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5 things you absolutely must know today

Every morning, we scour the Internet and vet what we believe are the five things you absolutely need to know for the day. Join this mailing list to receive 5 things you absolutely must know today every morning, Monday to Friday, by 8 a.m.  


Paralyzed man able to walk again thanks to groundbreaking cell-transplant procedure

Surgeons in Poland carried out the procedure, a world’s first. And they did so in collaboration with a group of London scientists. Poland’s Darek Fidyka, 40, is no longer paralyzed from the neck down. After being stabbed in the back numerous times in 2010, Fidyka can walk again. Professor Geoff Raisman, chair of neural regeneration at University College London’s Institute of Neurology, was at the helm of the groundbreaking procedure that involved transplanting nasal-cavity cells that are known to help nerves regenerate into Fidyka’s spinal cord. “When you can’t feel almost half your body, you are helpless, but when it starts coming back it’s like you were born again,” he told BBC. It took three months for Fidyka to notice a change after the procedure. And two years to reach his current state: walking with the use of a frame. Raisman hopes the procedure will become accessible to everyone who needs it. “It would be my proudest boast if I could say that no patient had had to pay one penny for any of the information we have found.” [Source: BBC]

Northern white rhino faces extinction

Consider extinction. There’s a weight to it greater than a headline and a brief. It’s not our end. And it’s not clear how the world will miss the northern white rhinoceros, or what important work the animal did while it was with us. There is only one northern white rhinoceros breeding male left on Earth after the other was found dead in his Kenya conservancy enclosure on October 17. The cause of the 34-year-old animal’s death is uncertain, but officials are ruling out poachers, as the rhino was monitored around the clock. There are five female northern white rhinos left. The outlook is grim, according to Stuart Pimm, an ecologist and National Geographic contributor from Duke University.We’ve lost [the species] is a statement of just how bad off large animals are across Africa. It’s a measure of the fact that rhinos are being massively poached and in trouble wherever they are. It also means we’re losing this distinctive, important animal within the savanna ecosystem,” said Pimm.  [Source: National Geographic]

Pistorius sentenced to five years concluding “overwrought epic”

Oscar Pistorius, the bladerunner, has been sentenced to five years in prison for killing his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp. Judge Thokozile Masipa cleared him of a possible murder conviction, but found him guilty of culpable homicide. Lawyers, analysts, and pundits have all added their two cents to this tired saga, each predicting different outcomes for the amount of time he would serve, ranging from 10 years to house arrest. The Olympic athlete barely reacted to the sentence, leading analysts to say that he knew of it beforehand. “This case has revealed plenty about South Africa – its gun culture, the strengths and inadequacies of its police and prisons. But above all it has been a simple story, about the rise and fall of a global icon,” said BBC’s Andrew Harding. “As the crowds and cameras drift away from the courthouse, what lingers is the sense of waste. Of lives and careers for sure. But of time too. A man and a woman went into a bathroom. Only one came out alive. As the judge made clear – the trial should have been over in a matter of weeks. Instead it turned into a tortuous, overwrought epic.” [Source: BBC]

Protesters face off with Hong Kong in introductory debate

This saga may be an overwrought epic, as well, but it’s continually interesting to see what a groundswell of people is capable of. Protest leaders in Hong Kong faced of with government officials Tuesday in a university hall. The debate, introductory in nature, was a move in the right direction; toward a civil relationship between the two camps. “This is not a competition tonight,” said Carrie Lam, Hong Kong’s chief civil servant, in the opening remarks. “There is no losing or winning.” Five students were chosen to represent the protesters at the debate, according to Honk Kong media. And they were coached by those who understand the formal process of debate. The representative challenged government on the election laws dictated by China, specifically only allowing vetted candidates into the leadership race. And those challenges were met by government, albeit with some alleged condescension. Protests on the street will continue throughout the negotiation process. “Looking back from five to 10 years later, no matter this is successful or not, I think this is an important milestone for Hong Kong for democracy,” said Hong Kong social worker Alice Man Oi-Yee. “When I talk to my child and say that your mother joined this movement and protected the students, I think this is very valuable.” [Source: Washington Post]

Group blasts Harper for stifling  scientists

The Union of Concerned Scientists is openly criticizing Prime Minister Stephen Harper for banning journalists from speaking to federal researchers without Ottawa’s approval. No doubt. As they should. The Union, known for its attempts at improving scientific practices within the U.S. government, is urging Harper to lift the ban in an open letter released Tuesday. They also note that some of Canada’s related policies make it hard for reasearchers to colloaborate with the international science community. “As a global scientist I need Canadians to be involved so I can get my work done too,” Dennis Hansell, chairman of the Department of Ocean Sciences at the University of Miami and one of the 800 scientists who signed the letter, told the Globe and Mail. “If there’s any threat to that, that’s a problem.” [Source: Globe and Mail]


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