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Mutating Ebola Could Become More Contagious

Written By andika jamanta on Kamis, 29 Januari 2015 | 20.48

By Thomas Moore, Health and Science Correspondent

Scientists have confirmed that the Ebola virus is mutating - and could become more contagious.

Researchers at the Institute Pasteur in France say they have detected substantial changes to the genetic code of the virus.

Although they don't yet know what effect that will have on the epidemic, they fear the virus could spread from person to person more easily.

In previous Ebola outbreaks, the virus has only infected a few dozen people and died out within weeks.

But the current prolonged epidemic has given the virus time to pass through many more generations, in many more people, giving it greater opportunity to evolve.

Scientists say it is highly unlikely that the mutations will lead to the Ebola becoming airborne.

But the virus - originally from fruit bats - could become better adapted to living in humans.

Scientists say some people may even carry the virus without showing symptoms, leading it to spread more rapidly.

The changes to the virus could also result in resistance to drug treatments - and reduce the effectiveness of vaccines currently being developed.

The latest figures from the World Health Organisation show 22,000 people have been infected by the virus and 8,800 have died.

But the infection rate in recent weeks is just one sixth of what it was in October.

UN Ebola coordinator David Nabarro said: "The number of cases is decreasing week by week and getting to zero in many places.

"But we still see occasional flare-ups. The epidemic is not contained yet."

New results show that a vaccine tested on volunteers in Oxford successfully triggers an immune response, but at a lower level than had been hoped for.

Scientists are now studying the effect of a booster dose in the hope that it will give better protection.


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'Thundersnow' Storms As Icy Blast Hits UK

Parts of England are being battered by "thundersnow" storms as the winter weather continues to bite across Britain.

Met Office forecaster Simon Partridge said: "We have got snow falling in a number of areas in the North and West, including thunderstorms.

"There is thundersnow to the north of Manchester - these are normal thunderstorms but with snow rather than rain."

More than 200 schools in Northern Ireland, Scotland and northern England are closed today and mobile phone operator EE advised customers of coverage problems in Ayrshire, West Yorkshire and Tyne and Wear due to the weather.

Main roads in Durham, Yorkshire and north Wales are among those closed because of the weather and more than a dozen rail services between Manchester and York have been cancelled, as northern England is hit by the storms this morning.

Phil Verster, route managing director for Network Rail, advised train passengers to check before they travel.

Flights to and from Manchester Airport have been suspended this morning, although the airport re-opened around 1.30pm. Passengers are advised to come to the airport as normal but to check with their airline.

A Manchester Airport spokesperson said: "We have currently suspended all departures and arrivals for a short period of time, whilst we are in the process of clearing both runways of snow so we can resume operations as quickly as possible."

Sky News forecaster Isobel Lang said today would see frequent snow showers in Scotland, Northern Ireland, northern parts of Ireland and in northern England.

She added: "The strong winds will blow the snow around, making driving dangerous.

"During this evening and tonight the showers will ease, it will turn slightly less cold, with the showers turning more to sleet or rain later. It may still be icy."

Cold blasts from Greenland and Iceland will cause temperatures to drop to around 2-3C (36-37F) in the North and 4-5C (39-41F) in the South. It will become slightly milder by Friday, reaching 7C (45F) in the South.

The Met Office has issued an amber "be prepared" warning for snow, which covers huge parts of Britain from Liverpool Bay to the Humber to the western side of the Welsh mountains.

Up to 15cm (6in) of snow is expected to fall in parts of the North tonight and there is also snow expected during the morning rush hour in the Northwest, on the M6 north of Cheshire, Scotland and Greater London.

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  1. Gallery: UK Freezes As More Snow Sweeps In

    Britain's winter has brought a thick covering of snow and dangerous driving conditions to parts of the country. Here snow covers graves at St Joseph's Church in west Belfast

Terminal One at Manchester Airport covered in a blanket of snow which has closed the airport

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MH370 Loss An 'Accident' - All On Board 'Dead'

MH370 Loss An 'Accident' - All On Board 'Dead'

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Malaysia has officially declared the loss of flight MH370 was an accident and all on board are dead.

