British Queen celebrates



Binge drinking is emerging as a major hazard for the young in some countries, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) said Tuesday in its first probe into alcohol abuse.

Over the past 20 years, alcohol consumption in OECD countries has declined by 2.5 percent on average, the 34-nation club of rich economies said.

But this figure masks important national changes and a worrying shift in some countries towards youth boozing and excessive drinking by women, it said.

In 2012, the average per-capita consumption in the OECD was 9.1 litres (16 pints) of pure alcohol per capita, it said.

Estonia, Austria and France had the highest consumption, with 12 litres or more per person per year.

Those countries below the OECD average included South Korea, the United States and Canada, while the lowest on the list were Israel and Turkey.




Within the broad overall decline, "many countries have experienced a significant increase in some risky drinking behaviours," the report said.

It cited binge drinking among young people and alcohol abuse by women.

"These trends are worrying because some of the harms typically associated with heavy drinking in young age, such as traffic accidents and violence, often affect people other than drinkers themselves," said the report.

"Heavy drinking at a young age is associated with an increased risk of acute and chronic conditions.

"It is also associated with problem drinking later on in life, and people who are successful in the labour market may see their long-term career prospects jeopardised."

The biggest surge in youth drinking was seen in Russia, followed by Estonia, and then India and China, which like Russia have partnership status with the OECD and were included in part of the analysis.




WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has agreed to be questioned by Swedish prosecutors in London over rape allegations, his Swedish lawyer Thomas Olsson said on Thursday.

"We sent a confirmation earlier today to the prosecutors that Julian Assange agrees to be questioned in London," Olsson told AFP.

He said Assange made no specific demands about the questioning.

Swedish prosecutors offered in March to question Assange in London, dropping their previous demand that he come to Sweden to answer to the 2010 allegations, making a significant U-turn in the case that has been deadlocked for nearly five years.



Prosecutors said they had changed their stance because some of the alleged offences will reach their statute of limitations in August.

Sweden issued an arrest warrant for Assange in 2010 following allegations from two women in Sweden.

The Australian former hacker, who has always vehemently denied the allegations and insisted the sexual encounters were consensual, has been ensconced in Ecuador's embassy in London since 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden.




Surrounded by hundreds of dogs, wagging their tails and running free on fenced-off land in a Serbian town, Sasa Pesic knows each of the pooches by name.

"I know exactly how each dog arrived at my shelter, I know their names, personalities," says Pesic as he patted one of his charges.

It all started when Pesic, out of work like around 17 percent of Serbians, came upon four abandoned puppies in woods near his home.

The discovery changed his life dramatically, setting him on a path to becoming an advocate for stray dogs and opening a shelter in Nis in southern Serbia.

Today it is home for more than 450 animals, but Pesic may soon have to move his canine horde as the city wants him to find a new location.

When the 45-year-old walks into the shelter, set on a piece of land near the centre of town, hundreds of mongrels of all sizes and colours run to him barking happily in greeting.

The refuge is located at a former equestrian club stable that Pesic got rent-free from the owner back in 2010 where the dogs can be outside all day long.

"It is only when night falls that we put them in their cages. They are happy this way," he tells AFP, adding that all the dogs have been vaccinated, sterilised and have microchips.

There are 280,000 registered dogs in the Balkan country, but veterinary authorities say it is practically impossible to determine the exact number of stray canines, many being pets abandoned by their owners in hard economic times.




A review of 34 clinical trials on a popular drug to treat hair loss in men found that none of the studies adequately reported on sexual side effects, researchers said.

The findings raise serious questions about whether the drug -- known as finasteride and marketed as Propecia and Proscar, among other names -- is safe, said the report by scientists at Northwestern University, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) Dermatology on Wednesday.

The drug, approved in 1992, works by interfering with testosterone, and the pharmaceutical giant Merck lists decreased sex drive, impotence and problems with ejaculation among its common side effects.


- Key questions unanswered -


However, the study in JAMA said these side effects have not been properly studied.

"Not one of the 34 published clinical trial reports provided adequate information about the severity, frequency or reversibility of sexual adverse effects," said the study.

That has left key questions unanswered, such as the actual risk of developing sexual side effects, how long they may last, how severe they may be and whether sexual function may return to normal if the drug is stopped, the researchers said.

Most published studies on the duration of drug safety were one year or less, but about a third of men took the drug for more than a year.

