Pregnancy weight linked to epilepsy: study

Being overweight during the first trimester of pregnancy has been linked to an increased risk of childhood epilepsy.

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A Swedish study of almost 1.5 million babies found the risk of epilepsy almost doubled from normal-weight women to very severely obese women.

Epilepsy disrupts the normal electrochemical activity of the brain resulting seizures.

The cause of this debilitating and often hard-to-treat condition is poorly understood.

With obesity on the rise, there is growing concern about the long-term neurological effects of children exposed to maternal obesity in pregnancy.

“Given that overweight and obesity are potentially modifiable risk factors, prevention of obesity in women of reproductive age may be an important public health strategy to reduce the incidence of epilepsy,” the authors wrote.

Researchers at the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm studied the nearly 1.5 million live-births in Sweden between 1997 and 2011. Of those, there were 7592 babies, 0.5 per cent, diagnosed with epilepsy.

The risk of epilepsy increased by 11 per cent among those born to overweight mothers – with a body mass index of 25-29 – compared with children of normal-weight mothers.

Grade I obesity (BMI 30 to less than 35) was associated with a 20 per cent increased risk, grade II obesity (BMI 35 to less than 40) was associated with a 30 per cent increased risk.

Babies born to severely obese mums, or grade III obesity, was associated with an 82 per cent increased risk of epilepsy.

The study has been published in journal BMJ Neurology.

One possible reason for this increased risk, according to the authors, is that being overweight and obesity may increase the risk of brain injury, leading to a range of neurodevelopmental disorders.

Another possible reason is that maternal obesity might affect neuro-development through obesity-induced inflammation.

However the authors note the study had limitations including possible misclassification and under-reporting, and that the cause of epilepsy may be both genetic and environmental.

Stolen identity sham doctor fined $30,000

A bogus doctor who worked in NSW for more than a decade using a stolen identity has been fined the maximum penalty of $30,000 and ordered to pay $22,000 in legal costs.

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But Shyam Acharya was not in Sydney’s Downing Centre Local Court, or even in Australia, to hear he had been convicted and penalised by magistrate Jennifer Atkinson on Monday.

The 41-year-old left the country three days after being served with a court attendance notice in January.

In his absence, the magistrate found him guilty of falsely claiming he was authorised to work in the health system between July 21 and September 24, 2016, when he was employed at private medical research company Novotech.

Her sentencing related to just this charge, but she noted the background to the case which involved Acharya stealing various documents, including his university degree, from Dr Sarang Chitale.

Acharya had been staying with Dr Chitale and his grandmother in the Indian city of Pune from 1999 to 2000.

In 2003, he used the stolen documents and forged documents to gain registration with the Medical Board of NSW, and later used them to obtain Australian citizenship in Dr Chitale’s name.

Acharya posed as Dr Chitale to work in Manly, Hornsby, Gosford, and Wyong hospitals, she said.

While he was working as a medical director at Novotech, which conducts drug trials, it was discovered he had the same UK medical registration number as the real Dr Chitale.

“In my view, this matter is objectively at the most serious level of offending,” Ms Atkinson said, deciding to impose the maximum penalty.

“It is important in medical research that people who are properly qualified are carrying out the work ….. which can have a direct impact on members of the public,” she said.

Aggravating features included the offence being committed without regard to public safety, in circumstance representing an abuse of trust, and for financial gain.

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In landmark meeting, Trump hails Sisi’s ‘fantastic job’ in Egypt

US President Donald Trump set human rights scandals aside to welcome Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to the White House Monday, the first such visit from an Egyptian president in almost a decade.

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Greeting Sisi warmly in the Oval Office, Trump heaped praise on the former general’s leadership and unleashed a charm offensive designed to mend ties strained by crackdowns, revolution and revolt.

“You have a great friend and ally in the United States and in me,” Trump told Sisi, sweeping aside his predecessor Barack Obama’s concerns about the Sisi government’s purge of political opponents and rights activists.

“I just want to let everybody know that we are very much behind President al-Sisi — he has done a fantastic job in a very difficult situation,” Trump said.

