarkozy in the French presidential election.

“If Sarkozy wins this place is going to explode again,” said the 28-year-old immigrant from Mali as he recalled the violence that rocked La Grande Borne in 2005 and again last year. “There’ll be riots here and in the suburbs all over France.”

Mr Jaoussou’s views are shared widely among the 11,000 people who live on the bleak 1970s estate in Grigny, outside Paris, the home to 52 different nationalities.

Many say that the youths, who have come to see Mr Sarkozy as a figure of hate, would greet his election with a fresh round of firebomb attacks on cars, buses and the police.

Similar rumours have been circulating on other troubled suburban estates and senior police officers appear to be taking them seriously.

Privately they say they are preparing for clashes if Mr Sarkozy is elected on May 6.

“We have to be ready for these gangs to demonstrate like they do on New Year’s Eve,” one high ranking officer told Le Figaro, referring to the street battles that have become an annual ritual in the suburbs.

Zair Issa, 18, who is also from Mali, agreed on the likelihood of a violent response to the election of the centre-right candidate as he joined in the conversation with Mr Jaoussou. Wearing dark glasses, a large metal chain and a T-shirt with the words “Ghetto Class” across the chest, he said that the hardline former Interior Minister was viewed as the enemy by youths in France’s immigrant communities. “It’s because of him that we get police identity checks all the time,” he said. “It’s oppressive.”

Jean-François Charmand, 38, a painter and decorator with flip-flops on his feet and a cannabis joint in his hand, said that Mr Sarkozy’s crackdown on crime had served to unleash police brutality on ethnic minorities.

“If Sarkozy’s elected it’s going to be chaos,” he said, fingering a multi-coloured necklace. “We’re going to have even more police coming after les blacks and even less freedom than we do now.”

Mr Sarkozy’s image in la banlieue is used by his opponents as proof that he would be unable to heal the rifts within French society.

Their attempt to portray him as a dangerously divisive figure will be one of the keys to the election.

However, on La Grande Borne estate — where only 44 per cent of adults are in work — there was evidence to support his claim that France needs radical change.

Cats scavenged on rubbish uncollected on the pavements. A burnt-out car was visible in the car park. And a young woman sat on a table outside one of the council blocks.

“Don’t talk to her,” said a youth standing in a doorway.

The teenager — probably a spotter for a gang that pays him to alert drug dealers to the arrival of police — approached menacingly. “Get away,” he said.

Mr Jaoussou said that the youth was typical of a generation that had adopted a ghetto mentality.

“The young people around here feel rejected and you can understand why,” he said. “As far as the French are concerned blacks are fit only to be cleaners and manual workers.”

Banlieue blues

Sarko vs. Sego: May the Immigrant Win

Cultural diversity in British inner-city schools is failing with many becoming so polarized that they are dominated by one racial or religious group

Nick Britten:

Race Equality Sandwell in the West Midlands, claims that schools in the region are becoming "all-white" or "all-Asian" despite drawing from multi-ethnic catchment areas.

Derrick Campbell, the chief executive of RES, said he was "extremely concerned" that children will leave school unable to fit into a diverse society. "My biggest worry is that schools and parents are propagating the notion of segregation," he said.

The report, to be published next week, covers schools across the West Midlands. It looked at admissions policies, catchment areas and wider socio-economic influences.

Mr Campbell said there were examples of neighbouring schools having an unnecessarily separate ethnic mix. It was caused by a range of factors, including parents wanting their children to be with those of a similar faith or background and schools failing to ensure a proper mix in their admissions policies.

He said: "Schools are becoming ghettos divided by race and it is having a negative effect on young people.

"The Government needs to restrict parental choice to ensure that the intake policy gives a fair chance and opportunities for schools to reflect the make up of the community."

He said the report found that while there was a growing segregation between white and Asian children, black Afro-Caribbean pupils tended to mix well with both.

Warning of schools becoming 'ghettoes'

Blunkett Plays Race, Underclass Cards

Racial 'time bomb' in UK schools

An Indian court has ordered the arrest of Hollywood star Richard Gere


An Indian court ordered the arrest of Hollywood star Richard Gere on Thursday for kissing Bollywood actress Shilpa Shetty at an AIDS campaign event this month saying it was an obscene act committed in public.

