Danish researchers have used an anti-cancer medicine to to activate HIV hidden in the cells of patients taking anti-HIV drugs, exposing the virus to the immune system and making it susceptible to attack.

The results revealed on Tuesday constitute one of the major scientific discoveries hailed at the Aids 2014 conference in Melbourne, as much of the language shifts away from finding a cure to focusing on big steps in HIV treatment and prevention.

HIV hides in a state of hibernation in CD4 cells, an essential part of the immune system. Yet CD4 cells are unable to fight HIV themselves – that role lies with the immune system’s killer T-cells.

But because killer T-cells can’t detect the HIV hidden within CD4 cells, they are unable to attack and eliminate it from the body. While HIV patients on antiretroviral drug treatment often go on to have undetectable levels of HIV in their system, it is never eliminated.

There is always a reservoir left hiding in cells, undetectable to current screening tools and ready to take hold of the immune system again should patients stop their antiretroviral therapy.

But a research team led by Ole Søgaard at Aarhus University’s department of infectious diseases in Denmark has used the anti-cancer drug romidepsin to activate the virus and bring it out of hiding.

In principle, this means that the killer T-cells should be able to detect the virus, because it leaves a trace on the outside of CD4 cells as it is activated and moves towards the bloodstream, Søgaard said.

“Despite very effective antiretroviral treatment, there is still this reservoir left of HIV cells that are infected but not producing the virus,” he said.

“Once you activate them, these particles will go to the surface and signal to the immune system that this cell is infected and needs to be cleared from the body. So this is a two-step system where we bring the cells to the surface, and then rely on the immune system to kill them.”

In the pilot study, researchers gave six patients three doses of romidepsin over three weeks.

Before each dose, no viral particles were detectable in the patients.

“But after the dose was given we easily measured the virus being released into the plasma in five of these six patients,” Søgaard said.

“We also saw the virus go back to undetectable levels after seven days, so it came up, then hid away again, returning back to a non-active state until the next dose of cancer drug was given.”

However, the researchers found the immune system did not seem to attack the virus after detecting it. Researchers found no significant reduction in the number of infected cells each time the cancer drug brought the virus out of hiding.

“This suggests when you do this reactivation, you also need to also target and activate the immune system and teach it to recognise these cells and attack,” Søgaard said.

“That’s what we’re doing next in this study. We will teach and prime the immune system to recognise HIV before we give patients the cancer drug, and we hope there will be a better chance the immune system can clear those cells when the HIV is reactivated.”

Søgaard emphasised it was unknown how much of the HIV reservoir the immune system would be able to clear even if it could be taught to recognise the virus and attack it. Virus left in just one cell might be enough to allow HIV to thrive again.

“We’re still learning about this disease and where it hides, and it is a really, really tricky disease to cure because it hides in so many places in the body, it hides really well and can hide for an indefinite period of time,” he said.

The difficulty of an HIV cure became particularly apparent with the now famous case of the Mississippi baby, born to an HIV-positive mother.

The child was placed on a strong course of antiretroviral drugs within 30 hours of birth. She continued the treatment for 18 months and when she stopped taking those drugs, she had no detectable virus in her system. It gave hope other infants treated early might be cured.

But 27 months later, the virus was detected and she was placed on antiretroviral drugs again.

In a similar case, two Boston patients received bone marrow transplants that appeared to rid them completely of HIV. They also relapsed, and are now back on antiretroviral treatment.

These cases have been referred to frequently during the AIDS 2014 conference, sometimes brandished as setbacks. But the cases reveal how far HIV treatment has come.

Achieving more than two years without antiretroviral treatment in an infant is unprecedented, especially since the Mississippi baby had no existing immunity to HIV. It has given researchers a new focus on where to fight HIV, as they now know it takes just a tiny amount of dormant virus for HIV to become active again.

The cases have shown that working out exactly where dormant HIV virus resides in the body, and being able to measure it, will be key to future research.

The development of HIV into lethal Aids was once considered inevitable, and less than 30 years after the epidemic began – not a long period in medical science – people living with HIV are able to lead long and healthy lives.

But that all depends on access to treatment, which has the added benefit of protecting against the transmission of HIV during unprotected sex by up to 96%.

The president of the International Aids Society, Françoise Barré-Sinoussi, won a Nobel prize for her role in discovering HIV and said she would not be drawn into talk about how far away a cure for HIV/Aids may be.

“I remember in 1984 someone said we would have a vaccine within two years, and we are now 30 years later,” she said.

