Sars-like Virus Being Transmitted from Person-to-Person in the UK
The UK’s Health Protection Agency (HPA) confirmed on Wednesday that the relative of a UK patient who recently contracted a potentially fatal Sars-like virus has become infected with the disease, suggesting that person-to-person transmission has occurred in the country. Sars, or severe acute respiratory syndrome, is a serious form of pneumonia. The virus was first identified in 2003 and can cause acute respiratory distress, sometimes leading to death. The HPA said the original patient had recently travelled to the Middle East and Pakistan and was now in intensive care in Manchester. The infected relative, whose medical history suggested might be more susceptible to medical infections, is being treated in Birmingham. These cases bring the total number of confirmed cases across the world to 11, three of which were diagnosed in the UK. Professor John Watson of the HPA said that evidence of person-to-person transmission is limited. “In light of this latest case we would like to emphasise that the risk associated with novel coronavirus to the general UK population remains very low”, he added.
Australia Orders Investigation On Israel’s Prisoner X
Australian Foreign Minister Bob Carr has ordered an investigation into the handling of the case of an Australian reported to have hanged himself in an Israeli jail in 2010. The news of his death was first reported by ABC News on Tuesday, who named the man as Ben Zygier, an Australian national who allegedly worked for the Mossad, Israel’s spy agency, and was known only as Prisoner X in the country’s prison system. Carr told ABC News that he was only made aware of Zygier’s case after his death and that his family had not made any formal complaint, without which the Australian government could not act. The reason for his imprisonment was a secret and his name was not disclosed to his prison guards. Israel never acknowledged his existence, but issued a judicial order in 2010 to prevent the country’s media from reporting on the story. Such orders are rare and are only issued in cases concerning national security. The Israeli Prime Minister’s office has reportedly contacted senior editors of the country’s local media to ask them not to report on the case, which could lead to the “embarrassment of a certain agency”.
U.S. President Obama Focuses on the Middle Class in State of the Union Address
A combative U.S. President Barack Obama delivered his annual State of the Union’s address to Congress where he said it was “our generation’s task” to improve the living conditions of the country’s middle class. “Every day we should ask ourselves three questions as a nation: How do we attract more jobs to our shores? How do we equip our people with the skills to get those jobs? And how do we make sure that hard work leads to a decent living?”, he said. He also urged lawmakers to act on immigration, climate change and on gun violence, where he repeatedly stated that the victims of the country’s various shootings “deserve a vote”. Looking abroad, Obama warned North Korea that it faced deepening isolation and retaliatory actions if it continued to carry out nuclear tests. A similar warning was issued towards Iran, with the U.S. president pledging to “do what is necessary to prevent them from getting a nuclear weapon”.
Horsemeat Scandal to Bring On More Stringent Food Checks
European Union (EU) member states will increase testing of food products after a scandal involving horsemeat sold falsely as beef. Ministers from affected nations such as the UK, Ireland and Germany met in Brussels on Wednesday to discuss strengthening existing EU rules and increasing enforcement by local food authorities. EU Health Commisioner Tonio Borg said that “it is evident that somewhere down the line, someone has fraudulently or perhaps negligently labelled a product in a deceptive way”. He added that it would be unfair to point the finger at any one organisation because of the scandal’s multinational element, involving factories in Luxembourg, French food companies, Romanian abattoirs and a host of other sellers of food products. UK Chancellor George Osborne said that public confidence needed to be restored by more stringent checks. “What we want to make sure is that we have got the right checks in place so that all families know exactly what they are eating”, he said.
EU and U.S. Announce Free Trade Talks
The EU and the U.S. will start negotiations in June that could lead to the elimination of barriers between the world’s two biggest economies, hailed by the two sides as the biggest trade deal in history. The announcement was made by European Commission President José Manuel Barroso on Wednesday. While it is not clear how long such talks might last, EU Trade Commissioner Karel de Gucht said the bloc aimed to complete negotiations within two years. She added that the idea of a free trade agreement was first discussed following the formation of a working group in 2011, with bringing down tariffs and others barriers to trade as its main focus. The deal could add €86 billion to the bloc’s economy every year, or 0.5 percent to the EU’s GDP by 2027. The U.S.’s GDP would increase by 0.4 percentage point.