French Brain Surgeon, Charles de Gaulle to Treat Kim Jong-il of North Korea

Speculation surrounding the health of Kim Jong-il intensified today after a Japanese TV station reported that a leading French brain surgeon had been sent to Pyongyang, after talks with the "Dear Leader's" eldest son.

In a report by Fuji TV aired today, a man the broadcaster identified as Kim's eldest son, Kim Jong-nam, was seen visiting the neurological department of a Paris clinic, where he spent two hours with the unnamed surgeon.

The report said he was "believed to have met with a French brain surgeon, who later departed from Paris for Pyongyang under North Korean escort".

The portly figure, dressed in a dark pinstriped suit with a red tie, ignored questions about Kim Jong-il's health as he got into a waiting car, but managed a wave and a hint of a smile as he left, according to the station.

The report then showed the surgeon arriving at Charles de Gaulle airport two days later, in a car belonging to the North Korean mission to Unesco.

The doctor, whose face had been blurred by the network, confirmed he was flying to Beijing, a common transfer point for flights to Pyongyang, but would neither confirm nor deny whether he was flying to the North Korean capital.

A spokeswoman at Fuji TV's Paris bureau declined to comment on Kim Jong-nam's reported visit. "All of the information we have was included in the report," she said.

Though accounts of political manoeuvering inside the secretive state are all but impossible to verify, few observers now believe the regime's recent claims that Kim Jong-il is in robust health.

Rumours that he is seriously ill have been circulating for weeks, prompting speculation about a possible power struggle involving his three sons, his brother-in-law and senior members of the Korean Workers' party.

US and South Korean officials said earlier this month that the 66-year-old, a former heavy smoker and drinker, had suffered a stroke and undergone brain surgery.

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NFL Players Vs Staphylococcus, Why the Battle in the First place?

The NFL is learning the hard way that a microscopic foe can be much more imposing than a 300-pound lineman, as a sudden slew of staph infections has sacked several players in the game.

Early this week, Cleveland Browns tight end Kellen Winslow Jr. revealed that staph (short for Staphylococcus) infection had sent him to the Cleveland Clinic for three days, and he accused the Browns of asking him to cover it up. Pro football teams are notoriously reluctant to reveal any information on player injuries, but since six different Browns have caught the bug since 2005 — Winslow has had it twice — the team's medical management looked suspect to some observers. "There's obviously a problem [with staph] and we have to fix it," Winslow told the Cleveland Plain Dealer. "Just look at the history around here. It's unfortunate, because it happens time and time again." The Browns, who denied that they had kept the news of his infection from his teammates, suspended Winslow one game for his rant, which included his claim that he felt like he had been treated like "a piece of meat."

But the Winslow medical controversy wasn't even the worst of it for the league. In the past week, it has become clear that two of its most marketable stars, marquee quarterbacks Tom Brady and Peyton Manning, had gotten infections. The New England Patriots' Brady has had at least two additional infection-related procedures since his initial season-ending knee surgery in September. It's now possible that his knee will have to undergo another operation, which could delay his return until 2010. Staph seems to be the likely culprit, but neither Brady nor the Patriots will confirm that. During training camp staph infected a bursa sac, which acts as a cushion between bones, in Manning's left knee. The infection required surgery and forced him to miss most of the preseason. Though the Colts released a statement on Friday insisting Manning didn't contract a more perilous staph, the anti-biotic resistant strain known as MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus), the incidents should alarm the NFL. "The NFL, and all the leagues, should be diligent, and not let their guards down," says Dr. Robert Gotlin, director of Orthopedic and Sports Rehabilitation at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York City. "They've got to do better. It's got to be one of the top five priorities."

The recent cases have certainly gotten players' attention. "I'm concerned, and wondering why it's happening. It's not some little infection that goes away in a few days, it's pretty serious," says Chicago Bears rookie running back Matt Forte. The league is quick to point out that it has partnered with teams to educate players about the bacteria, while the players' union insists it's alarmed and has contacted the league about further action. Some teams, like the Colts, have posted pictures on training room walls that warn players about staph symptoms and how to avoid contracting or spreading it. For their part, the Browns note that the team has previously used a special anti-staph agent to disinfect the locker room, weight room and other places where players gather.