“We should move on from this. We will need to collaborate and combine different approaches to HIV – work on cures as well as therapies, prevention and vaccines – and strengthen the relationship between researchers to continue to make progress in tackling HIV.”

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The daily quiz: about last night

Posted by MereNews On July - 22 - 2014 ADD COMMENTS

Today’s questions cover flying islands, famous Robins, professional costumes, foreign presidents and robots

Follow @GuardianQuiz on Twitter for daily notifications
• Would you like to set the quiz? Email 10 questions to daily.quiz@theguardian.com along with your name, and they may be used in the weekly Friday readers’ edition

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The terrible tragedy of the Rana Plaza building collapse in Dhaka last year, in which more than 1,100 people died, has been covered exhaustively. I think most vaguely news-aware people know what happened, no? And why it happened, too. So how do you make a new documentary about it?

Like this, that’s how. After some footage of the immediate aftermath – dust, disbelief, wailing, horror – This World: Clothes To Die For (BBC2) cuts to a few fashion haul videos. You know, young western women showing off, via YouTube, all the clothes they’ve just bought at well-known shops for not very much money. Clothes that are very likely to have been made in Bangladesh.

It’s not so crude and simplistic as to point the finger, or accuse them of having blood on their credit cards, but merely an illustration that fashions change faster and cost less than ever, and that this throwaway consumerism is part of the problem.

Also, and so poignantly, the next people to appear in the film are some of the survivors – workers in the garment factories who somehow managed to get out. And they’re mostly young women, of the same kind of age (late teens) as the ones we’ve just seen. “The girls who wear these will remember us one day,” one of them – Shopna – says, hopefully.

Shopna then explains what it was like to be paid for the first time, after getting her job at one of the factories in Rana Plaza. She bought herself a phone. Another, Shirin, talks of going shopping with her wages – shopping for clothes, for herself. Maybe not the same kind of clothes as the ones she is making for Primark and Matalan and Bonmarché and the girls in the YouTube videos, but the idea is the same. It doesn’t matter who or where they are; young women like buying nice stuff, for themselves. It’s the similarities, not the differences, that are most striking, and most moving.

The film sifts through the tragedy in forensic detail, stitching it together with the story of post-independence Bangladesh. The district of Savar grew from a village to a bustling hub as more and more people moved from the countryside to work in the country’s biggest and fastest growing industry. Women especially, who gained some kind of independence with the work, though I’m not sure slaving your butt off for a few quid a month is quite the emancipation these grand ladies (related to the man who started it all) say it is.

Sohel Rana – politician and entrepreneur – built his hellish building, to house more clothes factories. And then he built another three storeys on top, to house even more. Jesus, you don’t have to be a structural engineer to see that it was a nightmare in waiting; the new storeys are bigger and hang over the ones underneath. Heavy generators went up there, a crack appeared one day, and you know what happened the next: human tragedy on a massive scale, the biggest industrial disaster of this century, as well as a few stories of heroism and extraordinary survival.

But Sohel Rana, who has yet to be brought to trial, is not solely to blame. Responsibility must also go to the officials and politicians who were bribed into allowing corners to be cut; to the industry, a tower of corruption itself, cracked and top-heavy and rotten like the Rana Plaza; to the western retailers who have their clothes made in Bangladesh, some of which responded more responsibly and humanitarianly than others afterwards; and to a global economy that means that if clothes weren’t made here because workers were paid and looked after properly, then they’d be made somewhere else.

That’s why this documentary is so good. It is not just saying: boo, sweatshops. It unpicks a horrific event, looking at everything that conspired to make it happen (turns out I – maybe you too – didn’t know the half of it). It’s not overly worthy, or preachy, or sentimental. But nor does it let you forget that it’s a desperately sad story about people.

I hope some of the unnamed girls at the start showing off their new clothes on YouTube were watching. Not so they feel responsible or guilty but just aware. That would do. And that maybe, as Shopna hoped, they will remember the people making their clothes. People not so very different from themselves.


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There were no rows, and so Labour’s national policy forum at the weekend made no news. Delegates gathered to thrash out policy on every issue – but they weren’t thrashing each other, unlike previous ferocious all-nighters. Even on old intractables such as Trident, rail renationalisation or social security, agreement was reached by discussion, with just one, roundly defeated, rebel vote – against austerity. Westminster no longer regards the party as “full of mad people”, and the party no longer thinks its leaders bent on betrayal.

