World and Nation

Shorts (left)

Jordan’s king shakes up 
his government

AMMAN, Jordan — King Abdullah II of Jordan, under growing pressure to accelerate political reform and genuine anti-corruption measures, fired his government Monday, eight months after doing so for similar reasons in the early days of the Arab Spring.

In a statement announcing the change, Abdullah said, “We have accepted the resignation of Prime Minister Marouf al-Bakhit, taking into consideration the views of the various sectors of society as well as a letter we have received from the parliamentary majority.”

Bakhit was seen by many as dragging his feet on political changes. His government also angered Jordanians with a law that made it a crime, punishable by a steep fine, to falsely accuse someone of corruption. The law is seen as an infringement on the media and free speech.

Also of concern are episodes of lawlessness, especially by groups thought to be working with the government, who have attacked opposition gatherings. The most recent example came Saturday when an anti-corruption conference, attended by opposition figures and members of four prominent tribes, was disrupted by attackers firing guns and throwing stones.

—Ranya Kadri and Ethan Bronner, The New York Times

Blood tests for Down Syndrome are developed

New tests are coming to market that can detect Down syndrome in a fetus using a sample of the mother’s blood, potentially reducing the need for riskier invasive tests while also stirring ethical concerns.

Researchers say the new tests might not be reliable enough yet to replace amniocentesis or chorionic villus sampling, two invasive techniques that carry a slight risk of inducing a miscarriage. But they might lower the numbers of women who undergo those tests but then learn their fetus is normal.

“You will have dramatically fewer procedures,” said Dr. Stephen A. Brown, an associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Vermont who has no financial relationship with any of the companies. “It’s a game-changer.”

The first new test, which analyzes fetal DNA in the mother’s blood, is being offered in 20 major cities starting Monday by Sequenom, a biotechnology company in San Diego whose previous work on a Down syndrome test had been marred by a scandal over manipulating data that resulted in the firings of top officials.

The results of a study published online Monday by the journal Genetics in Medicine showed that Sequenom’s new test picked up 98.6 percent of Down syndrome cases. The false-positive rate — when the test incorrectly said that a baby would have Down syndrome — was 0.2 percent.

—Andrew Pollack, The New York Times

Somali militants threaten Kenya over cross-border troops

NAIROBI, Kenya — A big battle may be shaping up in southern Somalia between the Kenyan military, which took the unusual step of sending hundreds of soldiers into Somalia over the weekend, and the Shabab militant group, a ruthless franchise of al-Qaida that vowed Monday to attack Kenya in retaliation.

Kenyan military officials sought to reassure the public that they were on guard for reprisal suicide bombings in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, the business hub of East Africa and a popular tourist spot.

Kenyan officials also implied that their military operation might be far more ambitious than the originally stated goal — simply pushing the Shabab back from the Kenya-Somalia border — and that Kenyan troops were prepared to go as far as Kismayo, a Shabab stronghold about 100 miles up the Indian Ocean coast.

—Jeffrey Gettleman, The New York Times