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Australian man dies 10 days after eating gecko at a party

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Australian father-of-three David Dowell was in “absolute agony” before he died, suffering from a salmonella infection potentially caused by a Christmas party dare involving a gecko.

More than six months on, his family is still searching for answers after hearing conflicting accounts from those who were at the party and going without details from the coroner.

It would have been David’s 35th birthday last Tuesday, June 25, but instead of celebrating, his family held a vigil.

Beside the Logan River where he liked to go fishing, they placed paper boats in the water with messages they never got to tell him.

David left behind partner of 15 years Allira and three daughters – Alyssa, Claudia and Sage – as well as four siblings and nieces and nephews, one of whom was born four weeks after his death.

Hannah Dowell, David’s sister, said nobody had a bad word to say about her brother.

“He was one of a kind … just a great person and the kids have lost one of the best dads ever,” she said.

On Saturday, December 1, David went to a Christmas party. The next day he didn’t feel well but thought it was just a hangover.

“Then on Monday, it was coming out both ends and he was really sick and the moment he started throwing up and it was green, that’s when they rang the ambulance,” Hannah said.

“When they got there, the (paramedics) didn’t even want to take him (to hospital). They said he just had gastro and his partner said: ‘no, you’ve got to take him; it’s not just gastro’.”

On Tuesday, December 4, David was diagnosed at the Mater Hospital with a salmonella infection.

Salmonella is a foodborne pathogen, which can also be transmitted from person to person.

The bacteria attach to small intestine cells and start multiplying, causing a gut infection, but in severe cases, the bacteria can move into the bloodstream.

In most cases, it only causes diarrhea, stomach cramps and fever, but in compromised patients, those with health conditions or the young and old, it can be much more severe.

David’s family thought chicken was the cause of the salmonella.

Then on the Sunday, according to Hannah, David’s partner, Allira, was talking to one of his friends and remembered “Oh, David ate a gecko that night I’m pretty sure”.

“She [David’s partner] told the doctor and the doctor said ‘that could have been it’,” Hannah said.

“But there has been no evidence that he actually ate it because there was: ‘Oh yeah I saw him eat it’. And then: ‘No, I didn’t see him eat it’.

“It was a dare, so he might have intended to eat it and then thrown it away.

“At the end of the day, we don’t know whether he actually ate the gecko. David never mentioned it.”

University of Queensland school of agriculture and food sciences deputy head Mark Turner said the gecko theory was plausible.

Dr Turner said a wide range of warm- and cold-blooded animals carried salmonella, including turtles, snakes, frogs and geckos, which have the bacteria in their gut.

“It’s possible that if the gecko was eaten, as it was being digested, the salmonella was released, but I have never heard of anything like this before,” he said.

“It just goes to show that things as innocent as geckos can carry disease bacteria.”

In the Mater, David was not well and his symptoms were particularly confronting.

Hannah said he was very bloated, resembling someone six months pregnant. His urine was black, his vomit was green and after a few days he had fluid on his lungs.

“When I went up and saw him, he was just in absolute agony,” she said.

“Mum was asking them (doctors) because he had a blockage, ‘can’t you just operate?’ They said no.”

David’s mother, Michelle, said fluid leaked from his stomach.

“His testicles were swollen up to grapefruits and there was fluid leaking from them and they [doctors] said that was normal, it was just all of the fluid in his stomach cavity,” she said.

The Mater Hospital could not go into detail regarding David’s case because of patient confidentiality.

“Mater offers its deepest condolences to the family of Mr David Dowell. Mr Dowell’s case was referred to the Coroner, who determined Mater had provided appropriate care and no further action was required. Mater is unable to comment further on the case due to patient confidentiality.”

In a statement, the Coroners Court said: “After consideration of the hospital records, the coronial registrar finalised the investigation by authorising the cause of death certificate to issue without coronial autopsy.”

David was described as “a big kid” who loved gardening. He once wandered off at Oktoberfest to go to the toilet and his family found him in the smoking area talking to everyone.

“That was the kind of person he was … I’m so grateful that I got to spend time with him. I’m glad that he was my brother,” Hannah said.

“We went to the local pub and people who didn’t really know him [David] were coming up and saying how awesome he was.”

David’s family said they hoped another family would not have to go through what they had.

“Look out for the signs and realise how bad salmonella can be, so we can prevent it from happening to someone else,” Hannah said.

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President Putin signs law suspending INF Treaty

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Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a federal law to suspend the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty – an arms control treaty between the U.S. and the Soviet Union (and its successor state, the Russian Federation).

A relevant document was posted on Wednesday on the official legal information website.

“To suspend the Treaty Between the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and the United States of America on the Elimination of Their Intermediate-Range and Shorter-Range Missiles signed in the city of Washington on December 8, 1987,” the document says.