This outbreak of self-discipline is a sure sign of Labour’s growing terror at the prospect of losing the election. With a weak poll lead, they give a united shudder at what David Cameron and George Osborne would do in a second term. So not a penny of uncosted spending was committed, and no calls of the wild beckoned the party back to the future. Instead, old-time music was played at yesterday’s revivalist Progress meeting, where Tony Blair told the party not to deviate from 1997 and, refighting his old battles, he warned of dangers Labour knows all too well.

Angela Eagle, the party chair who steered the forum, says that everyone knows “without fiscal credibility we’ll be smashed. We can’t protect the people we care about by raging from the sidelines.” Jon Cruddas sees “one trap after another laid for us by this chancellor, his political tripwires set everywhere – but we’ll tiptoe past them”. Not just how to win, but what awaits after winning haunts them all.

Paul Johnson, of the Institute for Fiscal Studies, spelled it out last week: less than half the cuts have yet been made to reach budget surplus. Osborne has taken his tax rises and capital cuts already, so the rest is all to be done in cuts in current spending, 35% for each non-protected department. Osborne’s plans, mirrored by Labour, are for a state set at 38% of GDP by 2018. Yet with the numbers of over-65s rising by 20% between 2010 and 2020, an ever greater slab of spending is going to pensions and the NHS, squeezing everything else. There is some incredulity in Johnsons’s voice as he intones these figures. Does anyone really think it’s politically possible?

Even Osborne and Cameron, despite their ideological intent to shrink the state, couldn’t keep to the severity of their cuts plan – slipping their timetable by two years and leaving the heaviest lifting for the blue yonder beyond the election. Johnson adds emphatically: “There are options to increase taxes instead. It’s entirely possible to increase the size of the state. That’s a big political and economic choice.”

But that’s not a choice Labour dares offer to voters. Already it lags badly on economic credibility, despite tying itself into the straitjacket of eliminating the deficit by the end of the parliament – just two years later than Osborne (though few think Osborne will hold to that date). Labour is still blamed for the crash, still labelled as a reckless spender and high taxer, so even a hint of spending still saps at its credibility. Despite a cap on social security and every pledge paid for, mistrust is still not neutralised.

The injustice of the hostile media Labour faces means its discipline must always be titanium-tight, if not twice so. No such scrutiny for the Tories. Where was the City’s indignation when Osborne broke his deficit-reduction timetable? Labour is never cut the same slack. After 1997, despite a colossal victory, Labour felt obliged to stick painfully to the two-year spending freeze the Tories had fixed – despite Ken Clarke, the former chancellor, laughing from the opposition bench that he’d never had any intention of sticking to it.

If Labour wins, its victory party will be a sober affair, waking next morning to face the gaping hole. The election will have been a festival of fantasy politics in which no party spelled out more than a few totemic cuts and savings, a conspiracy not to describe the depth of the abyss. So why vote Labour if all parties are equally ironclad? Because Labour will cut more fairly. Those who want a Labour win are forever torn between fear and courage: instinct goes for bold plans to dazzle disaffected voters who think “They’re all the same”. Caution says swing voters already credit Labour with heart, but doubt its fiscal rectitude. Besides, warn wise heads, learn the salutary lesson of François Hollande’s over-promising and under-delivering.

That’s where the weekend’s policy discussions were subtle, showing room for manoeuvre. Capital borrowing is not tied down, with an infrastructure building dash planned straight after the election, starting with a million homes. The Treasury team’s zero-based review, using “a fine-tooth comb”, is uncovering rich savings, requiring big structural change and rationalisations in government. They sound excited by the radicalism they could apply, if quiet for fear of having their discoveries stolen.

A party recently in power has the advantage of knowing where to look for “structural clutter” and duplications. Multiyear budgets will allow for spending on prevention up front, to make savings at the back end. There is wriggle room, not to be revealed until much later. Pushing hard for a living wage and jobs for the young unemployed cuts the Department for Work and Pensions bill. Building homes, removing the cap on local authority housing revenue accounts and checking rent rises cuts the housing benefit bill.

All that might be billed as “Tough on welfare, tough on the causes of welfare”. A pledge card is beginning to take shape, that according to Labour List might look something like this: a million homes, a new deal on rail ownership, a higher (living?) minimum wage, devolution to towns and cities, tackling energy prices. That is considerably more substantial than New Labour’s deliberately modest 1997 offer. The solidity of the policies taking shape is giving Labour a new spring in its step.

What can make the swing voter trust them? That’s the Tories’ problem too, as they puzzle over how much to gloat about the recovery, afraid of giving voters the freedom to choose Labour again. Or should they echo Clarke’s warning that the recovery is not secure, reliant on a property boom – while GDP, if measured per capita, has barely grown at all? If Osborne offers tax cuts, does that look more reckless than Labour?

