Call for rehab for heart attack survivors

Australian lives would be saved and health care costs cut if more heart attack survivors attended cardiac rehabilitation programs, new research shows.

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Increasing participation rates from the current 30 to 65 per cent would result in annual $35.5 million savings in health care costs and 2100 fewer heart attacks nationally.

The Heart Foundation says 430,000 Australians are living having survived a heart attack, but around 300,000 have not completed any form of the rehab programs on offer.

These may include physical activity, health education, counselling, behaviour modification strategies and support for managing a heart condition.

“Of the 55,000 heart attacks that will occur this year, each will cost around $30,000 in healthcare costs,” says the foundation’s chief medical advisor, Professor Garry Jennings.

“In stark contrast, a cardiac rehabilitation program costs the health system an average $885 per person to attend.”

Studies show that heart attack survivors who have taken part in a program are 40 per cent less likely to be readmitted to hospital and 25 per cent less likely to die from another heart attack.

“While the benefits are clear, many people aren’t referred to or don’t attend cardiac rehabilitation, leaving them at real risk of having another heart attack,” he said.

About 80 per cent of people advised to attend do so.

“A third of people being admitted to hospital for a heart attack have been there before – it isn’t their first heart attack but their second or third, putting major drain on our health services.”

The foundations wants the federal government to fund a national audit to highlight and overcome barriers to program participation.

Truckies road safety tribunal abolished

Federal parliament has scrapped the Gillard government’s road safety tribunal, skirting a minimum wage decision for owner-driver truckies.

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Legislation to abolish the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal passed the Senate without Labor’s support on Monday evening after two hours of debate.

The bill passed 36 to 32 with the support of the crossbench except Motoring Enthusiast Ricky Muir.

The government slipped the bill into this week’s parliamentary agenda after MPs and senators were called back to Canberra by the governor-general at the request of Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull on Monday to consider industrial reform bills.

The Australian Building and Construction Commission bills were voted down by the Senate on Monday evening, handing Mr Turnbull a trigger for a double-dissolution election on July 2.

Labor and the Greens slammed the government’s decision to abolish the tribunal, labelling it an attack on hardworking Australians.

Senior Labor senator Stephen Conroy said Australian roads would be less safe as a result of the decision and accused Mr Turnbull of using truckies as a pawn in his political game.

“What a comedy – Mr Turnbull pretending he cares about truck drivers,” he told parliament.

“This prime minister doesn’t care about road safety. He doesn’t care about the families of the victims who die.”

The coalition used its numbers to gag debate on the abolition on Monday evening before the lower house passed the bill and sent it to the Senate.

Nationals MP Mark Coulton told parliament the decision deprived owner-driver truckies from achieving the great Australian dream of being your own boss.

He said the decision forced drivers to park their trucks because they can’t compete against bigger transport companies.

Employed truck drivers were not covered by the minimum pay decision, only drivers who own their own vehicles, making it cheaper for bigger companies who employ drivers.

Mr Coulton, who holds a heavy vehicle driver’s licence, said owner-drivers would have to charge a higher rate than the average to comply with the rules.

They had two options: break the law and hope they weren’t caught or charge the higher rate and miss out on the job.

“This is not about safety, this is about anti-competitive behaviour,” he said.

Cabinet minister Christopher Pyne argues there is no tangible safety outcome from the tribunal.

Mr Pyne says it’s vital to abolish the body to ensure owner-truck drivers can keep working.

“This is about those operators who just want to earn a living so they can continue to sponsor their local sporting club, St John’s Ambulance or their children’s school without having their livelihood threatened,” he told parliament.

Turnbull has trigger for July 2 election

Australians look set to go to the polls on July 2 after the Senate shot down the federal government’s attempt to restore the building industry watchdog.

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The federal government was handed the trigger for a double-dissolution election on Monday night when the Senate again rejected legislation to restore the Australian Building and Construction Commission.

The bills were defeated 36-34, with crossbenchers Jacqui Lambie, Glenn Lazarus, Ricky Muir and John Madigan siding with Labor and the Greens.

MPs and senators were recalled to Canberra on Monday by Governor-General Peter Cosgrove at Mr Turnbull’s request, in a constitutional move not used for 40 years, to consider the industrial reform bills.

