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17 Jul 2017


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Pakistan court begins hearings to decide PM Nawaz Sharif's future

Pakistan’s supreme court has begun hearings that will decide the future of the prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, who is fighting for his job and contesting a damning corruption report by an investigative panel.
The supreme court is expected to order Sharif be tried Sharif on corruption charges, or disqualify him, but few expect the judges to dismiss the case after the panel tabled a damaging 254-page report into his family wealth.
Sharif has denied any wrongdoing after the report alleged his family’s vast wealth was beyond their means and accused his children, including presumed heir Maryam, of signing forged documents to obscure ownership of four flats in London’s Mayfair.
Sharif, 67, has rejected demands by opposition parties to resign, warning his replacement would destabilise the country and imperil hard-won economic gains since his poll victory in 2013.
“It hurts that despite all of our hard work, attempts are afoot once again to push the country back,” Sharif told a meeting of his ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) party at the weekend.

South Korea seeks rare talks with North to ease military tensions

South Korea has offered to hold rare military talks with the North to ease tensions after Pyongyang’s first intercontinental ballistic missile test earlier this month.
Monday’s offer, the first since South Korea elected the moderate Moon Jae-In as president, came as the Red Cross in Seoul proposed a separate meeting to discuss the reunion of families separated by the 1950-53 Korean war.
The South’s defence ministry proposed a meeting on Friday at the border truce village of Panmunjom, while the Red Cross offered to hold talks on 1 August at the same venue.
If the government meeting goes ahead, it will be the first official inter-Korea talks since December 2015. Moon’s conservative predecessor, Park Geun-hye, had refused to engage in substantive dialogue with Pyongyang unless the isolated regime made a tangible commitment to denuclearisation.
“We make the proposal for a meeting … aimed at stopping all hostile activities that escalate military tension along the land border,” the defence ministry said in a statement.
The Red Cross said it hoped for a positive response from its counterpart in the North; mooted family reunions in early October would be the first in two years.


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Artificial sweeteners linked to risk of weight gain, heart disease and other health issues

Artificial sweeteners may be associated with long-term weight gain and increased risk of obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease, according to a new study published in CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal)
Consumption of artificial sweeteners, such as aspartame, sucralose and stevia, is widespread and increasing. Emerging data indicate that artificial, or nonnutritive, sweeteners may have negative effects on metabolism, gut bacteria and appetite, although the evidence is conflicting.
To better understand whether consuming artificial sweeteners is associated with negative long-term effects on weight and heart disease, researchers from the University of Manitoba's George & Fay Yee Centre for Healthcare Innovation conducted a systematic review of 37 studies that followed over 400 000 people for an average of 10 years. Only 7 of these studies were randomized controlled trials (the gold standard in clinical research), involving 1003 people followed for 6 months on average.
The trials did not show a consistent effect of artificial sweeteners on weight loss, and the longer observational studies showed a link between consumption of artificial sweeteners and relatively higher risks of weight gain and obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease and other health issues.
"Despite the fact that millions of individuals routinely consume artificial sweeteners, relatively few patients have been included in clinical trials of these products," said author Dr. Ryan Zarychanski, Assistant Professor, Rady Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Manitoba. "We found that data from clinical trials do not clearly support the intended benefits of artificial sweeteners for weight management."


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Odisha starts air-dropping of food packets in flood-hit Rayagada district

Odisha government started air-dropping food packets in flood-hit even as operations to rescue people stranded in marooned pockets in Odisha’s Rayagada district on Monday.
“We have already dropped 3,000 food packets by helicopter in flooded areas. Free kitchens have been set up in worst-hit Kalyansinghpur and Rayagada blocks,” said Bishnupada Sethi, State Special Relief Commissioner. Mr. Sethi said Odisha Disaster Rapid Action Force, National Disaster Response Force and State Fire Service personnel were deployed at vulnerable points to shift people to safer places.
Chief Minister, Naveen Patnaik, however, told reporters that the flood situation in Rayagada and Kalahandi districts, was improving, while administration made provision for setting up free kitchens for flood-affected people. Heavy rainfall was recorded across Kalahandi district during past 24 hours.

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