In Africa, a Vaccine Against the 'Silent Killer'

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(NAIROBI, Kenya) -- When people in the United States hear the word pneumonia, they tend to think of the elderly and hospital infections. But this "silent killer" is actually the number one cause of death for kids in the developing world, killing more children than AIDS, malaria and measles combined.

A new vaccine could dramatically decrease the number of pneumonia deaths by immunizing against pneumococcal disease, the most common cause of pneumonia. Pneumococcal disease currently takes the lives of more than a million people every year -- including more than half a million children before their fifth birthday -- according to the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization.

Today, Kenya is the first African country to roll-out this pneumococcal vaccine, which is specially tailored to meet the needs of children in developing countries. Nicaragua, Guyana, Yemen and Sierra Leone will also be using the vaccine.

The speed at which it was released sets the pneumococcal vaccine apart from the crowd.

Normally, it takes 10 to 15 years for a vaccine to reach poor nations. The new pneumococcal vaccine, however, was used in Nicaragua in 2010, the same year as the United States. Considering that 90 percent of the two million child pneumonia deaths each year occur in the developing world, this is a major accomplishment with potential to save thousands of lives, according to experts.

The vaccine launch was engineered by GAVI, a public-private body that brings together United Nations agencies, the World Bank, philanthropists, the vaccine industry and research agencies to improve children's health through immunization.

Kenya's President Mwai Kibaki joined parents, health workers, ambassadors and donors in Nairobi to witness hundreds of children being immunized as part of the government of Kenya's formal introduction of the pneumococcal vaccine to its routine immunization program.

Plans to bring the vaccine to an additional 40 countries by 2015 are still uncertain. GAVI needs an additional $3.7 billion over the next five years to continue supporting immunization programs in the world's poorest countries.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Dissolves Cabinet

Photo Courtesy - Pierre Verdy/AFP/ Getty Images(JERUSALEM) -- In what some might call another "aftershock" from the earthquake of Egypt's political transition, the Palestinian Authority announced political changes Monday that call for the dissolution of its cabinet.

Prime Minister Salam Fayyad dissolved the Palestinian Authority's 16-member cabinet which many in the region saw as ineffective.  The step is widely being seen as a way to show better governance and appease the Palestinian public so they don't take to the streets in mass demonstrations.

Fayyad had been pushing for a cabinet change and events in Egypt helped him make it happen.  He has six weeks to form a new cabinet, and says he'll choose technocrats who can help build Palestinian institutions.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Fight Over Japanese Anthem, Flag Heads to Supreme Court

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(TOKYO) -- English teacher Hiroko Arai knew she was putting her career on the line in 2004 when she refused to sing the Japanese national anthem and salute the flag during a school ceremony.  But she felt she could not salute an anthem and a flag that glorifies an emperor and was an echo of Japan's militaristic past.

Her silent protest, which cost her a reprimand and a five percent cut in bonus pay, is now headed to Japan's Supreme Court.

"I've always taught my students they should stand up for what they believe, even if they're in the minority," Arai said.  "If I obeyed the order, I felt I would be turning my back on those students."

Now retired, Arai, 65, is leading the fight to overturn a rule she says invokes Japan's militaristic past.  She is one of roughly 400 teachers who have joined a class-action lawsuit, now headed to the Supreme Court, to fight the enforced patriotism.

The Japanese anthem "Kimigayo," or "His Majesty's Reign," is a short, five-line tribute to its emperor.  The first verse reads, "May your reign continue for a thousand, eight thousand generations."

The song was used as a rallying point for Japanese imperialism, and the Japanese military fought under the hinomaru, or rising-sun flag, during World War II.  And while the country has made efforts to distance itself from its militaristic past, the anthem's lyrics and flag were never changed, unlike Italy and Germany.  The flag and anthem were made legal national symbols in 1999.

"People are expected to stand for the anthem even outside of school," said Hiroshi Nishihara, a law professor at Waseda University.  "But the words harken back to emperor-worship.  Many people may stand for it, but they can't get themselves to sing the words."

Nishihara says public schools in southern Japan's Kyushu region were among the first to enforce salute of the national anthem and flag.  Other cities like Osaka and Hiroshima have followed, but none have been as aggressive about the enforcements as Tokyo.

The board there instructs schools to take down names of people who refuse to follow the rules.  Teachers are given a warning after the first protest.  Pay cuts, suspension and job termination may follow.

More than 400 people have been reprimanded since the rules went into affect seven years ago, according to the Tokyo Board of Education.  A spokesperson with the compliance department said the enforcement became necessary because some teachers refused to stand and others publicly protested after initial warnings.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Royal Wedding: Prince Harry to Be Prince William's Best Man

Photo Courtesy - Indigo/Getty Images(LONDON) -- Prince William has asked his younger brother, Prince Harry, to be his best man when he weds Kate Middleton on April 29 at Westminster Abbey.

St. James' Palace announced details of the bridal party Monday, which also revealed that Middleton asked her younger sister, Philippa, to be her maid of honor.

The four bridesmaids chosen include seven-year-old Louise Windsor, the daughter of The Earl and Countess of Wessex; eight-year-old Margarita Armstrong-Jones, the daughter of Viscount and Viscountess Linley; three-year-old Grace van Cutsem, the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Hugh van Cutsem; and three-year-old Eliza Lopes, the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Harry Lopes.

