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Sunday, June 8, 2008

Unknowing twins married, lawmaker says - CNN.com

LONDON, England (CNN) -- British twins who had been separated at birth learned they were related only after they had become husband and wife, according to a senior British lawmaker.


Former British MP David Alton says twins separated at birth went on to marry each other.

Lord Alton of Liverpool told the House of Lords that a court annulled the union as soon as the twins' true relationship became known.

"They were never told that they were twins," he said during the December 10 debate on a law covering human fertility and embryology.

They had been adopted by separate families and "met later in life and felt an inevitable attraction, and the judge had to deal with the consequences of the marriage that they entered into and all the issues of their separation," he said.

No further details about the case were revealed by Lord Alton, and it is not known when the marriage took place or how long they were together before they discovered the truth.

Adoption groups said Friday the case proved the need for openness and transparency during the adoption process.

Mo O'Reilly, director of child placement for the British Association for Adoption and Fostering, said released a statement saying: "Thirty or 40 years ago it would have been more likely that twins be separated and brought up without knowledge of each other."

However, she said, greater emphasis in recent years on ensuring adopted siblings stay in touch meant this "traumatic" case will remain "incredibly rare."

Daisy O'Clee, a spokeswoman for the agency, said that of more current concern is the lack of legislation surrounding fertility treatment.

Under British law the parents of a donor-conceived child do not have to declare that fact on the child's birth certificate, O'Clee told CNN. This means a child conceived with a donor sperm or egg may never know their true origin.

Lawmakers will vote Tuesday on whether to pass a law covering human fertility and embryology that would relax the rules on who can have fertility treatment.

O'Clee warned that in its present form the proposal does little to address the rights of donor-conceived children.

"The rights of donor children are being ignored," she said.
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allAfrica.com: Africa: Food Summit Calls for More Investment in Agriculture (Page 1 of 1)


The Summit on soaring food prices, convened by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), has concluded with the adoption by acclamation of a declaration calling on the international community to increase assistance for developing countries, in particular the least developed countries and those that are most negatively affected by high food prices.

"There is an urgent need to help developing countries and countries in transition expand agriculture and food production, and to increase investment in agriculture, agribusiness and rural development, from both public and private sources," according to the declaration.

Donors and international financial institutions are urged to provide "balance of payments support and/or budget support to food-importing, low-income countries. Other measures should be considered as necessary to improve the financial situation of the countries in need, including reviewing debt servicing as necessary," it said.

The final declaration also called on governments to "assure" United Nations agencies "the resources to expand and enhance their food assistance and support safety net programmes to address hunger and malnutrition, when appropriate, through the use of local or regional purchases."

Speaking about the growing social threat from rising food prices at the opening of the Summit, FAO Director-General Jacques Diouf said: "What is important today is to realize that the time for talking is long past. Now is the time for action."

World takes action

FAO Assistant Director-General Alexander Mueller said, "Clearly this Summit has decided to act. It has called for both immediate humanitarian assistance to those hardest hit by the current food price crisis and it has taken actions that in the medium term should go a long way in considering the driving forces of food system fragility to shocks in order to reduce the number of hungry people in the world, helping us to meet the World Food Summit and Millennium Development Goals."

The Declaration calls for "development partners" to participate in and contribute "to international and regional initiatives on soaring food prices" and "assist countries to put in place the revised policies and measures to help farmers, particularly small-scale producers, to increase production and integrate with local, regional and international markets."

Also recommended by the Declaration are initiatives that "moderate unusual fluctuations" in food grain prices. "We call on relevant institutions to assist countries in developing their food stock capacities and consider other measures to strengthen food security risk management for affected countries."

