Archive for October 10, 2012

October 10, 2012

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — Turkey’s military chief vowed Wednesday to respond with more force to any further shelling from Syria, keeping up the pressure on its southern neighbor a day after NATO said it stood ready to defend Turkey.

Gen. Necdet Ozel was inspecting troops who have been put on alert along the 910-kilometer (566-mile) border with Syria after a week of cross-border artillery and mortar exchanges escalated tensions between the neighbors, sparking fears of a wider regional conflict. Turkey has reinforced the border with artillery guns and also deployed more fighter jets to an air base close to the border region since shelling from Syria killed five Turkish civilians last week.

“We responded and if (the shelling) continues, we will respond with more force,” the private Dogan news agency quoted Ozel as saying during a visit to the town of Akcakale, where he offered condolences to a man who lost his wife and three daughters to a Syrian shell.By

On Tuesday, NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen said the alliance was ready to defend Turkey, its strongest show of support to its ally since the firing began. The solidarity, however, is largely symbolic. NATO member Turkey has sought backing in case it is attacked, but despite publicly supporting Syria’s rebels Ankara isn’t seeking direct intervention. And the alliance is thought to be reluctant to get involved militarily at a time when its main priority is the war in Afghanistan.

On Wednesday schools in Akcakale reopened despite the tense situation. They had been closed due to security concerns. Turkey’s state-run Anadolu Agency reported fighting between Syrian rebels and forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime around the Syrian town of Azmarin, in Idlib province, across from the Turkish border. It said Syrians were fleeing homes in Azmarin, some crossing into Turkey on rowing boats over the river Orontes, that runs along the border.

Private NTV television reported that explosions and automatic weapon fire could be heard in Turkey’s Hatay province, coming from the Azmarin region. It said rebels were clashing with some 500 Syrian government soldiers, and that at least 100 rebels had been injured, some of whom had been brought to Turkey for treatment.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has been fiercely critical of Syrian President Bashar Assad, said Wednesday that Syria was “the bleeding heart of humanity and the whole Islamic world.”

Erdogan told a meeting of the Islamic Conference in Istanbul that Turkey had refrained from responding to half a dozen shells from Syria, but when five people were killed last week “we had to retaliate in the strongest way that we could.”

Frank Jordans in Istanbul contributed to this report.

Sept. 30, 2011

CASABLANCA, Morocco, Sept. 30 (UPI) — French President Nicolas Sarkozy traveled to Morocco Friday to oversee the beginning of construction of a, high-speed rail link.

When completed, the $4 billion project will connect the capital of Casablanca with the Moroccan cities of Rabat and Tangiers, the BBC reported Friday.

Financing for the project included loans from France.

The current Moroccan government said the project will enhance economic relations between the two countries but former government officials called it a waste of funds.

Source: United Press International (UPI).


Fri Sep 30, 2011

Thousands of Jordanians have taken to the streets in the capital, Amman, to demand the resignation of Prime Minister Marouf Bakhit and the dissolution of the lower house of parliament.

Accusing the government of Bakhit and lawmakers of “protecting corruption”, nearly 4,000 anti-government protesters marched from Al-Husseini mosque to nearby city hall following the Friday Prayers, to call for their removal from power.

“A government that is protecting corruption cannot be trusted, and a parliament of corruption does not represent the people,” chanted the protesters who held banners reading, “You will not be able to fool us”.

The protest rally came after the lower house approved a bill that would criminalize corruption allegations. According to the bill, those who publicly accuse officials of corruption without proof will be fined between 30,000 and 60,000 dinars (USD42,000-USD85,000).

The demonstrators also condemned the recent constitutional changes, which were approved by King Abdullah II on Friday.

They say the amendments are insufficient and do not meet their key demands for a new electoral law and an elected prime minister.

The constitutional reforms include the creation of an independent commission to oversee elections and the limitation of the jurisdiction of the military state security court.

Similar anti-government protests were also held in other major Jordanian cities.

Jordan has faced anti-government rallies demanding reforms and an end to corruption since January.

In June, in a bid to appease protesters, King Abdullah II announced some concessions, including the formation of future governments that were based on an elected parliamentary majority rather than one appointed by the monarch.

However, the monarch said it may take two to three years to put an elected government in place.

Source: PressTV.


Fri Sep 30, 2011

The head of the executive office of Libya’s opposition National Transitional Council (NTC) says the formation of an interim government will be postponed until all Libya is under the council’s rule.

Mahmoud Jibril told reporters on Thursday that the existing executive office would continue to function as the caretaker administration, Xinhua reported.

Last week, however, he had said the county would have a new government within the next seven to ten days.

Libya has been the scene of intense fighting between forces loyal to the fugitive former dictator Muammar Gaddafi and revolutionary fighters since mid-February.

NTC chairman Mustafa Abdel Jalil has said that at least 25,000 people had been killed and 50,000 others injured during the revolution.

He has also pledged that the fight against the remnants of the former regime would continue.

Revolutionaries are now fighting Gaddafi’s loyalists in the former dictator’s remaining strongholds — the cities of Sirte and Bani Walid in the north.

Source: PressTV.


By Zofeen Ebrahim

KARACHI, Sep 26 2011 (IPS) – Despite two decades of mass oral polio vaccination (OPV) drives, Pakistan has failed to control the crippling pediatric disease. Health authorities now fear that it is exporting the virus and setting back global eradication plans.

Over the last two months, seven cases have been confirmed in China’s western Xinjiang province where a vaccination drive is under way. It is the first outbreak since 1999, when it was traced to India. China’s last indigenous case was in 1994.

