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Meningitis vaccine passes first trials

Wed., March 15, 2006

An inexpensive vaccine that could dramatically reduce meningitis deaths in Africa has passed its first clinical trials and will be tested in Mali and Gambia this year, scientists said Tuesday.

The vaccine, developed in India with funding from software entrepreneur Bill Gates and the World Health Organization, is aimed at ending meningitis epidemics that about once a decade sweep a belt of African countries from Senegal to Ethiopia, killing tens of thousands of children and young adults and disabling many more.

Meningitis, an infection of the lining of the brain and spinal cord, occurs throughout much of the world, killing about 10 percent of those who contract it and leaving 10 percent to 20 percent afflicted with serious neurological problems such as deafness, retardation and epilepsy.

Meningitis A, the most virulent bacterial strain, was a major killer in the United States around the time of World War II but has since vanished in the United States and Europe, for reasons not fully understood.

Amman, Jordan

Eight indicted in hotel bombings

Al-Qaida in Iraq leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and seven other people were indicted Tuesday in Jordan’s worst-ever terror bombing, last November’s near-simultaneous attacks at three Amman hotels.

Among those indicted by Jordan’s military prosecutor was Sajida Mubarak al-Rishawi, a woman who was meant to be one of four Iraqi suicide bombers but ran when her explosives belt failed to detonate.

Al-Rishawi is the only one of the eight indicted people who is in custody. She will stand trial before Jordan’s military State Security Court, the 13-page indictment said.

Al-Qaida in Iraq claimed responsibility for the Nov. 9 attacks, in which suicide attackers detonated their bombs in three luxury hotels, killing at least 60 people.

The eight people indicted Tuesday are charged with illegally possessing explosives and conspiring to commit terrorist attacks that led to the death of innocent civilians; crimes punishable by death.

Washington, D.C.

Afghanistan oil estimates rise

Two geological basins in northern Afghanistan hold 18 times the oil and triple the natural gas resources previously thought, scientists said Tuesday as part of a U.S. assessment aimed at enticing energy development in the war-torn country.

Nearly 1.6 billion barrels of oil, mostly in the Afghan-Tajik Basin, and about 15.7 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, mainly in the Amu Darya Basin, could be tapped, said the U.S. Geological Survey and Afghanistan’s Ministry of Mines and Industry.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai described the estimates as “very positive findings,” particularly since the country now imports most of its energy, including electricity.


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