Police destroyed 30 marijuana plants valued at around TT$45,000 in St Mary's Village, according to a statement from the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service (TTPS). The TTPS said officers carried out an anti-crime exercise in the St. Mary’s Police District when they received information and proceeded to Moruga Road. The plants were found in a bushy area off the southern side of Gomez Trace, Moruga Road, St. Mary’s Village. They were subsequently uprooted and destroyed. The exercise was coordinated by Supt Maharaj, ASP Theodore Persad and Ag Insp Prescott, supervised by Sgt Hajaree and included officers of the St Mary’s Police Post and Southern Division Task Force. Investigations are continuing.

A 39-year-old man was granted bail in the sum of $85,000 or a cash alternative of $15,000 after appearing before the Scarborough virtual court on Thursday to answer to sexual charges against a female minor. The accused is also to report to police every Saturday as a condition of the bail granted. The labourer of Mason Hall, Tobago was arrested and charged by PC Caby of the Tobago Child Protection Unit (CPU) on Thursday, following the culmination of an investigation into a report made by a 15-year-old girl that she was allegedly sexually assaulted by a man. According to the victim’s account, the incident in which she was reportedly assaulted is said to have occurred on June 1. The investigation led to the man being charged with one count of sexual penetration of a child and one count of procuring a minor for sexual gratification. The matter will be brought up before a Scarborough Magistrate on August 10, where the accused is scheduled to reappear.

Ermine Nzotto, mother of twin girls Ervina and Prefina Bangalo, smiles following a successful surgery. (Photos: AP/Riccardo De Luca, Bambino Gesù Paediatric Hospital)

Doctors at the Vatican-owned paediatric hospital revealed this week that they have successfully separated conjoined twins. Their skulls were fused back-to-back, an exceedingly rare surgery for an equally rare congenital defect. The twins, Ervina and Prefina Bangalo were born two years ago on June 29, in Mbaïki, a town in the Central African Republic, with their heads attached and sharing critical blood vessels around their brains. CHECK OUT THIS CLIP DOCUMENTING ERVINA AND PREFINA'S JOURNEY Such cases of conjoined twins occur once in every two million births or so. The Bambino Gesù Paediatric Hospital, which is Vatican-owned but operates within the Italian public health system, brought the twins and their mother to Italy soon after their birth. The hospital said the toddlers are recovering well a month after their third and definitive separation surgery on June 5. Video released by the hospital showed the girls waving along to music from their beds, clapping and holding markers. They were celebrating their second birthday in their mother’s arms as hospital staff sang ‘Happy Birthday’ to them in Italian. [image_gallery] The key goal of the surgery was ‘to obtain a separation with the girls in perfect condition… the objective was very ambitious, and we did everything to reach it,’ said Dr Carlo Marras, chief of paediatric neurosurgery at the hospital. Marras led the team that worked for nearly two years planning and executing the separation. At a press conference to announce the outcome of the sisters’ surgery, Marras revealed the prognosis: ‘these girls can have a normal life’ after a phase of rehabilitation. There have been successful separation surgeries in the past of twins joined at the head, but most have been for twins whose heads were fused vertically, at the top. Ervina and Previna’s skulls were joined back-to-back in what is known as ‘total posterior craniopagus’ (tongue-twister, we know). That made the surgery particularly challenging since the back of the head is a far more critical place for blood supply to the brain and drainage of blood away from it, according to Dr Jesse Taylor, head of plastic surgery at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. During his tenure, Taylor has participated in some separation surgeries. ‘It’s one of those configurations that I think a lot of centres, when they see it, say, ‘You know, we’re not sure that this can be done safely,’ he said. ‘The venous drainage tends to be the main limiting step for separability’ in twins connected at the back of the head. He said in typical separation surgeries, doctors can ‘borrow’ some blood vessels to give to each twin. ‘But when it comes to the back of the head, you don’t have a lot of wiggle room for borrowing veins,’ Taylor explained. Marras said that indeed, the most complicated aspect of the Bangalo twins’ separation was to give each child autonomous venous drainage systems — procedures that began with two surgeries in May and June 2019. The final, 18-hour surgery last month to physically separate them involved a team of 30 doctors and nurses, who made use of 3-D imaging and neurostimulators. Before the separation surgery, members of the Vatican hospital’s staff gave the girls mirrors so they could see one another. They knew what each other sounded like, but the mirrors helped them associate facial expressions with their personalities and sounds, Marras said. ‘It was an experience that wasn’t just professional but above all human: To think that you can arrive at something that we had only imagined, with all the possibilities of failure. It was a magical moment…marvellous!’ he said. Marras said there was only one previously known case of a separation of twins conjoined at the back of the head, performed in the US during the 1980s. He said the outcome, in that case, was poor, referring to the 1987 surgery at Johns Hopkins University by a team led by Dr Ben Carson. Both twins suffered serious neurological problems. An Associated Press story from 1989, two years after the surgery, said one of the boys was in a vegetative state and the other had severe developmental delays. In the case of the Bangalo sisters, Marras said the girls so far have suffered no neurological harm. The twins’ mother, Ermine Nzotto, wiped tears from her eyes as she watched a video prepared by the hospital of the twins’ before and after their separation. Nzotto said she never went to school but hopes her daughters would study to become doctors. ‘It’s a joy that I can see my girls run and play like other children. May they tomorrow study and learn to become doctors to save the other children of this world,” she said through an interpreter. She expressed gratitude to Marras, the hospital president and Pope Francis, and said she also hopes that Francis will now baptise her girls. Hospital President Mariella Enoc met the twins soon after they were born during a visit to the Central African Republic and was the driving force behind bringing them to Rome and seeing if they could be separated. She said deciding to do so created ethical and economic questions, since the cost of 1 million euros (US$1.1 million) paid for primarily by the hospital foundation, could have been spent on less-risky procedures that might have benefited more children. But, Enoc said: ‘When you find a life that can be saved, you have to save it.’