“It is a sad piece of news, but not altogether unexpected,” said Dr. Nima Abid, polio team leader for the World Health Organization (WHO) in Pakistan, talking to IPS.

The strain of polio isolated in China is genetically linked to the wild poliovirus type 1 (WPV1) currently circulating in Pakistan, according to a Global Alert and Response (GAR) warning from the WHO released on Sep. 20.

WHO says this confirms that the poliovirus is spreading internationally from Pakistan, and blames inadequate immunization in the country for the spread.

“In 2011, supplementary immunization activities in Pakistan have been inadequate in quality in key high- risk areas,” states the GAR.

WHO’s concern is shared by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). “Clearly there was enough travel between the two countries for the virus to have been exported,” said Dennis King, head of UNICEF’s polio unit in Islamabad.

“It is a very serious concern,” King said. “The floods last year and the security conditions have presented real challenges to immunization activities for eradication.”

According to King, despite the immunization programs the virus has continued to circulate in parts of Balochistan, the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, northern Sindh and Karachi.

Since 1988, the Global Polio Eradication Initiative – spearheaded by WHO, Rotary International, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and UNICEF – has achieved a 99 percent reduction in polio incidence worldwide.

This spectacular achievement has been possible through the mass administration of OPV simultaneously to all children below the age of five, to induce ‘herd immunity’ in entire regions and replace the wild polio virus with a cultured, attenuated strain.

Pakistan now leads four countries including Afghanistan, Nigeria and India where polio remains endemic. But Pakistan is the only country that has seen resurgence.

The last 10 years saw Pakistan taking massive strides to reduce the polio incidence. In 2005, the number of cases went down to just 28, but since then there were signs of the OPV drive losing momentum.

In 2008, there was a jump to 117 cases, followed by 89 in 2009 and 144 in 2010. This year, the country has already reported 90 cases, with the cold season, when virulence increases, yet to begin.

King said there is now pressure on the Pakistan government to improve the quality of immunization drives.

While partners and donors acknowledge factors like natural catastrophes and insurgency, King is “not sure how patient they will be if they don’t see big drop in polio cases by the end of this year or early next year.”

Referring to the outbreak in China, he said polio will spread as long as there is “uncontrolled polio transmission in any country.”

There is now better coordination between Afghanistan and Pakistan authorities, especially after it was found that the strain of the virus circulating in both countries was the same.

“Transit teams at every border post ensure that children are vaccinated irrespective of which side they are coming in and we’re impressed with that,” King told IPS.

An outbreak of polio in 2010 in areas of Tajikistan along Afghanistan’s northern borders, which left 500 children paralyzed, shows the rapidity with which the virus spreads.

India has, since September, made it mandatory for all children up to five years of age crossing the border overland by bus or train to be given polio drops.

For five years now, Saudi Arabia has been following a policy of requiring people coming into that country from Pakistan and other polio-endemic countries to carry certificates of vaccination, and also have OPV drops on arrival.

For now, more than the export of the virus to neighboring countries, health experts are concerned with increased transmission within Pakistan.

“The government needs to get to the root of the problem,” Dr. Mubina Agboatwala, former head of the polio clinic at Karachi’s government hospital, told IPS.

“Is it campaign fatigue? Why has the enthusiasm sapped? Are the vaccinators doing their job? Why are certain pockets persistently unreached?”

Agboatwala says it is now clear that the key to controlling polio in Pakistan lies in micro-planning to ensure that every child is vaccinated.

There is emphasis on micro-planning for vaccination campaigns at the operational as well as the communication level, under the National Emergency Action Plan for Polio Eradication launched in January by President Asif Ali Zardari.

“We are leaving no stones unturned to reach and vaccinate every child under five years of age in every vaccination round,” said King.

“We have to reach every doorway and convince every parent that OPV is safe and necessary to prevent polio. By having their children vaccinated every time teams come to their door, Pakistani parents can protect their children,” King said.

“Further, by cooperating, Pakistani parents can gift a polio-free world to countless unborn generations of the world’s children,” King added.

Source: Inter-Press Service (IPS).


Algerian healthcare unions threatened new strike actions next month, El Watan reported on Thursday (September 29th). A work stoppage, with the exception of emergencies, is slated for October 9th. The strikes will then increase by one day each week. Healthcare professionals are complaining of unsatisfactory working conditions. Earlier this year, Algerian paramedics staged a 2-day walkout to demand that the government comply with its promise to implement a salary-related “special status” change.
Source: Magharebia.

Sept. 29, 2011

MANAMA, Bahrain, Sept. 29 (UPI) — A military prosecutor in Bahrain announced charges against 20 healthcare workers for allegedly plotting to overthrow the government.

The group of Bahraini doctors and nurses were given sentences ranging from 5-15 years in prison on charges of “spreading fabricating stories and lies” and gaining access to “unlicensed weapons to topple the regime,” the official Bahrain News Agency stated.

All of those sentenced to prison had worked at the Salmaniya medical complex in Manama. Bahraini security forces raided the facility in March as part of a crackdown on a Shiite uprising in the country.

U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay described the March 16 seizure by security forces of the hospital as “shocking and illegal conduct.”

Human Rights Watch in a 54-page report published early this year said it had documented “serious government abuses” against medics and patients wounded during opposition protests.

In a separate case, BNA said Ali Yusuf Abdulwahab al-Taweel was sentenced to death and Mehdi Ali Attia was given a life-in-prison sentence for their role in the death of a Bahraini police officer.

Human Rights Watch said Washington was sending the wrong message when it authorized a $53 million arms sale to Bahrain. Bahrain was criticized for its response to the uprising.

Bahrain is host to the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet.

Source: United Press International (UPI).