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May 4, 2008

Pharaoh Akhenaten May have had Disease that Made Him Look like a Woman

The Daily Mail reported that Egyptian Pharaoh Akhenaten who ruled Egypt over 33 centuries ago may have suffered from a genetic disorder that caused him to have a decidedly feminine physique.
Yale Medical School Professor Irwin M. Braverman, who studied sculptures and carvings of the pharaoh, thinks the ruler had Marfan syndrome, a genetic disorder that results in an overproduction of oestrogen. The disease caused him to have breasts, wide hips, and to look pregnant, the Daily Mail reported.
However, Akhenaten was a fully functional male, and, with wife queen Nefertiti, he fathered at least six children, one of whom may have been Tutankhamun.
Braverman spoke about his theory Friday during Maryland's 14th annual Historical Clinicopatholoical Conference, held to help diagnose afflicted historic persons, the Baltimore Sun reported.
However, there is some debate about how well the carvings Braverman studied represent the real Akhenaten. The Baltimore Sun reported that artists may have been incorporating symbols of fertility and afterlife into their work.
Braverman hopes to confirm his theory by using DNA testing. “I'm hoping that after we have this conference and I bring this up, maybe the Egyptologists who work on these things all the time … will be stimulated to look,? he said. (Daily Mail)

April 20, 2008

France Proposes Bill Cracking Down on Eating Disorder Encouragement

The Star Tribune reported that the lower houses of French Parliament have passed a bill that would make Web sites, magazines and other mass media outlets that encourage “extreme thinness? illegal. The bill awaits the Senate’s approval in the coming weeks.
The New York Times reported that the bill was proposed by conservative lawmaker Valérie Boyer. The Star Tribune reported her name as Valery Boyer.
“We have noticed that the sociocultural and media environment seems to favor the emergence of troubled nutritional behavior, and that is why I think it is necessary to act,? Boyer said. (New York Times)
If passed, the punishment would be a fine up to $71,000 and three years in prison for promoting anorexia or bulimia in the mass media, the Star Tribune reported.
The bill comes as a reaction to the anorexia-related death of Brazilian model Ana Carolina Reston in 2006.
Critics of the bill say that it is too vaguely worded, and doesn’t clearly define “extreme thinness,? the Star Tribune reported.
“Never will we accept in our profession that a judge decides if a young girl is skinny or not skinny. That doesn’t exist in the world, and it will certainly not exist in France,? Didier Brunbach, president of the French Federation of Couture, said. (New York Times)

April 13, 2008

British Children’s Entertainer Found Dead

The body of a man, who authorities believe to be British television host Mark Speight, was found early Sunday in London’s Paddington station, the BBC reported. A formal identification has not yet been made, the Guardian reported.
Authorities are investigating, but are classifying the death as “unexplained.? However, they have confirmed the man was not hit by a train, the BBC reported.
The Guardian reported that Speight had been in a “vulnerable? state since the Jan. 3 death of his fiancé, Natasha Collins. Collins died of a drug overdose and boiling water burns after a night of partying with Speight, BBC reported. Speight had been arrested on suspicion of murder following the incident, but no charges were filed, BBC reported.
Speight was last seen entering the Queen’s Park tube station Monday. He was reported missing later that same day after he failed to meet Collins’ mother for coffee, the Guardian reported.
Speight hosted the BBC children’s show SMart until February, the BBC reported.
“Caring and compassionate in everything he did, Mark was truly gifted in life and we are proud to have represented him as a friend and client for almost 20 years,? Speight’s agent said through a spokeswoman. (BBC)

April 2, 2008

Archaeologists Begin Digging at Stonehenge for First Time in 40 Years

Archaeologists in England begun digging at Stonehenge March 31 in hopes of discovering when and why the landmark was built, BBC reported.
The excavation, led by leading Stonehenge scholar Timothy Darvill and president of the Society of Antiquaries Geoffrey Wainwright, will last until April 11.
This will be the first time since 1964 that anyone has dug at Stonehenge and the team needed Cabinet approval to do so, New York Times reported.
“I think that we really are stepping into the unknown - we don't know what we will find down there, because it's such a long time since anyone had a look,? Darvill said. (BBC)
Stonehenge was originally built using bluestone from an area 153 miles away in Wales, New York Times reported. These bluestones were removed 200 years later and were replaced with different stones.
It is fragments from these older bluestones that Wainwright and Darvill hope to find. They would then use carbon dating on the bluestone to pinpoint the date of Stonehenge, the New York Times reported.
Wainwright and Darvill both worked to find the area in Wales that the bluestones came from. Because of this finding, the “logical next step? would be to excavate at Stonehenge, Renee Fok, a spokesperson for English Heritage, which oversees the Stonehenge site, said.
The archaeologists hope that answering when and how Stonehenge was built will shed light on why it was built, BBC reported. Recently, Professor Mike Parker Pearson proposed that the sight was a place for ancient people to contact their dead ancestors.
But Darvill and Wainwright have a new theory that the stones were used for healing powers, BBC reported. In legends, bluestones have mythical powers. Also, the archaeologists found the remains of injured and sickly humans around Stonehenge, BBC reported.
“We believe that this dig has a chance of genuinely unlocking part of the mystery of Stonehenge,? Dr Simon Thurley, chief executive of English Heritage, said. (BBC)
Tourists will still be able to visit Stonehenge as normal throughout the excavation, New York Times reported. They will also be able to watch live video of the dig on televisions in nearby tents.

