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Wednesday, April 17, 2013

UK Unemployment Rises to 2.5 Million

UK unemployment reached 2.5 million people in the month of February, with 20,000 under-25-year-olds adding to the register, with the country’s unemployment hitting 7.9 percent. The figures, released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), also revealed that the number of people in employment also fell. Despite recognising that there were “still tough challenges ahead”, Employment Minister Mark Hoban said that the government would “continue to give jobseekers all the help and support they need to realise their aspirations”. The news comes a day after Olivier Blanchard, Chief Economist at the International Monetary Fund (IMF), urged the UK government to soften its push for austerity. “There are a few countries where there is enough fiscal space to go further – one example is the UK. In the face of weak demand it is really time to consider an adjustment to the initial fiscal consolidation plans”, said Blanchard. Reacting to the figures, the Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, Liam Byrne, said that the government’s plans were failing. “With the IMF warning George Osborne to change course and unemployment getting worse, it’s clear the time has come for a fresh approach”, he said.

Boston Bombs Were Pressure Cookers of Destruction

Investigators searching for clues about the composition of the bombs that exploded in Boston on Monday afternoon announced the recovery of parts of the devices, saying they were crude devices made out of two 6-litre pressure cookers filled with nails, ball bearings and metal parts. A circuit board was found in the blast zone, and was likely used to detonate the devices. Dr Juan DeRojas, a surgeon with experience in Iraq and Afghanistan, told the Boston Globe that such a device “doesn’t go straight up to the sky” upon explosion, but sends shrapnel in all directions as the blast spreads outwards, injuring most people standing near it at their lower extremity. “It’s going off like the spokes of a wheel and the centrepiece is the bomb”, said Dr DeRojas. Another medical expert heard by the newspaper, Dr David P. Mooney of the Boston Children’s Hospital, said the lower-extremity injuries seen in adults might have translated into full-body injuries in young children. Some of the debris from the explosion was found in nearby rooftops, an indication of the power of the explosions.

No Poultry Contact in Some Bird Flu Cases

The World Health Organisation (WHO) revealed on Wednesday that some of the victims testing positive for H7N9, a new strain of bird flu, had no history of contact with poultry, adding to the questions on how the disease is being transmitted between humans. Chinese authorities estimate that 40 percent of those found with the new strain had no poultry contact. “This is one of the puzzles to be solved and therefore argues for a wide investigation net”, said WHO spokesman Gregory Hartl. The organisation will send a team of experts to China who will begin investigating how the disease is spreading and if human-to-human is even possible. “It might be because of dust at the wet markets, it could be another animal source beside poultry, it could also be human-to-human transmission”, added Hartl. China’s poultry sector has lost over a billion dollars since the strain emerged two weeks ago, with local authorities slaughtering thousands of birds and shutting poultry markets in major cities like Beijing and Shanghai.

Welsh Measles Outbreak Reaches 765 Cases

The Welsh measles epidemic has now reached 765 cases, with local authorities warning that the figure should continue to rise in the next weeks, with 77 people hospitalised since the outbreak began last November. “Today I am urging all parents, anywhere in England, who did not get their child vaccinated with two doses of MMR because of scare stories a decade ago to contact their GP surgery and make an appointment”, said UK Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt. This was repeated by Welsh Health Minister Mark Drakeford, who said that the only way to halt the spread of the disease was to give doses of the MMR vaccine to those who needed it most. He also rejected claims that the Welsh government was too slow to react to the crisis, saying the first meeting on how to respond to the spread of the disease was held as soon as the outbreak began. “It was only in the post-Christmas period, as media reports increased, that greater awareness and parental action began to pick up. I don’t think there is any sense that either the Welsh NHS or the government have been behind the curve in responding to the outbreak”, he added.

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