- The Washington Times - Monday, November 24, 2003

CUBA

Scientists develop affordable vaccine

HAVANA — Cuban researchers have developed the first synthetic vaccine against a bacterium that causes pneumonia and meningitis, a breakthrough aimed at lowering the cost of immunizing children in poorer countries.

The vaccine protects against Hemophilus influenza type b, a bacterium that causes upper-respiratory infections, mainly in children up to 5 years old, and can lead to meningitis. The germ kills 500,000 children a year, mostly in developing countries, UNICEF says.

Research on the vaccine, which has been tested and is in production in Cuba, will be presented tomorrow to scientists from all over the world at a biotechnology congress here. The vaccine now available is made using a difficult and more costly process.

The disease has been almost eradicated in the United States, said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But it remains a problem in developing countries where the cost of the vaccine is $3 a dose.

COLOMBIA

Observers arrive for abuse probe

BOGOTA — A humanitarian mission said Saturday it had arrived in northern Colombia to look into rights abuses, meeting a key demand by Marxist rebels to free four Israeli and one English tourist held hostage.

The mission includes members of the Roman Catholic Church, the United Nations and Colombian human-rights officials.

The National Liberation Army, a 5,000-member guerrilla group known by its Spanish initials ELN, demanded the humanitarian mission come to the Sierra Nevada mountains to verify a blockade by right-wing squads cutting off food and medicine to the local population.

BRAZIL

Study aims to brew new interest in coffee

COSTA DO SAUIPE — The world’s No. 1 coffee producer hopes to persuade people to drink up — and ease a global oversupply — by proving that “java” (where the Dutch grew the most popular variety 300 years ago) is good for you.

Brazil’s government hopes to show that coffee can help reduce heart disease, countering the conventional wisdom that coffee causes health problems including anxiety and hypertension.

Weekly notes …

With shouts of “Chavez gives the orders here,” boisterous supporters of leftist Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez mobbed a prominent international observer Sunday as he monitored a pro-government referendum drive. Cesar Gaviria, secretary-general of the Organization of American States, visited polling centers in Caracas on Sunday on the third day of a four-day collection of signatures seeking a referendum to remove 38 anti-Chavez lawmakers. … Princess Sayako of Japan, winding up a visit to Uruguay and Honduras, visited the Copan ruins of the ancient Mayan civilization this week. The youngest child of Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko is the first member of Japan’s imperial family to visit Honduras.


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