One of Chernobyl's many victims children at the time and developed cancer are currently awaiting the decision of a District Court that will determine whether thousands of other plaintiffs can proceed with their cases.

Vaccine criminals

A JUDGE in Mali has jailed five leaders of a Muslim sect for preventing children in the village of Tandio being vaccinated against polio. The men said it was up to God to give or withhold disease, and in March reportedly threatened to kill health workers. Judge Sidiki Sandogo imposed sentences of between six months and three years for "rebellion against public authorities".

In northern Nigeria, rumours that the oral polio vaccine was a western plot to spread HIV and infertility caused Muslim elders to block vaccination there in 2003, leading to the outbreak that has now re-infected 16 countries, including Indonesia and Yemen. The World Health Organization had hoped to eradicate polio worldwide by the end of this year.

"We still have a chance to meet our deadline," David Heymann, head of the eradication campaign at WHO, told New Scientist. The key will be vaccinating millions of children in Africa before the rainy season begins, Heymann says, as the virus is carried by sewage-contaminated water.

Sign up or pay up

Countries that fail to sign the Kyoto Protocol to combat global warming should be taxed on goods they export to Europe, members of the European Parliament said last week in a resolution on climate change. The idea is to negate the commercial advantages enjoyed by countries that do not invest in preventing warming.

Wonder drugs

Cholesterol-lowering statins may have an unexpected benefit. Besides reduang the risk of heart disease and strokes, statins also appear to halve the risk of developing colon, liver, breast, prostate, lung, pancreatic and oesophageal cancers, according to the resultsofa study of half a million US veterans announced this week.

Thirst for oil

World oil consumption grew by 3A per cent in 200*ยป to 82A million barrels a day, according to Vital Signs 2005, a WorldWatch Institute report published on 9 May. China and the US account for nearly half the increase, now consuming6.6 million and 20.5 million barrels a day respectively.

Aftershock websites

To help anxious Californians after an earthquake, the US Geological Sun/ey will publish its aftershock predictions online. While the prediction system cannot forecast the in itial quake, it uses patterns in the seismicwaves that follow big quakes to predict when and where aftershocks are likely to strike.

Gates donates again

Billionaire Bill Gates promised on Monday to donate an additional $250 million to combat diseases that affect the poor. Gates said the money would double his contribution to the Grand Challenges in Global Health initiative, which he set up in 2003. "We have a historic chance to build a world where all people, no matter where they're born, can have preventative care, vacanes and the treatments they need to live a healthy life," he said.

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