As both sides ponder where to pitch their tents, don’t expect either party to come entirely clean about the true scale of what deficit elimination must mean in spending cuts, tax rises – or both.

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A hospital was shelled, killing and injuring staff and patients, and up to 28 members of one family died in an air strike as Gaza endured another day of relentless bloodshed on Monday .

As heavy shelling and fighting on the ground continued, the US president, Barack Obama, restated his call for an immediate ceasefire, saying: “We don’t want to see any more civilians killed.”

He said he had authorised his secretary of state, John Kerry, to do “everything he can to help facilitate a cessation of hostilities” in a sign that international diplomacy had been galvanised by the weekend carnage in Shujai’iya.

Kerry was en route to Cairo for urgent talks with key players in the region, including the UN secretary-general, Ban Ki-moon. The UN security council called for an immediate ceasefire on Sunday.

Kerry pledged yesterday that the US would provide $47m (£28m) in humanitarian aid to help Palestinians. He said: “We are deeply concerned about the consequences of Israel‘s appropriate and legitimate effort to defend itself.”

In Deir al-Balah in central Gaza, al-Aqsa hospital became the third to be struck in the 14-day conflict when three shells slammed into the intensive care unit, surgical and administrative areas. Five people were killed and 70 wounded, including about 30 medics, according to Gaza health officials. Ambulances tried to evacuate patients but were forced to turn back by continued shelling. Israel has claimed that Hamas hides weapons in hospitals.

Barack Obama says he is focused on a ceasefire. Link to video: Barack Obama: we are focused on Israel-Gaza ceasefire

Further south, in Khan Younis, an extended family was wiped out in an air strike on a house. The number of dead was put at between 24 and 28. The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights said another 10 people were killed in a single air strike in Rafah, including four young children and a baby.

Save the Children said that, on average, seven had been killed every day during the conflict. “For many children, this is the third war in six years that they are going through,” said the charity’s David Hassell.

Israeli troops said they killed 10 Hamas militants as they attempted a cross-border attack using two tunnels. The Israel Defence Forces said seven soldiers had been killed in the 24 hours up to early evening.

Intense rocket fire from Gaza continued, with sirens warning people in Tel Aviv and other towns in central and southern Israel to seek shelter. The IDF said it was investigating Hamas claims that it captured an Israeli soldier on Sunday. Hamas displayed a photo ID, saying the soldier’s name was Shaul Aron. Street celebrations erupted in Gaza at the news, with people chanting “Allahu Akbar” and lighting fireworks. If the capture of an Israeli is confirmed, it will complicate efforts to broker a ceasefire.

“We advise [Israel] to take their soldiers and leave before we kidnap more soldiers in addition to the scores we have already killed and wounded,” said Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri.

Palestinians pray over green flag-draped bodies
Palestinians pray over the bodies of 17 members of the Abu Jamea family, killed by an air strike. Photograph: Hatem Ali/AP

The number of Palestinians killed in the conflict reached 530 by early evening, 72% of whom were civilians according to the UN. Twenty-seven Israelis – 25 soldiers and two civilians – have died. The UN said more than 100,000 people had fled their homes, including 85,000 people who sought shelter in schools.

Ten Israeli human rights organisations have written to the attorney-general to raise concerns about grave violations of international law in the conflict. They questioned the legality of Sunday’s operation in Shujai’iya, “in particular, the potential violation of the fundamental principles of the laws of war, specifically the principle of distinguishing between combatants and civilians”.

Israel’s prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, the defence minister, Moshe Ya’alon, and chief of staff, Benny Gantz – the men directing the military operation in Gaza – said in a statement it would expand and continue “as long as necessary until the completion of the task”. Israel has said the goal of the ground invasion is to locate and destroy dozens of tunnels under the border, used by militants to launch attacks.

Ban Ki-moon and Sameh Shukri in Egypt
Egyptian foreign minister Sameh Shukri, right, and UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon in Egypt. Ban has urged an immediate ceasefire. Photograph: Amr Nabil/AP

In Cairo, Ban held talks with Egyptian president Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi and the head of the Arab League. The Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas was due to meet Hamas’s leader-in-exile Khaled Mishal in Doha.

Egypt’s proximity to Gaza, its peace treaty with Israel and good relations with the western-backed Palestinian Authority in the West Bank have made it the focus of attempts to defuse the crisis, though its relations with Hamas – which it sees as an offshoot of the banned Muslim Brotherhood – are hostile.