The announcement was in accordance with civil aviation rules, said Malaysia's aviation director-general Azharuddin Abdul Rahman, adding that the announcement ends the search for the aircraft and would help families of those on board to apply for compensation.

"It is with the heaviest heart and deepest sorrow that we officially declare Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 an accident," said Mr Azharuddin in a broadcast on Malaysian television.

"We officially declare Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 an accident and that all 239 of the passengers and crew onboard are presumed to have lost their lives," he added.

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  1. Gallery: MH370: Timeline Of False Hopes

    March 8: At 9am, an hour after flight MH370 is reported missing, rumours spread online that it has landed safely in China

March 8: Search planes spot two oil slicks in the South China Sea but tests show the fuel is not from an aircraft

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March 9: Vietnam search plane spots mystery objects in the South China Sea but they turn out to be unrelated to MH370

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March 10: A moss-covered piece of floating sea debris is mistaken for a yellow life raft

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March 11: Two MH370 passengers travelling with stolen passports are identified as illegal immigrants from Iran and are no longer suspected of terrorist activity

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MH370 Loss An 'Accident' - All On Board 'Dead'

We use cookies to give you the best experience. If you do nothing we'll assume that it's ok.

Malaysia has officially declared the loss of flight MH370 was an accident and all on board are dead.

The announcement was in accordance with civil aviation rules, said Malaysia's aviation director-general Azharuddin Abdul Rahman, adding that the announcement ends the search for the aircraft and would help families of those on board to apply for compensation.

"It is with the heaviest heart and deepest sorrow that we officially declare Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 an accident," said Mr Azharuddin in a broadcast on Malaysian television.

"We officially declare Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 an accident and that all 239 of the passengers and crew onboard are presumed to have lost their lives," he added.

1/16

  1. Gallery: MH370: Timeline Of False Hopes

    March 8: At 9am, an hour after flight MH370 is reported missing, rumours spread online that it has landed safely in China

March 8: Search planes spot two oil slicks in the South China Sea but tests show the fuel is not from an aircraft

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March 9: Vietnam search plane spots mystery objects in the South China Sea but they turn out to be unrelated to MH370

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March 10: A moss-covered piece of floating sea debris is mistaken for a yellow life raft

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March 11: Two MH370 passengers travelling with stolen passports are identified as illegal immigrants from Iran and are no longer suspected of terrorist activity

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Andy Murray Reaches Australian Open Final

Andy Murray is through to the final of the Australian Open after beating Tomas Berdych in four sets.

The British number one lost the first set against the seventh-seed Czech, but came back to triumph 6-7 (6-8), 6-0, 6-3, 7-5.

It is the first time Murray has made it to the final of a Grand Slam tournament since he won Wimbledon in 2013.

He will play either Novak Djokovic or Stan Wawrinka in Sunday's decider.

The world number six was too strong for Berdych, who failed to match his performance as he beat Rafael Nadal in the quarter-finals.

After losing a marathon 76-minute opening set in a tiebreaker, Murray finished strongly to clinch the match in 3 hours and 26 minutes on Rod Laver Arena.

There had been much focus ahead of the match on Berdych's decision to hire former Murray team member Dani Vallverdu as his coach.

And the match saw some flashes of anger from both players and a few glares at each other at changeovers during the opening set.

"Yeah, there was a little bit of extra tension," Murray said in an on-court interview.

"It's a big match. A lot was made of Dani working with him.

"Me and Dani have been friends since we were 15 and I felt that was a little bit unfair and unnecessary. There is more to life than sport.

"I was disappointed to lose the opening set after I had a couple of chances at the end but I felt I was playing better as the set went on and I was very aggressive at the beginning of the second set.

"I got more comfortable with the conditions and with Tomas' ball, in the beginning I was feeling quite rushed and then I got more aggressive and made him do more running."

Murray was cheered on throughout the game by fiancee Kim Sears, who sat alongside the 27-year-old's coaching team.

He also launched a staunch defence of his coach Amelie Mauresmo, whose arrival last year was thought to have caused disagreement in his camp. Vallverdu and fitness trainer Jez Green subsequently left in November.

"A lot of people criticised me for working with her and I think so far this week we have showed women can be very good coaches as well," Murray said.