Mr Turnbull has vowed to use a second rejection of the bills as a trigger for a July 2 election, insisting the construction industry needs a cop on the beat to stamp out misconduct following last year’s damning royal commission report into union corruption.

Attorney-General George Brandis says the government is prepared to take the Senate’s rejection of its union legislation to the Australian people.

But he insists Australia won’t really be in an election campaign until parliament is dissolved and writs for an election are issued.

The government still plans to deliver its budget on May 3.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten says Labor is ready for an election, whenever it is.

“This will be a contest between Labor putting people first, and a Liberal Party looking after vested interests and the big banks.”

Senator Lambie says the government have never properly negotiated with crossbenchers.

“If I was going after your vote, you would be that sick of me in your face, you’d pretty much want to take me out,” she told ABC TV.

“I never felt like that with the minister.”

She says the ABCC is absolutely not a justifiable trigger for an early election – most people have no understanding of the legislation nor any interest in it.

A double-dissolution election means both houses of parliament are dissolved and all seats are up for grabs. Only half of the Senate would be up for re-election in a regular election.

Richmond take positives from Dogs loss

Richmond have taken plenty of self-belief from their narrow loss to the Western Bulldogs, according to coach Damien Hardwick.

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The Tigers were pipped by the reigning AFL champions by five points in an epic tussle last Saturday night.

It was just Richmond’s second defeat of the season and was a strong rebound following a heavy loss to ladder leaders Adelaide, which Hardwick described an “aberration” in their early-season form.

“The game on the weekend could have gone either way and the Bulldogs’ class showed at the end,” Hardwick said.

“They had a couple of bigger moments in the last stanza than we did but we look at our review and we’re incredibly pleased.

“Our boys took a lot of belief that we’ve taken it up to the reigning premiers.”

The Tigers take on Fremantle at the MCG on Sunday afternoon and are wary of what the Dockers will bring after their big win over Essendon last round.

Star midfielder Dion Prestia is likely to miss again, with the club taking a cautious approach to his hamstring injury.

“He’s touch and go this week but we probably think we’ll be very cautious with Dion,” Hardwick said.

“It’s not a significant injury, it’s very minor, but he’s an important long-term player for us so we’ll make sure he gets it right.

“The chance of him playing this week is slim.”

Shane Edwards is available to play after five weeks out with a hip injury but Hardwick said his lack of match fitness may count against him.

First-choice ruckman Toby Nankervis will return after serving a one-match suspension.

The Tigers will also consider keeping his replacement Ivan Soldo in the side to take on dominant Dockers ruck Aaron Sandilands or go forward and help out spearhead Jack Riewoldt.

“We were pretty pleased with Ivan and what he brought to the table with his pressure around the contest,” Hardwick said.

“He certainly looks a player of the future.

“Whether we go in with the two rucks … we’ll have a look at that come selection, but we were really pleased with what we got out of Ivan on the weekend.”

Australia’s Isaiah Firebrace makes it through to Eurovision finals in Ukraine

Australian contestant Isaiah Firebrace has made it through to the Eurovision finals to be held this weekend in Kyiv, Ukraine.

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The 17-year-old performed his song ‘Don’t Come Easy’ in the first semi-final early this morning, Australian time.

The young performer, from the tiny town of Moama in southern NSW, was one of 10 in the first semi-final to make it through to finals night.

A special message from @isaiahofficial – backstage at @SBSEurovision @SBSNews #ESC2017 #IsaiahFirebrace pic.twitter长沙桑拿按摩论坛,/vwlaCUFYXA

— Brett Mason (@BrettMasonNews) May 9, 2017

“Tonight I just wanted to deliver my best performance and really connect to the lyrics of my song and make Australia proud,” Firebrace said. 

“Eurovision has been a dream come true for me, and I’m so happy I get to be on the stage again for the Grand Final. I am so thankful for all the support from fans over here and everyone back home.”

WATCH: SBS Europe Correspondent Brett Mason reports from Kyiv

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Firebrace is the third Australian to compete in the contest, after Dami Im, who took second place in 2016, and Guy Sebastian, who placed fifth in 2015.

He isn’t the only Australian contestant in this year’s competition. Denmark’s contestant, Anja Nissen, was raised on her parent’s farm west of Sydney and won ‘The Voice’ in 2014.

