Pfizer Still Wants AstraZeneca After Bid Rejected

Image

Pfizer Inc. (PFE) is back in the megamerger game.

The U.S. drugmaker proposed buying AstraZeneca Plc (AZN)for about 58.8 billion pounds ($98.7 billion) in what would rank as the industry’s biggest-ever takeover, surpassing Pfizer’s $64 billion purchase of Wyeth in 2009. AstraZeneca spurned the offer as too low, and Pfizer said it’s considering its options.

If AstraZeneca eventually agrees, a deal would create a company incorporated in the U.K. for tax purposes and run from New York. London-based AstraZeneca’s operations would be sewn into Pfizer’s three new business units.

~ Bloomberg

Pakistan Seeks to Take GEO TV Off Air Over Spy Allegation

Pakistan’s Defense Ministry is seeking to cancel the Geo television channel’s license after it aired comments accusing the country’s main spy agency of involvement in a gun attack on the host of one its talk shows.

The ministry has lodged a complaint with the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory, or PEMRA, asking it to take Geo News television off the air after it broadcast reports alleging officials of the Inter-Services Intelligence agency, ISI, were behind the April 19 attack on Hamid Mir, a ministry spokeswoman said yesterday. She asked to be not be identified citing departmental policy.

“The clash between institutions is becoming a precedent,” Umbreen Javed, head of the political science department at the University of Punjab said by phone. “This is not a good trend for democracy, which is still in its early phase and is still immature.”

The row reflects the dominant role of Pakistan’s army and its powerful spy agency in domestic politics as well as key security policies. The army has ruled the country for more than half of its 67-year-old history and has resisted attempts by the past governments to exert control over ISI.

In 2008, a few months after taking office, the government of then-prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani announced it had exercised its constitutional authority over the ISI to transfer its oversight to the civilian Interior Ministry, an announcement it retracted within hours. 

David Moyes out as Manchester United manager

Image

 It’s some feat to turn one of the world’s most storied and valuable sports brands into a mere also-ran in the space of 10 months.

That’s what David Moyes managed to achieve at Manchester United – and there was only going to be one outcome.

Overwhelmed by the giant task of replacing Alex Ferguson, Britain’s greatest ever manager, Moyes was fired by United on Tuesday after exhausting the patience and losing the support of the club’s American owners, the Glazer family.

The 50-year-old Scot was less than a season into a six-year contract but the Glazers had seen enough. So, too, had most of United’s fans and most likely its slew of big sponsors, with the team languishing in seventh place in the Premier League and guaranteed to miss out on Champions League qualification for the first time in 19 years.

That’s unacceptable for a club that expects to win trophies year in and year out.

Exactly a year after clinching a record-extending 20th English championship, United dismissed Moyes during a meeting at its training ground in the morning. The news was released in a terse, two-line statement on the club’s website – a far cry from the fanfare of Moyes’ hiring last summer.

”Manchester United has announced that David Moyes has left the club,” the statement said. ”The club would like to place on record its thanks for the hard work, honesty and integrity he brought to the role.”

In the 27-year, trophy-laden tenure of Ferguson, United stood out as a pillar of stability, continuity and patience. No more.

Moyes, hand-picked by Ferguson, was unable to replicate the success of his countryman or even come close.

Ryan Giggs, a club great who was on Moyes’ coaching staff and is still a member of the playing squad at the age of 40, will take temporary control until a permanent replacement is found. The 40-year-old Welsh midfielder, who came up through the United youth ranks alongside David Beckham, has spent 23 years at Old Trafford. He has won every trophy in the game at club level, making him United’s most decorated player.

Louis van Gaal, who will leave his position as Netherlands coach after the World Cup in Brazil and has previously coached Barcelona and Bayern Munich, is the favorite to succeed Moyes on a full-time basis.

~ AP

Conjoined Twins Leave Dallas Hospital

Image

Jenni Ezell, the mother of conjoined twins who will be released from Medical City Children’s Hospital in Dallas today, said the family feels “relief, joy and elation.”

The Ezell twins, Owen and Emmitt, were born joined from their breastbone to their hipbones, sharing several organs, including their liver and intestines. Doctors told the Ezells their babies would probably not survive for very long. If they did, it was likely they would undergo multiple painful medical procedures.

Image

Now 9 months old, the baby boys are doing great, Ezell said. So great in fact they’ll being sent to a rehab facility in Dallas for several weeks to several months before finally going home to spend time with their two older brothers, 2-year-old Liam and 7-year-old Ethan.

The twins were successfully separated six weeks after their birth in August. During the nine-hour surgery, a team of surgeons separated the liver and intestines, with the most difficult part being the separation of a shared blood vessel in the liver.

Dr. Tom Renard, the lead pediatric separation surgeon, said the boys have more than doubled their size since birth and are alert and thriving. Infection is always a concern but he said he was encouraged by their progress.

“You can never predict what can happen but these little guys are definitely survivors,” he said.

David Ezell, the father of the twins, said the family is relieved the babies are leaving the hospital but they’re nervous, too.

“I’ll finally have my family together but we are about to face some serious challenges,” he said. “The really frightening life-or-death stuff is behind us but now we worry how about how we are going to pull the rest of it off.”

