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Thursday, August 22, 2013

Polio Fears Rear in Israel and Pakistan

The Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI), a campaign to globally eradicate Poliomyelitis and the center piece of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s philanthropic efforts, has hit a brace of obstructions in Israel and Pakistan. Fourteen possible cases of polio have been detected in northern Pakistan, where Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan militants have killed at least two health workers this year for administering vaccines. A number of clerics in Pakistan have suggested the GPEI is a front for efforts to sterilize or poison Muslim children. Others have pointed to Shakil Afridi’s fraudulent vaccine program that served as a CIA front to track down Osama Bin Laden as evidence of the GPEI’s duplicity.

By contrast, the leadership of the Afghan Taliban issued a statement saying, “The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan supports and lends a hand to all those programs which works for the health care of the helpless people of our country.” It ordered all mujahideen under its banner to give health workers “all necessary support.”

In Israel, at least one strain of the poliovirus was found in the country’s sewage systems earlier this year. The country has launched a massive campaign to vaccinate the nation’s youth despite some controversy. While no cases of poliomyelitis have been discovered in the Israeli populace, the spread of the virus in the sewage systems from one to all parts of the country suggests transmission of one sort or another. Israeli officials hope to vaccinate 1,381,076 children. As of yesterday, they’d already reached nearly nine percent of their target.

Renewed Chemical Weapons Use in Syria Causes Diplomatic Fervor

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry made a number of calls to U.S. allies this morning concerning allegations that the Syrian government has used chemical weapons in its war to retain national sovereignty. State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki said, “Our red line was the use of chemical weapons. That was crossed a couple of months ago and the president took action. If these [new] reports are true it would be an outrageous escalation in the use of chemical weapons by the regime, and there would be a range of further options for us to take.” But given the letter to Congress that Chief of Staff Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey wrote earlier this week, suggesting U.S. intervention in Syria “would not be military decisive, but it would commit us decisively to the conflict,” many suspect the U.S. administration may be a bit reticent to engage in further actions against Al-Assad.

In a statement today, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon asked that U.N. observers be granted access to the area where the chemical weapons attack is alleged to have taken place. The Syrian government has allowed the UN team – led by a Swedish scientist, Åke Sellström – into the country, but Syrian officials have so far limited the UN’s investigation to a mere three sites around Syria, not including the Damascus suburb where up to 1200 people have succumb to a nerve agent.

U.S. Government to Sue Texas over Voting Rights

On the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, the U.S. Department of Justice announced that it will be suing the state of Texas over voter laws which the DOJ believes are discriminatory and prejudicial. A statement by the DOJ suggested Texas’s laws were adopted with the “purpose, and will have the result, of denying or abridging the right to vote on account of race, color, or membership in a language minority group.”

Two cases concerning voting rights were recently decided by the U.S. Supreme Court. The court struck down a provision requiring proof of U.S. citizenship in Arizona. In addition, it later struck down key portions of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, which prevented Jim Crow States from disenfranchising black voters. These decisions have wrought a number of ramifications in state voting laws, which in turn have led to myriad legal challenges at both state and federal levels.

Embattled San Diego Mayor Expected to Resign

San Diego mayor Bob Filner is expected to resign tomorrow after the City Council approves a deal, which will include paying for at least part of the mayor’s legal fees incurred by a sexual harassment suit filed against him. Eighteen women have come forward with reports that Filner had groped, kissed, or otherwise sexually harassed them during his tenure as a Southern Californian politician.

Filner’s former communications director Irene McCormack Jackson filed the lawsuit against the mayor last month. “Women were viewed by Mayor Filner as sexual objects or stupid idiots,” she said. “He is not fit to be mayor of our great city. He is not fit to hold any public office.”

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