The meeting symbolizes the Egyptian leader coming in from the cold, after years of being kept at arm’s length by Washington.

The last time an Egyptian president was at the White House was in 2010, when Hosni Mubarak attended Middle East peace talks alongside Israeli, Palestinian and Jordanian leaders.

Within months, Mubarak was ousted by a popular uprising, as the Arab Spring swept across the region.

The revolt gained tacit support from Obama, who warned the military against quashing protests by force.

In the months and years that followed, the Egypt-US relationship was strained further as a broadly Islamist and then a military government – led by Sisi – took charge.

US President Donald J. Trump (L) and President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi of Egypt leave the Oval Office of White House.ISP POOL

The Obama administration froze military aid to Egypt – worth roughly a billion dollars a year – after then-defense minister Sisi led the 2013 ouster of president Mohamed Morsi, and a bloody crackdown on his supporters.

Egypt’s key role as the most populous Arab nation meant that aid was fully reinstated in 2015, but diplomatic relations remained difficult.

The catalyst for Trump and Sisi’s friendship has been a common hardline stance against jihadist groups, which Sisi described as “a satanic ideology” during brief remarks at the White House.

The former New York property tycoon and the former Egyptian army general, who do not plan to hold a joint press conference, previously met in September when Trump’s campaign was still in full swing.

Trump at the time called Sisi a “fantastic guy.”

Sisi was reportedly the first to call Trump to offer his congratulations on his November election win.

WATCH: If China doesn’t deal with North Korea we will, says Trump

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‘Discreet’ talks on rights?

Monday’s meeting offered some insight into how the Trump White House plans to address the issue of human rights.

In one of several public appearances, Trump said “we have many things in common, We have a few things that we don’t agree on.”

“I think that this is going to be a very productive day.” he said.

Asked directly whether human rights were discussed, Trump declined to answer.

Ahead of the meeting, a senior administration official said the topic would be handled in a “private, more discreet way.”

“We believe it’s the most effective way to advance those issues to a favorable outcome.”

That stance was slammed by rights groups, who say tens of thousands of opponents have been arrested or facing criminal charges.

“Inviting al-Sisi for an official visit to Washington as tens of thousands of Egyptians rot in jail and when torture is again the order of the day is a strange way to build a stable strategic relationship,” said Sarah Margon, Washington director of Human Rights Watch.

The White House, which recently unveiled a budget that proposes drastic cuts in international aid, has pledged to maintain a “strong and sufficient” level of support for Egypt, without committing to any specific figure.

The new Republican administration is also considering whether to designate Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood group as a terror organization.

Trump “is interested in hearing President al-Sisi’s views on the Muslim Brotherhood issue,” the senior administration official said.

“We, along with a number of countries, have some concerns about various activities that the Muslim Brotherhood has conducted in the region. But that’s going to be a discussion that will unfold between us and Egypt.”

Making peace

The thorny issue of the Palestinian-Israeli peace process was also expected to be on the agenda.

Egypt and Jordan are the only two Arab states to have signed peace treaties with Israel and would likely be considered key players in any renewed peace effort.

Jordan’s King Abdullah will visit the White House on Wednesday.

Trump has sent mixed signals over how he will address the peace process, deadlocked since April 2014.

He broke with decades of US policy during a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in February when he declared that he was not bound to a two-state solution, meaning an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel.

Trump said he’d be open to a single state if it meant peace. But he also called on Israel to “hold back on settlements for a little bit.”

Vic RSPCA slammed in inquiry submissions

Victoria’s RSPCA needs to stop its animal activism and political campaigning, submissions to a parliamentary inquiry into the organisation say.

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A Victorian parliamentary inquiry will look into the RSPCA’s use of its powers and funding provided by the government.

Submissions by farming and greyhound groups say it needs to stop its activism and concentrate on its role as a regulator.

“The RSPCA has effectively lost its way and has morphed into another animal rights group,” National Greyhound Racing United said in it’s submission.

“Animals don’t need rights, they need good care.”

