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A Joyous Easter For Hostage Families

A Joyous Easter For Hostage FamiliesWith news that Capt. Richard Phillips had been rescued unharmed after being held for five days by Somali pirates, a lawn sign in the captain's hometown of Underhill, Vt., that read "Pray for Captain Phillips' release and safe return home" was changed to read, "Capt. Phillips rescued and safe."

A spokeswoman for the Phillips family, Alison McColl, said Phillips and his wife, Andrea, spoke by phone shortly after he was freed.

"I think you can all imagine their joy and what a happy moment that was for them," McColl said outside of the Phillips home. "They're all just so happy and relieved. Andrea wanted me to tell the nation that all of your prayers and good wishes have paid off, because Capt. Phillips is safe."

The U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet said Phillips, 53, was resting comfortably after a medical exam on the San Diego-based USS Boxer in the Indian Ocean off the coast of Somalia.

In Mombasa, Kenya, Phillips' 19 crewmen, who said the captain offered himself as a hostage to safeguard the crew, gathered on the lower deck of the Maersk Alabama. They whistled and pumped their fists in the air and fired two bright red flares into the sky from the ship.

"We made it!" shouted ATM "Zahid" Reza, from Hartford, Conn., pumping his fist in the air as he stood among about a dozen crewmen who came out to answer questions from the throng of journalists and television cameras.

Another crew member, who declined to give his name, said he was not surprised Phillips had made it out alive, but said the captain had been "in a 120-degree oven for days."

Capt. Joseph Murphy, the father of Phillips' second-in-command Shane Murphy, thanked Phillips for his bravery.

"Our prayers have been answered on this Easter Sunday," Murphy said. "If not for his incredible personal sacrifice, this kidnapping and act of terror could have turned out much worse."

Murphy said both his family and Phillips' "can now celebrate a joyous Easter together."

"This was an incredible team effort, and I am extremely proud of the tireless efforts of all the men and women who made this rescue possible," U.S. Navy Vice Adm. Bill Gortney said in a statement.

He called Phillips and his crew "heroic."

Terry Aiken, 66, who lives across the street from the Phillips house, fought back tears as he reacted to the news.

"I'm very, very happy," Aiken said. "I can't be happier for him and his family."

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Anti-Blindness Therapy

Anti-Blindness TherapyAnti-blindness stem cell therapy perfected.

British scientists say they have developed a stem procedure that will reverse the most common cause of blindness, age-related macular degeneration.

The procedure, pioneered by the Institute of Ophthalmology at University College London and Moorfields eye hospital, involves replacing a layer of degenerated eye cells with new ones obtained from embryonic stem cells, The Sunday Times of London reported.

The newspaper said pharmaceutical research company Pfizer this week will announce financial backing to bring the therapy to patients.

"This is a huge step forward for patients," Tom Bremridge, chief executive of the Macular Disease Society, told The Sunday Times. "We are extremely pleased that the big guns have become involved, because, once this treatment is validated, it will be made available to a huge volume of patients."

More than 500,000 Britons are affected by age-related macular degeneration and that number will increase significantly as people live longer, observers say.

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Amber Hagerman

Amber HagermanAmber Alert system for missing children.

An Amber Alert system is to be set-up for missing children following a recommendation from the Garda Inspectorate.

Kathleen O'Toole said that when a child goes missing in high-risk circumstances it is vital that the gardaĆ­ can immediately get the assistance of key networks in alerting the community.

She said that much could be done to establish the system without incurring additional cost.

The ISPCC has welcomed the move but added that we also need to ensure that other mechanisms that are operational across Europe are used here, including the introduction of the 116 000 telephone number.

The number has been in place for more than two years in a number of European countries but not in Ireland.

The ISPCC says Ireland falls short of adequate policies, procedures and services that deal with missing children.

The Amber Alert system was first introduced in the US and is named after nine-year-old Amber Hagerman who was abducted from her Texas home in 1995. It also stands for America's Missing: Broadcast Emergency Response.

In the US the alerts are broadcast on radio and television news bulletins as well as on road signs and usually contain a description of the child and of their alleged abductor.

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