Call for increasing the resilience of world's food systems to climate change

On climate change, the Declaration said: "It is essential to address question of how to increase the resilience of present food production systems to challenges posed by climate change... We urge governments to assign appropriate priority to the agriculture, forestry and fisheries sectors, in order to create opportunities to enable the world's smallholder farmers and fishers, including indigenous people, in particular vulnerable areas, to participate in, and benefit from financial mechanisms and investment flows to support climate change adaptation, mitigation and technology development, transfer and dissemination. We support the establishment of agricultural systems and sustainable management practices that positively contribute to the mitigation of climate change and ecological balance."

More dialogue on biofuels and their relation to food security

On the contentious issue of biofuels, the Declaration said: "It is essential to address the challenges and opportunities posed by biofuels, in view of the world's food security, energy and sustainable development needs. We are convinced that in-depth studies are necessary to ensure that production and use of biofuels is sustainable in accordance with the three pillars of sustainable development and take into account the need to achieve and maintain global food security...We call upon relevant inter-governmental organizations, including FAO, within their mandates and areas of expertise, with the involvement of national governments, partnerships, the private sector, and civil society, to foster a coherent, effective and results-oriented international dialogue on biofuels in the context of food security and sustainable development needs."

Successful Doha development round and improved trade opportunities

Relevant Links

According to the Declaration, WTO members reaffirmed their commitment to the rapid and successful conclusion of the Doha development agenda and reiterated their willingness to reach a comprehensive and ambitious result that would be condusive to improving food security in developing countries.

"We encourage the international community to continue its efforts in liberalizing international trade in agriculture by reducing trade barriers and market distorting policies," said the Declaration, adding that addressing these measures "will give farmers, particularly in developing countries, new opportunities to sell their products on world markets and support their efforts to increase productivity and production."

One hundred eighty-one countries participated in the FAO Food Summit - 43 were represented by their Head of State or Government and 100 by high-level Ministers. Sixty Non-governmental and Civil Society Organizations were present as well. Overall, 5 159 people attended -- 1 298 of them were journalists covering the event.

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BBC NEWS | Europe | Two killed by large Greek quake

At least two people have been killed as an earthquake rocked southern Greece, collapsing buildings and causing panic.

Some 20 injuries were reported from falling roofs as the tremor - which had an epicentre 200km (124 miles) west of Athens - struck near Patras in the Peloponnese region.

The quake had a magnitude of 6.5, the Athens Geodynamic Institute said, and could be felt in the capital.

Greece is one of Europe's most earthquake-prone countries.

A 60-year-old man died when his home's roof collapsed on him, and an 80-year-old woman died of a heart attack after the quake shook her village, authorities said.

One terrifying minute

Experts have warned that aftershocks are likely as the quake's epicentre was close to the ground's surface.


Greek TV shows earthquake aftermath

"The earthquake was terrifying," Patras resident Anna Tsokana told the BBC.

"The duration was about 60 seconds... Buildings have fallen or been damaged and roads have been destroyed."

The earthquake was one of the most powerful to hit Greece in modern times, says the BBC's Malcolm Brabant in Athens.

The US Geological Survey said the earthquake had a magnitude of 6.1.

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7 dead, 12 injured in stabbing frenzy | NEWS.com.au

A MAN went on a stabbing spree yesterday in a busy Tokyo neighbourhood famed for comic-book subculture, killing at least seven people and leaving around a dozen injured in Japan's deadliest crime in years.

The assailant, who later told police he was "tired of living,'' drove a truck into a crowd of pedestrians shortly after noon in Tokyo's bustling Akihabara area before jumping out and stabbing strangers while screaming.

The assailant was identified as Tomohiro Kato, 25, from central Shizuoka prefecture.

He said he was a gangster before retracting his story.

"I came to Akihabara to kill people. It didn't matter whom I'd kill,'' he was quoted by Jiji Press as telling police.

Mr Kato, bespectacled in a beige suit and black-and-white sneakers, was armed with a survival knife and duelled with a police officer who fought back with a baton.

By the time Mr Kato finally dropped his knife with an officer's gun pointed at him, 17 people lay bloodied on the street of the crowded district, according to fire department and police officials.