The NGRU took aim at the RSPCA for speaking out about the greyhound industry, horse racing and battery hens, saying they were attacking “legal animal related activities and industries”.

The group says the RSCPA’s relationship with activist group Animals Australia was a “number one concern” from its members.

This view was backed up by the Victorian Farmers Federation who said the organisation shouldn’t be campaigning for an end to live beef exports or duck hunting, which are “perfectly legal activities”.

It said it had has concerns about an “activist group undertaking official government business with powers comparable to those of the police”.

“Campaigning against the legal actions of those that the same body is responsible for regulating would appear to be a conflict of interest,” The VFF said in its submission.

It also said the RSPCA should not “encroach on agriculture” and focus on “domestic animals”, which are its area of expertise.

The RSPCA in its submission said it wants further protections against getting sued for doing its job, saying there are “no protections from being held civilly liable”.

A report on the inquiry is due on August 22.

Great Barrier Reef assessed in wake of Cyclone Debbie

Cyclones generate intense winds and destructive ocean swells that can damage delicate corals, but cyclonic weather conditions also cool down ocean temperatures which could bring relief to the reef in wake of record ocean temperatures last year.

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Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority spokesperson, Mark Read, told SBS News several factors lead to Cyclone Debbie being particularly destructive for the reef.

“It was an incredibly big system … unusually Debbie spent quite a long time crossing the Great Barrier Reef as well,” he said.

“When we put all those things together, the prediction is that the damage is likely to be widespread and potentially quite severe.”

Professor of Geoscience at James Cook University, Jonathan Nott, is a specialist in extreme weather events and said while fewer cyclones are predicted in Queensland, they are expected to be higher in magnitude.

Watch: Queenslanders begin Cyclone Debbie Clean Up

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“The global climate models are forecasting that we will see a decrease in the total number of cyclones that we experience in the Coral Sea regions, so off the east coast of Queensland,” Professor Nott told SBS News.

“Some studies have been done to suggest that magnitudes are increasing in tropical cyclones throughout the south-west Pacific.”

The Great Barrier Reef is arguably one of Australia’s most valuable natural assets, and damage to the reef is likely to impact tourism and the Queensland economy.

Chief Executive of Queensland Tourism Industry Council, Daniel Gschwind, said the council is worried about the reef’s health.

“The reality that the reef is under threat is something that we are very concerned about and the tourism industry is working very hard to do its bit to make the reef resilient, to help the reef withstand the threats whether they are natural or otherwise.”

Reef damage from cyclones is generally described as ‘patchy’ because some parts are significantly impacted by the weather, while other parts remain virtually untouched.

Coral bleaching on the other hand can cause widespread destruction over vast swathes of reef.

Last year, some of the warmest ocean temperatures on record in Australia contributed to several mass bleaching events across the reef.

However, Mr Read said there is a positive side to the cyclone because these types of storms typically lower ocean temperatures.

“Tropical cyclones can cool down the Great Barrier Reef or the waters of the Great Barrier Reef.

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“Number one, by the cloud-cover; number two, by the rainfall associated with a cyclone; and number three, because of the winds that can actually ruffle the sea surface which improves or reduces the ability of the water to heat up,” he said.

“But also you can have massive deep water movements caused by the cyclones as well. All of those things can contribute to cooling the water by a couple of degrees.”

Mr Read also said people must be reminded that the reef has been around for a long time and cyclones are nothing new.

“Absolutely the reef can bounce back from a tropical cyclone,” he said.

“We just always need to bear in mind that the reef has been there as we know it today for in the vicinity of 6,000 to 8,000 years and tropical cyclones are nothing new.

“This is a natural feature that the reef has come to deal with.”

Previous studies of reef repair after cyclones show they usually recover within three to five years.

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Morrison presses ALP on retaining small business tax cuts

Federal budget season is in full swing with just over a month to go and the bookies are already backing an improved bottom line when Scott Morrison stands up to presents the nation’s finances on May 9.

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The treasurer has so far given just a broad outline of what he wants to achieve in his second budget – economic growth, disciplined spending and a package to tackle housing affordability.

