Wikinews:Briefs/September 20, 2008

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Wikinews News in Brief for September 20, 2008 17:00 UTC


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Audio Wikinews
Audio Wikinews News Brief for September 20, 2008
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The time is 17:00 UTC, this is the Audio Wikinews Brief for Saturday, September 20, 2008. I'm Kevin Fields, and here is this evening's current stories.

In breaking news, the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad, Pakistan has been bombed. At least 50 people are dead and 120 injured. The explosion, believed to be a car or truck bomb, occurred at 14:00 UTC, just hours after newly elected President Asif Ali Zardari addressed Parliament and promised to destroy terrorism in the country. It is thought that more than a ton of explosives were used in the blast, which left a crater 30 feet deep and triggered a gas leak which sent the hotel up in flames. It is feared that the death toll may go much higher in what is one of the worst terror attacks in Pakistan's history. Ambulances have rushed to the scene of today's explosion, where rescuers ferry away the dead. Dozens of vehicles have been skeletonised, and trees nearby have been felled. Buildings hundreds of metres away have had their windows shattered. Witnesses, including a security guard, described a large truck approaching the building immediately before the explosion. The explosion was heard 30km away. No-one has yet claimed responsibility for the bombing.

The United Nations has called for wealthy donor nations to donate US$700 million (£382 million or €484 million) in emergency aid for Eastern Africa to prevent widespread famine. Since the start of 2008 the number of people living in hunger in the region has almost doubled to seventeen million, according to the UN. UN emergency relief coordinator John Holmes states that food levels are dangerously low in much of Ethiopia, Somalia, Eritrea, Northern Kenya and Uganda. The area, known as the 'Horn of Africa', has seen drought, war and high food prices all worsen the situation. Holmes has warned that the levels of those in need could rise still further. A total of $1.4 billion is to be raised for the period from now to the year's end, but at least $716 million of that remains to be found. "We may need significant funds after that period - this is not the end of the story," warned Holmes. He described locals saying that the situation has never been as bad since 1928, when vast amounts of livestock died. They say rain is needed within the next few months if there is to be any grazing and cereal crops are impossible in the near future, it being well into 2009 before anything may be ready to harvest. The number of hungry people in the world rose by 75 million last year to 925 million. The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation says high food prices are to blame for the crisis.

Fifteen people are dead, and thirty more have become ill after attempting to steal fuel from a freight train travelling through Karbi Anglong, Assam, India. It is thought they broke into a tank containing toxic chemicals. According to a railway official, the train was in the remote region with 48 wagons of petrol and diesel when raiders intercepted it. The train was in a forested area at the time and was surrounded by armed men, a common occurrence in an area where trains transporting products to and from refineries are regularly targeted. Witnesses described liquid pumping out of a tank at high pressure. There are no reports as in to what the tank contained, but the fumes were toxic; when police arrived they found that fifteen had succumbed to the gas, and thirty more were sickened by it. A number of empty oil drums, presumably intended for fuel from the train, were also discovered.

And, finally, in the United States, the Federal Trade Commission filed charges against five companies for "deceptive advertising of bogus cancer cures". An additional six companies also named in the federal agency's complaint have settled and their cases will not go into litigation; however, they will be required to send letters to their former customers, and four will be forced to offer reimbursement The five companies charged are Omega Supply, San Diego, California; Native Essence Herb Company, El Prado, New Mexico; Daniel Chapter One, Portsmouth, Rhode Island; Gemtronics, Inc., Franklin, North Carolina, and Herbs for Cancer, Surprise, Arizona. According to Lydia Parnes, director of the Federal Trade Commission's Bureau of Consumer Protection, "There is no credible scientific evidence that any of the products marketed by these companies can prevent, cure, or treat cancer of any kind." Attorney Richard Jaffe who represents the firm Native Essence, one of the companies charged, protested against the FDA's action. "In our view it's a battle between the right to speak and the government's censorship." Native Essence sells herbal supplements and informs customers of herbs that have historic use for cancer and other ailments. Jaffe asserts the claim of historic use is truthful and does not necessarily mean that the herb is effective. Other items marketed by the companies named in the action include laetrile, essiac tea, mushroom extracts, and black salve. FDA representative Douglas Stearn expressed concern that people who have cancer may select these items instead of treatments that have been studied and found effective, or that unstudied herbal treatments could produce drug interactions with conventional medicine. Before filing legal action the FTC sent over 100 warning letters and many firms dropped or changed the health claims for their products. In conjunction with the announcement the FDA announced a new website that urges cancer patients to discuss all treatments they consider trying with their physicians, warns about the dangers of delaying or stopping cancer treatments in favour of alternative medicine, and gives advice about spotting and reporting false health claims.



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