Hamas rejected Cairo’s original ceasefire proposal last week, though a senior official said Egypt might be willing to amend its initiative. “Egypt does not mind adding some of Hamas’s conditions provided that all involved parties approve,” the official told Reuters. Hamas is demanding an end to the blockade of Gaza, an end to hostilities, opening the border to Egypt, the release of prisoners held by Israel and other conditions – in exchange for a truce.

Ismail Haniyeh, the former Hamas prime minister, claimed that Israeli forces were being beaten in Gaza. “The Palestinian resistance will meet the demands and expectations of the Palestinian people,” he said, adding that the Hamas conditions were “the minimum demands” for any truce.

“Our people’s sacrifices are heading for triumph,” he said in a pre-recorded TV broadcast. “We see the al-Qassam Brigades and the Jerusalem Brigades and all resistance factions beating the enemy and attack him again and again, under the earth and sea. The ground operation is a declaration of failure on the part of the enemy aerial war against Gaza.”

Mishal was due to speak later, fuelling speculation about a possible “victory” speech that could pave the way for acceptance of a ceasefire.

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The Joy of Six: sports ghost stories

Posted by MereNews On July - 21 - 2014 ADD COMMENTS

1. The haunted house of
English cricket

When it comes to ghosts and sports we
normally think along the lines of the apparitions of seasons past. It might be teams
or players struggling to overcome hoodoos and curses; the curse of the Bambino;
the Chicago Cubs’ curse of the billy goat;
Hawthorn’s Kennett curse; the Madden cover curse; or the Socceroos’ witch doctor curse. Put simply, sports fans are a superstitious lot, but that’s
not what we’re talking about here. We’re talking about actual ghosts, if such things exist.

This week we learned it’s not just
metaphorical ghosts that are haunting English cricket. Such is the laundry list
of the ills to have befallen Alastair Cook’s side in the past two years, even
the poltergeist community has decided to sink the boots. News
emerged this week that
strapping young fast bowlers of the ilk of Stuart Broad
and Ben Stokes were fleeing level three of the Langham Hotel in London on account
of a paranormal presence, bringing to mind a host of other sporting ghost

telling you, something weird is going on,” Broad told the Daily Mail.

Opened in 1865, the Langham has seen its fair share of premature
deaths in the time since thus the unwelcome imposition of many former guests on
the cream of English cricket.

“I’ve slept OK during the current Test [against
India] but the Sri Lanka Test was not great,” Broad said. “One night I woke up
in the middle of the night, around 1.30am and I was convinced there was a
presence in the room. It was the weirdest feeling.”

that occasion Broad absconded to the room of teammate Matt Prior, who had also
been kept awake by the unwelcome room guests. Neither player is likely to live
it down any time soon, especially while the side continues to struggle.

2. Shane Watson at Lumley Castle

What do you get when you combine the
hulking figure of Australian all-rounder Shane Watson curled into the foetal
position on Brett Lee’s hotel room floor at Lumley Castle and the haunting
spectre of a 14th century ghost? One of cricket’s greatest mental
images, that’s what. Oh for some Blair Witch-style shaky video recorder footage
of the Aussie cricketer delivering a teeth-chattering monologue direct to
camera with night-vision illuminating his petrified stare.

“Scare dinkum – Aussies caught by the
ghoulies at ‘haunted’ hotel,” squealed a predictably-restrained back-page
headline in the Sun after the 2005
incident. The castle was said by locals to be haunted by Lily of Lumley, a 14th
century aristocrat who was murdered by Catholic priests and, to be fair, no
amount of John Buchanan boot camps can prepare you for that. Even worse for
Watson was that he was being egged on in his panicked state by the team bus
driver, who regaled the rookie tourist with tales of Lily’s gruesome murder.

As befits such a bizarre tale, there
is some conjecture
as to whether Watson stayed in Room 46 (where Lily had
allegedly been tortured by the priests before being thrown down a nearby well)
from the start, or was mischievously shifted there after his midnight crisis
and flight to Lee’s room. Either way he slept like a light on his final two
nights, but that didn’t save him from the wrath of opponents in the press. In
the day-night match at Chester-le-Street that followed, English paceman Darren
Gough allegedly mocked Watson mercilessly, telling the Aussie, “Don’t worry,
you can sleep in my bed tonight.”

In his 2011 autobiography, Watson speaks of
his love of history, but sadly that didn’t extend to the Lumley Castle incident,
which was noticeably absent in a brief stroll through that 2005 ODI tour. Watson
wasn’t the only one to be spooked, either.