The INF Treaty, formally Treaty Between the U.S. and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics on the Elimination of Their Intermediate-Range and Shorter-Range Missiles; was an arms control treaty between the U.S. and the Soviet Union (and its successor state, the Russian Federation).

U.S. President Ronald Reagan and Soviet General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev signed the treaty on Dec. 8, 1987.

The U.S. Senate approved the treaty on May 27, 1988, and Reagan and Gorbachev ratified it on 1 June 1988.

The INF Treaty banned all of the two nations’ land-based ballistic missiles, cruise missiles, and missile launchers with ranges of 500–1,000 kilometers (310–620 mi) (short medium-range) and 1,000–5,500 km (620–3,420 mi) (intermediate-range). The treaty did not apply to air- or sea-launched missiles.

By May 1991, the nations had eliminated 2,692 missiles, followed by 10 years of on-site verification inspections.

U.S. President Donald Trump announced on 20 October 2018 that he was withdrawing the U.S. from the treaty, accusing Russia of non-compliance.

The U.S. formally suspended the treaty on 1 February 2019, and Russia did so on the following day in response to the U.S. withdrawal.

Russia, which denies the allegation, later followed suit. Moscow accuses the United States of breaking the accord itself, a claim rejected by Washington.

The INF Treaty was the first of its kind to eliminate an entire class of missiles.

It banned the United States and Russia from developing, producing, and deploying ground-launched cruise or ballistic missiles with ranges of between 500 and 5,500 kilometers.

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Saudi Arabia, Nigeria, others sign new OPEC Charter Saudi

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The Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and the non-member countries of the organisation (OPEC+) on Tuesday signed a draft Charter of Cooperation’ in a bid to further strengthen their partnership. 

The charter now replaces the `Declaration of Cooperation’, which was reached in Dec. 2016 between the two groups.

Speaking at the end of the 6th OPEC and non-OPEC Ministerial Meeting in Vienna, Mr Salvador Fernandez, President of the bloc’s Council  reaffirmed the continued commitment of the member countries to a stable market as stipulated in the cooperation.

“Participating producing countries are committed to promoting the interest of  producing nations.

“The efficient, economic  and secure supply to consumers and a fair return on invested capital as well as the return of confidence and investment to the oil industry,” Fernandez said. 

Fernandez, who is also the Venezuelan Petroleum Minister, said that the meeting focused on recent oil market developments and immediate prospects as well as collaborative efforts by members. 

Mr Alexandra Novak, Russia’s Energy Minister and Co-chair of the meeting, described the charter as not only “historic, but a basis for solidifying cooperation.

“It is not only a historic document which solidifies our cooperation, but also a solid foundation for future analysis of the market and basis for decision-making to stabilise the market.’’

Novak, who noted the successes achieved through the Declaration of Cooperation, said that the market was currently in a better shape than it used to be.

“To further stabilise the market, we have decided to significantly intensify monitoring in bid to forestall potential uncertainties that could destabilise the market,” he said.

The new agreement is seen as a move by the bloc to remain relevant in the oil market which has been transformed by booming U.S. shale oil output.

Nigeria and 13 other OPEC member nations as well as some non-member countries have already signed the charter. 

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Sexual assault: ‘She’s not my type’, says Trump

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US President Donald Trump on Monday once again vigorously denied allegations by a magazine advice columnist that he sexually assaulted her in the 1990s in a New York department store dressing room, adding: “She’s not my type.”

Trump made the comment in an interview with The Hill, a political news outlet, that touched on the allegations from E. Jean Carroll, who says in her new book that the alleged rape occurred in the mid-1990s.

“I’ll say it with great respect: Number one, she’s not my type. Number two, it never happened. It never happened, OK?” Trump said in the interview, which was conducted in the Oval Office.

The president added that Carroll was “totally lying” when she made her claims.

“I know nothing about this woman. I know nothing about her,” he said.

Carroll’s account, revealed last week in an excerpt of her new book that was published by New York magazine, makes her at least the 16th woman to have accused Trump of sexual misconduct before he became president.

She said that in a chance encounter at the Bergdorf Goodman store in Manhattan, Trump — then a real estate developer — asked her for advice on buying lingerie for an unnamed woman.

Then jokingly, they each suggested that the other should try it on.

“The moment the dressing-room door is closed, he lunges at me, pushes me against the wall, hitting my head quite badly, and puts his mouth against my lips,” wrote Carroll, who works for Elle magazine.

Pinning her against the wall, Carroll says, Trump proceeded to pull down her tights, unzip his pants and penetrate her — all while himself fully dressed — until she finally managed to push him out and run from the dressing room.

On Monday, Carroll told CNN that he “just went at it” after he cornered her.

“It was a fight,” she said.

“With all the 15 women or 16 who have come forward, it’s the same. He denies it. He turns it around. He attacks. And he threatens.”

Carroll never went to the police because, she said, she was afraid of repercussions.

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