Check @isaiahofficial’s face when he made it through to the #Eurovision grand final! #SBSEurovision pic.twitter长沙桑拿按摩论坛,/gkqvRzRLKB

— SBS Australia (@SBS) May 9, 2017

She will compete in the second semi-final night to be held Friday morning Australian-time.

SBS will broadcast semi-final two on Friday at 5am and the grand final on Sunday at 5am. The shows will be available on SBS On Demand shortly after they finish airing.

The finals and semi-finals will be rebroadcast this weekend, on Friday, Saturday and Sunday at 7.30 pm.

Ukraine won the right to hold the contest with an emotionally and politically charged entry, 1944, performed by Jamala in last year’s contest.

Big “Aussie! Aussie! Aussie! Oi! Oi! Oi!” in the #Kyiv arena. Here we go. Enjoy the show! @SBSEurovision #ESC2017 pic.twitter长沙桑拿按摩论坛,/XKxbLp5RyP

— Brett Mason (@BrettMasonNews) May 9, 2017

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UN agency seeks guidance on laptop ban

A United Nations agency has launched an effort to craft global guidance for the use of laptops and other portable electronics in passenger aircraft cabins after selective bans by the United States and Britain upset airline passengers as well as Middle Eastern carriers.

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The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) met on Tuesday to debate the issue after the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and other countries complained their airlines had been unduly penalised by the decision to relegate laptops to the cargo hold on some flights due to security concerns, three sources familiar with the matter said.

But while ICAO aims to come up with global recommendations to counter the risk from hidden explosives in laptops, the agency cannot override or prevent national measures such as the US and UK bans, said one of the aviation industry sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the talks are private.

In March, the US announced laptop restrictions on flights originating from 10 airports in countries including the UAE, Qatar and Turkey. Britain quickly followed suit with restrictions on a slightly different set of routes.

An ICAO working paper seen by Reuters threw its weight behind concerns that laptops are a greater security risk in the passenger cabin than in the hold, because of the threat that hidden explosives could be detonated manually.

“The threat to aircraft from concealed improvised explosive devices has been the greatest security risk to commercial aircraft for some years,” it warned.

But ICAO has also asked its experts to weigh this against the safety risk of storing a larger number of flammable batteries unattended in a commercial aircraft’s baggage compartment.

European regulators have warned placing what could be hundreds of devices in the hold on long-haul flights could compromise safety by increasing the risk of fire from poorly deactivated lithium-ion batteries.

Trump fires FBI Director James Comey

US President Donald Trump on Tuesday made the shock decision to fire his FBI director James Comey, the man who leads the agency charged with investigating his campaign’s ties with Russia.

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The New York Times reported that the FBI Director learned of the news while speaking to employees in Los Angeles.

“As he spoke, TV screens began flashing the news,” the paper reported.

The FBI has been investigating Russia’s alleged intervention in the 2016 election which delivered Trump the White House – an investigation which Mr Comey confirmed included looking into potential links with Trump’s campaign team.

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer told reporters the president made the decision in response to recommendations from his Attorney General and the deputy Attorney General.

A search for a new FBI director was to begin “immediately,” the White House said in a statement.

Statement from @WhiteHouse @PressSec on @FBI Director pic.twitter长沙桑拿按摩论坛,/EdBRntMim5

— Sean Spicer (@PressSec) May 9, 2017

James Comey placed himself in the media spotlight last year when, days before the 2016 election, he advised congress of fresh investigations into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server during her time as Secretary of State.

Earlier investigations, concluded in July, had not resulted in charges.

Nothing came of the new investigation, but Clinton later said it was a significant factor in her surprise loss last November.

Mr Comey last week testified before a Senate committee, telling members the thought that he had influenced the election made him feel “nauseous”.

WATCH: Comey ‘nauseous’ at thought he swayed US election

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In a memo, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein said he could not defend Comey’s handling of the case, stating it was wrong to announce the FBI’s conclusions in July.

Mr Rosenstein also said it was wrong of Comey to release “derogatory information” about Clinton in the July announcement, in which Comey said Clinton and her colleagues were “extremely careless”.

In a letter following reciept of the memo, Trump told Comey: “You are hereby terminated and removed from office, effective immediately”.

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“While I greatly appreciate you informing me, on three separate occasions, that I am not under investigation, I nevertheless concur with the judgment of the Department of Justice that you are not able to effectively lead the Bureau,” Trump’s letter read.