He has also confirmed the remainder of his 10-year business tax plan will stay on the books after the passing by parliament last week of a reduction for businesses with a turnover of up to $50 million.

“It is our plan to continue to see that glide path on the tax rate continue out for all the other businesses,” Mr Morrison told reporters in Sydney on Monday.

The ACTU says it will campaign against the tax cuts, and Mr Morrison is demanding to know whether Labor would overturn the reduction legislated so far.

If Labor wants to increase taxes on business “they should say so”, he says.

He also points out Labor’s budget deficit would be even larger taking into account the $4.3 billion of tax cuts.

Labor’s costings before last year’s election had a short-term deficit some $16 billion bigger than the government’s but based on Mr Morrison’s tax plan not being passed by the parliament.

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“That now means the deficit they would prefer to see is $20 billion more than what it would be under us,” the treasurer said.

Shadow treasurer Chris Bowen hit back saying Mr Morrison was obsessed with the Labor party.

“He seems to think that he is still the (NSW) state director of the Liberal party engaging in political games when he is not focused on the job at hand,” Mr Bowen told reporters in Sydney.

The next election is at least 18 months away and Labor will make its tax plan clear before then, he said.

Mr Bowen said the treasurer has also been “all at sea” being unable or unwilling to explain the economic benefit of these tax cuts as they stand.

The economy was expected to gain a one per cent lift from the $50 billion tax plan being implemented in full, which suggests it will now be much smaller.

Finance Minister Mathias Cormann also declined to provide a breakdown, saying the parliament has passed the first instalment of the 10-year plan.

“We remain 100 per cent on track to deliver the full plan … the full benefits for jobs and growth, the full benefit of real wages over time,” he told Sky News.

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Qld ‘mud army’ mobilises following floods

A ‘mud army’ of volunteers will gather in southeast Queensland on Tuesday to help clean up homes damaged by floodwaters caused by ex-Cyclone Debbie.

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Homes located in Beenleigh and Logan, south of Brisbane, will be the first destination for the volunteers, who have resurfaced after their efforts during the 2011 floods.

It comes as residents in the central Queensland town of Rockhampton prepare for the Fitzroy River to peak at 9m on Wednesday, causing widespread flooding.

The Bureau of Meteorology originally predicted it would rise to 9.4m, which would have caused the region’s worst floods in more than 63 years.

More than 5400 properties and 3000 homes could have been affected.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said on Monday the devastation caused by Cyclone Debbie, as it made its way across north Queensland and down the east coast, was expected to cost “billions”.

But she moved to reassure affected residents they were not alone.

“We are here, we’re going to be with you every step of the way and we’re going to make sure whatever support is offered we’re going to get to you as quickly as possible,” she said.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said he was committed to replacing damaged infrastructure with more flood-proof buildings during a visit to the Logan suburb of Eagleby.

“These are record flood events so we’re going to have to be better prepared for the next one because clearly this will be repeated,” he said.

“We really now have the challenge of making sure our building standards, our planning standards, take into account that we are the land of droughts and flooding rains and fires as well.”

Chance encounter with ‘mystery’ figure prompts investigation into fabled Aceh tribe

Footage taken by one of the riders in a Banda Aceh motor trail community appears to have captured what experts believe may be a member of a tribe that – until now – existed only in Aceh folklore.

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The group, who were riding along the path in a local forest in Indonesia’s westernmost provice, can be seen coming to a stop after the leader of the pack took a fall after breaking, ostensibly to avoid running into a small, topless figure that appeared on the side of the track.

The riders moved to follow the figure down the path before it slipped away into the tall grass, not to be seen again.

The video of the curious encounter has had more than 9.5 million views on YouTube, and spurred a number of hypotheses about what it could have been that the riders saw.

Many viewers suggested that the pint-sized figure was in fact a member of the Mante tribe, a tribe that was widely considered to be a myth, shared among Aceh residents that formed part of Sumatra’s history.

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The tribe was said to have lived in the Aceh hinterland, where the footage is believed to have been taken, although the owner of the footage refused to say where exactly it had been filmed.