Staph, of course, is far from just an NFL problem. Two college teams, the '05 Florida Gators and the '03 USC Trojans, had multiple cases. And football is by no means the only sports victim. The infection kept Toronto Blue Jays outfielder Alex Rios out of the 2006 All-Star Game. A few days later another Toronto player caught it, and the clubhouse was disinfected. NBA players Paul Pierce, Grant Hill and Drew Gooden have had it. Staph killed a high school wrestler in California this summer, and last spring 15 students at a Pennsylvania high school were either treated for staph or symptoms caused by the virus.

What exactly are staph infections? Staph is bacteria carried on the skin, which can enter the body through a cut or during a medical procedure, causing the infection. Most are minor, but certain strains are particularly resistant to anti-biotics and can cause athletes to miss significant playing time. Athletes are more likely to suffer cuts, and the locker room setting bunches players close to one another in a warm, damp environment, so they are especially susceptible to spreading the bacteria. Since football teams carry some 55 players on their rosters, and tend to have a higher degree of serious injuries to deal with, they are at particular risk. According to a 2005 survey by the NFL Team Physicians Society, 13 out of 30 teams that responded had had a player contract MRSA in recent years, for a total of 60 leaguewide infections.

Though Philadelphia Eagles linebacker Omar Gaither rightly points out that "we're just a naturally dirty sport," there are several basic precautions athletes can take to lower the chance of catching an infection. Many athletes shave their ankles, legs, and arms because they don't want athletic tape ripping hair off their bodies, but experts say they should lose the razor. "No matter how careful the shaving is, you can have nicks and microscopic cuts in the skin," says Dr. Daniel Sexton, an infectious disease specialist at the Duke University Medical Center, who consults for an NFL team and several college programs. "Any time you break that barrier, it becomes a portal through which bacteria can gain access." Staph prevention is pretty low-tech. "You know, this is pretty simple," Sexton says. "Hand washing remains the primary defense against the transmissions of most organisms, including staph. Most people don't think of a locker room as a place where hand hygiene is important, but locker rooms are also mini-emergency rooms."

In 2003, a team of researchers tracked the St. Louis Rams and found five players who caught eight MRSA infections. "We observed a lack of regular access to hand hygiene (i.e., soap and water or alcohol-based hand gels) for trainers who provided wound care," they wrote in The New England Journal of Medicine. Other offenses included "skipping of showers by players before the use of communal whirlpools; and sharing or towels — all factors that might facilitate the transmission of infection in this setting."

In short: use a little common sense, tough guys. But when it comes to infectious germs, even a 245-lb. bruiser like Gaither believes you can't always outrun them. "You can't worry about it to death," he says. "It's not like you can walk around and put gloves on your hand every 10 seconds. Sometimes, there's just not that much you can do." Except hope that these recent cases are a coincidental hiccup, and not an epidemic that seriously tackles the NFL.

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FARC Hostage, Oscar Tulio Lizcano Escaped After 8 Years in Captivity

A former Colombian congressman who was held hostage in the jungle for more than eight years has escaped -- with the help of a former captor.

Oscar Tulio Lizcano, his hair disheveled, appeared too weak to stand for long when he met the news media Sunday, hours after stumbling onto a military patrol -- and freedom.

Lizcano suffered from hunger and disease in captivity and endured isolation in the company of leftist rebels who often would not let him talk, he and Colombian authorities said.

"Maybe my incoherence is for a lack of speaking," Lizcano told reporters. "I was unable to talk with the guerillas who guarded me."

Lizcano said he had little to read in the jungle except "The Odyssey" by Homer. He suffered from malaria and other illnesses and once ate nothing but hearts of palm for six or seven days, said Juan Manuel Santos, the Colombian defense minister.

"This is big news for the whole family," said Lizcano's sister, Amparo Lizcano. "We were waiting for the guerrillas to give our brother back alive before he died."

The former congressman fled about three days ago with the assistance of one of his captors, a member of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, a leftist rebel force that has been fighting the government for more than 40 years in a war that also has involved right-wing paramilitaries and drug traffickers.

President Alvaro Uribe appeared on television Sunday with the ex-FARC rebel -- known by the alias "Isaza" -- and said the man will receive compensation and permission to resettle in France with his family. He said that's in keeping with a Colombian government policy that rewards rebels who desert and help hostages gain their freedom.

Police officers and soldiers pinpointed the location of the FARC unit holding Lizcano several months ago, Santos said.

They monitored the location for about five months and took steps to seal off possible escape routes, he said, as they planned a rescue operation using information gleaned help from a rebel who deserted October 2. Troops started that rescue operation Saturday -- only to discover that "Isaza" and Lizcano had decided on their own to escape.