Gere's repeated kisses on Shetty's cheeks at an event to promote AIDS awareness in New Delhi sparked protests in some parts of India, mostly by Hindu vigilante groups, who saw it as an outrage against her modesty and an affront to Indian culture.

The order by a court in the northern city of Jaipur came in response to a complaint by a local lawyer.

The judge watched a video recording of Gere kissing Shetty and found him guilty of violating Indian laws against public obscenity, the lawyer, Poonam Chand Bhandari, said.

The court also summoned Shilpa Shetty to appear on May 5, Bhandari said, adding that Gere was also ordered to be arrested.

Gere can be sent to jail for up to three months or fined or both for the crime if he is arrested. He is not in India now but can be held if he visits the country again.

The Hollywood star is a devout Buddhist and a vocal supporter of the Tibetan cause and visits India frequently to meet the Dalai Lama, who lives in exile in northern India.

He is also involved with charities looking after HIV-infected people and orphans, as well as AIDS prevention groups in the country.

Groups of men had burned and kicked straw effigies of Gere and Shetty in sporadic protests across the country after newspapers published the picture of the kiss on their front pages and TV channels aired visuals of the event.

How Gere inflamed Indian passions with a stage kiss

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Genetic differences may help explain why so many Asian women who never smoked develop lung cancer

Aline McKenzie:

Analysis of three genetic mechanisms that cause non-small cell lung cancer might explain why East Asians respond better than other ethnic groups to a certain type of chemotherapy, a team led by UT Southwestern Medical Center researchers has found.

This type of analysis might become useful in tailoring cancer treatments to individual patients, the researchers said.

"Genetic differences may help explain why so many Asian women who never smoked develop lung cancer," said Dr. Adi Gazdar, professor of pathology at UT Southwestern and senior author of a study appearing online today in Public Library of Science Medicine.

The researchers focused on a protein called the epidermal growth factor receptor, or EGFR, which lies on a cell’s surface and is involved in controlling many processes. Excessive amounts of EGFR are known to be involved in several types of cancer, including more than half of lung cancers. Several drugs that interfere with EGFR are used as chemotherapeutic agents.

Three inherited alterations, known as polymorphisms, in the gene that codes for EGFR can cause cells to make abnormally high levels of the protein, Dr. Gazdar said. One polymorphism shortens a portion of the gene, while two other abnormalities involve variations in the genetic "alphabet," or sequences of chemical building blocks that make up the gene.

Increased levels of EGFR also can be caused by spontaneous mutations in the gene, or by an effect in tumor cells that increases the number of copies of genes coding for EGFR.

In the current study, the researchers compared the genes of 250 healthy people of various ethnicities with 556 samples of benign and cancerous lung tumors. They found that the three inherited polymorphisms were less common in healthy people from Japan and Taiwan than in healthy people of European, African or Mexican descent.

This suggests that this population normally makes less EGFR protein than people from other ethnic groups, Dr. Gazdar said.

This was true whether the East Asians lived in Asia or in the United States, indicating that it was an intrinsic genetic trait and not one that depended on diet or lifestyle, Dr. Gazdar said.

East Asians who had developed lung cancer, however, were more likely than those of other ethnicities to have the polymorphism that involved shortening part of the gene, an alteration that causes the amount of EGFR to increase.

East Asians with lung cancer also tended to have several effects occur on a single chromosome: the polymorphism that involves shortening of the gene, a spontaneous mutation that increases EGFR levels, and increased copies of the gene caused by the tumors, he said.

"They’re all occurring together on a single chromosome, which results in a greatly increased amount of EGFR," he said. "The predicted end result would be a great increase in EGFR protein production in the affected cells, driving them toward cancer."

These findings might explain why East Asians are known to respond better than other ethnic groups to a type of chemotherapy that inhibits EGFR activity, Dr. Gazdar said.

"Cancer cells become addicted to EGFR," he said, so these cells are much more susceptible to the cancer-killing effect of EGFR inhibitors.

