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News Wrap: Cases of West Nile Virus Reach Decade High

August 22, 2012 at 12:00 AM EDT
In other news Tuesday, the Centers for Disease Control reported three times more cases of West Nile virus so far this year, blaming weather conditions that fostered optimal breeding conditions for mosquitoes. Also, a new study reveals that older fathers have a higher risk of passing genetic mutations on to their children.
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KWAME HOLMAN: There was more evidence of a recovery in the housing market today. Sales of existing homes were up in July 2.3 percent over June, according to the National Association of Realtors. Nonetheless, newly released minutes of the last Federal Reserve Board meeting showed members still leaning toward taking further steps to spur the economy.

The mixed news wasn’t enough to boost stocks on Wall Street today. The Dow Jones industrial average lost more than 30 points to close above 13,172. The Nasdaq rose six points to close at 3,073.

Forty-one people in the U.S. have died from West Nile virus and the number of new cases is at the highest level in more than a decade. The federal Centers for Disease Control said some 1,100 cases were reported through mid-August, three times more than usual by this point in the year. The CDC blames a mild winter, early spring, a hot summer for fostering a greater population of mosquitoes, which spread the virus.

Older fathers pose a greater risk of passing on gene mutations to their children that could lead to autism and schizophrenia. That was the conclusion of a study published online by the journal “Nature.” Scientists sequenced the genomes of 78 Icelandic families in which children had both those disorders and found the father’s age was a crucial risk factor. The age of the mother was found to have no bearing.

In Syria today, government troops launched new house-to-house raids in two districts of Damascus. Activists said more than 30 suspected rebels were killed. Battles also raged for control of the northern city of Aleppo, where plumes of thick black smoke billowed above the skyline. It’s been a battleground for more than a month.

Fighting also spilled across the border into Lebanon overnight, as regime supporters clashed with members of the opposition in Tripoli. At least six people were killed and scores were reported wounded.

A grim milestone was marked today in the U.S. war in Afghanistan. Deaths of American troops reached 2,000. The calculation by The New York Times analyzes Department of Defense records and includes those who died in Afghanistan, as well as elsewhere if directly related to the war.

The Defense Department counts deaths outside Afghanistan separately. Other tallies also differ. The Associated Press puts the number of U.S. war dead at 1,968. The independent site iCasualties.org counts 2,102.

A British man who fought for the right to end his life by assisted suicide died today of pneumonia. Tony Nicklinson was left profoundly paralyzed and unable to speak by a stroke in 2005. Last week, a court rejected his latest appeal for an assisted suicide.

We have a report from Penny Marshall of Independent Television News.

PENNY MARSHALL: Tony Nicklinson will be remembered as the man with Locked-in syndrome who fought for the right to die. But his family will never forget the athletic and fun-loving man he was before a stroke changed his life and made him want to die.

Only last week, he was left devastated when his fight for an assisted death of his own choosing failed.

WOMAN: As you can see from Tony’s reaction, he’s absolutely heartbroken.

PENNY MARSHALL: He died this morning of pneumonia. He’d refused to accept food as his condition worsened.

SAIMO CHAHAL, attorney for Tony Nicklinson: After Tony received the draft judgment on 12 August refusing his claim, the fight seemed to go out of him. He said that he was heartbroken by the high court’s decision that he could not end his life at a time of his choosing with the help of a doctor.

PENNY MARSHALL: Other assisted suicide campaigners, like M.S. patient Debbie Purdy, paid tribute to his courage.

DEBBIE PURDY, assisted suicide advocate: I hope people remember that this was somebody who was prepared to put the interests of other people before his own.

PENNY MARSHALL: Tony Nicklinson built up a large following on the social networking site Twitter in the last few months. And this morning, his family used it to say goodbye.

His daughter wrote: “Dad, you’re finally at peace. Beth and I are so proud to be your daughters. We got our strength from you. I love you, kiss, kiss, kiss.”

And fulfilling her father’s last wish, there was this message, too. “Before he died, he asked us to tweet, goodbye, world. The time has come. I had some fun.”

KWAME HOLMAN: Nicklinson’s case sparked a heated debate over euthanasia legislation in Britain. Throughout Europe, only Belgium, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Switzerland have legalized the right to die.

On Mars, the rover Curiosity went on its first test drive today to explore for evidence of life existing on the planet. NASA engineers positioned the rover’s wheels to move forward about 10 feet, turn right, and steer backward, leaving track marks on the planet’s soil.

Scientists say Curiosity eventually could roam hundreds of feet per day.

Those are some of the day’s major stories.