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Phuket Gazette: Male pill; No side-effects from nuke disaster; Real men cry

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Phuket Gazette: Male pill; No side-effects from nuke disaster; Real men cry | The Thaiger
PHUKET MEDIA WATCH

– World news compiled by Gazette editors for Phuket’s international community

Sperm gene discovery could lead to male contraceptive, infertility treatments
Phuket Gazette / News Wires

PHUKET: The discovery of a gene essential for sperm development could eventually lead to the creation of a new type of male contraceptive in the future, Scottish scientists said yesterday. It could also help finding treatments for male infertility.

The gene – called Katnal1 – is critical to sperm production because it enables sperm to mature in the testes. If scientists can regulate the Katnal1 gene in the testes, they could prevent sperm from maturing completely, making them ineffective, without changing hormone levels.

It is the first study to show that Katnal1, via its effects on microtubule dynamics within the testes, is required for male fertility. “If we can find a way to target this gene in the testes, we could potentially develop a non-hormonal contraceptive,” said Dr Lee Smith, a reader in genetic endocrinology at the Medical Research Council Center for Reproductive Health at the University of Edinburgh.

Scottish scientists funded by the Medical Research Council found that male mice, which were modified so they did not have the Katnal1 gene, were infertile. Further investigation showed that this was because the gene is needed to regulate a scaffolding structure, known as microtubules, which forms part of the cells that support and provide nutrients to developing sperm.

“The important thing is that the effects of such a drug would be reversible because Katnal1 only affects sperm cells in the later stages of development, so it would not hinder the early stages of sperm production or the overall ability to produce sperm,” said Smith.

“Although other research is being carried out into non-hormonal male contraceptives, identification of a gene that controls sperm production in the way Katnal1 does is unique and a significant step forward in our understanding of testis biology.”

The discovery of the gene could also help in finding treatments for cases of male infertility, when malfunction of the Katnal1 gene hampers sperm development.

Japan: UN says no health effects identified in disaster-hit nuclear plant workers
Phuket Gazette / News Wires

PHUKET: No known health effects have been identified in Japanese workers who were exposed to radiation following last year’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant crisis, the United Nations (UN) reported on Wednesday.

According to preliminary studies and assessments, the UN Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR) stated that although six workers have died since the accident, none of the deaths were linked to irradiation and no clinically observable effects have been reported.

In what was reported to be the worst nuclear accident since the 1986 Chernobyl disaster, the building housing the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant exploded and three of its nuclear reactors suffered a meltdown in March 2011, when a massive earthquake and tsunami struck the Japanese coastline.

Two months after the accident, UNSCEAR agreed to carry out a scientific assessment of the level of radiation exposure and health risks resulting from the accident. A 19-kilometer (11.8 mile) exclusion zone still surrounds the disaster site over a year after the disaster.

As of January 31, a total of 20,115 workers have been involved in operations at or near the plant following the accident, according to the report, which UNSCEAR Chair Wolfgang Weiss said was based on a wide variety of sources. Several workers were irradiated after contamination of their skin.

“There is very detailed information so as to assess the public doses but it will be more challenging to validate the workers’ exposure,” Weiss said, adding that work is still in progress. He said their assessment is being conducted with “careful scrutiny to ensure its quality, and we have a long way to go yet.”

According to UNSCEAR, its Committee members now have a good understanding of the nature and composition of the releases into the atmosphere from damaged reactors, and together with measurements of radioactive elements in the air, soil, water and food, the study will be able to assess doses to adults and children in different areas of Japan, considering important organs such as the thyroid.

“We have been given information about measurements made on the thyroids of over 1,000 children in Iitate village, Kawamata town and Iwaki city,” said Weiss. “Also, a survey in Fukushima prefecture is aiming to evaluate irradiation levels for some two million people living in the prefecture at the time of the accident. The results of the UNSCEAR assessment for these areas will be compared with the Japanese measurements and analysis, and any differences will be highlighted and addressed.”

UNSCEAR, which is holding its annual meeting in Vienna this week, is scheduled to present its final report on the levels and effects of radiation exposure from the accident towards the end of 2013.

Real men cry when tickled
Phuket Gazette / The Nation

PHUKET: Men don’t cry – or do they? We have fresh evidence that they weep like willows, at least when they’re overcome by happiness. Submitted for your appraisal is a trio of recent celebrity weddings.

First we saw Songkran Techanarong wailing like a little girl last month while they surgically attached him to actress Taksaorn “Aff” Paksukcharern in Khao Yai. “I couldn”t help it when I saw the beautiful setting,” he said of the lush outdoor scene. “And everyone I love was there. It was so overwhelming!”

It was Anusorn maneeted’s turn to blubber on May 5 when the singer known as Yong Armchair married fellow crooner Walailak “Koi” Muskpodok. Yong kept his cool until he had to express his gratitude to the press for supporting his career all along.

