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‘Highly toxic’ bird flu strain hits Vietnam

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A new highly-toxic strain of the potentially deadly bird flu virus has appeared in Vietnam and is spreading fast, according to state media reports.

The strain appeared to be a mutation of the H5N1 virus which swept through the country’s poultry flocks last year, forcing mass culls of birds in affected areas, according to agriculture officials.

The new virus “is quickly spreading and this is the big concern of the government”, Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Diep Kinh Tan said, according to a Thursday report in the VietnamNet online newspaper.

Experts cited in the report said the new virus appeared in July and had spread through Vietnam’s northern and central regions in August.

Outbreaks have been detected in six provinces so far and some 180,000 birds have been culled, the Animal Health department said.

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The Central Veterinary Diagnosis Centre said the virus appeared similar to the standard strains of bird flu but was more toxic.

The centre will test how much protection existing vaccines for humans offer, the report said.

Some experts suggested that the new strain resulted from widespread smuggling of poultry from China into the northern parts of Vietnam.

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Two people have died this year from the virulent disease — but long before the new strain was identified.

According to the World Health Organisation, Vietnam has recorded one of the highest numbers of fatalities from bird flu in southeast Asia, with at least 59 deaths since 2003.

The avian influenza virus has killed more than 330 people around the world, and scientists fear it could mutate into a form readily transmissible between humans, with the potential to cause millions of deaths.


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Iceland tries to bring back trees razed by the Vikings

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Before being colonised by the Vikings, Iceland was lush with forests but the fearsome warriors razed everything to the ground and the nation is now struggling to reforest the island.

The country is considered the least forested in Europe; indeed, forests in Iceland are so rare, or their trees so young, that people often joke that those lost in the woods only need to stand up to find their way.

However, it wasn't always that way.

When seafaring Vikings set off from Norway and conquered the uninhabited North Atlantic island at the end of the ninth century, forests, made up mostly of birch trees, covered more than a quarter of the island.

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With plant closures looming, GM, Fiat Chrysler warn workers auto industry facing tough future

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With plant closures hanging over the start of contract negotiations, General Motors chief Mary Barra on Tuesday warned the United Auto Workers union that the industry is facing a difficult road ahead.

Barra opened talks with labor at the traditional handshake ceremony, emphasizing that the company must be prepared to change to be better positioned for the future.

"In a transforming industry, if we want our company to grow -- and grow jobs -- we can't keep doing things the same way," she said.

GM has drawn the wrath of the UAW and President Donald Trump over plans to halt production at four US plants including a major one in Lordstown, Ohio, a state that could be key to Trump’s re-election bid in 2020.

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‘White Identity Politics’ and white backlash: How we wound up with a racist in the White House

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Today's Republican Party is the largest, most powerful and most dangerous white racist organization in the United States -- if not the world. Donald Trump, the president of the United States, is its leader. These are plain if not understated facts. No embellishment is needed. The examples are many.  Over the last few days Donald Trump has repeatedly dug into his bucket of racist political scatology, saying on Twitter and elsewhere that four nonwhite members of Congress ("Progressive' Democrat Congresswomen," as he mockingly put it) should leave America and go back to their own "crime infested" and "totally broken" countries.

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