"People who take or prescribe the drug assume it's safe, but there is insufficient information to make that judgment," said lead study author Steven Belknap, research assistant professor of dermatology and general internal medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.

He pointed to several questions raised by the study's findings, including the lack of adequate information about the severity and frequency of sexual toxicity.

"Was this information obtained but then not included in published articles? Or, were these clinical trials performed in a way that simply didn't capture this essential information?" Belknap asked.



Swedish cartoonist Lars Vilks on Saturday made his first public appearance in Copenhagen after surviving an attack last month in the Danish capital, local media reported.

The 68-year-old cartoonist, who whipped up an outcry across the Muslim world with his 2007 sketch of the Prophet Mohammed as a dog, had lived in a secret location since the February 14 attempt on his life.

A Dane of Palestinian origin had fired a series of shots at a Copenhagen cultural centre that was hosting a debate on free speech attended by the cartoonist, killing a filmmaker.

The gunman later shot dead a Jewish man outside a synagogue before he was killed by police.

On Saturday, Vilks emerged in public to receive a prize awarded by a Danish association promoting free speech called Trykkefrihedsselskabet.

The ceremony was held under tight police surveillance at the Christianborg Castle, which also houses the parliament and other Danish institutions, Danish news agency Ritzau reported.



Women are far more exposed to disasters than men given their frontline roles in the home and in healthcare, the UN says, arguing that improving gender equality is key to saving lives.

Globally, women and children are up to 14 times more likely than men to die in a disaster, according to UN Population Fund account executive Lamar Dawson.

"Women are more exposed to disasters," United Nations Development Programme Administrator Helen Clark told AFP on the sidelines of a once-in-a-decade UN conference on disaster risk reduction in Japan.

"There is a range of reasons," said Clark, a former New Zealand Prime Minister. "They may be trapped at home, they may be caring for sick or disabled family members, young children.

"In some societies where these disasters hit, the culture may be that the woman doesn't leave the home. So if she can't leave the home how can she escape?"

Clark was speaking as aid agencies and governments scrambled to get help to Vanuatu, where dozens are feared dead after the Pacific nation was raked by a huge cyclone on Friday.

A state of emergency was put in place over the weekend amid reports entire villages had been "blown away".

The calamity in the Pacific gave greater resonance to the Sendai meeting, which runs until Wednesday, where Clark said policymakers must work on improving the lot of women.

"The issues will (be) how we make sure that women are fully engaged, and (the conference should) argue for women's empowerment and full equality, because why should they suffer?" she said.

"It's a huge issue" and has to "be integrated in the Sendai outcome".

- Caring for families -

Remi Sogunro, who represents the United Nations Population Fund in Liberia, said women bore the brunt not only of natural disasters like that unfolding in Vanuatu, but in human catastrophes like the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.

"Women are caregivers at home, and when their... families are sick, they take care of them," he said.

Around 25,000 people are known to have been infected with Ebola since the latest outbreak began in December 2013. Around 10,000 of them have died.

In Liberia, one of the worst-hit countries, thousands of people were infected including 300 health workers, said Sogunro.

"Half of (the health workers) died. Most of them are nurses, some of them are midwives, a few of them are senior medical doctors. Many of these were women," he said.

"The women were trying to help the country to stop the Ebola virus and they died in the course of duty. So you can see why it's really very important to talk about women in the Ebola forefront," he said.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said that even in developed countries like Japan, much more needed to be done to get women more involved in reducing the impact of disasters.


After numerous attempts unsuccessfully to establish contacts with the daughter who lives with her father in New York, the Brazilian who lives in Florida, USA, Adriana Paula de Oliveira, was able to speak, via telephone, with her ex-husband, Marcelo Luiz da Silva, who once again did not allow his daughter to talk with her mother.

In one of the attempts to talk to her daughter by phone, and Adrianawas used the call never be answered, Adriana was surprised on January 21th, at 4:00pm when the phone was answering, when her ex-husband answered the call and as soon as he realized that it was the mother of his daughter, Marcelo, who is also Brazilian, raised uphis voice and started to speaking English, accusing her of lying about the article that she had an interview with the press.

Baffled and by instinct, Adriana has managed to write an excerpt of the conversation with her ex-husband, and reported to the News Radar, as was the conversation between the two.

