Updated: 5/16/2006; 2:37:55 PM.

Current events
Post-9-11 events and analyses

daily link  Wednesday, August 04, 2004

Polio's last days: "Fifteen years ago, more than 1,000 children a day, in 125 countries across five continents, were being paralysed by polio.  In 1989, when the WHO eradication programme was set up, more than 350,000 people a year were developing polio. By last year, there were just 700 cases.

By end of this year, health experts believe they could have eradicated polio from every country around the globe. A massive, last push in the international vaccination campaign should mean that the remaining six nations classified as having endemic polio - Nigeria, India, Pakistan, Niger, Afghanistan and Egypt - are declared free of the disease by next year.  .. The success of the eradication programme is solely due to this 6p-a-time vaccine, which has been available in the West for 30 years, saving billions from death and disability. ..

The WHO-led eradication programme is now facing a $200m shortfall as it enters the most critical phase ..

Yesterday saw the end of a door-to-door initiative to immunise four million children in the Nigerian state of Kano in five days. Health workers administered a couple of drops of the vaccine into the mouths of every child under five. Samples were subjected to independent analysis to convince sceptics that it was safe, and health officials worked to persuade the Muslim clerics to their side. The initiative was given a boost when Ibrahim Shekaru, the Kano state Governor, administered the vaccine in the village of Takai at the start of the resumed immunisation initiative this week.

But last August, polio immunisation in the Islamic state was suddenly halted after a coalition of radical Muslim clerics and local politicians claimed that the vaccines were part of a Western plot to sterilise African girls and spread HIV/Aids. The effects were immediate and disastrous. Cases of polio in Nigeria increased from 50 to more than 250 within a year. At the beginning of last year, polio was endemic to two nations in sub-Saharan Africa; by this year, the Nigerian crisis was linked to re-infection in 10 more countries, including Chad, Ghana and Togo. The conspiracy theories about the vaccine spread to other Islamic states - Pakistan and Afghanistan. ..

In January, the WHO called an emergency meeting in Geneva. Already faced with a $100m shortfall, officials felt they had no option but to commit an extra $100m to ensure 74 million children in Africa received a dose of OPV by the end of the year. If all goes well, the world could be declared to be rid of polio by 2008.."

  5:35:44 PM  permalink  

Sadr army owns city's streets: "In recent months, [al Sadr's] Mahdi Army has consolidated its control over Sadr City - a poor sprawl of 2.5 million on Baghdad's northeastern edge - maintained control over large portions of Najaf, forced a US-backed government council in the southern city of Amara to resign, and rearmed in anticipation of further confrontation with the US.  "We're in charge here,'' says Sheikh Amar Saadi, a preacher in Sadr City and senior Mahdi Army commander.  "Our mission is to clear Iraq of evil, and that's not just about defeating the Americans." ..

Sadr officials say the group is making the first tentative steps towards becoming a political force like Hezbollah in Lebanon.  US patrols rarely venture here and the local police tend to take orders from Sadr's men rather than the other way around. Every afternoon, large queues of supplicants form outside Sadr's main office to ask for help with medical bills, schooling, and jobs. ..

By running a wildly popular anti-vice campaign in cooperation with local police, Sadr's men - and not the US-installed interim government - have taken up the mantle of chief guarantors of public order in Sadr City. Mahdi Army members have killed alleged drug dealers and kidnappers, and handed more over to the police. Local cops confirm their cooperation. "They're doing a lot of our work for us,'' says one.

Mahdi Army is the most potent social and political movement in Sadr City. The area holds about 10 percent of Iraq's electorate - a powerful bloc in a country divided between the Kurds and competing Shiite and Sunni factions. .. The thickly muscled and calm Hisham is typical of many of the army's lower ranking leaders whose commitment to the cause was hardened by their time as political prisoners under the old regime.  Now, he says, he's driven by a desire to make sure Sadr City is never subject to an outside power again, one of the reasons he's so opposed to the US presence here. Despite a day job as a security guard elsewhere in Baghdad, he spends six nights a week on the streets of Sadr City with his friends. "We don't hate American people, we just hate the policies of the US government, which wants to control Iraq," he says. "We're dealing with the criminals here, people's safety. The Americans have done nothing.""

The situation is similar in Najaf.  ""What he says is right ... the militia is protecting Najaf," says Aamer Harez Ali, a barber sniping away with his sheers. Still, he admits, if more young men had work they would be less likely to enlist in the Mahdi Army. "We need jobs," he says."

  4:38:22 PM  permalink  

Who votes: " The more wealthy you are, the more likely you are to vote. " From the 2000 election, Household Income - (Percentage that Voted):

  • Less than $5,000 - (34%)
  • $5,000 - $9,999 -   (41%)
  • $10,000 - $14,999 - (44%)
  • $10,000 - $14,999 - (44%)
  • $15,000 - $24,999 - (51%)
  • $25,000 - $34,999 - (58%)
  • $35,000 - $49,999 - (62%)
  • $50,000 - $74,999 - (69%)
  • $75,000 and over - (74%)
  4:21:39 PM  permalink  

9/11 panel dismayed by Bush's reaction, Director needs real clout, members say:  ""I know that Secretary (of Defense Donald) Rumsfeld is going to oppose [giving the new chief budget authority]," Kerrey said. "And if they [the Department of Defense] wins one more time, then next time there's a dustup and there's a failure, don't call the director of Central Intelligence up here. Kick the crap out of (the defense department) because they're the one with the statutory authority over the budget." "  DoD controls about 80% of all intelligence spending today.  10:15:57 AM  permalink  

Internationalizing Iraq: Juan Cole describes how Kerry might be able to substitute a UN command international force for US troops in 2005.  12:17:16 AM  permalink  

Iraq on verge of implode: Fisk predicts a complete meltdown, reports that no one expects elections to take place in January due to deteriorating security.  12:15:11 AM  permalink  

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Copyright 2006 © Ken Novak.
Last update: 5/16/2006; 2:37:55 PM.