This type of analysis of cancer genes might be helpful for other types of cancer and other ethnic groups, Dr. Gazdar said, possibly explaining both the different manifestations of the disease seen among ethnic groups and leading the way to matching a specific treatment to the patient.

Lung cancer drug more effective in Taiwanese patients

Genomic Approaches to Lung Cancer

African-American power brokers in New York are shifting their support away from Hillary Clinton and towards Barack Obama

Toby Harnden:

Mrs Clinton, 59, had already secured the tacit support of most of the black politicians in New York, her home state. But the fact that many of them are now wavering indicates the potential for Mr Obama, 45, to secure a clear majority of black voters, a mainstay of the Democratic party.

Mr Obama has joked about Mrs Clinton's attempts to stop the black vote shifting to him as he attempts to become America's first black president. When the mobile phone of the Rev Al Sharpton, one of the most prominent black US politicians, buzzed during a joint appearance last week, Mr Obama joked: "Is that Hillary calling?"

According to The New York Times, a "significant number" of black officials who had been seen as firmly in the Clinton camp have said they are now "undecided" because they are "impressed with the strength of Mr Obama's campaign in recent weeks".

This shift has occurred despite Mr Obama doing almost no campaigning in New York. It is significant because key black politicians hold considerable influence over ordinary black voters.

Assemblyman Adam Clayton Powell IV, a leading figure in Harlem, told The New York Times: "I would have supported Hillary if it were not for Barack Obama. He can identify with my African-American community in a way that no other candidate can."

The prospect of Mrs Clinton becoming the inevitable Democratic nominee evaporated when Mr Obama recently announced a stunning fund-raising total of $25 million (£12.5 million) for the first quarter of the year.

She is increasingly using husband Bill, a former president beloved by blacks, as a surrogate campaigner to stop black support ebbing away.

Obama’s Rise Strains Loyalty on Clinton Turf

Hundreds of Thai monks have led nine elephants in a march on parliament calling for Buddhism to be enshrined as the country's official religion

BBC News:

They were joined by more than 1,000 supporters who also want Buddhism to be declared the national religion in the new post-coup constitution.

The leaders behind last September's coup have indicated they may be willing to bow to the monks' demands.

Critics fear it could inflame tensions in the Muslim-majority deep south.

In the south a three-year Islamic insurgency - in a country where 95% of the population are Buddhist - has killed more than 2,000 people.

Correspondents described a colourful procession as monks dressed in saffron-robes walked alongside the nine elephants 30km (18 miles) from Bangkok's western suburbs to parliament.

Police had asked the protesters not to bring the elephants for fear the scorching heat would make them difficult to control, but they relented as the march continued into the city.

"Our only demand is to have the clause 'Buddhism is Thailand's national religion' included in the new constitution. It's the opinion of the majority of Thais," protest spokesman Tongkhao Phuangrodpang told the AFP news agency.

Thai monks march with elephants calling for Buddhism be made the national religion

Some of China's biggest minority groups are failing to benefit from China's rapid economic development

Jill McGivering:

The report also said greater contact with the rest of China is threatening indigenous cultures and languages.

The findings have been published by the Minority Rights Group International and Human Rights in China.

They assessed the situation of three main ethnic minority groups, the Uighurs, Mongols and Tibetans.

Not only are they becoming increasingly alienated, they are largely missing out on China's economic boom, the report said.

Where their regions are seeing development, the impact is often damaging.

In many cases, the large-scale building of roads and railways is not boosting local economies, but just facilitating the extraction of raw materials - resources to feed growth in other parts of China.

In regions such as Xinjiang and Tibet, it says, the increased access is leading to a greater military presence - and a general diluting of local culture.

"You can adapt to the world and retain your language and culture, and speak a national language as well. You don't need just to speak one language," Clive Baldwin, of the Minority Rights Group International, said.

"But in China, the model that's being imposed at the moment is very much one of one state, one language, one culture and anyone against this is being seen as deviant, "splitist", and we'd say that is entirely inappropriate."

China's leaders are struggling at the moment to address the imbalances in the country's development.

They are well aware of the vast gap between the booming coastal provinces and the much less developed west of the country - and are eager to stifle discontent.