The two men wandered through the jungle for three days and nights before encountering a Colombian army patrol Sunday, said Santos, the defense minister.

Lizcano was kidnapped on August 4, 2000 near the Colombian town of Riosucio. He and his former captor stumbled Sunday onto a patrol near the border of the states of Risaralda and Choco, in central Colombia, authorities said.

The FARC holds an estimated 750 hostages in Colombia. Its members have justified hostage taking as a legitimate military tactic.

The rebels have been battered this year by government raids that killed several top commanders, the death by apparent heart attack of their founder and a wave of desertions.

Government commandoes tricked the FARC in July and freed their most prized hostage, the former presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt, in an elaborate ruse that also liberated three U.S. defense contractors and 11 other hostages.

On Sunday, Lizcano offered words of encouragement to those hundreds who remain trapped in the jungle, captives of the FARC.

"Hold on. Hold on," he said. "One day you will enjoy your freedom, too."

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Body Suspected to be Julian King Found in an SUV

A body believed to be that of the missing 7-year-old nephew of Oscar-winning actress Jennifer Hudson was found Monday inside an SUV, an FBI official and Chicago police said.

Speaking at a news conference on an unrelated matter, FBI Deputy Director John Pistole said the body is "believed to be" Hudson's nephew, Julian King, and the FBI is working with the Chicago Police Department to confirm the identity.

Deputy Chief Cmdr. Wayne Gulliford said police were responding to "a call about a suspicious auto" in the west side of Chicago at approximately 7 a.m. when they found the body inside a parked white Chevy Suburban, which had a license plate matching the description in the child's Amber Alert.

He had no details on the body, pending the medical examiner's report.

Julian has been missing since Hudson's mother and brother were found dead in their home Friday.

Over the weekend, Hudson offered a $100,000 reward for the safe return of her nephew.

"Please keep praying for our family and that we get Julian King back home safely," Hudson said in a posting on her MySpace page Sunday. "If anyone has any information about his whereabouts please contact the authorities immediately."

Hudson also posted two pictures of her nephew wearing the brown-and-orange striped polo shirt he was wearing when he was last seen.

Earlier, Hudson viewed the bodies of her mother, Darnell Donerson, and brother, Jason Hudson, the Cook County medical examiner's office told CNN on Sunday. They were found shot to death Friday in their South Side Chicago home.

Julian's stepfather, William Balfour, was detained over the weekend for questioning in connection with the case, a police spokesperson told CNN. He was subsequently transferred to prison on a parole violation charge, the spokesperson said.

No charges had been filed against anyone in connection with the murders.

According to the Illinois Department of Corrections, Balfour, 27, spent nearly seven years in prison for attempted murder, vehicular hijacking and possessing a stolen vehicle.

Chicago news station WLS reported Saturday that Julian was not with Balfour when he was detained.

Hudson's sister, Julia Balfour, made an emotional appeal Saturday for the safe return of her son.

"My greatest fear has already happened, my greatest hope is for having my child. I just want my son," Julia Balfour said. "That's all I have to say. Just let my baby go."

William Balfour's mother, Michele Davis-Balfour, also urged the public to focus on finding Julian and said her son had nothing to do with the slayings.

"Out of no means did my son do this. This heinous crime to this family is unbelievable. It's unbearable," Davis-Balfour told WLS.Video Watch Davis-Balfour's emotional appeal »

Deputy Police Chief Joseph Patterson said the bodies of Hudson's mother and brother were found about 3 p.m. Friday, when a relative arrived and found the body of a woman on the living room floor. The relative backed out of the house and called police, Patterson said. Authorities found a man shot to death in a bedroom.

The Cook County medical examiner's office said Saturday that Donerson and Jason Hudson suffered multiple gunshot wounds and ruled the deaths homicides.

Neighbors reported hearing gunshots earlier Friday, Patterson said. Authorities found no signs of forced entry to the home and were not sure whether other items were missing. Video Watch the scene outside the house »

"You've got two people who were killed inside a home. That alone will produce a great deal of evidence," Chicago Police Superintendent Jody Weis said of forensic evidence at the crime scene.

Hudson won a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her portrayal of Effie in the film version of the Broadway musical "Dreamgirls." She competed on the third season of "American Idol" in 2004, making it to the top seven contestants before being eliminated from the contest.

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