Archive for July 18th, 2008

Pakistani Jihadists Campaigned Against Vaccinations; Polio Case Confirmed in Baby Girl

Friday, July 18th, 2008

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (AP) — An eight-month-old Pakistani girl has tested positive for polio in an area where militants campaigned against vaccination, a World Health Organization official said Thursday.

The girl, identified only as Tanzila, comes from Ali Gram village in the Swat Valley where militants had “beaten up” anti-polio vaccination teams, said Dr Khalid Nawaz, a WHO official supervising local health authorities.

Nawaz said the last confirmed case of the disease in Swat had been in 2003. Tanzila is infected with type 1 polio, the most dangerous and contagious strain, he said.

Threats to health workers and fighting between government security forces and militants have disrupted vaccinations in about half of the Swat Valley since September 2007, he said.

A Swat-based pro-Taliban cleric, Maulana Fazlullah, had reportedly opposed polio vaccination, saying it was a Western conspiracy to render Muslims infertile.

Last year, armed Fazlullah supporters took control of most of the scenic valley in Pakistan’s volatile northwest before the army moved in and forced them into the mountains.

Nawaz said authorities are planning to resume the vaccinations after a fragile peace deal was reached this year between militants and the government.

However, there have been sporadic attacks in recent weeks, and several girls schools have been burned down, amid signs that militants are reasserting themselves.

In the past year, Islamic militants have extended their influence across Pakistan’s northwestern frontier with Afghanistan, posing a growing security threat to both countries.

Polio has been eliminated in all but about a dozen countries following a global vaccination campaign, according to WHO. The disease remains endemic in Afghanistan, India, Nigeria and Pakistan.

Original Link.

Court Says ‘Gay’ Rights Trump Christian Rights

Friday, July 18th, 2008

A federal appeals court has ruled the First Amendment rights of homosexuals at Philadelphia’s taxpayer-funded “Outfest” celebration in 2004 trumped the First Amendment rights of Christians, and has dismissed the civil rights complaint the Philadelphia 11 had filed.

“The city has an interest in ensuring that a permit-holder can use the permit for the purpose for which it was obtained,” this week’s opinion from the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said. “This interest necessarily includes the right of police officers to prevent counter-protestors from disrupting or interfering with the message of the permit-holder.”

The decision upheld a lower court’s dismissal of the civil action against the city of Philadelphia and its police that had been filed by the Philadelphia 11.

Ted Hoppe, a lawyer allied with the Alliance Defense Fund, had argued in the appeal that, “Speech cannot be silenced simply because another person or group does not agree with it. City officials must be held accountable for their decision to violate the First Amendment rights of Christians who wanted nothing more than to engage in peaceful assembly on a public street.”

Michael Marcavage, founder of Repent America and organizer of the event, said the lawyers were reviewing the appellate ruling and deciding whether there are further open doors for the plaintiffs.

Members of the “Philadelphia 11” as the group is known, were arrested Oct. 10, 2004, after quoting the Bible and expressing their views against homosexual behavior on a public street during “OutFest,” a publicly funded celebration of homosexual choices.

They were jailed overnight in the case, but a judge later dismissed any criminal counts as having no basis in fact. The individuals then filed the damage lawsuit against the city.

U.S. District Judge Lawrence Stengel had concluded in dismissing the civil rights claim that a “permit” granted by the city to the homosexuals allowed police to silence the Christian activists’ message on public streets.

“It is without question that Judge Stengel’s decision has set a precedent to eliminate the First Amendment rights of others by citing that a ‘permitting scheme’ can be used by police and event organizers to ‘exclude persons expressing contrary messages’ in public areas and at public events,” Marcavage said earlier.

Original Link.

Dinars for Dollars: Arabs Buying Out Collapsing Western Banks

Friday, July 18th, 2008

I think this trend should concern us.

(IsraelNN.com) First it was Citibank. Now it’s Barclay’s and New York City’s Chrysler Building skyscraper. Muslim Arabs are buying out collapsing Western banks and businesses and gaining growing international power, but some Arab investors are worried their investments may go down the drain with the American economy.

The current financial crisis in the United States has spread to other countries because of a massive debt that was not backed by enough real and liquid collateral. Banks and businesses gasping for financial breath are up for sale at basement prices, but no one is certain if the basement is the bottom.

“The possibility remains that more Arab white knights will be sought to rescue ailing financial institutions,” wrote Dr. Mohammed Ramady, a former banker and Visiting Associate Professor at the King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals in the Financial Adviser magazine. He said he fears that Arab investors will end up chasing their investments with more money to keep them from going under.

