Home' Greymouth Star : June 23rd 2014 Contents Greymouth Star
6 - Monday, June 23, 2014
Scientists say they may have unravelled
how chronic stress leads to heart attack
and stroke by triggering overproduction
of disease-fighting white blood cells
which can be harmful in excess.
They say surplus cells clump together
on the inner walls of arteries, restricting
blood flow and encouraging the
formation of clots that block circulation
or break off and travel to another part of
White blood cells “are important to
fight infection and healing, but if you
have too many of them, or they are in the
wrong place, they can be harmful,” study
co-author Matthias Nahrendorf of the
Har vard Medical School in Boston said
Doctors have long known chronic
stress leads to cardiovascular disease but
have not understood the mechanism.
To fi nd the link, Nahrendorf and a team
studied 29 medical residents working in
an intensive care unit.
Their work environment is considered
a model for chronic stress exposure given
the fast pace and heavy responsibility
they carry for life-and-death decisions.
Comparing blood samples taken
during work hours and off duty, as
well as the results of stress perception
questionnaires, the researchers found
a link between stress and the immune
Particularly, they noticed stress
activated bone marrow stem cells, which
in turn triggered overproduction of white
blood cells, also called leukocytes.
White blood cells, crucial in wound
healing and fighting off infection, can
turn against their host, with devastating
consequences for people with diseases
like atherosclerosis — a thickening of
artery walls caused by a plaque build-up.
The study then moved on to mice,
which were exposed to the rodent
equivalent of stress through techniques
like crowding and cage tilting.
The team chose atherosclerosis-prone
They found that excess white blood
cells produced as a result of stress
accumulated on the inside of arteries and
boosted plaque growth.
“ Here, they (the cells) release enzymes
that soften the connective tissue and lead
to disruption of the plaque,” Nahrendorf
“This is the typical cause of myocardial
infarction (heart attack) and stroke.”
He added leukocytes were only a
part of the picture — factors like high
cholesterol and blood pressure, smoking
and genetic traits also contribute to heart
attack and stroke risk.
“Stress might push these over the
brink,” the researcher said. — AFP
Pope Francis has issued the
strongest attack on organised crime
groups by a pontiff in two decades,
accusing them of practising the
“the adoration of evil” and saying
mafiosi are excommunicated.
It was the first time a pope had
used the word excommunication
— a total cut-off from the Church
— in direct reference to members
of organised crime.
“Those who in their lives follow
this path of evil, as mafiosi do, are
not in communion with God. They
are excommunicated,” he said in
impromptu comments at a Mass
before hundreds of thousands of
people in one of Italy’s most crime-
To sustained applause he told
the crowd: “ This evil must be
fought against, it must be pushed
aside. We must say no to it.” He
branded the local crime group, the
‘Ndrangheta, as an example of the
“adoration of evil and contempt of
the common good” and said the
Church would exert its full force in
efforts to combat organised crime.
“Our children are asking for it,
our young people are asking for it.
They are in need of hope and faith
can help respond to this need,” he
Vatican spokesman Father
Ciro Benedettini said the Pope’s
stern words did not constitute
a formal over-arching decree of
canon (Church) law, regarding
excommunication, which is a
formal legal process.
Rather, he said it was more of
a direct message to members of
organised crime that they had
themselves, reminding them
that they could not participate
in Church sacraments or other
activities because they had
distanced themselves from God
through their criminal actions.
Still, the use of the highly charged
word by a pope was significant
because many members of organised
crime in Italy see themselves as part
of a religious, cult-like group, take
part in sacraments, go to church
and in some cases have also found
complicity by some churchmen in
The Pope, Benedettini said, was
trying to “isolate mafiosi within
their own communities,” sending a
message they should not in any way
be looked up to as “men of honour”.
In 1993, Pope John Paul sternly
warned members of Sicily’s mafia
that they would “one day face
the justice of God”. The mafia
responded several months later
with bomb attacks against several
churches in Rome, including the
Basilica of St John’s, which is a
pope’s church in his capacity of
bishop of Rome.
Pope Francis spoke in a homily
at the end of day-long trip to the
southern region of Calabria, home
of the home of the mafia-style
‘Ndrangheta which investigators
say has spread around the world.
The ‘Ndrangheta has been much
harder for investigators to combat
than the Sicilian Mafia because
its structure is more lateral than
hierarchical and its tightly-knit
crime families are less flashy than
the Sicilian mob and harder to
A 2013 study by Demoskopia,
an economic and social research
institute, estimated the ‘Ndrangheta’s
annual turnover at some 53
billion euros ($82.76 billion) in 30
countries, equivalent to about 3.5%
of Italy’s total official economic
output. About half of its revenues
came through drug trafficking, the
study found. — Reuters
Pope excommunicates mafia
Pope Francis waves as he arrives to visit a cathedral in Cassano allo Jonio, southern Italy.
Sunni militants have advanced in
western Iraq, killing 21 people after
security forces left several towns,
as America’s top diplomat calls for
the country’s leaders to rise above
It is the latest in a series of setbacks
for Iraqi forces, struggling to hold
their ground in the face of an insurgent
onslaught that has displaced hundreds
of thousands of people and sparked fears
the country could tear itself apart.