The authors of this report suggest that where minorities are concerned, the policies could be having the opposite effect - stoking feelings of resentment amongst communities who see their own culture and way of life coming under growing threat.

China: Minority Exclusion, Marginalization and Rising Tensions

Struggling to attract African-American candidates, the U.S. Military Academy at West Point may lower admission requirements for minorities

Greg Bruno:

The nation's oldest service academy has not settled on a plan to revamp entrance criteria, and says any shift would not represent reduced academic standards.

But as the percentage of black cadets at the historic officer training school hovers well below national and Army averages, the school's top officers say something needs to change to expand the pool of black applicants.

"There may be African-Americans out there with lower standardized test scores who would perform very well at West Point," said Col. Andre Sayles, director of the military academy's newly created diversity office.

Another high-ranking official, who was granted anonymity because his remarks were made during a background briefing last week, said West Point should accept minority candidates with "lower SATs."

"This academy needs to bring in more kids who are at risk than ever before," the senior Army officer said, using the admissions term for candidates with lower-than-average test scores.

"Our 'at risk' kids, very frankly, tend to come from the minority communities."

The nation's top service academies have all reported difficulties attracting minority talent in recent years. Black candidates have been especially hard to lure. Of 1,311 freshmen who entered the military academy last year, 78 were black, or about 6 percent. Overall, 6 percent of West Point cadets are black, versus 22 percent of the active Army and 12.5 percent of the country.

Numbers for next year don't look any better. Of the 1,036 confirmed freshman for the class reporting in June, only 4 percent are black, though the final ratio could be slightly higher.

Academy officials say increasing the diversity of the cadet corps, and ultimately, mirroring the nation's racial profile, is vital for the long-term stability of the Army.

To that end, West Point has taken measures to push numbers up by expanding recruiting efforts and with the creation of the new diversity office. But attracting minority candidates, particularly blacks, remains a significant challenge.

Lt. Col. Deborah McDonald, West Point's deputy director of admissions, told a Maryland newspaper in March that of the 177,000 black high school seniors who took the SAT in 2005, only 6 percent scored high enough to get into West Point.

The average score for students in the Class of 2010 was 1277. McDonald said in 2005, only 10,500 black students nationwide came anywhere close to that.

So, in addition to trying to lure top-scoring blacks into West Point, military academy officials are pondering ways to revamp entrance criteria — including considering more candidates with lower test scores.

Is the long Gray Line fading to white?

West Point Competes For Minority Applicants

Study: Out-of-wedlock births among Hispanics rise from 19% to 42%

Jerome R. Corsi:

The high rate of illegitimate births to immigrants is a warning to American leaders not to expect help building family values from such newcomers, according to a new study released today by the Center for Immigration Studies in Washington, D.C.

Hispanic immigrants have seen the largest increase in out-of-wedlock births, from 19 percent in 1980 to 42 percent in 2003, according to the study entitled "Illegitimate Nation," authored by Dr. Steven A. Camarota, Director of Research at CIS.

Camarota notes that illegitimate births in the native population have increased as well, from 19 percent in 1980 to 35 percent in 2003.

For immigrants overall, both legal and illegal, out-of-wedlock birth rates have been comparable to illegitimate birth rates among the native population, increasing from 13 percent in 1980 for immigrants (both legal and illegal) to 32 percent in 2003.

The higher rate of illegitimate births among Hispanic immigrants is important, Camarota notes, because births to Hispanic mothers now account for 59 percent of all births to foreign-born mothers.

"How the children of Hispanic immigrants fare is one of the most critically important questions we face as a nation with regard to the integration of children from immigrant families," Camarota wrote. "The birth rate data indicate that a very large share of these children are starting life at a significant social disadvantage."

Camarota found that illegitimate births tend to associate with the low education levels of the mothers. In 2003, 65 percent of illegitimate births to Hispanic immigrants were to mothers who lacked a high school diploma.

In 2003, for the first time, the absolute number of illegitimate births among Hispanic immigrants exceeded the absolute number of illegitimate births among African-Americans.

Illegitimate Nation: An Examination of Out-of-Wedlock Births Among Immigrants and Natives

Immigration Driving Up Illegitimacy Rates

More Asian student violence

Richard Winton:

USC student Zao Xing Yang and his attorney Nina Marino

A 19-year-old USC student was charged Tuesday with making criminal threats and committing an assault with a handgun at a weekend party near campus.