Actor Chai Chatayodom fell victim to the same emotional flood while thanking the news media after his wedding to Sunisa “Vicky” Jett. Vicky says they both cried a lot throughout the event, but the dam really burst for Chai when he was giving an interview.

“Right from childhood I always wanted to have a family,” he spluttered. “And now that all the people I love are here, I can’t stop the tears.”

Chai proposed to Vicky in Paris. We know because when married stars appear on TV chat shows and in magazines, they’re inevitably asked how it all came about.

Aff and Songkran were quizzed about the big moment recently on Channel 3’s “At 10” show but lacked the romantic foreign city. In fact, Aff said, Songkran never actually proposed to her at all. “He just told me it was about time we got married!”

Songkran made up for it at their wedding reception at the Mandarin Oriental Bangkok, though. They were supposed to go onstage together, but he told her he had to urinate first. Next thing Aff knew, he was up onstage declaring eternal love.

Then she got onstage and made her speech. You guessed it; he cried like a baby.

— Phuket Gazette Editors

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Philippines

Powerful 6.4 earthquake kills five in the Philippines

May Taylor

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Powerful 6.4 earthquake kills five in the Philippines | The Thaiger

PHOTO: AFP

A strong 6.4 magnitude earthquake has struck the southern Philippines, killing five, including one child, destroying property and disrupting power supply. The death toll is expected to rise.

The powerful quake was felt across the Mindanao region, even causing a 3-storey shopping mall to burst into flames. Residents were evacuated and a child was killed when a house collapsed in the town of Datu Paglas.

AFP reports that the quake was 14 kilometres deep and followed by two aftershocks. The Philippines is part of the “Ring of Fire”, a zone of constant seismic activity that stretches from Japan through Southeast Asia and across the Pacific.

Several injuries have been reported as a result of falling debris. The shopping mall that caught fire was evacuated when the quake struck, but it’s not yet known if there were still people inside as the fire took hold.

The mall was still on fire three hours later as nearly 100 firemen battled to put it out.

Residents on the coast in Davao fled to higher ground fearing a tsunami, even though a government seismologist reassured people there was no tsunami risk as the quake had occurred inland.

It’s understood that prisoners in the municipal jail in the town of Bansalan were also let out, but placed in handcuffs and held outside for the duration of the evacuation.

SOURCE: AFP

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World

Key ally rejects PM Johnson’s Brexit plan – Sterling sags

The Thaiger

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Key ally rejects PM Johnson’s Brexit plan – Sterling sags | The Thaiger

The British Pound tumbled again today after UK PM Boris Johnson’s key ally in parliament said it “could not support” his plans for a Brexit deal, throwing a spanner in the works – just as Britain and the EU were closing in on an agreement.

The comment caused an immediate reaction from this morning’s Asia Pacific markets.

After years of wrangling, the two sides said they were edging towards the basis for a treaty allowing Britain to avoid an economically catastrophic “no-deal” exit from the European Union.

With both teams working through the night, EU negotiator Michel Barnier said there had been “good progress, and work is ongoing”, while France’s deputy foreign minister said Thursday a deal was “within reach but is not guaranteed”.

There had been optimism that a deal was in the offing, just two weeks before Britain is due to leave the bloc, as they worked towards a solution on the vexed question of British-ruled Northern Ireland.

But Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) dropped a bombshell hours before the start of a crunch EU summit Thursday, saying it cannot support the plan.

“As things stand, we could not support what is being suggested on customs and consent issues, and there is a lack of clarity” on Value Added Tax, the DUP, which props up Johnson’s government, said in a statement on Twitter.

“We will continue to work with the Government to try and get a sensible deal that works for Northern Ireland and protects the economic and constitutional integrity of the United Kingdom.”

DUP leader Arlene Foster had met Johnson several times this week to discuss the progress of talks and had described as “nonsense” previous reports that she was ready to give way.

The pound, which earlier in the day was hovering at five-month highs around $1.2877 sank to $1.2750 before edging back slightly, while it also lost ground to the euro.

The DUP are against any deal that would tie Northern Ireland to EU rules but cut the rest of the United Kingdom loose.

Markets react

In early trade, London’s FTSE added 0.1%, Paris was flat and Frankfurt eased 0.2%. In Asia, most markets were in the red, with traders unable to take advantage of weak US retail data that raised the chances of another Federal Reserve interest rate cut. Comments in the Fed’s Beige Book update on the economy also pointed to a slowdown.

Hong Kong added 0.7% but Shanghai finished 0.1% lower and Tokyo lost 0.1%.

Sydney sank 0.8%, Singapore shed 0.7% and Seoul retreated 0.2%t, with Wellington and Manila also off. There were gains in Taipei, Mumbai, Bangkok and Jakarta.