“I saw ghosts. I swear I’m telling
the truth,” said
Australia’s media officer Belinda Dennett
. “Several of the
players were uneasy although a lot of them in the morning said they were fine
… but maybe they were just trying to be brave.”

Five years earlier, several members of the
West Indies touring side, including captain Jimmy Adams, had gone as far as to
check out of the hotel on account of the unsettling feeling.

In summary: don’t sit near Shane Watson at
a horror movie.

3. Effie, the Oklahoma City ghost

If you were crafting a power-rankings
system for gauging the toughest-looking athletes, NBA basketballers would place
fairly high on the list, though none appear immune from the terrifying
supernatural occurrences at Oklahoma
City’s 103-year-old Skirvin Hilton Hotel

A regular stop-off for teams travelling to
play the Thunder in road games, the five-star hotel has fast gained a reputation
for providing guests with a terrifying stay. This is thanks entirely to Effie
the housekeeper, the hotel’s resident ghost and bane of 7ft, 250-pound power
forwards who could crush cantaloupes with their bare hands.

Often short on sleep and battling punishing
playing schedules, visiting players have reported instances of unexplained door
slams, bathtubs mysteriously filled with water and groans and screams from a
woman and a baby, turning the hotel into a defensive weapon for the home-town

“Everyone in the league knows about her,” OKC veteran Caron Butler
told the New York Times. “Hopefully she’ll haunt all the teams that come for
the playoffs.”

Though the facts of the matter barely pass
the sniff test, legend has it that WB Skirvin, the hotel’s owner in the
1930s, had impregnated Effie and then locked her in a room in the hotel’s upper
reaches for so long that the woman was forced to make a despairing leap from a
balcony with baby in tow.

it dawned on me that I wasn’t alone,” said ESPN columnist Bill Simmons on his own brush with Effie and child during a night
at the SKirvin. “I had an overpowering sensation that someone else was in the
room. Until you’ve experienced that feeling, you can’t understand what it’s
like. Your blood is swishing through your veins at 200 miles an hour, only you
don’t understand why – your body reacts a few seconds before your brain does.

“I kept the lights
on. And the television. And that’s how I spent the next three and a half hours – half-asleep, half-awake and totally spooked. The words ‘man up’ did
not enter the equation.”

4. The
ghost of Eddie Plank. Sort of

There can’t be
many neighbourhood sounds more maddening than the regular thud of baseballs
into your fence, especially when the offender is not a local kid, but a
professional ball player who has been dead for 70 years. That’s the fate that seemed
to have befallen the unfortunate souls who bought the former home of World
Series-winning hall of fame pitcher Eddie Plank in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. It
does seem apt that a sport as myth-laden as America’s pastime should have its
own dedicated roster of ghosts, but this one seemed a little too good to be

Back in 1996, in
the middle of the night exactly 70 years since Plank’s death, Gettysburg College
professor Peter Stitt, his wife and the family dog Roscoe Tanner (it would be
a crime to leave out that last detail, right?) claimed they had heard something
strange. The owners of the house in which Plank had died apparently started
hearing grunting noises and a series of footsteps consistent with a
pitcher’s routine. Then, just as suddenly as the mysterious pitcher’s training
regime had begun, a little over a month later it stopped just shy of that MLB season’s
opening day. It seemed as though Plank was satisfied with his pre-season preparation
for the coming campaign and never returned again.

In 2005, ESPN sent columnist Don Barone to the house in the hope that he could coax Gettysburg Eddie out of retirement one more time. That mission was
unsuccessful, but with the help of a psychic Barone did manage to have a “conversation” with the pitcher in which Plank intimated that the 1914 World
Series was fixed. It appears unlikely that the details of that unconventional
interview will be added to Plank’s hall of fame biography, especially when the
entire story, from the original 1996 incident on, was revealed to have been an elaborate hoax.

5. The
Estadio Hernando Siles ‘ghost’

I’m really neither
here nor there on the issue of ghosts, generally finding more fun in the
knickers-in-a-knottedness of the I Fucking Love Science types than any strict
adherence to the complete and irrefutable truth. On that note, I do have to
admit there was something a little unsettling about the sight of an
unidentified, ghost-like figure appearing to run through the crowd at Hernando
Siles Stadium in April.

The venue was long
thought (by superstitious Bolivians, mainly) to be haunted, and many Venezuelans sincerely accept that the ghost
of president Hugo Chavez was responsible for saving a goal during an international
against Colombia. Based on that theory, Australians would want to hope that former prime minister John Howard doesn’t one day return to the crease during a
Test and roll his arm over for a spell of leg-spin.