Zao Xing Yang, an undergraduate, was arrested early Sunday morning after fellow students wrestled him to the ground when they saw him holding a .25-caliber handgun.

Police later searched Yang's apartment and discovered packages of methamphetamine, a .44-caliber revolver, several hundred dollars in cash and "threatening materials," police said.

Yang, who is being held without bail at Twin Towers jail in downtown Los Angeles, was charged with two counts of making criminal threats and two counts of assault with a firearm.

His arraignment was postponed until May 3.

His arrest comes a week after a Virginia Tech student fatally shot 32 people at the school, raising concerns about security on college campuses across the country.

"USC school police responded quickly, as did the Los Angeles Police Department," Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said at a news conference Tuesday.

"No students were injured, and the suspect is in the process of being expelled from the university," Villaraigosa said.

LAPD Chief William J. Bratton said the incident occurred about 3 a.m., when students at the party overheard Yang "make intimidating statements to a coed and threatening her with violence."

"At one point, the host of the party asked Yang to leave," Bratton said. "Yang began arguing with the host, and that's when he noticed Yang had a gun in his hand."

The students restrained Yang until campus security officers and police arrived at the house, in the 2300 block of Portland Street, Bratton said.

"We treat these types of incidents involving our universities or schools very seriously," Bratton said.

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An illegal immigrant from Mexico has been charged with involuntary manslaughter

Kim Bell:

Pedro Santos (left) and his victim Nicole Elizabeth Allen

A suspected drunken driver was charged Saturday with involuntary manslaughter after his car plowed into the back of another vehicle, killing a young woman.

The suspect, Pedro Santos, 27, was arrested about 3 a.m. Saturday, about three hours after the crash, hiding in woods not far from the scene at Marine Avenue and Bennington Place.

Killed in the crash was Nicole Allen, 21. She was a back-seat passenger in an Acura that had slowed or just stopped at the intersection, waiting for a green light, about midnight Friday. A Lincoln Town Car slammed into the back of the Acura.

Allen died at the scene. The Acura's driver, Larry Lane, 24, suffered minor injuries. His front-seat passenger, Charles Miller, 28, had two cracked vertebrae. Both remained hospitalized Saturday at St. John's Mercy Medical Center in Creve Coeur.

Police say that Santos' vehicle was disabled by the crash and that he ran from the scene. Authorities used a helicopter and search dogs to find him. Police say they think Santos had been the only person in the Lincoln.

Three hours after the crash, Santos appeared intoxicated, police said. Santos' blood was drawn, but results of his blood-alcohol level aren't yet available, said Maryland Heights police Sgt. Mark Pruett.

Prosecutors in St. Louis County charged Santos with involuntary manslaughter, two counts of second-degree assault by driving while intoxicated and leaving the scene of an accident. Bail was set at $100,000.

Santos admitted to police that he had entered the country from Mexico illegally. His local address was in the 12300 block of Bennington Place. Police say he was a restaurant cook.

Allen lived with her mother, Denise Buchholz, and stepfather, Brian Buchholz, in the 11800 block of Gold Leaf Drive, an unincorporated pocket of St. Louis County near Maryland Heights.

Allen graduated in 2004 from Parkway North High School. She worked as a server at Red Robin restaurant and was a junior at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, studying photography, graphic design and art history.

"She was a cute, petite, fun-loving friend," said her aunt Debbie Nolen of Springfield, Mo. "She was a little angel."

The fact that Santos is an illegal immigrant was not lost on Allen's family, who gathered at the home on Gold Leaf. That further enraged them.

"He had no business being on the road anyway, but he's drunk on top of it," Nolen said.

Some of her friends plan to set up a fund for memorial contributions at Citizens Bank in Florissant, said Allen's stepfather. The money may be used for a scholarship for art students.

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The NSW government will crack down on a group of Islamic inmates in Australia's highest-security jail amid fears they are forming a gang behind bars

Sydney Morning Herald:

Twelve of the 37 inmates in the Super Max facility at Goulburn jail claim to be practising Muslims, including a number of Aboriginal converts, raising security fears among officials.