Jiji Press and other Japanese media said seven people were dead - six men aged 19, 20, 29, 33, 47 and 74, and a 21-year-old woman.

Mr Kato had blood running down the side of his face as he was taken into custody.

Kyodo News reported that he was a temporary worker at an auto component factory in Shizuoka.

The attack fell on the anniversary of the last incident of similar magnitude in Japan - a stabbing frenzy that left eight children dead at an primary school in 2001.

Hundreds of stunned pedestrians stared from a distance as medical workers set up green plastic sheets in the middle of an intersection to ensure privacy as they gave emergency treatment.

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Verizon Wireless To Acquire Alltel For $28.1 Billion - Forbes.com

As first rumored yesterday, Verizon (nyse: VZ - news - people ) is acquiring Alltel (nyse: AT - news - people ) equity and debt in a transaction worth $28.1 billion.

Verizon Wireless issued a press release just moments ago, detailing the transaction between itself and it’s minority owners Vodafone (nyse: VOD - news - people ) and Alltel.

Verizon will purchase Alltel from TPG Capital and GS Capital Partners, for about $5.9 billion in cash and will assume Alltel’s debt, which is estimated to be $22.2 billion, making the total transaction value $28.1 billion.

The deal is expected to close by the end of the year, pending regulatory approvals.

Rumors of the merger cropped up yesterday, however, the timing of the deal is surprising. Alltel was always a potential buy-out candidate for Verizon because they used the same network technology, but why now?

One might suspect that Verizon was increasingly resigned to the fact that it was never going to catch-up to AT&T (nyse: T - news - people ), which has a runaway hit in selling Apple's (nasdaq: AAPL - news - people ) iPhone.

Together, Verizon Wireless and Alltel will have 80.2 million subscribers, surpassing AT&T’s 71.4 million customer base.

Verizon Wireless and Alltel both use CDMA, which will make integrating the two companies’ networks easier, and more efficient. It was earlier this year that AT&T commented on how smoothly the merger between Cingular and AT&T Wireless went because they shared a common technology called GSM.

Likewise, critics have been harsh and quick to point out that the merger between Sprint (nyse: S - news - people ) and Nextel Communications failed because the two companies didn’t share a common technology.

Verizon said once the deal closes, customers at both companies will have access to more products and services.

Verizon said it expects to expand the in-network calling to the combined customer base, which will reach about 80 million.

It will also offer Alltel customers advanced services, such as over-the-air downloadable music and a nationwide network since today Alltel only operates in 57 primarily rural markets.

Alltel will also join Verizon’s 4th generation path to LTE, and participate in its Open Development Initiative.
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U.S. gasoline rises above $4 a gallon for first time | Reuters

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The U.S. average price for a gallon of regular gasoline topped $4 for the first time, a survey issued on Sunday by the travel group AAA showed.

AAA's survey showed a national average price of $4.005 per gallon, up from $3.67 a month ago and $3.10 a year ago.

Average national gasoline prices had stabilized last week before Thursday and Friday's spike of U.S. crude oil futures by $16 to a record above $139 a barrel. Friday's one-day gain of $10.75 for crude oil was the biggest daily gain in history, and Thursday's gain was the second biggest.

High prices have taken a bite out of U.S. gasoline demand and cut sales of gas-guzzling pickup trucks and sport utility vehicles in favour of smaller cars that use less fuel per mile, said Geoff Sundstrom, AAA's fuel price analyst.

"It's looking like the late 1970s or the early 1980s," said Sundstrom referring to increased sales of smaller vehicles and hybrids, which run on both electricity and gasoline.

"AAA expresses the same degree of shock and concern that consumers all over the United States are feeling as gasoline prices reach this very high level," said Sundstrom. "The upcoming national presidential and congressional elections ought to reflect the concern in the policy debates that are about to take place."

While Americans cringe at the price of gasoline, they are still paying far less than drivers in many nations, including most European countries. Britain, France and Germany each have average gasoline prices that are at least double the average price in the United States, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

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