March 30, 2008

Plane Crashes in Residential Area in UK

Two pilots and three passengers were killed when a small plane crashed in a residential area in Kent, England Sunday, the BBC reported. CNN reported that the planes occupants were unaccounted for, but did not report any deaths.
Both articles reported that two people on the ground were also injured. BBC said that both suffered shock, while CNN reported that one was treated for shock and the second for an asthma attack.
CNN reported six fire engines were dispatched to the scene while the BBC said eight were sent.
Rescue crews were unable to reach the crash site for three hours, CNN reported, because of safety dangers. “There is aviation fuel involved, and also gas canisters have been located at the scene of the incident,? Ian Todd, assistant director of operations for London Ambulance Services, said (CNN).
BBC reported that the plane, a commercial flight bound for France began experiencing problems shortly after take-off and had asked permission to re-land. The plane went down before it could make it back to the airport.
Both sources reported that witnesses heard a loud roar and saw the plane flying with its tail lower than its nose just before the crash.
Both also included an account from a pilot named John who was flying a plane in the same area as the crash. CNN reported that John said he heard distress calls indicating the pilot of the crashed plane was having engine vibrations. BBC gave more of John’s account. He heard the pilot say, “We’re going down? before the radio went dead.

March 16, 2008

Possible Pre-Incan Temple Uncovered in Peru

Archaeologists in Peru have uncovered ruins from a temple they believe to pre-dates the Incan civilization, BBC reported. A roadway, a temple, and an irrigation system were found at a site that overlooks the famous Incan capital of Cuzco.
Archaeologists are still waiting on carbon dating, BBC reported. However, they believe that the site is pre-Incan because of architectural styles and ceramics, according to CNN.
The Incans occupied the area in the 1400s. It is believed that these ruins are from the Killke culture that occupied the site from the 900 to 1200 A.D., CNN reported. Archaeologists think that the Incans remodeled the older Killke structures.
“The Incas entered and changed the form of the temple, as it initially had a more rustic architecture,? Washington Camacho, director of the site’s archaeological park, said (BBC).
The temple, constructed of stones and adobe, contains 11 rooms that are believed to have held mummies and idols.
The BBC reported that researchers feel lucky to have found the temple as part of it was destroyed a century ago when dynamite was used to quarry rock in the area. Excavations began in the summer in 2007 and will continue for five more years.

March 9, 2008

Margaret Thatcher Spends Night in Hospital

Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, 82, spent Friday night in the hospital after feeling faint, the BBC reported. Doctors found nothing wrong with Thatcher, and she was able to return home Saturday.
The BBC reported that towards the end of a House of Lords dinner Friday evening, Thatcher felt “giddy and queasy? and her legs buckled. Her daughter Carol said the hospitalization was a precaution.
“Very wisely at her age and with a history of little strokes, they decided to err on the side of caution,? Carol Thatcher said.
Thatcher spent Saturday resting at home and was not taking any phone calls, the BBC reported. “She's sitting up in her sitting room and we've all been chatting away," Thatcher’s private secretary Mark Worthington said. (BBC)
The Star Tribune reported that Thatcher had suffered a series of strokes in 2002. The BBC said the strokes have affected her short-term memory. As a result, Thatcher cut down her workload and has made only a few public statements in recent years.
Both the BBC and the Star Tribune reported that Prime Minister Gordon Brown wished Thatcher “a very speedy recovery.?
Both articles end with short summaries of Thatcher’s political life. She served as Britain’s Prime Minister for 11 years before resigning in 1990.
The Star Tribune summary includes that she was a supporter of former President Ronald Reagan, tying her more to the United States. Both articles report her husband Denis died in 2003.

February 29, 2008

Some Turkish Universities Ignore Lift on Headscarf Ban

Despite a new law that lifted a ban on headscarves at public colleges, 16 Turkish universities are not allowing women wearing headscarves onto their campuses, BBC reported.
According to the Washington Post, guards stationed at university gates forced women to remove their scarves before entering campus.
“Here I am, cleansed of my identity,? 21-year-old Sabiha Gimen said as she stood wearing a hat to hide her headscarf in front of Istanbul Bilgi University Monday. (Washington Post)
Turkey, though 99 percent Muslim, is ruled by a strictly-secularist government. The new law was signed Feb. 22 by Turkey’s Islamic-oriented president Abdullah Gul.
Opponents of the law, secularist leaders, believe lifting the ban is a step backward and may bring a religious government that will lead to “disintegration of the nation? (CNN). Opposition also says that the law is compromising the division between religion and state, BBC reported.
Proponents of the law say freedom of religion is important. “These things should be left to the woman to choose,? Huseyin Hatemi, a retired Istanbul University civil law professor said Monday. “Iran is wrong in forcing them to wear the head scarf, and Turkey is wrong in forcing them not to.? (Washington Post)
The new law only allows for scarves tied loosely under the chin. Burkas and scarves that cover the neck are still banned, BBC reported.