NSW Justice Minister John Hatzistergos said he was concerned the group, known as the Super Max Jihadists, was using religion as a cover to engage in gang activities.

"It's important when we're dealing with the worst of the worst offenders that we're not hoodwinked into thinking they've had some sort of cathartic experience because they've taken up religion," Mr Hatzistergos said.

But he denied they were being targeted because of their religion.

"We don't have an issue relating to people's race and religion," he said.

"We do have an issue where it potentially threatens our safety and security. That's when we won't tolerate it."

Mr Hatzistergos said the men may be separated and moved around the prison system, while any money entering their accounts would be closely monitored.

Visits, phone calls and mail may also be restricted.

Pictures of al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden have been confiscated from cells, and prison authorities have seen some converts kneel before and kiss the hand of gang leader, Bassam Hamzy, who is serving 21 years for murder.

The gang members, with shaven heads and long beards, include convicted murderers Wassim El Assaad, Rabeeh Mawas and Emad Sleiman.

Several Aboriginal inmates in the Super Max unit, including rapist Dudley Aslett and murderers Vester Fernando and Ronald Priestley, are converts to Islam.

Opposition justice spokesman Greg Smith accused the government of failing to act after first becoming aware of the religious conversions more than a year ago.

"To think that terrorist groups may well be formed in the prison system is something that our authorities should have done something about," he said.

"The normal Muslim members of our society are peaceful people who hate this sort of stuff, but yet these characters are being allowed by the government to meet together ... and perhaps to plan together."

He said it was time the government separated the group and disciplined them if they engaged in gang behaviour.

NSW Corrective Services commissioner Ron Woodham vowed to break up the gang.

"We're not going to let it go any further, we're going to break it up, crash it, totally destroy the network," he said.

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Africans find buxom women to be beautiful


Skinny African girls may get to strut on Western catwalks but the fat ones have to stay at home.

This is the message being delivered to the 500 or so Ghanaians who have registered with the country's only international modeling agency, Exopa.

"A lot of them want to go. But not everyone has the chance to go because of the size the Europeans want them to be," said Exopa's Ghanaian director Sima Ibrahim.

As models on Western catwalks get thinner and thinner, their hungry look has sparked noisy debate about the pressure this places on girls and women to achieve perfection even if perfection means Size Zero, the smallest American dress size, the equivalent to a British size four.

In Africa, rolls of flesh are usually seen as a sign of wealth and status, not of ill health.

Few aspire to a skinny look, as those who look starved and ill too often are that way through misfortune, not choice.

But just as Africa's youth find themselves choosing between Western music and clothes and those rooted in their own tradition, they are now faced with two opposing images of beauty -- the Western ideal of an ever thinner frame and the African one of a buxom and well-rounded figure.

Nowhere is this debate clearer than in the African fashion industry.

Those who want to make it as a fashion model in the West are well aware they need to conform to Western sizes.

"Those that come here who are skinny, they know they want to go international. The others, they know they are big, they want a job here in Ghana," said Exopa's Ibrahim.

Few Africans want to see a superskinny model, said Sylvia Owori, who runs Uganda's Ziper models.

"I think most Ugandans would be disgusted. They'd think she'd just come out of the village and she was malnourished," said Owori.

On the street and in African clubs and bars, it is still the bigger girls who are likely to get attention.

A big cheer goes up when a "nice, shapely African model" take to the stage in a fashion show, said Santa Anzo, director of Uganda's Arapapa clothes and model agency which specializes in plus-size models.

Some international clothing brands are changing their sizes to match the realities of the African fashion market.

The South African wing of Levi Strauss & Co. launched a roomier pair of its famed red label jeans after African women told researchers they liked the brand but couldn't fit into the skinny designs aimed at Westerners.

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Los Angeles: 3 African-American gang members have been charged with killing 3 Latinos

Richard Winton:

Prosecutors charged three black gang members today with killing two Latino boys and an adult as they talked in the frontyard of their South Los Angeles home last year, saying the assailants picked the victims at random because they could not find any gang rivals to shoot.