The militants, led by the jihadist
Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant
(ISIL), seized the towns of Rawa and
Ana overnight after earlier taking the
Al-Qaim border crossing, residents said.
They then gunned down 21 local
leaders in Rawa and Ana in two days
of violence, according to officers and
The government said its forces had
made a “tactical” withdrawal from the
towns, control of which allows the
militants to open a strategic route to
neighbouring Syria where they also
hold swathes of countryside along the
Euphrates river valley.
ISIL, also known as ISIS, aims to create
an Islamic state incorporating both Iraq
and Syria, where the group has become
a major force in the rebellion against
President Bashar al-Assad.
Washington wants Arab States to
bring pressure on Iraq’s leaders to
speed up government formation, which
has made little headway since April
elections, and has tried to convince
them ISIL poses as much of a threat to
them as to Iraq.
“ We’re going to have to be vigilant
generally,” United States President
Barack Obama said in an inter view aired
overnight on CBS.
Obama said ISIL’s offensive could
destabilise other countries in the region
and “spill over into some of our allies like
“They are engaged in wars in Syria
where — in that vacuum that ’s been
created — they could amass more arms,
US leaders have stopped short of
calling for Shi’ite Prime Minister Nuri
al-Maliki to step down, but there is little
doubt they feel he has squandered the
opportunity to rebuild Iraq since US
troops withdrew in 2011.
The seizure of Al-Qaim leaves just one
of three official border crossings with
Syria in federal government hands. The
third is controlled by Kurdish forces.
Militants already hold areas of the
western desert province of Anbar which
abuts the Syrian border, after capturing
this year all of one city and parts of
Near Anbar capital Ramadi, parts
of which are held by anti-government
fighters, a suicide bombing and a car
bomb killed six people and wounded
eight, officials said.
Elsewhere, a government air strike on
the militant-held city of Tikrit, killed at
least seven people, residents said, while
the defence ministry announced air raids
on the northern city of Mosul.
The insurgents also clashed with
security forces and pro-government
tribal fighters in Al-Alam east of Tikrit,
with militants killing the women’s affairs
adviser to the provincial governor.
The fighting came as US Secretary of
State John Kerry arrived in Cairo on
a trip to the Middle East and Europe,
with Washington aiming to unite Iraq’s
fractious leaders and repel the militants.
“ We must urge Iraq’s leaders to rise
above sectarian considerations . . .
and speak to all people,” Kerry said in
Cairo, adding that Washington is not
responsible for the current crisis.
Kerry later travelled to Jordan, and
will also visit Brussels and Paris, where
Washington is also expected to push for
greater efforts to cut off funding to ISIL.
More than two tonnes of heroin has
been discovered in Greek warehouses in
as many weeks in what authorities said
was Europe’s largest ever seizure of the
Close to a tonne was found by police
in a warehouse near Athens on Friday,
a little more than a week after an even
bigger haul in the city.
Merchant Marine Minister Miltiadis
Var vitsioti said that the discoveries
constituted “the largest amount of
heroin ever seized in Europe”.
Friday ’s haul of 986.6kg had been
brought into Greece on a tanker, which
has also been seized, the Greek port
The tanker, named Noorl, is a Togo-
flagged ship belonging to a Greek
company whose name has not yet been
Fourteen arrests were made in
connection with Friday ’s seizure in
Koropi, about 40km from Athens.
Those arrested included 10 tanker crew
members — among them five Turkish
nationals — and the Greek head of
the company that owns the ship. Three
others implicated in the affair were also
That seizure came hot on the heels of
another major bust, on June 12, when
1.113 tonnes of heroin was found in
another warehouse in the city.
The raid was carried out in co-
ordination with the United States Drug
Enforcement Administration, the Greek
coastguard said in a statement.
Eleven people were arrested following
that discovery, including a shipowner.
The illegal drug was meant to be
transported by truck from Greece to
markets around Europe. — AFP
Two tonnes of heroin in Greek warehouse
Teenager survives 80m plunge
A teenager’s sur vival from an 80m cliff
plunge in New South Wales’s Hunter
Valley is “mind-boggling”.
The 17-year-old and a group of friends
were trying to get into a dance party in
Watagan State Forest, 20km west of Lake
Macquarie, on Saturday when he fell
down the sheer rock face about 10.30pm.
volunteers abseiled down the cliff about
4am yesterday and spent the rest of the
night with the injured teenager.
He was winched to safety about
10.30am and flown to Newcastle’s John
Hunter Hospital with broken bones and
suspected internal injuries and is in a
serious but stable condition.
“ I don’t know how he has sur vived,
and the doctors and the paramedics are
saying the same thing,” a spokesman for
the Westpac rescue helicopter said.
Lundberg said the teenager’s sur vival
was “mind boggling”.
“ I haven’t got words to describe his
fortunate luck,” he said.
He said the teenager and his mates
were camping in the forest when they
came across the dance party and were
The youth apparently thought he could
get into the function from around the
back, through the bush, with no lights
and no knowledge of the terrain, “and
he’s just fallen off the side of a cliff ”.
A number of trees had to be chopped
down before the teen could be winched
aboard the helicopter. — A AP
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