- U.S. considering travel request from Yemen's Saleh
- China official says Wukan protest shows rights demands on rise
- PIP implants sold to Dutch firm under new name
Posted: 26 Dec 2011 07:14 PM PST
HONOLULU (Reuters) - The U.S. government is trying to decide whether to let Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh travel to the United States for medical treatment, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said on Monday.
Saleh was injured in a June assassination attempt that forced him into a hospital in Saudi Arabia, and transferred power to his vice president last month after months of protests that brought the Gulf country to the brink of civil war.
Earnest declined to say when a decision on whether to allow Saleh into the United States would be made, and denied a New York Times report that the embattled Yemeni president's petition was accepted and he could arrive at New York-Presbyterian Hospital as soon as the end of this week.
"U.S. officials are continuing to consider President Saleh's request to enter the country for the sole purpose of seeking medical treatment, but initial reports that permission has already been granted are not true," Earnest said in Hawaii, where President Barack Obama is vacationing.
Earlier on Monday, an Obama administration official said Saleh's office had contacted the U.S. Embassy in Sanaa to say the Yemeni leader wanted to get specialized care in the United States to treat injuries sustained in the assassination attempt.
The attempt on Saleh's life came after he tried to duck the power-transfer accord brokered by Gulf Arab nations, sparking street battles that devastated parts of the capital.
Hundreds of people were killed during months of protests seeking Saleh's ouster. The political deadlock reignited simmering conflicts with separatists and militants, raising fears that Yemen's al Qaeda wing could take a foothold on the borders of Saudi Arabia, the world's top oil exporter.
Allowing Saleh, who ruled Yemen for more than three decades, to get treatment in the United States could undercut Obama's message of supporting pro-democracy movements across the Arab world and condemning crackdowns on protests like those seen recently in Syria.
Embattled world leaders often travel to politically neutral Switzerland for medical care.
On Saturday, just hours after his forces killed nine people who had demanded he be tried for the killings of demonstrators over the past year, Saleh said he would leave Yemen and give way to a successor. He did not say when he would go.
Saleh suggested he would undergo medical tests in the United States but characterized the trip as one of temporary exile.
"I will go to the United States. Not for treatment, because I'm fine, but to get away from attention, cameras, and allow the unity government to prepare properly for elections," Saleh said. "I'll be there for several days, but I'll return because I won't leave my people and comrades who have been steadfast for 11 months."
Obama's top counterterrorism official, John Brennan, called Yemen's acting leader on Sunday to stress the need for Yemeni forces "to show maximum restraint" with protests, Earnest said.
In his phone conversation with Yemeni Vice President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, Brennan also appealed for all sides of Yemen's political transition to avoid "provocative acts that could spur further violence."
Hadi told Brennan he would do his utmost to prevent further bloodshed, Earnest said, adding both officials agreed it was important to stick to the transition path leading to Yemen's February 21, 2012, presidential election.
"Mr. Brennan told Vice President Hadi that the United States remains a strong and fervent supporter of the Yemeni people in their quest to realize their richly deserved aspirations for security, political stability, representative government, and economic prosperity," Earnest said.
Hadi has urged Saleh's foes and loyalists to commit to a truce.
(Editing by Doina Chiacu)
Copyright © 2011 ReutersFull content generated by Get Full RSS.
Posted: 26 Dec 2011 06:04 PM PST
BEIJING (Reuters) - The senior Chinese official who helped defuse a standoff with protesting villagers has told officials to get used to citizens who are increasingly assertive about their rights and likened erring local governments to red apples with rotten cores.
Zhu Mingguo, a deputy Communist Party secretary of southern Guangdong province, last week helped broker a compromise between the government and residents of Wukan village. Ten days of protests over confiscated farmland and the death of a protest organiser drew widespread attention as a rebuff to the stability-before-all government.
Speaking to officials about Wukan and other protests, Zhu said these were not isolated flare-ups, the Guangzhou Daily, the official paper of the provincial capital, reported on Tuesday.
"In terms of society, the public's awareness of democracy, equality and rights is constantly strengthening, and their corresponding demands are growing," Zhu told a meeting on Monday about preserving social stability, the paper said.
"Public consciousness of rights defence is growing, and the means used to defend rights are increasingly intense," said Zhu. "Their channels for voicing grievances are diverse, and there is a tendency for conflicts to become more intense."
Zhu also cited protests by migrant factory workers who complained about ill-treatment. These areas where unrest erupted had won praise as "advanced units" - showcases of growth and harmony, noted Zhu.
Not so, he said.
"In these areas there were many problems that were not swiftly identified, and when they erupted, the consequences were even more serious," said Zhu, referring to the response by local officials.
"Like apples, their hearts were rotten even if their skins were red, and when the skins broke, there was a real mess."
FENDING OFF RISKS OF UNREST
Red is the colour of the ruling Communist Party, and Zhu's comments reflected debate within it about warding off risks of unrest from an increasingly unequal and diverse society.
In recent days, Chinese courts have jailed two dissidents for nine and 10 years respectively, underscoring the government's determination to silence critics whom it fears will channel discontent into organised opposition to one-party rule.
