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Phuket Gazette World News: Baby cured of HIV; Girl miraculously survives plane crash; UK Queen leaves hospital

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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Phuket Gazette World News: Baby cured of HIV; Girl miraculously survives plane crash; UK Queen leaves hospital | The Thaiger
PHUKET MEDIA WATCH

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

US baby’s cure from HIV raises hope, new questions
Reuters / Phuket Gazette

PHUKET: The remarkable case of a baby being cured of HIV infection in the United States using readily available drugs has raised new hope for eradicating the infection in infants worldwide, but scientists say it will take a lot more research and much more sensitive diagnostics before this hope becomes a reality.

In a medical first for an infant, a Mississippi toddler, born with HIV in July 2010, was treated within 30 hours of delivery with aggressive HIV therapy, which continued for 18 months. She is now considered cured of her infection, a team of researchers led by Dr Deborah Persaud, a virologist at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, told media at the Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections in Atlanta on Sunday.

“From a clinical perspective, this means that if you can get an infected baby on to anti-retroviral drugs immediately after delivery, it’s going to be possible to prevent or reverse the infection – essentially cure the baby,” said Dr Steven Deeks, an HIV/AIDS researcher at the University of California at San Francisco, who is attending the conference where the case was presented to researchers yesterday.

Deeks and others hailed the findings as a great advance in the search for a cure in babies born infected with HIV. But the researchers said they also suggest the need for better ways to diagnose HIV infection, a process that typically takes up to six weeks.

“This could have a profound effect on how we approach babies born to HIV-infected moms,” Deeks said.

Treatment of HIV-infected mothers before delivery is the best way to prevent HIV infection of infants, experts say, but even in resource-rich countries such as the United States, 100 to 200 babies are born each year infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, said Dr Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, part of the National Institutes of Health.

Worldwide, especially in developing countries, as many as 1,000 babies are born infected every day. For these children, the findings could have a major impact on the “terrible burden of HIV infection throughout the world,” Fauci said.

Michel Sidibé, executive director of the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS, known as UNAIDS, said the news “gives us great hope that a cure for HIV in children is possible,” but it also underscores the need for research and innovation, “especially in the area of early diagnostics.”

Fauci said the child’s case was an important “proof of concept,” but he cautioned that it was only one case and needs to be further validated.

“The real question is: Will this be broadly applicable to other infants?” he said.

Fauci said there is a risk that without better diagnostics, children who were never infected in the first place could be exposed to toxic drugs with very early treatment.

In the case of the Mississippi girl, Dr Hannah Gay, a pediatric HIV specialist at the University of Mississippi Medical Centre, made the call to treat the child with HIV drugs even before her infection was confirmed because she believed the child was at such great risk of infection. Had she been wrong, the therapy would have been stopped.

“Since the mother had really been at such high risk of transmitting to the baby, they decided to treat on square one,” said Fauci, as opposed to giving the child a lower, preventative dose of drugs until test results confirmed an infection.

“The approach of treating really, really early needs to be pursued,” he said. “When we get better diagnostics where we can tell within the first day or so whether the baby is infected, an approach like this looks like it might be a reasonable thing to pursue with the appropriate clinical trials.”

Fauci said it is not time to change treatment protocols for infants who are born infected. “It’s a single case. We’ve got to be careful about that.”

Teen girl survives deadly plane crash in French Alps
Phuket Gazette / News Wires

PHUKET: Two people were killed yesterday when a small business jet struck a house and crashed in a residential area of the French Alps near the Swiss border, local authorities said, but a young girl miraculously survived. The cause of the crash was not immediately known.

The accident happened shortly before 9am local time when the private twin-engine PRM1 corporate jet clipped the roof of a farm house and slammed into the yard of a second house near a small airport in the eastern town of Annemasse in France’s Haute-Savoie region, located about 6 kilometers (3.7 miles) from Geneva.

Police said the aircraft, which was en-route to Geneva, burst into flames upon impact and was completely destroyed. And although suffering serious injuries to the pelvis, a 15-year-old girl who was on board the aircraft miraculously survived it. The pilot, believed to be the girl’s father, and another unidentified man were killed.

All the victims were said to be French citizens.

The exact cause of the accident was not immediately known, but witnesses said the aircraft had already experienced difficulties during takeoff and took a sharp turn to the right moments before clipping the roof of the house. The home suffered serious damage but there were no reports of casualties on the ground.

Queen Elizabeth II leaves hospital after stomach bug assessment
Reuters / Phuket Gazette

PHUKET: Queen Elizabeth II was released from a central London hospital yesterday after a nearly 24-hour stay to receive treatment for symptoms of gastroenteritis, the royal palace said. She appeared well and happy as she emerged from the facility.

The queen, who is 86, fell ill on Friday when she began to experience symptoms of gastroenteritis, a relatively minor and common illness which is better known as a stomach bug. The infection is caused by a virus or food poisoning and often causes vomiting, diarrhea and dehydration, but symptoms typically disappear within 12 to 48 hours.

The sudden illness initially forced the queen to cancel a scheduled visit to the coastal city of Swansea in Wales where she was due to celebrate St David’s Day on Saturday. She later canceled all official engagements for the coming week, including a trip to Rome where she was to meet Italian President Giorgio Napolitano.

The queen emerged from King Edward VII’s Hospital in central London yesterday afternoon. Wearing a red dress, she looked well and cheerful as she said goodbye to a member of staff and walked to her limousine.

“The Queen has left the King Edward VII’s Hospital having been admitted briefly as part of the assessment of symptoms of gastroenteritis,” Buckingham Palace said in a brief statement, giving no details about the queen’s treatment or if she was still feeling ill. It was not immediately clear when she will resume her official engagements.

Despite her age, the monarch is believed to be in generally good health and had not been hospitalized for more than a decade. The last time she was hospitalized was in January 2003 when she underwent a minor 45-minute operation to remove a torn cartilage from her right knee.

Elizabeth II is the queen regnant of the United Kingdo

— 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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