The other great
thing about the Hernando Siles ‘ghost’ was that, having been caught on
broadcast cameras and having gone viral around the world, the incident
immediately drew quite brilliantly detailed myth-busting posts on forums and blogs, making it this year’s low-rent Zapruder film. If
those amateur scientists are to be believed, the footage simply showed a man
running along an empty row of seats. In the spirit of all those comments
section arguments, I’m going to hypothesise that it was a piece of evil viral
marketing genius. Why else would we ever want to discuss a game between The
Strongest and Defensor Sporting of Uruguay?

Let’s just chalk
this up as a win for the under-appreciated Copa Libertadores.

6. Frontier
Field – baseball’s haunted stadium

If you were lucky,
it would be entirely possible to completely navigate your way around the entire
52 states of the USA via baseball stadiums, places that often overflow with
local customs and traditions. None has a unique selling proposition quite like
Rochester’s Frontier Field, though. If the ghost experts of Rochester Paranormal are to be believed (and why should they not be,
right? Right?), then Frontier Field
is America’s only 100% bona fide haunted stadium.

Home to the
Rochester Red Wings of the International League (we really could fill an
entire Joy of Six post with things that Americans call “International” and “World” that aren’t), the 10,840-seat park was upgraded by its current tenants
in 2005. That was when staff noticed some disconcerting piles of human bones as
digging was being carried out. Cometh the hour, cometh the local ghostbusters;
the Rochester Paranormal investigators found that not only did the ghosts of
some deceased locals wander the park’s grounds, but many were happy that the
stadium stood where it did.

All of this raises
my suspicions that the people of Rochester Paranormal might be massive baseball
fans. This isn’t beyond the realms of possibility; entire books have been devoted to the paranormal qualities of baseball diamonds and
clubhouses. Fans are even getting in on
the act, with diehards such as Red Sox devotee Gino Castignoli going as far as
burying a David Ortiz jersey under wet cement at the new Yankees stadium. The
reaction of the Yankees brass? At an estimated expense of $50,000, send in a
crew of workers with jack-hammers to pull the jersey back out again.

Related stat:
David Ortiz would have been the highest paid living ghost of all-time.

Article source: http://feeds.theguardian.com/c/34708/f/663828/s/3cb94c33/sc/13/l/0L0Stheguardian0N0Csport0Cblog0C20A140Cjul0C220Cthe0Ejoy0Eof0Esix0Esports0Eghost0Estories/story01.htm

Parents will be prosecuted if they fail to prevent their daughter being cut, and all victims of female genital mutilation (FGM) will get lifelong anonymity, David Cameron will say on Tuesday.

As the prime minister hosts a Girl Summit with Unicef aimed at mobilising domestic and international efforts to end FGM and child marriage, new measures will be announced aimed at ending the practices “once and for all”.

The announcement comes the day after it emerged that the number of women living in England and Wales who have been subjected to FGM is twice as high as previously thought. A new study reveals more than 137,000 women in England and Wales are living with the consequences of FGM. The number has significantly increased in the past 10 years as women flee war-torn countries to find safety in Britain, according to the report from City University and the human rights group Equality Now.

To mark the first Girl Summit in the UK, the prime minister will announce a change to the law that will make it parents’ responsibility to protect their daughters from FGM or face punishment. Currently it is against the law to cut a child in Britain or take a child out of the country for the purposes of FGM, but this new law will extend sanctions.

Cameron will also launch a £1.4m “prevent programme” to help stop the practice being carried out on girls and to care for survivors, and he is expected to unveil new police guidance on how to handle new cases, and a consultation on civil orders to protect those at risk of FGM.

A new specialist FGM service, which will include social services, will identify those at risk of being cut. Cameron will say: “All girls have the right to live free from violence and coercion, without being forced into marriage, or the lifelong physical and psychological effects of female genital mutilation. Abhorrent practices like these, no matter how deeply rooted in societies, violate the rights of girls and women across the world, including here in the UK.”

The new study reveals that in England and Wales about 103,000 migrant women aged 15 to 49, 10,000 girls under 15 and about 24,000 women aged 50 or above had been subjected to FGM. The numbers of women from the Horn of Africa – where the most extreme form of FGM is common – had increased by 32,000, while the number of women from east and west Africa also increased by 10,000 over the past decade.

A 2007 report using 2001 census data stated that 66,000 women and girls had been subjected to FGM in England and Wales with an estimated 24,000 girls under 15 at risk. Until now the most recent study, funded by the Trust for London and the Home Office, does not estimate the number of at-risk girls, but reveals 60,000 girls under 15 were born in England and Wales to mothers who had undergone FGM between 2001-11.

