World news in brief

By Drum Digital
13 January 2014

The stories making news around the world.

Biden: Sharon dedicated his life to survival of Israel

US Vice President Joe Biden eulogized former Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon Monday as a man whose "guiding star" was the security and survival of the state of Israel.

With "incredible, visible courage," Sharon "never, never, never deviated from that preoccupation," Biden said in Jerusalem. Sharon was a "complex man" who at times sparked "controversy and even condemnation," Biden conceded but added, "History will also judge that these were complex times."

Referring to Sharon's 2005 unilateral pullout from the Gaza Strip, he praised him for his "political courage" to "command 10,000 Israelis to leave their homes in Gaza in order to strengthen Israel." Sapa-dpa

Swedish doctors transplant wombs into nine women

Nine women in Sweden have successfully received transplanted wombs donated from relatives and will soon try to become pregnant, the doctor in charge of the pioneering project has revealed.

The women were born without a uterus or had it removed because of cervical cancer. Most are in their 30s and are part of the first major experiment to test whether it's possible to transplant wombs into women so they can give birth to their own children.

Life-saving transplants of organs such as hearts, livers and kidneys have been done for decades and doctors are increasingly transplanting hands, faces and other body parts to improve patients' quality of life. Womb transplants - the first ones intended to be temporary, just to allow childbearing - push that frontier even farther and raise some new concerns.

There have been two previous attempts to transplant a womb - in Turkey and Saudi Arabia - but both failed to produce babies. Scientists in Britain, Hungary and elsewhere are also planning similar operations but the efforts in Sweden are the most advanced.

"This is a new kind of surgery," Dr. Mats Brannstrom told The Associated Press in an interview from Goteborg. "We have no textbook to look at."

Brannstrom, chair of the obstetrics and gynecology department at the University of Gothenburg, is leading the initiative. Next month, he and colleagues will run the first-ever workshop on how to perform womb transplants and they plan to publish a scientific report on their efforts soon. - Sapa-AP

Strong quake hits north of Puerto Rico

A strong earthquake with a magnitude of 6.5 struck off the coast of Puerto Rico early Monday, but US seismologists said there was no threat of a widespread tsunami.

The US Geological Survey said the quake struck at 12:01 am (0401 GMT). The epicenter was located about 35 miles (55 kilometers) north of the US territory in the Caribbean, and about 60 miles from San Juan.

The quake struck at a depth of about 18 miles. There were no immediate reports of damage or casualties. - Sapa-AFP

Rodman 'sorry' after controversial North Korea trip

An emotional Dennis Rodman appeared to break down Monday as he apologised on his return from a controversial trip to North Korea, where he sang "Happy Birthday" to regime leader Kim Jong-Un.

The former NBA star was widely criticised for refusing to bring up human rights abuses or the plight of a US missionary detained in North Korea during his week-long visit.

The former Chicago Bulls player was also accused of pandering to North Korean authorities during the trip, which featured an exhibition basketball match involving other NBA stars to mark Kim's birthday.

"I love my country, America, I love it and I will never trade it for nothing in the world," the pierced and heavily tattooed Rodman told reporters at Beijing airport.

Former world heavyweight boxing champion Mike Tyson has described Rodman's actions as "treason".

Rodman said he wanted to "show people that no matter what is going on in the world, for one day... not politics, not all this stuff..." before launching into an apology.

"I am sorry. I am not the president. I am not an ambassador. I am Dennis Rodman. Just an individual, just showing the world the fact that we can actually get along and be happy for one day," Rodman said, before his voice broke and he put his hands to his face. - Sapa-AFP

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