Original Link.

UN Peacekeepers Salute Dead Terrorist

Friday, July 18th, 2008

I saw this picture over on the AP. Charles Johnson at Little Green Footballs says this:

“United Nations “peacekeepers” stand and salute the remains of Hizballah terrorists on a truck decorated with a photograph of Imad Mughniyeh, mastermind of the Marine barracks bombing that killed hundreds of US citizens.”

Link to Photo.

Quiet Iraq Streets Leave Soldiers Yearning for Afghanistan

Friday, July 18th, 2008

Here’s a story that you won’t find highlighted on your nightly news. I’m actually surprised that CNN decided to pick it up.
The U.S. soldiers in Iraq are ready to leave. But they aren’t ready to come home. They want to go to Afghanistan. Why? Because Iraq is boring.

BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) — Spc. Grover Gebhart has spent nine months at a small post on a Sunni-Shiite fault line in western Baghdad. But the 21-year-old soldier on his first tour in Iraq feels he’s missing the real war — in Afghanistan, where his brother is fighting the Taliban.
Military officials say violence in Iraq is at its lowest point in the past four years.

With violence in Iraq at its lowest level in four years and the war in Afghanistan at a peak, the soldiers serving at patrol station Maverick say Gebhart’s view is increasingly common, especially among younger soldiers looking to prove themselves in battle.

“I’ve heard it a lot since I got here,” said 2nd Lt. Karl Kuechenmeister, a 2007 graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point who arrived in Iraq about a week ago.

Soldiers who have experienced combat stress note that it is usually young soldiers on their first tour who most want to get on the battlefield. They say it is hard to communicate the horrors of war to those who have not actually experienced it.

“These kids are just being young,” said Sgt. Christopher Janis, who is only 23 but is on his third tour in Iraq. “They say they want to get into battle until they do, and then they won’t want it anymore.”

That soldiers are looking elsewhere for a battle is a testament to how much Iraq has changed from a year ago, when violence was at its height. Now it’s the lowest in four years, thanks to the U.S. troop surge, the turn by former Sunni insurgents against al-Qaeda in Iraq, and Iraqi government crackdowns on Shiite militias.

At least 29 U.S. soldiers died in Iraq last month, and there were 19 deaths in May — the lowest monthly toll for American troops since the war began in March 2003. By comparison, in Afghanistan, 28 Americans died in June and 17 in May, but there are four times as many U.S. troops in Iraq.

American military deaths in Iraq are also down sharply this month, in a trend that could take center stage during Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama’s planned visit to Baghdad and the debate over whether America’s main battle is shifting back to Afghanistan.

At least eight soldier deaths had been reported for July in Iraq by the military as of Wednesday — four in combat, two not connected to fighting and the recovery of remains of two soldiers missing since last year.

The daily average of 0.50 deaths so far in July is significantly below any month in the war. The lowest for a full month was 0.61 deaths in May, and the next lowest was 0.71 in February 2004.

The relative calm is apparent in Baghdad’s Ghazaliyah neighborhood, patrolled by troops stationed at Maverick from the 1st Squadron, 75th Cavalry Regiment of the U.S. Army’s 101st Airborne Division.

Instead of facing gunfire and roadside bombs, the soldiers’ armored Humvees are chased by waving children as they weave through streets crowded with pedestrians out to shop or just to stroll.

Some of Maverick’s troops saw combat a few months ago when they helped the Iraqi army take over the Ghazaliyah office of anti-U.S. cleric Muqtada al-Sadr in a battle complete with gunfire and rocket-propelled grenades.

But their days in Ghazaliyah have mostly been filled with routine patrols. The soldiers’ job is to serve as a critical presence that helps keep violence down in the mixed Sunni and Shiite neighborhood.

“Ninety-five percent of the time it is perfectly quiet in Ghazaliyah now,” said 1st Lt. Shane Smith, who leads one of the three platoons at Maverick.

Quiet can mean boredom, as Gebhart and a colleague turn in another four-hour shift in one of Maverick’s guard towers, looking over a landscape of two-story concrete buildings and green fields dotted with a few cows and goats.

To while away the time, the young soldier from Omaha, Nebraska, talks of his brother, who is fighting the Taliban in the mountains outside Kandahar city in southern Afghanistan.

“He spends 20 days at a time camped out in the mountains, and the Taliban come engage them in serious firefights,” said Gebhart. “At least it sounds exciting.”

Original Link.