In testimony to a congressional committee in March, Mr Comey confirmed the FBI was investigating Russia’s alleged interference in the 2016 elections, including potential ties to the Trump campaign.

The explosive testimony in the House Intelligence Committee – the first public hearing into both controversies – came as Trump sought to steer the news focus by calling the Russia issue, which has been a cloud over his November victory, “fake news”.

In his letter, President Trump wrote: “It is essential that we find new leadership for the FBI that restores public trust and confidence in its vital law enforcement mission.”

Here are the recommendations to remove Comey from the AG and Deputy AG—they cite his handling of the Clinton investigation. pic.twitter长沙桑拿按摩论坛,/QzTIfN6nOx

— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) May 9, 2017

Senator Richard Burr, chair of the Senate intelligence committee investigating potential Russian ties, said he was  “troubled by the timing and reasoning” of the president’s decision to fire Mr Comey.

The decision “further confuses and already difficult investigation” he said.

“Director Comey has been more forthcoming with information than any FBI Director I can recall in my tenure on the congressional intelligence committees. His dismissal, I believe, is a loss for the Bureau and the nation.” 

FBI directors are appointed for a single 10-year term. The 56-year-old Comey, who is popular among rank-and-file agents, was appointed four years ago.

His dismissal will raise questions about Trump’s motives.

It will also prompt parallels with Richard Nixon’s decision to fire his FBI director, an event that plunged his presidency deeper into crisis.

Calls for a special prosecutor

The US Senate’s top Democrat said he told President Donald Trump it was a “big mistake” to fire FBI chief James Comey amid a probe into Russia’s alleged interference in last year’s election.

“Earlier this afternoon, President Trump called me and informed me he was firing Director Comey. I told the president, ‘Mr President, with all due respect, you are making a big mistake,'” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer told reporters.

Schumer joined several of his Democratic colleagues in calling for an independent prosecutor or commission to investigate claims of Russian interference, as well as possible collusion between Trump’s campaign team and Russian officials.

First Pres Trump fired Sally Yates, then Preet Bharara. Now #Comey. Doesn’t seem like an accident. We must have a special prosecutor.

— Chuck Schumer (@SenSchumer) May 9, 2017

Democrats – already angry that Congressional inquiries have been hamstrung by Republicans’ willingness to defend Trump – worried that the FBI’s investigation may also be in jeopardy.

“Congressional Republicans cannot possibly disagree now: the only fix to this mess is an independent commission with subpoena power,” said Brian Fallon, a former Justice Department and Hillary Clinton spokesman.

During testimony to Congress in March, Mr Comey flatly rejected an explosive claim from Trump that he was wiretapped by his predecessor Barack Obama.

Republicans pointed to Comey’s recent misstatement to Congress about a Clinton aide forwarding emails as a possible reason for his dismissal.

“Given the recent controversies surrounding the director, I believe a fresh start will serve the FBI and the nation well,” said Senator Lindsey Graham.

“I encourage the president to select the most qualified professional available who will serve our nation’s interests.” 

US Politics:

Comey’s axing sets off US political storm

US President Donald Trump has ignited a political firestorm by firing FBI Director James Comey, who had been leading an investigation into the Trump 2016 presidential campaign’s possible collusion with Russia to influence the election outcome.

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The Republican president said he fired Comey, the top US law enforcement official, on Tuesday over his handling of an election-year email scandal involving then-Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.

The move stunned Washington and raised concerns among Democrats and others that the White House was trying to blunt the FBI probe involving Russia.

Some Democrats compared Trump’s move to the “Saturday Night Massacre” of 1973, in which President Richard Nixon fired an independent special prosecutor investigating the Watergate scandal.

White House officials denied allegations that there was any political motive in the move by Trump, who took office on January 20.

But Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said he spoke to Trump and told him he was “making a very big mistake” in firing Comey, adding the president did not “really answer” in response.

An independent investigation into Moscow’s role in the election “is now the only way to go to restore the American people’s faith,” Schumer said.

Senator Richard Burr, the Republican chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, which is overseeing its own investigation into Russian interference during the election, said in a statement he was troubled by the timing of Comey’s termination.

“His dismissal, I believe, is a loss for the Bureau and the nation,” Burr said.