"Madison Keys, who reached the semi-finals here, is also coached by a woman in Lindsay Davenport and I see no reason why that can't keep moving forward so I am very thankful to Amelie for doing it.

"I would say it was a brave choice from her and hopefully I can repay her in a few days."


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Alice Gross 'Killed Before Search Had Begun'

Written By andika jamanta on Selasa, 27 Januari 2015 | 20.48

The family of murdered Alice Gross have said there are still "serious unanswered questions" about her Latvian killer - as police announced the schoolgirl was probably killed before she was even reported missing.

Police have also concluded they would have had enough evidence to charge builder Arnis Zalkalns with her abduction and murder had he not committed suicide.

Alice's body was found more than a month after she was last seen, walking along a towpath in west London on 28 August last year.

Police began searching the Grand Union Canal for the 14-year-old on August 29, but investigators have now decided she was probably already dead by the time the hunt began.

Zalkans was found hanged in Boston Manor Park, not far from the murder scene, on 4 October, four weeks after he was reported missing.

The 41-year-old had previously served seven years in jail in his home country for murdering his wife Rudite.

The labourer, who worked at a building site in Isleworth, west London, is believed to have come to the UK in 2007, but authorities are thought to have had no record of his murder conviction.

Alice's family said their daughter believed in the European Union's principle of free movement but said they would be working with the campaign group Liberty to raise important questions.

"Although we now have certain information about how Alice died, we are still left with a number of serious unanswered questions about what the authorities knew or should have known about the man who is believed to have killed our daughter when he came to the UK," they said in a statement.

"Alice believed in the free movement of people and so do we.

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  1. Gallery: Alice Gross: Police Evidence And Scene Gallery

    Where Alice's body was found

The same scene during the day

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Sky: Labour Biggest Party In Hung Parliament

Labour will be the largest party in a hung parliament after May's General Election, according to a Sky News projection based on the latest poll of polls.

According to Sky's figures, which look at the national figures and those just for Scotland, Labour will fall short of an overall majority by 44 seats, with 282 seats.

The projections suggest the Tories will win 270 seats, the SNP 53, Lib Dems 20 and UKIP two, other parties will represent 23 seats.

The Green Party, UKIP and the Scottish National Party are all vying to lure voters away from the traditional two-party system and if the numbers are correct, the SNP could hold the key to any coalition.

It comes with just 100 days until the General Election, as Britain's two largest parties - Labour and the Conservatives - launch new policies in a bid to lure voters.

In an interview with Sky News, David Cameron said he was worried about the future of the country, warning that if Labour was to get the keys to Number 10 in May it would "wreck" the economy.

He insisted the Tories could win an outright majority but said the next 100 days would be a "tough fight".

And he insisted his tax cut promises could be funded by the Conservatives' continued careful management of the economy.

He said: "I am worried about the future of our country if we end up with an unstable, left-wing government that starts to borrow and spend and wreck the economic progress that we have made. Of course I worry about that.

"But, we have 100 days to go to make this argument and I think people  can now see, increasingly, our country getting stronger day by day. 

"We have not finished the job, there are still many challenges left for us to meet but we are on the right track and when you are on the right track that's exactly the wrong time to turn backwards."

Mr Cameron has promised a renewed squeeze on benefits "within the first few days" of Government if the Tories are re-elected on 7 May.

The Prime Minister plans to reduce the annual cap on welfare payments from £26,000 to £23,000 - with the £135m saved going towards funding for three million apprenticeships by the end of the decade.

The Tories plan a £30bn adjustment in the first two years of government - £5bn from tax evasion, £13bn from cuts across Whitehall departments and £12bn off the welfare bill.

Mr Cameron said this would help to bankroll the tax cuts promised, including increasing the amount at which people start to pay income tax to £12,500 - lifting a million people out of tax.

He added that he was happy for the televised leaders' debates to go ahead but was keen Northern Ireland parties should be included and the showdowns should not "take the life out of" the election campaign.

:: Sky looks at the 150 seats that could play a deciding role in May's General Election. Click here for the link to the In The Margins console.

Meanwhile, Labour is outlining its 10-year plan for the National Health Service, which includes a pledge to improve the care that terminally ill, frail and elderly people receive at home.