However anthropologist Fikarwin Zuska, of the University of North Sumatra, told The Jakarta Post there was no scientific evidence to prove the existence of the tribe.

“The tribe has only been found in Aceh or Gayo folklore,” he told the Post.

Indonesian news agency Tempo.co reported that Aceh Governor Zaini Abdullah would pursue the matter further.

“A team has been formed to launch an investigation because it relates to Aceh’s rich history,” Mr Zaini is reported to have said.

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US will take on North Korea: Trump

The United States is prepared to act unilaterally to tackle the North Korean nuclear threat if China fails to help, President Donald Trump warned in an interview with the Financial Times.

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Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping are to meet for the first time in Florida on April 6-7, when the two are expected to discuss North Korea, tensions in the South China Sea and disagreements over trade.

Trump said he would discuss the growing threat of Pyongyang’s nuclear programme with Xi.

“China has great influence over North Korea. And China will either decide to help us with North Korea, or they won’t,” Trump said.

“If they do, that will be very good for China, and if they don’t, it won’t be good for anyone.”

The US would tackle North Korea even without China’s help, the president said.

“Well if China is not going to solve North Korea, we will. That is all I am telling you,” Trump was quoted as saying.

North Korea conducted two nuclear tests last year alone and is believed to be developing a nuclear missile capable of reaching the US.

“There is a real possibility that North Korea will be able to hit the US with a nuclear-armed missile by the end of the first Trump term,” KT McFarland, deputy White House national security adviser, told the FT in a separate interview.

China has been calling for the resumption of six-nation talks on North Korea’s de-nuclearisation.

Watch: Congresswoman Maxine Waters criticises the US President’s stance on China and North Korea

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History of major attacks in Russia

A fatal explosion has rocked the St.

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Petersburg metro system, and if it turns out to be a terrorist attack, it would be the latest in a long line of attacks targeting Russia in recent years. Some of the deadliest include the following:

* October 2015: Militants from local affiliate of Islamic State down a Russian airliner en route to St. Petersburg over Egypt, killing all 224 people on board.

* October 2014: Suicide bomber wearing a police uniform blows himself up in Grozny, the capital of Chechnya, killing five policemen and wounding 12 others.

* December 2013: Back-to-back suicide bombings in the southern Russian city of Volgograd kill 34 and injure 100 others.

* January 2011: Suicide bomber blows himself up at Domodedovo Airport, Moscow’s busiest, killing 35 and injuring 180 people.

* March 2010: Two suicide bombers attack Moscow subway system, setting off their explosives about 30 minutes apart on two trains during rush hour, killing at least 40 and injuring more than 100.

* November 2009: A bomb explodes under the high-speed Nevsky Express train travelling between Moscow and St. Petersburg, causing a derailment that kills 28 and injures nearly 100.

* October 2005: Islamic militants launch a series of attacks on police in Nalchik, capital of the tense Kabardino-Balkariya republic near Chechnya. Chechen rebels claim credit for the attack, in which 139 people were killed, including 94 militants.

* September 2004: About 30 Chechen militants seize a school in the southern town of Beslan and take hundreds of hostages. The siege ended in a bloodbath two days later, with more than 330 people, about half of them children, killed.

* August 2004: A suicide bomber blows herself up outside a Moscow subway station, killing 10 people.

* August 2004: Two female suicide bombers bring down two Russian airliners that took off from Moscow’s Domodedovo airport, killing 90 people. Chechen rebels claim responsibility .

* February 2004: A suicide bomber strikes a subway car in Moscow during rush hour, killing 41 people and injuring more than 100.

* December 2003: A suicide bombing on commuter train in southern Russia kills 44 people, two days before Russian parliamentary elections.

* October, 2002: Chechen militants take 800 people hostage at a Moscow theatre. Two days later, Russian special forces storm building and 129 hostages and 41

* August 1999: Four apartment building bombings kill about 300 people in Moscow and two other Russian cities. The Kremlin names the attacks as a key reason for sending troops back into Chechnya the following month.