US intelligence agencies concluded in a January report that Russian President Vladimir Putin had ordered an effort to disrupt the 2016 election, with the aim of helping Trump.

Russia has repeatedly denied any meddling in the election and the Trump administration denies allegations of collusion with Russia.

Trump, in a letter to Comey released by the White House, said: “It is essential that we find new leadership for the FBI that restores public trust and confidence in its vital law enforcement mission.”

The president told Comey in the letter that he accepted the recommendation of Attorney General Jeff Sessions that he could no longer provide effective leadership. Comey’s term was to run through September 2023. He was appointed director by Democratic President Barack Obama in 2013.

Sessions advised Trump’s campaign before being picked by the president to lead the Justice Department. Sessions had recused himself from involvement in the Russia investigation, after he misstated his own 2016 contacts with Russia’s ambassador to Washington.

Pushing back against critics of the move, White House officials said Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, a career prosecutor who took office on April 25, assessed the situation at the FBI and concluded that Comey had lost his confidence.

Rosenstein sent his recommendation to Sessions, who concurred and they forwarded their recommendation to Trump, who accepted it on Tuesday, they said.

The White House released a memo in which Rosenstein wrote: “I cannot defend the Director’s handling of the conclusion of the investigation of Secretary Clinton’s emails, and I do not understand his refusal to accept the nearly universal judgment that he was mistaken.”

A White House official said Trump aide Keith Schiller hand-delivered the letter firing Comey to the FBI.

Trump, in his letter to Comey, said: “While I greatly appreciate you informing me, on three separate occasions, that I am not under investigation, I nevertheless concur with the judgment of the Department of Justice that you are not able to effectively lead the bureau.”

Philippines presidential candidate slammed for jokes about rape, murder of Australian missionary

A leading candidate to become president of the Philippines is under fire for apparently joking about the rape of a murdered Australian missionary.

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Rodrigo Duterte, who has been mayor of the southern city of Davao since 1988, made the remarks at a campaign rally, a video of which was posted on YouTube and widely shared on social networking sites.

In the video, he recalled his reaction to a riot by inmates at the Davao jail in 1989, when five missionaries were murdered by the detainees before troops stormed the facility.

One of the missionaries assaulted by the prisoners was 36-year-old Australian Jacqueline Hamil, who Duterte recalled as being beautiful.

“There was this Australian lay minister … I saw her face and I thought: Son of a bitch. What a pity … they raped her, they all lined up. I was mad she was raped but she was so beautiful. I thought, the mayor should have been first,” he told the crowd.

Senator Grace Poe, a close contender in the presidential elections set for May 9, said Duterte’s comments were “distasteful and unacceptable, and reflects his disrespect for women.”

“No one, whoever she is and whatever her looks may be, deserves to be raped and abused,” she added.

“Rape is a crime and no laughing matter. We should all be outraged at abuses against women.”

Many online commentators condemned the comments, while some expressed disappointment after throwing their support behind the 71-year-old mayor, who vowed to rid the country of crime within six months if elected.

Duterte said his remarks were not a joke, but a narrative of his “utter anger” during the time of the crime.

“Do not make me apologise for something which I did not do. It’s a matter of honour … I said it in the heat of anger,” he told local media.

“I am even willing to lose the presidency.”

Duterte surged in the last public opinion survey on who Filipinos will vote for as president in the elections, overtaking Poe who was the early frontrunner in the contest.

Now, power’s just a wee way away

Researchers have developed a miniature fuel cell costing as little as STG1 ($A1.

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86) that can generate electricity from urine.

The device, a microbial fuel cell, could be used to create a renewable and carbon-neutral way of generating power to remote areas at very little cost.

Each of the fuel cells, developed by researchers at the University of Bath, Queen Mary University of London and the Bristol Bioenergy Centre, costs STG1 to STG2.

Microbial fuel cells use natural biological processes of “electric” bacteria to turn organic matter, such as urine, into electricity.

Urine passes through the microbial fuel cell for this reaction to happen, with the bacteria then generating electricity.

This can be stored or used to directly power electrical devices.

Dr Mirella Di Lorenzo, lecturer at the University of Bath’s department of chemical engineering, said: “If we can harness the potential power of this human waste, we could revolutionise how electricity is generated.

“Microbial fuel cells can play an important role in addressing the triple challenge of finding solutions that support secure, affordable and environmentally sensitive energy, known as the ‘energy trilemma’.