Ten-year-old William Lowther-Pinkerton, the son of Mr. and Mrs. Jamie Lowther-Pinkerton, and eight-year-old Tom Pettifer, the son of Mr. and Mrs. Charles Pettifer, were both chosen as page boys for the wedding.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Egyptian Ambassador: US Can Count on Egypt as an Ally

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- The Egyptian ambassador to the United States says the Egyptian military, led by the Minister of Defense Field Marshall Mohamad Tantawi, is in charge of his country and that the post-Mubarak Egypt will continue to be a strong U.S. ally.

"Can the U.S. count on the same kind of support it had before?" Christiane Amanpour, host of ABC’s This Week, asked Ambassador Sameh Shoukry.

"Certainly," Shoukry said. "These issues are driven by mutual interest, by Egyptian interest and the interest remains a close association to the United States."

Shoukry said that Egypt's emergency law would be lifted, as the military had communicated, "as soon as the current conditions of protest have been terminated."

The emergency law allows agents of the government to arrest anyone without charge.

The government, Shoukry said, would focus on restoring security, and restructuring the police force and economic welfare.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Protesters in Yemen, Algeria Rally Against Governments

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(SANA'A, Yemen) -- People across the world seem to have been struck with feelings of empowerment after seeing the protests in Egypt, and now similar events have begun to spread to other countries where hope of governmental change runs high.

In Algeria, citizens have defied a ban by the government on protesting and are calling for the removal of President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, who has been power since 1999. Poverty has long remained a problem in Algeria, where it has recently come to the forefront after an increase in food prices issued by the government.

Riot police have moved to secure the Algerian capital as a ban was placed on a pro-democracy rally the day after former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak was forced out of office. Rules in place since 1992 in Algiers, Algeria's capital city, ban protesting but did not stop over 2,000 demonstrators from showing up.

In Sana'a, the capital of Yemen, government supporters attacked those calling for the departure of President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who has been in power since 1978. As in Egypt, the protests were led by a younger demographic. The first of the anti-regime demonstrators were mostly student activists, who chanted "After Mubarak, it's Ali's turn."

These countries represent a number of nations undergoing massive governmental change. Revolts have broken out in Tunisia, and Sudan has recently voted to split into two countries. More than 98 percent of residents in the southern region of Sudan voted in favor of secession in open and mostly peaceful elections.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Egypt Museum Official: Looters Looked Like Raiders of the Lost Ark

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(CAIRO) -- Antiquities officials have done a full inventory of the Egyptian Museum, which was hit during anti-government protests on January 28. Antiquities Minister Zahi Hawass says looters escaped with several items, including two gilded wooden statues of Tutankhamen and approximately 16 other valuable artifacts.

“They broke the windows and they come with ropes,” he said, “about 15 feet down and they entered the museum.”

“Those people looking like Raiders of the Lost Ark,” Hawass said. “Treasure hunters. People who have nothing in their mind except gold, gold, gold!”

Hawass says about 70 artifacts were damaged by looters who he believes were looking for a red material from the throats of mummies that Egyptian legend says can provide supernatural powers.

“That, they believe, if you have it, you can bring the djinn and the devils back and you can rule the world,” Hawass said.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Talks of Protests Force Action by Libyan President

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(TRIPOLI, Libya) -- After weeks of protests in Cairo's Tahrir Square led to the resignation of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, reports say Libyan President Muammar Gaddafi fears his country may soon face similar protests.

Last week, Gaddafi used his security forces to detain political opponent Jamal al-Hajji for posting a message online urging people to protest the government. The message told the public to begin peacefully protesting on March 2. Gaddafi has been in power for over 40 years after assuming control in a military coup during the 1960s.

Al-Hajii's call is similar to that which began the revolution in Egypt. A call for protesters to take to the streets began online, especially on Twitter using the hashtag #Jan25, denoting the first day of the protests.

It is also believed that Gaddafi held a series of meetings this past week with top officials within his regime to discuss safety concerns in the event of large-scale protests.

There is no clear indication of who a successor would be in the event Gaddafi is taken out of power. Libya does not have a formal constitution, and thus has no legal method of naming a next in command. He does have seven sons, two of whom have been speculated as possible heirs.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Massive Overhaul Coming to Egypt's Government

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(CAIRO) -- A statement Sunday from Egypt's military council said that the country's parliament and senate will be dissolved, according to reports from Al Jazeera television. The constitution will not be amended, due to the nature of the previous authoritarian rule, but entirely rewritten to reflect a new style of government following weeks of protest in the nation's capital city of Cairo.

ABC News' Jim Sciutto reports that there will be six months of military rule at first, so as to ease the transition to a new government.

After the resignation of former President Hosni Mubarak, there has been a standstill as to the direction of the Egyptian government. Protesters stood their ground for over two weeks calling for the ouster of Mubarak, who ruled for over 30 years, however no true successor ever emerged from the fray.

Ahmed Mekki, a judge and member of the committee to form a new constitution, tells ABC News this is positive because the the old constitution "couldn't be applied or amended, it's so bad" and that "we had to free ourselves of the old constitution in order to be able to write a new, better constitution."

It could be a year until there are free elections in Egypt. In the past, Mubarak would pick and choose which opposition parties were allowed to operate, with his victory in elections a predetermined outcome.

Mubarak is believed to have fled Cairo in favor of the Red Sea resort city of Sharm el-Sheikh.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Egypt: Gov't Will Maintain Regional, International Deals

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(CAIRO) -- Egypt’s Supreme Military Council says it will respect all regional and international agreements.

While the statement released by the Council on Saturday failed to mention the Camp David Accords by name, the peace deal between Egypt and Israel – signed in the late 1970s – would appear to be included under that umbrella of agreements.

The military also said it asked the current government to stay in place until a new one is formed.  It gave no timetable for the transition.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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