News briefs:May 30, 2008

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Monarchy abolished in Nepal[edit]

The Nepalese Constituent Assembly, elected on April 10, in Nepal recently voted to abolish its monarchy, with a large majority supporting the vote in parliament. "The Nepalese people have been freed from centuries of feudal tradition and the doors have now opened for a radical social and economic transformation," said a government spokesperson, commenting on the decision.

The former king, Gyanendra of Nepal, has been given two weeks to leave his palace. Authorities say that he will be forced out if he fails to leave during that period of time.

The Nepalese president, also commented on the move: "Today is the day when my dreams have been realized and similarly the dreams of the nation have perhaps also been realized."

Ban Ki-moon, the Secretary General of the United Nations, said that by supporting the switch to a republic, the Nepalese people have "clearly spoken for peace and change."

UK study highlights child abuse by humanitarian workers[edit]

A study by the non-profit organisation Save the Children UK claims that a number of aid workers and peacekeepers from organisations such as the United Nations and Save the Children itself have engaged in sexual abuse of children in the course of their humanitarian efforts. The study also says that many of these incidents remain unreported, and those involved often go unpunished.

The study was based on field data from Sudan, Ivory Coast and Haiti, where they held focus groups followed by in-depth interviews. In 20 of the 38 focus groups, United Nations representatives were the main perpetrators of sexual abuse, possibly due to the larger number of peacekeepers than aid workers, but 23 organisations were identified as being involved across the three countries.

While 14 and 15 year olds were the most common victims, the study found cases of abuse in children as young as 6. Most offenders were men, and most of the victims were girls. One 14-year-old boy who works in a peacekeeping camp on the Ivory Coast told the study that "[o]ften it will be between eight and 10 men who will share two or three girls".

An "overwhelming" majority of those interviewed said they would never report a case of abuse, and did not know of anyone who had reported a case, despite more than half knowing of incidents of sexual abuse, and many knowing of 10 or more. The study reported that unless this silence was dealt with, any attempts to eliminate the abuse would be "fundamentally flawed".

Two MBTA Green Line trains collide in Newton, Massachusetts[edit]

Two Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) Green Line trains have collided in Newton. Both trains consisted of two cars, one of which rear-ended the other causing major damage on both trains, multiple injuries and trapped the operator of one of the two trains, 24 year-old Terrese Edmonds, who subsequently died. An investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board is underway.

The crash happened yesterday around 6 p.m. EDT between the Waban and Woodland Green Line stations on the Green Line's D Branch. One train was stopped at a red signal waiting to enter to Woodland when it was struck from behind by the second train.

This is one of several accidents the MBTA has experienced recently. Exactly two weeks ago, a trolley on the B Branch derailed and caught fire, and Tuesday, a fire broke out between Park Street and Downtown Crossing on the MBTA's Red Line.

First fertilised fish fossil found[edit]

A 375 million-year old fossilised umbilical cord could cause scientists to completely rethink the current theories of the evolution of vertebrate sexual reproduction, a team of Australian scientists say.

The fossil of a placoderm, a class of prehistoric fish known as the "dinosaur of the seas", dates back to the Devonian period, and is the earliest known case of a vertebrate that gave birth to live young. It is also the only fossilised umbilical cord ever to be found.

Dr. John Long, Museum Victoria's head of sciences and the leader of the team examining the fossils, says the find "changes our understanding of the evolution of vertebrates".

According to the research team, this discovery pushes the known development of viviparity (animals giving birth to live young) back 200 million years, and also marks the earliest known development of internal fertilisation, a feature now found in sharks and rays.