That concern is magnified by preparations for a party congress in late 2012, when the central leadership will retire and make way for a new generation.
Zhu put much of the blame for the recent unrest on local administrators. In Wukan, he said, officials had sold off more than two thirds of the village land, without providing for residents' welfare.
"Now, where are the state cadres who remember that farmers don't have land for their food?" Zhu told the meeting. "When do they think of the hardships of ordinary people."
"If these complaints had been dealt with sooner, would they have ever caused such a big ruckus?"
The protests in Wukan ended after officials made concessions over the seized farmland and the death of a village leader, Xue Jinbo, whose family suspects he was beaten in custody.
Villagers denounced local officials as corrupt and heartless throughout their months-long dispute, which erupted in rioting in September. But they ended up welcoming province officials led by Zhu as brokers who finally stepped in to forge compromise.
The officials agreed to release three men held over the land protest in September, when a government office was trashed, and to re-examine the cause of Xue's death, protest organisers said.
Copyright © 2011 ReutersFull content generated by Get Full RSS.
Posted: 26 Dec 2011 03:44 PM PST
AMSTERDAM/MARSEILLE (Reuters) - Potentially dangerous breast implants made by a now-defunct French company were sold to about 1,000 Dutch women under a different name, a Dutch health official said Monday, broadening a scandal that could already affect some 300,000 women worldwide.
Dutch health authority spokeswoman Diane Bouhuijs said a Dutch company had bought implants made by France's Poly Implant Prothese, which went bankrupt in 2010 after French health authorities shut its doors and is now under investigation, and sold them in the Netherlands rebranded as "M-implants."
"We estimate that some 1,000 women in the Netherlands have those implants. We have advised them to consult their physician," Bouhuijs said.
She declined to disclose the name of the Dutch company.
The rebranding of PIP implants potentially expands the scope of the health controversy in which PIP, once the third-largest maker of breast implants in the world, stands accused of using industrial-grade instead of medical-grade silicone in some of its prostheses. They were sold in a number of European and Latin America countries.
The company's founder, Jean-Claude Mas, was able to charge lower prices for the implants using the non-approved silicone.
Health authorities have cited no evidence of increased cancer risk due to the PIP implants but have said they have higher rates of rupture that could cause inflammation and irritation.
While the French government has urged the 30,000 women in France with PIP implants to have them removed, other countries including Britain and Brazil say that women should visit their surgeons for checks.
Health spokeswoman Bouhuijs did not say how long M-implants were sold in the Netherlands before they were banned in March 2010, along with PIP-labelled implants, as in France.
In early 2010 Dutch authorities launched an investigation into breast implants which is still going on, Bouhuijs said.
France's drug and medical device regulator, AFSSAPS, was closed Monday due to the holidays, so Reuters was unable to ascertain whether health authorities knew about the M-implants.
SICK IN SOUTHERN FRANCE
Mas's lawyer Yves Haddad told Reuters Monday that his 72-year-old client is in poor health but ready to respond to any court summoning.
No one has been charged in the case, but sources say a Marseilles court could soon announce fraud charges against four to six ex-PIP employees. An investigation into involuntary homicide is going on, following the death from cancer in 2010 of a woman who had PIP implants.
Haddad denied that Mas was in hiding, reiterating that he was still in southern France's Var region.
"He's currently in very bad health because he has just undergone a difficult surgery that prevents him from walking," Haddad said.
The news that Mas had recently been operated on was confirmed by a second source, who cited a vascular problem.
"He is worried by the importance this matter is taking on. He is angry at those who pointlessly add to people's suffering,"
Haddad denied reports that Mas was a former butcher, saying that before founding PIP in 1991 he worked for more than 15 years as a medical sales representative for Bristol Myers.
PIP AT FOREFRONT
French plastic surgeon Patrick Perichaud, who implanted over 600 women with prostheses made by PIP between 2001 and 2009, defended the devices, saying their rupture rates were no higher than other makers' products.
Perichaud told Reuters PIP was at the forefront of breast implant technology in the past two decades. Whereas other implant makers made saline prostheses that had to be filled once inside the breast, PIP introduced a pre-filled version, he said.
In 2001, after a 10-year ban of silicone implants was lifted in France, PIP was the first to make asymmetrically shaped implants whose look was more natural than competitors', he said.
"This made for very natural-looking breasts, and allowed me to put the prostheses in front of the muscle and not behind it, like we had to do often before," said Perichaud, who is based in the southern city of Toulon.
The cost of the implants was 610 euros ($800). He said the patients bought the implants directly from PIP and that he as a surgeon did not get any financial incentive to steer clients toward the company.
The current breast implant health scare was "more psychological than scientific" he said, adding that no concrete link had been made between PIP implants and cancer.
"Breast cancer affects one in ten women, even one in eight, so if 30,000 patients received PIP implants, statistically that would make 3000 cancers," he said.
Since the start of the PIP scandal in 2010, Perichaud has re-operated on 148 women to remove the implants at issue.
(Additional reporting by Alexandria Sage and Sophie Louet; writing Alexandria Sage; editing by Geert De Clercq)
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