Prediction of ‘govt’s sacrifice’ before Eid proven wrong: Pervaiz Rasheed

ISLAMABAD (Dunya News) – Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Pervaiz Rasheed on Wednesday said that the opposition parties’ prediction of ‘government’s sacrifice’ before the Eid has been proven wrong thanks to the prayers of pilgrims, Dunya News reported.The Minister for Religious Affairs Sardar Yousaf said that the Pakistani pilgrims were provided with better facilities on cheaper expenses as compared to the pilgrims of India and Bangladesh.Addressing a joint press conference, Pervaiz Rasheed said that the pilgrims were provided with free food this year and lesser amount was received as rent for accommodation as compared to last year’s.He said that Sardar Yousaf and Parliamentary committee formed for Hajj affairs oversaw all the Hajj operations.Information minister said that the pilgrims were provided with better facilities as compared to those provided last year.He vowed that the government will provide even better services to the pilgrims next year.Sardar Yousad said that better arrangements for Hajj pilgrims were made upon direction of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.He said the Hajj pilgrims were provided with accommodation, transport, food and better medical facilities whereas only one percent complaints were received from the pilgrims which he claimed were addressed on the spot.

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Polls open in tough test for Mozambique ruling party

Maputo (AFP) – Mozambicans started voting Wednesday in a tough electoral test for the ruling Frelimo, the party that has run the resource-rich country since independence in 1975.Voters in neat lines started casting their ballots shortly after 7:00 am (0500 GMT) with Frelimo facing growing discontent amid an apparent popular swing towards the opposition.At the Escola secundaria da Polana in the capital Maputo, two lines with around 80 people each formed outside the school hall being used as a polling station.Candidates have been promising us change, and thats what I want to see, said Eduardo, 28, an unemployed agriculture graduate who has been looking for a job for more than two years.Jobs, jobs. There are many graduates on the streets, some doing work that is unrelated to what they studied, he said.Voter surveys cannot be published in Mozambique, but judging from the turnout at some campaign rallies, Frelimo could be in for a shock.Its glitzy final rally in its southern fiefdom of Maputo failed to attract a capacity crowd.Twenty-seven parties and two coalitions are competing for the favour of 10.9 million registered voters in the presidential race, plus polls for national and provincial assemblies.Analysts say that while Frelimo is expected to win the election, the opposition is likely to make significant inroads, reducing the ruling partys overwhelming majority of 75 percent garnered in the last vote.Opposition ballots are likely to be split between the former rebel Mozambican National Resistance (Renamo) and its breakaway Mozambique Democratic Movement (MDM).The desire for change has been driven by a wealth gap that persists despite huge mineral resources, with fast economic growth sidestepping the bulk of a population that is among the worlds poorest.Renamo, which has lost all elections since the end of the countrys 15-year civil war in 1992, has made a comeback, trying to spruce up its image after emerging from a low-level insurgency waged in the centre of the country just weeks ahead of the election.Wanting changeThe recent (September 5) peace agreement is an opportunity for Renamo, said Nelson Alusala, a researcher with the Pretoria-based Institute of Security Studies.Mozambicans may be attracted to Renamo for the simple reason of wanting change, he said.At the same time the fledgling MDM, led by the mayor of the second largest city of Beira, is gaining popularity.Formed five years ago, the MDM gained 38 percent of the urban vote in last Decembers municipal elections.Boats and helicopters were used to transport ballot boxes to remote areas of the vast country, where most people still live off subsistence farming.The presidential race pits Frelimos Filipe Nyusi, the former defence minister who is making his first bid for the countrys top job, against Renamos veteran Afonso Dhlakama and MDM founder Daviz Simango.If none of the three garners more than 50 percent of the vote, a run-off will be held within 30 days after official final results.In the parliamentary race, Frelimo is seeking to defend its 191 seats in Mozambiques 250-seat assembly.The government amended election laws earlier this year as part of peace negotiations with Renamo, which demanded that the opposition be given greater control over the electoral process in bid to improve transparency.Parties have the right to nominate staff and observers at polling stations and have more members sitting on the electoral commission.Official results are expected 15 days after polling.