“There is no single solution to this ‘energy trilemma’ apart from taking full advantage of available indigenous resources, which include urine.”

The researchers worked on the cell’s design to maximise the power that could be generated.

By increasing the cell’s electrodes from 4mm to 8mm, the power output was increased tenfold.

The power was proportionally increased when the researchers stacked multiple units together.

Currently, a single microbial fuel cell can generate two watts per cubic metre, enough to power a device such as a mobile phone.

Research team members are now looking at ways of improving the power output of the microbial fuel cells and believe they will be able to increase the cell’s performance by optimising its design.

PhD student Jon Chouler, the lead author of the study, said: “Microbial fuel cells could be a great source of energy in developing countries, particularly in impoverished and rural areas.

Dr Tim Mays, head of the department of chemical engineering and co-director of the university’s Centre for Sustainable Chemical Technologies, added: “Renewable ‘pee-power’ is a brilliant idea and its use in developing countries will have huge positive impact on people’s lives in areas of energy poverty.

Details of the research are published in the journal Electrochimica Acta.

Cholesterol drug tackles prostate cancer

An experimental drug designed to lower cholesterol may turn out to be an effective weapon against prostate cancer, research has shown.

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Tumour cells need cholesterol to construct their cell membranes. By cutting their cholesterol production, the new molecule, known as RO 48-8071, causes the cells to fall apart and die.

It could also have the added benefit of preventing prostate cancer developing resistance to hormone therapies.

Professor Salman Hyder, from the University of Missouri in the US, said: “Cholesterol is a molecule found in animal cells that serves as a structural component of cell membranes. When tumour cells grow, they synthesise more cholesterol.

“Often, cancer patients are treated with toxic chemotherapies; however, in our study, we focused on reducing the production of cholesterol in cancer cells, which could kill cancer cells and reduce the need for toxic chemotherapy.”

The compound was originally developed by the drug company Roche for the treatment of high cholesterol.

Prof Hyder’s team found that human prostate cancer cells exposed to the drug in the laboratory died.

When the drug was injected into mice with human prostate cancer, tumour growth was curbed.

Importantly, the drug appeared to be effective against prostate cancer cells that had become resistant to hormone treatments.

Prostate cancer is initially tackled by preventing its growth being fuelled by the male hormone testosterone. But over time, the cancer stops responding to this treatment.

One way tumours ensure their survival is by manufacturing their own testosterone through a process that relies on cholesterol.

“Cholesterol … can contribute to the development of anti-hormone resistance because cholesterol is converted into hormones in tumour cells,” said Prof Hyder. “Therefore, these cholesterol-forming pathways are attractive therapeutic targets for the treatment of prostate cancer.”

Desperate search for survivors in Japan as manufacturers count cost

A 7.

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3 magnitude tremor struck early on Saturday, killing at least 32 people, injuring about a thousand and causing widespread damage to houses, roads and bridges, with at least one mountain highway severed in two, concrete tumbling into the valley below.

In the village of Minamiaso, 11 people were “out of contact”, said public broadcaster NHK. Rescuers pulled 10 students out of a collapsed university apartment in the same settlement on Saturday.

“In Minamiaso, where the damage is concentrated, there may still be people trapped under collapsed buildings, so we are focusing our attention and rescue and search efforts in this area,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told reporters.

It was the second major quake to hit Kumamoto province on the island of Kyushu in just over 24 hours. The first, late on Thursday, killed nine people. Of more than 470 quakes hitting Kyushu since Thursday, 78 have been at least a four on Japan’s intensity scale, strong enough to shake buildings.

Quakes are common in Japan, part of the seismically active “Ring of Fire” which sweeps from the South Pacific islands, up through Indonesia, Japan, across to Alaska and down the west coast of the United States and Central and South America.

At the other end of the ring this weekend, Ecuador’s biggest earthquake in decades killed at least 235 people, caused devastation in coastal towns and left an unknown number trapped in ruins. A 6.1 magnitude quake also struck southeast of the Pacific island nation of Tonga, with no immediate reports of damage.

Three nuclear plants in the southern Japanese region were unaffected by the second quake, but the Nuclear Regulation Authority said it will hold an extraordinary meeting on Monday to discuss the disaster.