Loop Breakfast Bites is a round-up of the top international stories making headlines. [related node_id='31cc345a-4e62-4b73-883e-b6d543413004'] [related node_id='36743f60-396f-43aa-9fd5-3ce39c8de056'] [related node_id='e5f5a18e-781f-4dee-a30a-81af6eeb8437'] [related node_id='b7cb0c9d-b9b4-42ca-ad90-991ed403ed74'] [related node_id='ba379162-9c5c-48f8-ba41-2195199bed57']

COVID-19's effects on Trinidad and Tobago have causedthe government to put a ban on group camp activities for the July/August vacation period. For parents who work from home and those heading back to work while the children are at home from school,LoopTThas compiled a few options for parents looking to keep the younger ones occupiedthis vacation. TheAcademy of Baking and Pastry Arts Even though the Academy is known for helping participants create sweet treats and floury goodness, they’re alsoteaching children how to make dishes from Italy, Paris and even Japan. Their one-day vacation courses have already started and will go until August 29. The Academy is located in the heart of Woodbrook, near workplaces and office spaces so kids won’t be too far away in case parents or guardians want to stop by. Bead CaféKraftyKids The Bead Café onMucurapo Road in St James is helping the younger ones to learn the art of jewelry making. Some of their courses are for a few days while others are for just one day.They’re holding a number of in-person courses at their location, but they can also be found at West Mall onAugust 4 and C3 in San Fernando on August 31. For those who have help at home, Bead Café is also conducting online courses; enrolled students will have a craft kit to practice with. NIHERSTVirtual Camps The National Institute of Higher Education Research Science and Technology (NIHERST) is holding a slew of weekly camps for various age groups. For children with an interest in engineering, technology, animationand even 3D designing, NIHERST has something for everyone. All camps cost $250 and will be held virtually. This article will be updated with more fun vacation activities for children as soon as they are sourced.

There are currently five COVID-19 patients being treated at the Caura Hospital, according to the latest update from the Ministry of Health. In an update at 10 am on July 10, the Ministry said to date, there were five COVID-19 positive patients at the Caura Hospital. So far,5,759 samples have been submitted with 4,312unique patient tests completed and 1,447 repeated tests. To date there were 133 confirmed positive tests. 120 people have been discharged so far, with the death toll remaining at eight. The Ministry said there are currently no COVID-19 patients at step-down or transition facilities. The public is urged to monitor the Ministry's official channels for the latest updates.