The charges cap a nearly one-year investigation, with detectives concluding that the members of the Rollin' 30s gang fired on the victims -- who had no gang ties -- while driving around the neighborhood looking for members of another gang, the Eastside Treys.

The shooting stirred concerns about race-related violence in South L.A., especially at a time when the LAPD says that race-motivated gang crimes are on the increase. But the Los Angeles Police Department insists that the shooting was not race-motivated, rather it was fueled by a gang feud.

The gunmen -- identified as Ryan T. Moore, Lawrence William Island Jr. and Charles Ray Smith -- fired more than 30 rounds from two AK-47 assault rifles on a June 30 afternoon after climbing out of a vehicle.

David Marcial, 10; his 22-year-old uncle, Larry Marcial; and a neighbor, Luis Cervantes, 17, were fatally shot outside their families' homes in the 1100 block of East 49th Street.

David's brother, Sergio Marcial Jr., 12, was wounded but survived the shooting described by investigators as an "execution."

Moore, 33, and Island, 24, were to be arraigned this afternoon downtown. Smith, 37, is a fugitive wanted on a murder arrest warrant.

Each of the three faces three counts of murder, with the special circumstance of multiple murder and murder to further a gang, and one count each of attempted premeditated murder.

Jane Robison, a spokeswoman for the district attorney's office, said a decision on whether to seek the death penalty will be made by prosecutors later.

Both Moore and Smith have been in custody for several months on other charges while detectives tried to build a case.

The Rollin' 30s is one of the top 11 gangs being targeted by the LAPD as part of a wider push against gang violence in the city.

Dubbed the "49th Street massacre" by Chief William J. Bratton last summer, detectives determined that what at first looked like a drive-up shooting now appeared to be a calculated, execution-style slaying. They concluded that the gunmen got out of a car and approached each of the victims, firing from point-blank range with AK-47 assault-style rifles.

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Young African-American men and murder in Philadelphia

Morning Call:

A bloody, bullet-filled weekend left 11 people dead across Philadelphia, where drugs and disrespect have trumped brotherly love and the murder rate is on pace to be the highest in a decade.

The city has seen more than one killing a day this year, totaling 127 as of Monday afternoon. New York, Chicago and Los Angeles -- whose populations are much larger than Philadelphia's 1.5 million residents -- have had fewer homicides this year.

The spike over the weekend was partly blamed on the first warm weather of the season. But rain or shine, Philadelphia police say the chronic problems remain the same: poverty, lax gun laws and a culture of intimidation that keeps witnesses silent -- and shooters on the streets.

''It's the community's decision right now,'' said police Capt. Benjamin Naish. ''They are the people that must stand up and get angry and say, 'Enough is enough.'''

They have, in a way. But the countless candlelight vigils, anti-violence rallies and community meetings have done nothing to stop the homicides, which are 17 percent higher than last year at this time. Officials, too, are at wit's end. ''Do something!'' District Attorney Lynne Abraham said at one news conference.

The admonishment was directed at Mayor John Street. Abraham and others have criticized him for a perceived lack of urgency in responding to violence that killed 406 city residents last year -- a nine-year high.

This year, Street has pledged to have 1,000 community activists and clergy trained in conflict resolution. He has paired a tougher juvenile curfew law with stricter enforcement, an effort mayoral spokesman Joe Grace said has reduced shootings by teens in one targeted area. The city also is spending $3 million to hire 400 parent truancy officers to keep children in school.

The efforts are commendable, but juvenile crime is a small part of the problem, said Lawrence Sherman, director of the Jerry Lee Center for Criminology at the University of Pennsylvania. None of the murder victims over the weekend was a juvenile.

Most of Philadelphia's killings are by gunfire, most involve young black men and most are the result of arguments -- often over drugs but sometimes over trivial insults or perceived slights.

Last month, city officials announced plans to assign 80 additional police officers to a particularly violent neighborhood in Southwest Philadelphia. The bullets flew anyway on March 25, and authorities say 28-year-old Jovonne Stelly died trying to get her children out of the crossfire.

The next day, police Commissioner Sylvester Johnson announced that top police brass would begin working in uniform in high-crime areas for four hours, one night a week. There were two murders that day.

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