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November 12, 2009

Washington, D.C. sniper John Allen Muhammad executed by lethal injection

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Washington, D.C. sniper John Allen Muhammad executed by lethal injection

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Thursday, November 12, 2009

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John Allen Muhammad, the Washington, D.C. sniper spree killer, has been executed in Virginia. Muhammad was convicted for one of ten murders occurring between Oct. 9 and 22, 2002 in and around Washington, DC. Dean Harold Meyers was shot on the Oct. 9 by Muhammad. Lawyers for Muhammad appealed for a not plea on the reasons of him being mentality ill but the appeal was rejected. Muhammad was 48 at the time of execution.

He was executed at 02:11 GMT and the execution took 5 minutes. According to Larry Traylor of the Department of Corrections Muhammad remained quiet before and during the execution. His last meal was chicken in red sauce and strawberry cakes.

Both his lawyers and the state attorney appointed to represent Muhammad pleaded for the death penalty to be dropped. They reported that Muhammad was suffering from Gulf War syndrome.

Muhammad and his accomplice Lee Boyd Malvo killed ten people in Washington D.C and Virginia. The pair had also been accused of murders in the states of Alabama, Louisiana and Arizona. Malvo is currently serving life imprisonment. Muhammad’s execution was watched by several members of the victims’ families.



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Three more scientists resign from UK ACMD drugs advisory council

Filed under: Archived,Drugs,Europe,Politics and conflicts,United Kingdom — admin @ 5:00 am

Three more scientists resign from UK ACMD drugs advisory council

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Thursday, November 12, 2009

In the wake of the sacking of Professor David Nutt as chairman of the United Kingdom’s Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) by Home Secretary Alan Johnson and the subsequent resignations of Dr Les King and Marion Walter, three more scientists have now resigned. This follows a meeting on Monday between the Council and Alan Johnson, at which the Council sought reassurances that the integrity of the Council would not be compromised. Prior to the meeting, the Council sent a letter to Mr Johnson to the effect that a majority of its membership was deeply concerned about the circumstances relating to and surrounding Professor Nutt’s dismissal: “For some members, these matters are of such seriousness as to raise the question whether they can, in good conscience, continue on the Council.”

File photo of Alan Johnson, the politician at the centre of the row, taken in 2007
Image: catch21productions.

The scientists in question are the chemist, Dr Simon Campbell, a psychologist, Dr John Marsden and a pharmaceutical consultant, Ian Raglan.

Commenting on his resignation on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Dr Campbell said “I do not accept the reasons given for Professor Nutt’s dismissal, I think that was a clash of personalities. I do not agree with the manner in which he was dismissed. Such an abrupt dismissal was a humiliation for such a respected scientist.”

These resignations means that the ACMD is no longer constitutionally able to function and that six positions will need to be filled. There is a possibility that further resignations may occur as a number of the remaining members of the Council are reported to be unhappy with the prevailing situation, although many of those who do remain sit in the capacity of representatives of organisations with an interest.



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Scientists find key human language gene

Scientists find key human language gene – Wikinews, the free news source

Scientists find key human language gene

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Thursday, November 12, 2009

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Researchers have found a crucial genetic difference between humans and chimps that could help explain our language and speech abilities. The difference lies in a gene called FOXP2 which encodes for a protein of the same name. This acts as a transcription factor, controlling the activity of other genes.

A rendering of the FOXP2 protein

The human and chimp versions of the protein differ in only two of their 740 amino acid components, but when researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles, replaced the human gene with the chimp version in neurons grown in the laboratory, they found it affected the expression of at least 116 other genes.

The results are detailed in a paper published on Thursday in the scientific journal Nature.

Author of the study Dr. Daniel Geschwind, of the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, said the gene had a “major role” in differences between chimps and humans. “We showed that the human and chimp versions of FOXP2 not only look different but function differently too.”

Cquote1.svg We believe FOXP2 is not only important for the higher order cognitive aspect of language but also for the motor aspect of speech and language Cquote2.svg

—Genevieve Konopka, University of California, Los Angeles

Some of the affected genes control the formation of connections in the brain, whilst others relate to facial movements. Several have already been found to be involved in language disorders. Mutations in FOXP2 itself were also known to affect speech and language; the gene was first identified in members of a family suffering from language problems who were found to share a genetic mutation.

Frances Vargha-Khadem at University College London has studied patients with FOXP2 mutations, and agrees with the new research. As well as language problems, some of her subjects have changes in the shape of their jaws, mouths and tongues. She thinks that chimps may also have these differences.

“We believe FOXP2 is not only important for the higher order cognitive aspect of language but also for the motor aspect of speech and language,” said Genevieve Konopka, one of the authors of the paper at UCLA.

Previous research indicates that the changes in FOXP2 occurred around 200,000 years ago with the rise of modern humans. Geschwind also suggests that several of the related genes may have evolved together. Preliminary studies have shown signs that they too emerged relatively recently.

Scientists are now keen to further study FOXP2 and the genes that it affects. Geschwind believes this could eventually lead to breakthroughs in treatment for disorders such as autism and schizophrenia, which affect language skills.

The study was funded by the National Institute of Mental Health, the A.P. Giannini Foundation and the National Alliance for Research on Schizophrenia and Depression.



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Judge known for jailing pirates shot dead in Bossaso, Somalia

Judge known for jailing pirates shot dead in Bossaso, Somalia

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Thursday, November 12, 2009

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Piracy is a big problem in Somalia

A judge known for jailing pirates and Islamists in Somalia has been shot dead by gunmen. Sheik Mohamed Abdi Aware was shot in the head and chest by two masked men outside a mosque in Bossaso.

As well as being a High Court judge, Aware was also a member of Puntland’s supreme judicial council. During his work in Bossaso, Aware had sentenced several Islamists, pirates and people smugglers.

His cousin Abdulahi Jama said to reporters: “These gangs hate him for his justice. We suspect one of them may have something to do with his assassination”. Three people are in custody after being arrested.

On Wednesday, Ibrahim Elmi Warsame, a local member of parliament was shot dead as he sat in a tea shop. It was not immediately known if the shootings were related.



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