In the rehab facility, the Ezells will learn to juggle diaper duty with cleaning tracheal tubes, managing the home ventilator that helps the babies breathe and working with the boys on rehabilitation exercises. Jenni Ezell said the task is daunting but that she’s looking forward to caring for her children without relying on a team of doctors and nurses for help.

“I think my 7-year-old will at least help with diaper duty, though I guess it depends on what kind of diaper we’re talking about,” she joked.

Jenni Ezell said she’s grateful that one of the biggest challenges they now face is learning to tell the identical tots apart. The hospital staff painted their nails to make identification easier. Dave Ezell said anyone who spends a little time around them can easily tell them apart from the different personalities.

“Owen opens his eyes a little bit wider and is a little more excitable. Emmitt is more relaxed. His eyes are usually softer and more closed.”

Conjoined twins are rare, occurring in about one in 50,000 to one in 200,000 deliveries, the doctor said. Renard said odds of survival for conjoined twins are typically around 40 to 50 percent

Image

<Conjoined twins, Emmit and Owen Ezell before separation surgery.>

~ ABC News

Over 280 missing after South Korean ferry capsizes

Image

 More than 280 people, many of them students from the same high school, were missing after a ferry capsized off South Korea on Wednesday, in what could be the country’s biggest maritime disaster in over 20 years.

The ferry was carrying 462 people, of whom 174 have been rescued, coastguard officials said. Four people were confirmed dead, but as frantic rescue operations continued late into the night under light from flares, hopes were fading for the 284 unaccounted for.

It was not immediately clear why the Sewol ferry listed heavily on to its side and capsized in apparently calm conditions off South Korea’s southwest coast, but some survivors spoke of a loud noise prior to the disaster.

“It was fine. Then the ship went ‘boom’ and there was a noise of cargo falling,” said Cha Eun-ok, who was on the deck of the ferry taking photographs at the time.

“The on-board announcement told people to stay put … people who stayed are trapped,” she said in Jindo, the nearest town to the scene of the accident.

The families of those still missing faced agonizing uncertainty as divers searching for those trapped in the largely submerged ship were forced to suspend their work until daybreak on Thursday.

Survivors in Jindo huddled on the floor of a gymnasium, wrapped in blankets and receiving medical aid. One woman lay on a bed shaking uncontrollably. A man across the room wailed loudly as he spoke on his mobile phone.

Furious relatives of the missing threw water at journalists trying to speak to survivors and at a local politician who had arrived at the makeshift clinic.

Most of the passengers on board the ferry appeared to have been teenagers and their teachers from a high school near Seoul who were on a field trip to Jeju island, about 100 km (60 miles) south of the Korean peninsula.

~ Reuters

Edward Snowden: US government spied on human rights workers

Image

The US has spied on the staff of prominent human rights organisations,Edward Snowden has told the Council of Europe in Strasbourg, Europe’s top human rights body.

Giving evidence via a videolink from Moscow, Snowden said the National Security Agency – for which he worked as a contractor – had deliberately snooped on bodies like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.

He told council members: “The NSA has specifically targeted either leaders or staff members in a number of civil and non-governmental organisations … including domestically within the borders of the United States.” Snowden did not reveal which groups the NSA had bugged.

The assembly asked Snowden if the US spied on the “highly sensitive and confidential communications” of major rights bodies such as Amnesty and Human Rights Watch, as well as on similar smaller regional and national groups. He replied: “The answer is, without question, yes. Absolutely.”

Snowden, meanwhile, dismissed NSA claims that he had swiped as many as 1.7m documents from the agency’s servers in an interview with Vanity Fair. He described the number released by investigators as “simply a scare number based on an intentionally crude metric: everything that I ever digitally interacted with in my career.”

He added: “Look at the language officials use in sworn testimony about these records: ‘could have,’ ‘may have,’ ‘potentially.’ They’re prevaricating. Every single one of those officials knows I don’t have 1.7m files, but what are they going to say? What senior official is going to go in front of Congress and say, ‘We have no idea what he has, because theNSA‘s auditing of systems holding hundreds of millions of Americans’ data is so negligent that any high-school dropout can walk out the door with it’?”

~ the guardian

Dreams dashed in fatal college tour bus crash

 Image

It was a busload of opportunity: young, low-income, motivated students, destined to become the first in their families to go to college, journeying from the concrete sprawl of Los Angeles to a remote redwood campus 650 miles north

Those dreams shattered for some Thursday in an explosive freeway collision that left 10 dead — students, chaperones and both drivers — and dozens hospitalized.

Desperate families awaited word about loved ones Friday, while investigators tried to figure out why a southbound FedEx big rig swerved across the grassy divide of California’s key artery before sideswiping a car and slamming into the tour bus, which burst into a furious blaze.

The Serrato family, whose identical twin 17-year-old daughters set off on the adventure on separate buses Thursday, had a panicked, sleepless night. Marisol made it to their destination, Humboldt State University, but there was no word from Marisa, who had been aboard the now-gutted bus.

Friday morning when a sheriff’s deputy asked for Marisa’s dental records, a grim request made to several families, 23-year-old brother Miguel Serrato said his family was “getting a little bit scared.” His mother booked a flight north.

Humboldt alumni Michael Myvett, 29, and his fiancee, Mattison Haywood, who were chaperoning, also were killed. Myvett was a therapist at an autism treatment center.

“He just died,” his grandmother Debra Loyd said, her voice breaking with emotion in the early afternoon Friday. “They have already confirmed it.”

~ AP