A massive 9 magnitude quake and tsunami in northern Japan in March 2011 caused the worst nuclear crisis since Chernobyl in 1986, shutting down the nuclear industry for safety checks and sending radiation spewing across the countryside. The first reactor to restart was Kyushu Electric’s Sendai No. 1, which is at one of the plants in the region hit on Saturday.

Nearly 20,000 people were killed in the 2011 tsunami.

The Kumamoto region is an important manufacturing hub.

Toyota Motor Corp said it would suspend production at plants across Japan after the quakes disrupted its supply chain.

Electronics giant Sony Corp said its Kumamoto image sensors plant would remain suspended. One of the company’s major customers for the sensors is Apple. Meanwhile, Honda Motor Co. said production at its motorcycle plant in southern Japan would remain suspended through Friday.

Suga said the government may seek a supplementary budget to cover the cost of the quakes.

“We will do all that we can,” Kyodo News quoted Suga as telling a press briefing.

Digging with bare hands

All commercial flights to the damaged Kumamoto airport were canceled and Japan’s bullet train to the region suspended. Expressways are closed in wide areas because of landslides and cracks in road surfaces, hindering efforts to get supplies of water and food to survivors.

Overnight, rescuers digging with their bare hands dragged some elderly survivors, still in their pyjamas, out of the rubble and onto makeshift stretchers made of tatami mats.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said he would boost the number of troops helping to 25,000 and had accepted a U.S offer of help with air transportation.

Heavy rains fueled worries of more landslides and with hundreds of aftershocks and fears of more quakes, thousands spent the night in evacuation centers.

“It’s full in there. There’s not a inch to sleep or even walk about in there. It’s impossible in there,” a resident of Mashiki town said outside an evacuation center.

Firefighters handed out tarpaulins to residents so they could cover damaged roofs, but many homes were simply deserted.

Around 62,700 households were without electricity, water supplies had been disrupted to more than 300,000 homes and some areas had lost their gas supply, said NHK.

More than 110,000 people have been evacuated from the Kumamoto area, said Kyodo.

Troops set up tents for evacuees and water trucks were being sent to the area while television footage showed people stranded after the fall of a bridge being rescued by helicopters.

Police said 32 people had been confirmed dead in Saturday’s quake. The government said about 190 of the injured were in a serious condition.

The epicenter of Saturday’s quake was near the city of Kumamoto and measured at a shallow depth of 10 km (six miles), the United States Geological Survey (USGS) said. The shallower a quake, the more likely it is to cause damage.

The city’s 400-year-old Kumamoto Castle was badly damaged, with its walls breached after having withstood bombardment and fire in its four centuries of existence.

The USGS, a science organization that provides information on ecosystems and the environment, estimated there was a 72 percent likelihood of economic damage exceeding $10 billion, adding that it was too early to be specific. Major insurers are yet to release estimates.

 

NBL Bullets sign Jervis, Petrie

The Brisbane Bullets have secured the services of experienced NBL campaigners and former Boomers Tom Jervis and Anthony Petrie for their comeback season.

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Towering centre Jervis, a two-time NBL championship winner with the Perth Wildcats who has recorded more blocked shots (108) than any other player in the last three seasons, has signed a three-year deal.

“I have observed Tom’s outstanding growth and development since coming into the NBL as a mature age rookie with great interest. He is a significant signing for us,” said Bullets coach Andrej Lemanis, who will also guide the Boomers at this year’s Rio Olympics.

“Tom has played a key role in Perth’s success in recent seasons and he brings a quality skill set to the Bullets.

“He will fit exceptionally well into both the offence and defensive structures we’ll run.”

Forward Petrie, 33, is a veteran of the NBL, having had stints with the West Sydney Razorbacks, Gold Coast Blaze and most recently the Adelaide 36ers.

The 203cm forward has played a staggering 151 NBL cames in a row – the second-longest consecutive games streak in the competition.

“Anthony is a savvy player that provides a great all-round package. Everyone who plays against him knows hell always aim up physically,” Lemanis said of Petrie, who has signed a two-year contract.

Jervis and Petrie join inaugural Bullets signings Adam Gibson and Daniel Kickert on Brisbane’s playing roster as the team’s starting five begins to take shape ahead of their return to the NBL following a nine-year absence.

It also reunites Petrie and Gibson, who have played on the same NBL team for the past seven seasons.