The announcement of 5,000 new "homecare workers" is part of a wider policy to invest an extra £2.5bn in the NHS, with a view to recruiting 20,000 more nurses and 8,000 additional GPs.

In a speech later this morning Ed Miliband will say: He will claim: "One of the country's most precious institutions faces its most perilous moments in a generation. The future of our NHS is at stake in this general election."

Speaking on Sky News, shadow health secretary Andy Burnham said Labour was not thinking about cutting deals with the SNP to form a coalition in the event the party did not secure a majority.

"My focus is on winning a majority for Labour," he said.

He added that he was not putting his energy into "deal-making" but into making sure the coalition cuts and privatisation in the NHS did not continue.

"The NHS matters more to me than anything and I think it's in a very dangerous position today," he added.


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Spy Litvinenko Poisoned 'Not Once But Twice'

Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko may have been poisoned with radioactive polonium twice, a public inquiry has heard.

Counsel to the inquiry Robin Tam QC said scientific evidence suggests a partially successful attempt to kill Mr Litvinenko was made at a meeting two weeks earlier than the encounter widely-believed to have caused his death.

Mr Tam also told the inquiry traces of radioactive chemical polonium were found in "large numbers of places across London" at the time of Mr Litvinenko's death.

"Many thousands of members of the public, including British residents and visitors from overseas, might have been at risk from radioactivity," he said.

Sir Robert Owen opened a hearing into the British citizen's death by recounting some of the key events he will consider - saying they raised issues of the "utmost gravity," including state-sponsored assassination.

Mr Litvinenko, 43, died in hospital nearly three weeks after drinking tea laced with radioactive polonium-210 while meeting two Russian men - one a former KGB officer - at the Millennium Hotel in London's Grosvenor Square.

Former KGB bodyguard Andrei Lugovoi and Dmitri Kovtun have been identified as the prime suspects in the killing, but both deny any involvement and remain in Russia, the inquiry heard.

As the inquiry got under way, Mr Litvinenko's widow Marina told Sky News she wants closure for her and her son Anatoly and also wants to put an end to the conspiracy theories surrounding the crime.

Sir Robert said a "prima facie case" as to the culpability of the Russian state in Mr Litvinenko's death had been established by sensitive evidence.

He said both Mr Lugovoi and Mr Kovtun have been invited to give evidence via video link from Russia, adding it was an "invitation I hope will be accepted".

Mr Tam said many theories have been put forward about what happened to Mr Litvinenko, including that he was killed but also that he accidentally poisoned himself when handling the radioactive substance as part of a smuggling deal.

It has also been suggested that Mr Litvinenko committed suicide, Mr Tam said.

Giving the background to the case, Sir Robert said Home Secretary Theresa May wrote to him in July 2013 informing him that the Government had decided not to hold an inquiry at that time.

He said: "Her decision was challenged in a claim brought on behalf of Marina and Anatoly Litvinenko (his wife and son) and was quashed in a judgment of the divisional court dated February 11 2014.

"In short, I will carry out a full and independent inquiry into the circumstances of the death of Alexander Litvinenko."


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100 Days, 10 Things That Will Happen

A General Election campaign is a time for politicians to get out, meet people, accidentally insult them, become a man of the people, become a man very much not of the people - the possibilities are endless. Sky News looks at what to expect in the days ahead.

1) There will be a Facebook f-bomb - or a Twitter one. Social media means politicians can communicate more directly with the public. Oh dear. (Emily Thornberry, white van tweet).

2) Roads will be a thing. The road, the parties tell us, is either going in the right direction, going nowhere, approaching a junction or not a good place to do a u-turn. "The road" will definitely do "other stuff" before 7 May. It may have its own Twitter account.

3) There will be a Mrs Duffy (Gordon Brown called her a "bigoted woman" in 2010). There is always "a member of the public" that will overnight assume celebrity status/ become a household name/ qualify for next CBB house on the back of a campaign appearance.

4) T-shirts will happen. Last time: "I agree with Nick" This time: "I agree with Nic" (ola Sturgeon) "I agree with Nige" "I agree with no one", "I don't care".

5) Nigel Farage will be seen in a pub, with a pint, and a fag.