"He answered the phone, then I asked in Portuguese, Marcelo? Marcelo? Then he responded rudely and in English: myself, why? There's another Marcelo? AI I commented that I was surprised with him answering the phone, and asked to speak to my daughter, he said I couldn’t talk to her because I put all those lies in the paper, and that our daughter was 17 years and that she is ' free ' to talk with me when she wants to. Before the allegations and contradictions started questioning what lies he's talking about, "said Adriana.


Her ex-husband claims that the mother owes child support and the statements made by her mother in an interview for the News Radar, are liars.

Under the pending charges with American justice, Adriana” requested a certificate letter to the Queens Family Court of New York, in order to know if there really was or have any pending case. And is there was or is a pending, I have some debt to the USA Government I have complete interest in resolving," said Adriana.

The Family Court of Queens, New York reported that:You have no case in any family proceedings pending on behalf of Adriana until January 14, 2015, as follows below in official document:

“Mrs. Adriana De Oliveira
The records of Queens County Family Court, show NO upcoming court dates for any of your cases.
Record Room”



British tabloid The Sun published a photo of a winking topless model on Thursday, rebutting reports it had ended the controversial tradition that has featured in the newspaper since 1970.

Newspaper The Times, which like the Sun is part of billionaire media tycoon Rupert Murdoch's News UK group, reported on Tuesday that the page three feature had been shelved and the news was welcomed by government ministers.

Nevertheless, The Sun featured a photo of a bare-breasted blonde woman in its Thursday edition under the words "clarifications and corrections".

"Further to recent reports in all other media outlets, we would like to clarify that this is Page 3 and this is a picture of Nicole, 22, from Bournemouth," the caption to the photograph read.




Precious scrolls blackened by the eruption of the Vesuvius volcano in AD 79 may become readable again, thanks to 21st century technology, scientists said on Tuesday.

Hundreds of papyrus scrolls believed to have been authored by Greek philosophers were found in the Roman town of Herculaneum, which was hit in the same eruption that destroyed the town of Pompeii.

Whereas Pompeii was buried under a thick layer of ash, nearby Herculaneum met a somewhat different fate -- it was exposed to a roiling blast of volcanic gas.

The furnace-like heat burned its citizens alive and turned the writings into pitch-black, brittle rolls.

The carbonised manuscripts, part of the only library to have survived from the classical world, were found 260 years ago in the ruins of a huge villa believed to have been owned by a wealthy Roman statesman, Calpurnius Piso Caesoninus.

Now stored at the National Library of Naples, they are so fragile that the slightest touch can cause them to crumble.



Adding to the problem is that the letters on the papyrus were written in ink made from soot. On the blackened background, they are nearly invisible to the naked eye.

So many papyri have been damaged or destroyed in attempts to pierce their secrets that archaeologists abandoned the quest in frustration.

But, in a study published in the journal Nature Communications, Italian researchers offer hope that the enigmatic texts may be revealed for the first time in nearly 2,000 years.

- 'Readable within a decade' -

"It's always hard to make a precise prediction, but with resources, the scrolls should be readable within the next decade," lead scientist Vito Mocella told AFP.

Mocella, who works at the Institute for Microelectronics and Microsystems (IMM) in Naples, led a team to probe the scrolls non-invasively using X-ray phase-contrast tomography -- a scanner also used in medicine to image soft tissue.

The technique exploits the fact that different materials absorb X-rays differently.

The researchers wrote a purpose-made algorithm to process the signals returned from the beams, seeking to tease out contrasts between the papyrus and the inked letters.

They tested their innovation on pieces of a scroll that had been unrolled in fragments in 1986.




Africa Cup of Nations hosts Equatorial Guinea will be pressed to get off to a winning start when they face Congo Brazzaville in the tournament's opening game in Group A on Saturday.

The curtain-raiser to the competition in the country's largest city Bata will be followed later in the day by a meeting of the group's other two sides, Burkina Faso and Gabon, who clash again after doing battle in qualifying.

Equatorial Guinea rescued this year's tournament by agreeing to act as hosts after the late withdrawal of Morocco due to Ebola fears, and their fans will now expect Nzalang Nacional to match the exploits of three years ago, when they beat all the odds to reach the last eight of the same competition on home soil.

Nevertheless, they were initially disqualified from the competition for fielding an ineligible player, and their build-up has been somewhat chaotic, with Argentine Esteban Becker only named as the country's new coach last week in place of Andoni Goikoetxea, whose contract expired recently and was not renewed.