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Embryonic stem cells clear key hurdle in eye trial

PARIS (AFP) – Embryonic stem cells transplanted into 18 patients with deteriorating eyesight restored some vision in more than half the volunteers, the longest study into the fledgling technology reported Tuesday.Stem cells derived from embryos could provide a potentially safe new source of cells for the treatment of various unmet medical disorders requiring tissue repair or replacement, its authors said.The study marks a new chapter in the long story of embryonic stem cells, which after their discovery in the 1990s were hailed as a miracle cure but then ran into problems.Published in The Lancet, the paper looked at a US trial of stem cells among 18 patients suffering from two tragic, degenerative diseases of the retina.Nine had a condition called Stargardts macular dystrophy, a leading cause of juvenile blindness, and nine had dry atrophic age-related macular degeneration, which occurs among the middle-aged and elderly.There is no conventional treatment for either condition, which eventually leads to complete blindness as the retinas light-receiving cells die out.The participants were injected with one of three different doses of retinal cells derived from early-stage embryos — 50,000, 100,000 or 150,000 cells.The transplants were placed in a space under the retina of the worst-affected eye.The patients were monitored for up to 37 months, for an average of 22 months.Out of the 18 treated eyes, 10 showed substantial improvements in vision, as measured by the ability to read letters on a board. Of these, eight patients were able to read 15 additional letters in the first year after transplant.In seven other patients, vision in the treated eye remained stable or improved.But in one patient, vision decreased, falling back by more than 10 letters — though the study did not clarify whether this was the expected degeneration associated with the diseases progression.Untreated eyes did not show any improvement, thus pointing to the apparent benefit of the transplant, the researchers said.And there were no side-effects or evidence of rejection.The investigation is the first to give a longer-term validation to embryonic stem cells.Extraordinarily versatile, embryonic stem cells can differentiate into any tissue of the body — an ability that has thrown up tantalising hopes of using them to replace tissue lost through disease, accident or war.- Rewards and hurdles -But scientists have had to face two major obstacles.One is that donated stem cells, provoking an immune response, can be rejected by the body or cause cancer.The eye is considered a promising site for transplants as it is located at a shield called the blood-ocular barrier where there is not a strong immune response.The other is ethical, with some arguing that an embryo is a human life.The study was led by Robert Lanza, chief scientific officer at a Massachusetts biotech firm, Advanced Cell Technology Inc. The Lancet is a peer-reviewed journal, meaning that studies are scrutinised by outside specialists before they are published.In a comment carried by The Lancet, Anthony Atala, an expert in regenerative medicine at the Wake Forest School of Medicine in North Carolina, hailed the work as a major accomplishment.The next step should be to fine-tune the dosage, to see whether bigger transplants make a greater difference to vision.Embryonic stem cells have been joined in clinical trials by induced pluripotent stem cells, called iPS.These are adult cells that have been reprogrammed to a youthful, versatile state. Their perceived advantage is that they are less likely to be rejected, as the cells can be derived from the patient himself rather than from a donor, and do not carry the moral baggage of embryonic stem cells.In September, Japanese researchers carried out the worlds first iPS implant into a woman in her 70s with macular degeneration. The trial will be conducted on five other patients.Much work remains before (embryonic stem cells) and induced pluripotent stem cell therapies go beyond regulatory trials, but the path is now set in motion, Atala said.

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Kerry seeks elusive breakthough in Iran nuclear talks

Vienna (AFP) – US Secretary of State John Kerry was due back in Vienna Wednesday for a fresh push with his Iranian counterpart to jumpstart stalled talks over Tehrans nuclear programme.Iran and six world powers have six weeks, before a November 24 deadline, to strike a historic deal meant to prevent Tehran from developing nuclear weapons under the guise of its civilian atomic programme.Kerry, who attempted a similar mission in Vienna before a July deadline which was then pushed back, said Tuesday there was still hard work to be done but that a deal remains achievable.I dont believe its out of reach, but we have some tough issues to resolve, Kerry told reporters in Paris after talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif struck a similar tone after talks with EU and US officials in Vienna, telling state media that the notable differences were not insurmountable.All the issues are linked and we need to reach an agreement that covers all issues… Nothing is agreed until everything is agreed, Zarif said late Tuesday.Kerry refused to be drawn on whether — as suggested by many experts — Iran and the six powers might push back the target date.We need to continue to have some serious discussions, which we will, and well see where we are, he said.I dont think anything is served by a lot of speculation at this point in time.But Russias Lavrov, whose country together with the US, China, Britain, France and Germany forms the P51 group, said Tuesday in Paris that the November deadline was not sacred.We aspire to get a result by that date but I am convinced by the principle that it is not artificially-set deadlines but the essence of the deal, the quality of the deal (that counts), Lavrov said, according to Interfax.Zarif too appeared to indicate that another extension might be needed in order to discuss what he called serious and innovative — but unspecified — new methods.These talks will take time however and it is possible that more time might be needed to discuss these solutions, he told state television.Enrichment an obstacleIran, reeling from sanctions pressure, denies wanting the bomb and wants to expand its nuclear programme in order, it says, to generate electricity and help cancer patients.But the six powers are pressing Tehran to reduce in scope its activities in order to make any dash to make a weapon all but impossible, offering in return sanctions relief.Last November, the two sides agreed an interim deal and set a July 20 target to agree a lasting accord, but after several rounds of intensive negotiations the deadline was extended to November 24.Progress appears to have been made on changing the design of a new reactor at Arak so that it produces less weapons-grade plutonium, as well as on enhanced UN inspections and on the fortified Fordo facility.The main bone of contention however remains Irans enrichment capacity, a process rendering uranium suitable for power generation but also, at high purities, for a nuclear weapon.Other problem areas include the pace at which sanctions would be lifted, the timeframe that an accord would cover and a troubled UN probe into past suspect military dimensions of Irans activities.Time on the clockMany analysts have begun to believe that the deadline might be extended again, possibly locking in something on Arak and Fordo, into a so-called Interim Plus deal.A fully-fledged agreement by November 24 no longer appears likely. What is still possible is a breakthrough that could justify adding more time to the diplomatic clock, Ali Vaez from the International Crisis Group told AFP.Speculation about a possible extension has been stoked by comments from Iranian officials, including President Hassan Rouhani.Our will is that in 40 days the matter will be resolved but if other things happen and we are not able to solve all the problems, the two camps will find a solution, Rouhani said on state television on Friday.A one-day meeting involving Iran and all six powers was scheduled for Thursday.