6) Leaders will be pictured eating. There will be comparisons. There will be a winner. NB avoid sauce, avoid spaghetti, avoid anything thicker than a cracker. Don't dribble.

7) In his desperate search to win back the student/youth vote Nick Clegg will be interviewed lying in bed between Zoella (Sugg) and Alfie (Deyes) in a simultaneous live-stream broadcast on both their blogs/vlogs.

8) Russell Brand. That is all.

9) George Osborne will not miss a high-viz, hard hat opportunity. He is building the economy right? "Stupid".

10) A "Kipper" will come a cropper -  a UKIP candidate will say something bad and probably be removed from the party but it will have no effect on popularity


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Ukraine: 500 Miners Trapped After Shell Blast

Written By andika jamanta on Senin, 26 Januari 2015 | 20.49

Almost 500 miners are trapped underground after a shell hit an electric substation near the site in war-torn east Ukraine.

Emergency services were alerted when Donetsk's Zasyadko coal mine, one of eastern Europe's largest, lost all power in the blast.

It comes just over a fortnight since a similar incident briefly trapped 300 miners on January 11.

A Donetsk region emergencies ministry official said: "When the power went out, there were 496 miners underground. Right now, we are making preparations to bring them to safety."

Another ministry official was quoted by a pro-rebel website as saying the lives of the miners are not in danger and that the first evacuation had already begun.

An unnamed separatist "defence ministry" official in Donetsk said 110 miners had been brought back to the ground in the first minutes after the power outage.

It comes as it emerged seven Ukrainian soldiers have been killed in clashes with pro-Russian rebels in the eastern conflict zone over the past 24 hours.

The war between pro-Russian militants and government forces in eastern Ukraine has claimed nearly 5,100 lives since it began nine months ago.

Rebel stronghold Donetsk has seen fighting intensify in recent weeks after a brief lull and the daily casualty figure is again returning to levels last seen at the height of the war in August.

Leaders of the pro-Russian rebels withdrew from peace talks with the Western-backed government in Kiev last week and pledged to seize new territory that could expand their reach over most of Ukraine's industrial east.


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Harrowing Stories From Rape Capital Of World

By Alex Crawford in Minova, Democratic Republic of Congo

The room is crowded with women, all of whom have been raped. If that's not horrifying enough, many of the women have been raped multiple times and are pregnant as a result.

Their terrifying stores of torture and terror are not even unusual. If the Democratic Republic of Congo is the rape capital of the world, then Minova is its nerve centre - and the raping is still going on.

The town is most notorious for the mass rape of hundreds of women by Congolese soldiers in November 2012.

An investigation by the United Nations found the soldiers raped at least 97 women and 33 girls (some as young as six).

The locals insist the true figure is far higher - and more alarmingly, that the rapes are still continuing.

The assaults are not confined to Congolese soldiers but also the rebel militias as well as the vigilante groups set up to 'protect' the population.

The Sky camera crew is at a shelter set up for rape victims by a woman called Rebecca Masika (known as Ma Masika).

She has two children as a result of rape and knows the trauma and isolation of being a victim.

"If you look at my face, you can see the scar, it's a mark of rape and I have them all over my body," she says. "I had to help these women because I've been raped too.

"They made me watch them cut my husband's body into pieces, then they raped me on his dead body."

One of the young girls in the room looks heavily pregnant and has a visible weeping sore on her right ankle.

Anuarite is 16 years old - barely out of childhood herself. The rebel militia who raped her did so several times during the four months she was held captive.

She has terrible internal injuries too - and cries as she recounts her horrific story to us. Her birth won't be easy.

She says: "They took us into the bush and those who refused to sleep with them, they forced, by stabbing us with knives. They killed many girls.

"Some of them were shot with bullets in the vagina."

All these stories are uncomfortable hearing. We hear how the rapists - again in uniform - have even attacked the very house where Ma Masika has built the refuge.

All these women have been left homeless after being cast out by their families and their communities.

And the refuge is crowded out with children - all the result of rape.

It is heartbreakingly tragic. There's a whole generation of rape babies - and little interest from the outside world coupled with mass inertia as to how to make it all stop.

Congo's civil war may be two decades old but the violence is creating fresh victims every day.


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