Earlier this year, the then education secretary, Michael Gove, agreed to write to headteachers about the dangers of FGM after 250,000 people joined a campaign backed by the Guardian and change.org in the runup to the summer holidays when many girls are sent away to be cut.

Efua Dorkenoo of Equality Now said the government had made positive steps but professionals needed clear guidance to identify at-risk girls and give them help. “The government needs to get a handle over this extreme abuse of the most vulnerable girls in our society by implementing a robust national plan to address the issue,” she said.

“There is no time to waste on platitudes as thousands of girls living in England and Wales are having their life blighted by this damaging practice.”

The World Health Organisation estimates that up to 140 million girls and women have been subjected to FGM, a cultural practice designed to curb female sexuality that involves the partial or whole removal of the outer sexual organs and can cause lifelong physical and psychological complications.

The report states: “A common-held belief in FGM-practising communities is that girls and women who have not undergone FGM have an insatiable sexual appetite, which has to be restrained to prevent bringing dishonour and shame to families.”

Measures to protect girls from FGM in the UK have also been announced by police and Border Force agents, who are stepping up operations as the school summer holidays begin.

New Border Force child protection squads are joining with police to target specific flights in a bid to prevent vulnerable girls being taken out of the country for FGM. The beefed-up teams at major airports and border crossings in the UK are on alert for the start of the summer holidays, when experts say girls are at the highest risk of being taken out of the country.

Specially trained Border Force agents will be working with police forces, which are also set to receive new advice stating that officers should put aside cultural sensitivities and fears of being branded racist in order to pursue investigations into FGM. In the first national guidance issued to all police across the country, the College of Policing warns officers not to let fears of being branded a racist stop them investigating FGM.

As the summer holidays start, an 80-strong team of specialist officers at Heathrow, 65 at Gatwick and 21 at Manchester will be on the lookout for at-risk children. The port of Harwich also has a new team, while specialist FGM training is also planned at Birmingham, London City, Stansted, Calais and Dunkirk.

Working with police intelligence, specific flights to countries which practise FGM – including Kenya, Ethiopia, Ghana, Nigeria, Dubai, Egypt and Turkey – will be targeted, said Ingrid Smith, assistant director of the Border Force at Gatwick. “The message we are sending with this intensification of operations is that the practice of FGM will not be tolerated in this country,” she said. ” Police, Border Force agents and social services will act together to stop this and people attempting to take children out of the country will be caught.”

James Brokenshire, the immigration and security minister, said border police were well-placed to gather intelligence on possible perpetrators and prevent FGM from being carried out.

“The school summer holidays are a time of particular risk for many girls,” he said. “Which is why we have teams of specially trained officers at major airports with the skills to identify and protect potential victims and stop the perpetrators.”

The guidance drawn up by the College of Policing is the first to deal with female genital mutilation and reflects growing public and political concern over the mutilation and the lack of prosecutions of individuals in the UK.

Officers in England and Wales will be told that when investigating the mutilation of young girls in the UK they must consider all child protection measures, including removing a girl from her family if they believe she is at risk of FGM.

Under section 46 of the Children Act 1989 police officers can decide to remove a child who they believe is at risk of “significant harm” to a place of safety for up to 72 hours. They can also apply to a court for an emergency protection order when they believe a child is in imminent danger.

Officers will also be told that they should consider removal of younger sisters in a household where there are concerns that an older girl is at risk of FGM, because the younger siblings will also need protection.

Chief Constable Alex Marshall, chief executive of the College of Policing, said: “We want to ensure that officers have the best information possible to help them to protect the vulnerable and tackle this terrible crime. We must not let perceptions of cultural sensitivities get in the way of action against female genital mutilation.

“This guidance will help build our understanding and confidence in policing this crime so that we’re better able to respond to victims’ needs and ultimately bring perpetrators to justice.”

It warns officers not to be put off pursuing investigations because of the “cultural sensitivities” involved. “Female genital mutilation is the deliberate cutting of the female genitalia. It is illegal, extremely painful and a form of violence against women and girls … Officers must not avoid tackling FGM for fear of doing or saying the wrong thing or being considered racist.”

Female genital mutilation has been illegal in the UK since 1985, and the law was tightened in 2003 to make it an offence for a British resident to travel abroad in order to have FGM carried out on a child. Pressure has been growing on police and prosecutors over the failure – until earlier this year – to bring a single case to the British courts. Alison Saunders, the director of public prosecutions, announced the first ever charge relating to FGM earlier this year but the case has yet to go through the courts.

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