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Humans may only survive 68 days on Mars: study

WASHINGTON (AFP) – Space enthusiasts planning a move to Mars may have to wait to relocate: conditions on the Red Planet are such that humans would likely begin dying within 68 days, a new study says.Oxygen levels would start to deplete after about two months and scientists said new technologies are required before humans can permanently settle on Mars, according to the study by researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).The five-person team used data from Mars One, a Dutch-based non-profit group behind an audacious project to permanently colonize the Red Planet starting in 2024.A shortlist of more than 1,000 people from an initial pool of 200,000 applicants will be whittled down to 24 for the mission — an irreversible move to Mars, which is to be partially funded by a reality television show about the endeavor.But conditions on Mars — and the limits of human technology — could make the mission impossible, for now at least.The first crew fatality would occur approximately 68 days into the mission, according to the 35-page report, which analyzed mathematical formulas on oxygen, food and technology required for the project.Plants required to feed the space colony would produce unsafe amounts of oxygen, the authors said.Some form of oxygen removal system is required, a technology that has not yet been developed for space flight, the study concluded.Shipping in replacement parts is an additional challenge and will likely boost the cost of the mission, which the researchers estimated to be at least $4.5 billion.Mars One co-founder and CEO Bas Lansdorp agreed that sending spare parts to Mars could pose a problem.The major challenge of Mars One is keeping everything up and running, he told Popular Science magazine.But he claimed the researchers used incomplete data, adding that technology for Mars colonization was nearly ready.While oxygen removal has never been done in space, I disagree that the technology is not mostly ready to go to Mars, Lansdorp told AFP.Of course, the actual apparatus that we will take to Mars still needs to be designed and tested extensively, but the technology is already there.Many people have voiced doubts about the mission, though the project has won support from Gerard t Hooft, the Dutch 1999 Nobel Physics prize winner.The Red Planet lies at least 55 million kilometers (34 million miles) from Earth and it would take a minimum of seven months to get there.Last June, the entertainment company Endemol, a major reality television producer, agreed to film the participants as they prepared for the move to Mars.ff/jv/sstAFP 142106 GMT OCT 14

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Qualcomm trumps Microchip with $2.5 billion deal for Britain’s CSR

(Reuters) – Qualcomm Inc (QCOM.O) has agreed to buy chip maker CSR Plc (CSR.L) for $2.5 billion, pushing out its rival Microchip Technology (MCHP.O) to win the British bluetooth specialist.CSR said on Wednesday its shareholders would receive 900 pence a share in cash under the terms of the deal.The British company in August rebuffed an approach from Microchip, saying the undisclosed price on offer was not enough. The two sides had been in talks over the deal however, with a deadline imposed by British regulators for Wednesday.

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Remorseful robber waits for police after Washington state heist

(Reuters) – A suspected robber with a guilty conscience walked out of a Washington state bank with stolen cash on Tuesday then waited outside the building for police to arrest him, police said.The 64-year-old man walked into a Banner Bank branch in Bellingham early on Tuesday and handed a teller a note demanding cash, the Bellingham Police Department said in a statement.The teller complied, and the man, identified as Richard Gorton, took the money and left, police said. But instead of fleeing the scene, he lingered near the bank building where he was discovered by officers.He admitted to officers that he had committed this crime and indicated that he became remorseful right after he walked out of the bank, police said, adding that Gorton told officers he had decided to wait for police instead of making a run with the cash.The remorseful robber faces charges of first degree robbery and was being held in the Whatcom County Jail awaiting arraignment, police said. The amount of money stolen was not disclosed by police.

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