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Thursday, January 17, 2013

Raid on Algeria Gas Field Kills Hostages, Kidnappers

A military raid by Algeria’s government on a gas field where Islamic militants held at least 41 people hostages resulted in the deaths of both hostages and kidnappers. While the numbers are still not confirmed, Reuters estimates seven foreigners (two Japanese, two Britons, and a French national) and at least eight Algerian hostages died in the operation. After the operation, Reuters reports, the bodies of three Egyptians, two Tunisians, two Libyans, a Malian and a Frenchman were found. It was unclear how many were freed by the operation as efforts were still ongoing, but the U.S., Japan, and Britain all said they had not been informed by the Algerian authorities that the raid would take place. No official figures were released. “I think we have to prepare ourselves for the possibility of bad news ahead,” said U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron. The militants’ seizing of the gas field is said to be in retaliation for France’s military involvement against Al Qaeda-related rebels in Mali.

Pakistan Reaches Agreement with Cleric to End Protests

The Pakistani government reached a deal today with Muslim Cleric Muhammad Tahirul Qadri, who has been leading protests in the capital, Islamabad. Qadri sought to force the government to resign before general elections in May as the country’s Supreme Court ordered the arrest of Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf on corruption charges. While it appears Ashraf, who denies having taken bribes when he approved projects for power generation as a minister in 2010, will not be arrested immediately, the government has agreed to dissolve parliament before March 16. Contrary to Qadri’s demand, however, the army will not be consulted in the interim administration. The deal is believed to be a face-saving one for Qadri, who wasn’t backed on some of his most pressing demands by opposition leaders. Qadri is thought to be close to the country’s military, which is suspected of attempting a power grab.

No Deal Between Iran and U.N. Nuclear Agency

The United Nations International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) failed to secure an agreement with Iran that aimed at allowing an investigation into the Islamic country’s nuclear bomb research, according to a diplomatic source. This new failure concludes a year of efforts to gain access to sites where Iran is thought to be enriching uranium for a military program. Iran has consistently denied the accusation, arguing its goal is peaceful and focusing on power generation and medical research. The government in Tehran is now the object of increasing international pressure, with mounting economic sanctions. Israel, who has repeatedly call for the U.S. to draw a “red line,” has threatened Iran with military strikes, to no avail.  Another meeting is scheduled for February 12.

787 Dreamliners Grounded Globally

Governments around the world, following the U.S.’ lead, grounded all 50 of Boeing’s 787 Dreamliners on concerns that their lithium batteries would overheat, leak, and cause fires. Grounding planes isn’t a measure regulators frequently resort to, and it is the first time since 1979 for the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). This isn’t the first issue the revolutionary plane has faced: fuel leaks, a cracked cockpit window, issues with the brakes and an electrical fire occurred in the past few weeks. All airlines that use the plane have complied and safety checks are underway.

Poop Transplant More Effective than Antibiotics for Gut Infections

Transplanting a small amount of feces from a healthy person’s gut into the digestive system of someone who is chronically ill is more effective than antibiotics, research has shown. Infections of Clostridium difficile, which affect around 14,000 people a year in the U.S. alone, have been resolved almost overnight by diluted stool carried into the gut via an enema, colonoscope or tubes inserted through the nose or mouth. While this is often a last-recourse measure, fecal transplants have proved to work on first attempt 90 percent of the time, with the remaining 10 percent of the cases being resolved on the second round. Antibiotics, meanwhile, result in a relapse rate of 20 percent. This treatment was developed after it was discovered that different types of bacteria in a healthy gut keep each other in check, and rebalancing their communities promotes health.

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