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Friday, June 28, 2013

UK Backs ‘Three-Parent’ Babies

The UK government has backed an IVF technique that would allow the creation of babies using the DNA of three people, potentially eliminating debilitating and fatally mitochondrial diseases that are transmitted from mother to child. Defective mitochondria affect one in every 6,500 and can cause muscle weakness, blindness, heart failure and death. “Scientists have developed ground-breaking new procedures which could stop these disease being passed on, bringing hope to many families seeking to prevent their future children inheriting them. It’s only right that we look to introduce this life-saving treatment as soon as we can”, said Prof Dame Sally Davies, the Chief Medical Officer for England. Dr David King, director of the Human Genetics Alert watchdog, called it instead “unnecessary and unsafe” and a “disaster” that will “lead to a eugenic designer baby market”. The government is expected to produced draft regulations later this year and the procedure could be offered within two years for only the most severe cases. Children would have no right to know who the egg donor was and any children resulting from the procedure would be monitored closely throughout their lives.

Snowden’s Fathers Sets Conditions for Son’s Return to US

Speaking to the NBC’s Today Show on Friday, US whistleblower Edward Snowden’s father said his son might return to the country if he were able to remain free while awaiting trial and was not submitted to a gag order, as well as being given the choice of the location for his trial. Lonnie Snowden also said he was concerned that his son was being manipulated by WikiLeaks. “Their focus isn’t necessarily the Constitution of the United States. It’s simply to release as much information as possible. So that alone is a concern for me”, he said. He also said he didn’t feel his son was a traitor. “He has betrayed his government, but I don’t believe that he’s betrayed the people of the United States”, he added. Meanwhile, the government of Ecuador, a possible destination for the whistleblower if asylum was granted to him, said it pulled out of a preferential trade pact with the US as it had become “a new instrument of blackmail”. “Ecuador does not accept pressure or threats from anyone, and does not trade on principles or make them contingent on commercial interests, even if those interests are important”, said Communications Minister Fernando Alvarado.

UK at Higher Risk of Power Blackouts from 2015

UK energy regulator Ofgem has warned that the risk of the country suffering major power blackouts will increase from the middle of the decade as generators are retired. The warning was rebuked by Michael Fallon, a minister from the Department of Energy, on the BBC’s Newsnight programme, who said that “The latest assessment has shown that the position is slightly worse than the previous assessment last year. The regulator Ofgem has got to make sure, with all the tools at its disposal – bringing some mothball plant back in action and back on line – that the lights stay on and they will”, he said. A statement from the Department of Energy later seemed to overrule the minister, saying that the government was looking into a scheme where companies would be paid to switch off their power whenever the grid was stretched to capacity.

Senior Vatican Cleric Arrested in Money Smuggling Probe

A senior accountant in the Vatican’s administration was arrested on Friday for plotting to help friends smuggle millions of euros from Switzerland to Italy only two days after Pope Francis announced the setup of a commission of inquiry into the Institute for the Works of Religion (IOR), the Vatican bank. Monsignor Nunzio Scarano was arrested in a Rome parish alongside a financial intermediary and an Italian secret service agency while planning to bring €40 million from Switzerland into Italy for a family of shipbuilders known to him from his hometown of Salerno. Scarano was already under investigation in relation to his accounts in the IOR. When asked if the money was being laundered, one of the main topics being investigated by the commission established by Pope Francis, magistrate Nello Rossi said that would depend on the source of the money. “This is just a piece in a much larger mosaic”, he said.

Weekend Read: Jimmy Wales Is Not an Internet Billionaire

“Being the most famous traveling spokesman for Internet freedom brings in a decent living, but it’s not Silicon Valley money. It’s barely London money. Wales’s total net worth, by most estimates, is just above $1 million”. In The New York Times.

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