Friday, August 03, 2007

Disgraceful treatment of Gurkhas by British bureaucrats

Men who have put their lives on the line for Britain do not have "strong ties" to Britain?? Absurd. The Gurkhas are much admired in Britain so this is just bureaucratic nastiness. The Gurkhas have even been allowed to stand guard at Buckingham Palace -- a great honour. If they were useless Sudanese refugees they would be very welcome, of course

A group of Gurkhas went to court in London on Wednesday fighting for the right of some 2,000 of the Nepalese veterans to settle in Britain. About 20 of them, many wearing military regalia, attended a hearing of the Immigration and Asylum Tribunal in a test case for Gurkhas who have fought alongside British soldiers.

Under current rules, serving Gurkhas now are almost all given the right to settle in Britain after completing their army service. But those who retired before 1997 have to rely on the discretion of British immigration officials, with the result that some 400 have been rejected because they do not have "strong ties" with Britain.

Lawyer David Enright, representing 44 of them, argued in court that someone who is prepared to die in battle for Britain should have the right to settle in the country. Specifically he said Britain should take into account "war wounds, decorations when in battle, swearing allegiance to the Crown, swearing allegiance for decades, fighting a battle, being injured, guarding the Queen the way your fathers and grandfathers served the Queen, paying income tax. "You cannot find a stronger way to link with the UK. All these are strong ties with the UK and should be considered in the particular circumstances of the Gurkhas who have rendered such sterling service for over 200 years."

Around 200,000 Gurkhas fought for Britain in the World Wars I and II; some 43,000 were killed or wounded. There are around 3,500 Gurkhas serving in the British army nowadays. The British first became aware of the Gurkhas in 1815 when they sent an expeditionary force to try and take over the hilly region of Gorkha in what is now central Nepal. Impressed by their fierceness, loyalty and razor-sharp kukhuri fighting knives, the British army began to recruit the hill warriors and the Gurkhas have fought in nearly every major British military engagement since. The hearing continues.


Zebrafish study may point way to blindness cure

The ability of zebrafish to regenerate damaged retinas has given scientists a clue about restoring human vision and could lead to an experimental treatment for blindness within five years.

British researchers said on Wednesday they had successfully grown in the laboratory a type of adult stem cell found in the eyes of both fish and mammals that develops into neurons in the retina.

In future, these cells could be injected into the eye as a treatment for diseases such as macular degeneration, glaucoma and diabetes-related blindness, according to Astrid Limb of University College London's (UCL) Institute of Ophthalmology.

Damage to the retina -- the part of the eye that sends messages to the brain -- is responsible for most cases of sight loss. "Our findings have enormous potential," Limb said. "It could help in all diseases where the neurons are damaged, which is basically nearly every disease of the eye."

Limb and her colleagues studied so-called Mueller glial cells in the eyes of people aged from 18 months to 91 years and found they were able to develop them into all types of neurons found in the retina. They were also able to grow them easily in the lab, they reported in the journal Stem Cells.

The cells have already been tested in rats with diseased retinas, where they successfully migrated into the retina and took on the characteristics of the surrounding neurons. Now the team is working on the same approach in humans. "We very much hope that we could do autologous transplants within five years," Limb told Reuters.

Autologous transplants, initially on a trial basis, will involve manipulating cells and injecting them back into an individual's own eye. Eventually, Limb hopes it will also be possible to transfer the cells between different people. "Because they are so easy to grow, we could make stem cell banks and have cell lines available to the general population, subject to typing as with blood transfusions," she said.

Just why zebrafish have an abundant supply of adult stem cells to regenerate their retinas, while they are rare in mammals, remains a mystery but Limb suspects it is because mammals have a limiting system to stop proliferation.

The new work on Mueller glial cells is the latest example of researchers exploring the potential of different kinds of stem cells in treating eye disease. Another team from UCL and Moorfield's Eye Hospital said in June they aimed to repair damaged retinas with cells derived from embryonic stem cells.


The world's least favourite airline: "British Airways has been named as the worst performing of all Europe's major airlines, with its passengers more likely to face delays than those on any other airline. Between April and June, 35.7 per cent of short or medium haul flights did not arrive on time and 32.7 per cent were delayed on departure, according to a report by the Association of European Airlines (AEA). The airline's performance on long haul flights was even worse with 44 per cent of these arriving late and 36.6 per cent departing later than scheduled. The figures come after BA was fined almost 270 million pounds ($646m) for price fixing after colluding over fuel surcharges with Virgin Atlantic. AEA said that for every 1000 passengers travelling in the three months between April and June, an average of 28 bags were delayed on BA flights compared with around three bags for every 1000 Air Malta travellers"

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