News Roundup

Time Magazine writes about India’s resurgence of polio. It’s a good tale of the disastrous consequences of religious fundamentalism combined with mistrust of science: polio was on its way to global eradication in 2001, when clerics in northern Nigeria spread a rumor that the polio vaccine was an American conspiracy to sterilize Muslims. Now a similar rumor is spreading in Uttar Pradesh:

This year’s polio outbreak has been concentrated in India’s largest state, Uttar Pradesh, home to over 170 million people. It is here, say health workers, that a few ultraconservative Muslim clerics have spread a myth that the polio vaccine is part of an underhanded campaign to sterilize Muslim children and lower the Muslim birth rate. Dr Hamid Jafari, the regional advisor for the World Health Organization (WHO) on polio eradication, says that the majority of Uttar Pradesh’s Muslims have got their children vaccinated, but, “in certain places, fatwas have been issued against the vaccine.” In those places, Muslims have stopped state health workers from entering their houses and administering the polio vaccine, which is administered orally, to their children.

The coalition government in Palestine that I talked about seems increasingly like a pipedream. A protest by public servants who hadn’t been paid in months turned into a series of clashes between Hamas and Fatah.

Tensions between supporters of the nationalist Palestinian Fatah and the Islamic Hamas erupted into bloody clashes in which 12 people were killed and as many as 150 were wounded in the past three days.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas of Fatah and Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas tried to calm the situation and hostilities seem to have ebbed, but it is not clear for how long.

“It is a civil war,” said former Fatah minister Kadurah Fares.

With any luck, Israel will realize that ending the occupation won’t compromise its security, and, hopefully, the lack of a unifying external enemy won’t cause Palestine to completely fracture.

Russ Feingold calls it like it is about the recent anti-civil liberties legislation. He’s delightful to read because on the one hand, he doesn’t use hyperbolic terms like “suspension of the Constitution” or conspiracy theories about canceled elections, but on the other, he makes it clear why the bills are only for people who hate freedom.

Under this legislation, some individuals, at the designation of the executive branch alone, could be picked up, even in the United States, and held indefinitely without trial and without any access whatsoever to the courts. They would not be able to call upon the laws of our great nation to challenge their detention because they would have been put outside the reach of the law.

That is unacceptable, and it almost surely violates our Constitution. But that determination will take years of protracted litigation.

I still can’t find the source of the rough quote, “We can pass unconstitutional laws faster than the courts can overturn them,” but if there’s any place it applies, it’s here.

2 Responses to News Roundup

  1. SLC says:

    Hopefully, the Fakeastianians will emulate their brothers in Iraq and proceed to murder each other with great zest. The State of Israel whould sternly resist the temptation to support one side or the other and just let the good times roll.

  2. […] Polio : India’s dubious export                                                           Time Magazine has recently written about the resurgence of polio in India. It’s a good tale of the disastrous consequences of religious fundamentalism combined with mistrust of science: polio was on its way to global eradication in 2001, when clerics in northern Nigeria spread a rumor that the polio vaccine was an American conspiracy to sterilize Muslims. Since the past several years, India has been exporting a dubious product without earning any foreign exchange and losing a lot of goodwill internationally as well. India is among the countries, which have the highest number of polio cases and it is suspected that Indians travelling abroad are spreading the disease. The investigation of strains of the poliovirus and their genetic sequencing, carried out in the African countries of Congo and Mozambique, has revealed that they are of Indian origin. Buren Bayar, the UNICEF Polio Coordinator for Uttar Pradesh, has made this clear. About 280 cases have been reported in the country this year, with Uttar Pradesh leading the list with 254. The state had reported only 29 cases last year and the country itself had just 64. It may be possible that people going for Hajj pilgrimage from the country could have transmitted the poliovirus to people of other countries.  As is the case in India, when things don’t work, the matter gets politicised with elements of truth and rumour floating around and making facts difficult, if not impossible to glean.   Dig through the mountain of data on polio, and you notice that the countries on the list of most affected countries are Nigeria (by far the worst), Yemen, Indonesia, Somalia, India and Pakistan. These are all Islamic countries, with the exception of India. In India, almost all the polio cases have come from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar’s slums, which are again Muslim dominated areas. I have known a few health-care workers in India who have worked (and still work) incredibly hard over the years fighting polio. Their job is tough and relentless, walking from house to house in slums, banging on doors and begging, pleading, cajoling or scolding parents to inoculate their kids against polio. Often, they feel they are talking to impregnable walls that respond only by hurling abuse, or with stony silence. The minds of too many people (especially Muslims) in these slums have been brainwashed completely, often by religious leaders. It’s surprising that so many people believe that polio drops are not vaccines, but drops given (especially) to girls to make them sterile and incapable of having children. Other equally powerful rumour that floats around is that these pills make boys impotent, meek, and servile. Other rumours insist that this is a western ploy to destroy Islam. A lot of these rumours come from local religious leaders, who insist that this is a targeted government campaign to wipe out Muslims. Why can’t these people learn from other Muslim countries like Egypt or even the extremely poor Bangladesh, where very promising strides have been taken towards polio eradication? What do they get out of it? Isn’t it reassuring enough when cimema and cricket stars like Amitabh Bachchan and Mohammad Kaif come on ads urging people to take this vaccine? What will it take to eradicate this disease, when it’s not resources or availability of health-care workers or vaccines that is limiting? And while we ponder these things, the taxpayer’s money will keep draining, as will that of aid agencies like Rotary International and others. So far, the polio eradication campaign has cost $ 4 billion in international assistance and it has been estimated that eradication (including three years of follow-up) could cost another $ 1.2 billion. This is in sharp contrast to our experience with small pox, for which eradication took only 10 years and international expenditure was only $100 million. […]

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