February 20, 2008

Two Stolen Paintings Recovered

Two of the four paintings that were stolen last week in one of the biggest art thefts in history were found Monday near the Zurich, Switzerland museum they were taken from, the New York Times reported.
Authorities found Monet’s “Poppies Near Vétheuil? and van Gogh’s “Blossoming Chestnut Branches? in the back of a white sedan parked outside a mental hospital that is located about 500 yards from the E. G. Bührle Collection.
The two paintings, worth $64 million, are said to be in perfect condition, still under the glass the museum displays them under, the New York Times reported. Lukas Gloor, the museum’s director, suspects that the robbers discarded these two paintings because their larger size makes them difficult to transport.
The paintings were found when a hospital employee checked the parking lot and made note of the white sedan because its doors were unlocked, the New York Times reported. Police later discovered the paintings in the backseat. It is unknown how long the vehicle had been in the lot.
“The severe wound which was inflicted on our house on 10 February has been closed somewhat," Gloor said. (BBC)
Cézanne’s “Boy in a Red Vest,? the most valuable of the four, and Degas's “Count Lepic and his Daughters? are still missing, the BBC reported. The three thieves are still at large.

February 13, 2008

Four Paintings Valuing $163 Million Stolen in Switzerland

Four paintings were stolen from a private Zurich museum Sunday, The New York Times reported. According to the BBC, the robbery is the biggest art theft in 20 years.
The four missing paintings, valued at $163 million, are: Poppies near Vetheuil, by Claude Monet, Count Lepic and his Daughters, by Edgar Degas, Chestnut in Bloom, by Vincent Van Gogh and Boy in a Red Jacket, by Paul Cezanne.
Just before the museum closed Sunday, three men wearing ski masks entered the E. G. Bührle Collection. They forced security guards and visitors onto the ground with a handgun, grabbed the four paintings and sped off in a white van. The New York Times said the entire robbery took less than three minutes. The robbers are still at large.
The BBC reported that the paintings are the finest works of art in the E. G. Bührle Collection. Because the paintings are so well-known, resale on the open market is impossible.
According to The New York Times, the thieves spoke German with a Slavic accent. This has caused Swiss citizens to worry that their country has become a target for foreign criminals, The New York Times said.
Citizens are also concerned about the ease with which the paintings were stolen. The New York Times reported that the museum does not check visitor’s bags and that no metal detectors are in place because the front doors to the museum are too narrow.
The Bührle robbery follows the Wednesday theft of two Picassos valued at an estimated $4.4 million from the near-by town of Pfäffikon. Swiss police are investigating a possible connection between the two thefts, The New York Times reported.

February 4, 2008

Japanese Balloonist Missing During Flight to North America

The U.S. Coast Guard is searching for a Japanese hot air balloonist who went missing over the Pacific Ocean Thursday, the BBC reported. According to CNN, Michio Kanda, 58, left Japan Thursday morning and was trying to reach Portland, Ore. in order to break the current distance and duration ballooning records.
After checking in with his team Thursday morning via satellite phone, Kanda failed to respond to scheduled calls from his support team over the next six hours.
The Anchorage Daily News reported that the Coast Guard was using several planes equipped with air-to-surface radar to search for Kanda. On Saturday, helicopters were also being sent to the scene.
Kanda, a father of three, had been planning his voyage for nearly five years and had studied the North Pacific’s weather patterns, Kanda’s assistant Chika Edgar told the Anchorage Daily News.
Kanda’s balloon is equipped with provisions and a survival suit. "We're all still hopeful," support team member Edmund Edgar said. (Anchorage Daily News)

February 3, 2008

Police Bust Organ-Stealing Ring in India

Indian police have uncovered an organ-trafficking ring that involved at least four doctors, nurses, and other medical technicians, CNN reported. Hospitals and houses were raided and one doctor was arrested. Police are now looking for the ringleader, supposedly a doctor named Amit Kumar.
The goal of the organ-trafficking ring was to steal kidneys from poor workers and then sell them to wealthy clients.
Police discovered waiting lists 48 names long that listed patients from five countries, including Greece and the United States. Police suspect over 500 transplants were conducted over the past 10 years.
Allegedly, the ring operators first approached the workers offering jobs, The Guardian reported. Then, using equipment concealed in luxury cars, they tested the victims’ blood.
“They . . . gave me an injection, and I lost consciousness. When I woke up, I had pain in my lower abdomen and I was told that my kidney had been removed," victim Mohd Salim said. (The Guardian)
While organ donation is legal, Indian law forbids the sale of organs.