Speculation about a possible US rate cut provided support to higher-yielding currencies against the dollar, with the Australian dollar 0.6 percent up and the South Korean won 0.1 percent stronger. The Thai baht, the Mexican peso and the South African rand also posted healthy gains.

Oil prices fell after data pointed to a sharp rise in US stockpiles that reinforced worries about the impact on demand from the China-US trade war and the global economic slowdown.

Key markets today

Pound/dollar: DOWN at $1.2784 from $1.2817 at 2100 GMT

Euro/pound: UP at 86.65 pence from 86.33 pence

Euro/dollar: UP at $1.1081 from $1.1073

Dollar/yen: UP at 108.80 yen from 108.71 yen

London – FTSE 100: UP 0.1 percent at 7,175.09

Tokyo – Nikkei 225: DOWN 0.1% at 22,451.86 (close)

Hong Kong – Hang Seng: UP 0.7% at 26,848.49 (close)

Shanghai – Composite: DOWN 0.1% at 2,977.33 (close)

West Texas Intermediate: DOWN 56 cents at $52.80 per barrel

Brent North Sea crude: DOWN 55 cents at $58.87 per barrel

New York – Dow: DOWN 0.1% at 27,001.98 (close)

SOURCE: Agence France-Presse

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World

EU and UK zone in on possible breakthrough

The Thaiger

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EU and UK zone in on possible breakthrough | The Thaiger

British and European negotiators headed back into intense negotiations on a draft Brexit deal after late-night talks brought them closer but so far fails to confirm an elusive breakthrough.

Reports that Britain has softened its stance on the customs status of Northern Ireland in order to clinch an accord at this week’s European summit had raised hopes that a chaotic “no-deal Brexit” can be avoided and is driving the pound higher.

But a marathon overnight negotiating session in the EU’s Brussels headquarters brought them to the eve of the meeting with still some distance to go to agree the wording of a treaty to govern the terms of Britain’s October 31 departure from the bloc.

“The teams worked into the night and continue to make progress. The teams will meet again this morning,” a UK official said, describing the talks as “constructive”. He and EU officials said the teams would get back to work at around 9am.

A senior European diplomat told AFP that the negotiators had begun to transcribe the British offer into a legal text that could eventually go before the 28 EU national leaders on Thursday at their European Council summit which begins on Thursday.

But there remain some important differences, he cautioned, while a European official, speaking on condition of anonymity as closed-door negotiations continue, played down hopes that any text would be finalised Wednesday.

Even if a text is prepared for the leaders this week – or if, as many observers in Brussels expect, an extraordinary summit is called later – any deal would have to be approved by a skeptical British parliament, which holds a special session on Saturday.

By agreeing to a form of customs boundary in the Irish Sea, Britain could allow its province of Northern Ireland to remain under EU rules, prevent a return to a hard land border with EU member Ireland and salvage a negotiated withdrawal.

But Prime Minister Boris Johnson may struggle to convince hardline Conservative eurosceptic MPS and his allies from Northern Ireland’s loyalist Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) to accept this concession — less than three weeks before Britain is due to leave the EU.

Nevertheless, EU negotiator Michel Barnier and British Brexit minister Stephen Barclay judged that a deal was close enough to justify officials working into the early hours of Wednesday morning.

Barnier had said a text must be on the table by Wednesday if member state governments are to have a chance to consider it before the summit, because the 28 national leaders have no plans to themselves debate the details of the agreement.

But if, as now seems likely, the Wednesday deadline is missed, officials said talks could instead resume next week and a special summit be called just in time for Johnson to fulfil his pledge to lead Britain out of the bloc on October 31.

European leaders warn they will not let Britain use Northern Ireland as a back door to the single market and Barnier said Tuesday that “it is high time to turn good intentions into legal text.”

Yesterday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel outlined why EU officials are driving a hard bargain and hoping Britain will commit to a “level playing field” in post-Brexit trade and commerce.

“One thing is clear, Britain will develop into another competitor on the doorstep of Europe. And therefore the EU will be challenged to become more competitive and to assume geopolitical responsibility.”

Glimmers of hope

“The last moment is always a bit later than you think,” one German government official told AFP, suggesting Brexit would have to be postponed beyond the end of the month if talks are to reach a successful conclusion.

More than three years after Britain’s 2016 referendum vote to leave the European bloc, talks remain stuck on how to avoid customs checks on the border between British-ruled Northern Ireland and EU-member Ireland.

The EU has reservations about London’s proposed customs arrangements and the role for Northern Ireland’s Stormont assembly in giving consent to the plans.

In London, DUP leader Arlene Foster told the BBC that she wanted to support a deal, but would not do so if she felt it divided Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK and added that without her party’s support “everybody knows” it would not pass in parliament.

If no deal is reached by Saturday, Johnson will fall foul of a British law demanding he ask the EU to postpone Brexit for a third time rather than risk a potentially disastrous “no deal” departure.

SOURCE: Agence France-Presse

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