Convert or Die

By: Bridget Creel, Special Report Summer Associate

In response to a deadly ultimatum delivered by ISIS, thousands of Iraqi Christians have left their homes to seek safety from religious persecution.

Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, was captured by ISIS in June and the extremists have threatened and even harmed all inhabitants who do not practice Islam. 

This weekend, the Islamic State terror group (ISIS/IS) delivered a statement to Christians that gave them the choice between converting to Islam, paying a tax or fleeing their ancient homeland. The offer was time sensitive and if they failed to choose by Saturday, July 19, ISIS said there would be “nothing for them but the sword.”

Christians who were not willing to compromise with the militants fled Mosul. Before they were able to officially depart, ISIS demanded that they be stripped of all valuable belongings, leaving most Christians with nothing but remnants of their clothing.

Christians are not the only ones affected by the acts of ISIS. ISIS is responsible for the destruction of mosques and shrines, causing other religious minorities to flee Mosul as well.

Iraqi Prime Minister, Nuri Al-Maliki, called for governmental support for the homeless Iraqis who were forced to leave Mosul. He said that this specific event demonstrates "the extreme criminality and terrorist nature of this group.”

Although many have moved away, some Iraqi Christians are facing the alternatives. Several Christians have converted to Islam and those that choose to stay, refuse to abandon their religious beliefs.

Syrian Catholic Archbishop of Mosul, Yohanna Petros Mouche told the Washington Post, “If we all leave, it sends the message that there is nowhere safe for Christians to live in Iraq — and this worries me. I’m not a vagabond. This is my home, and I will die here if necessary.”

Special Report Panel: Mideast Conflict

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Innocent civilians seek shelter from Israeli-Hamas violence

By: Bridget Creel, Special Report Summer Associate

Right in between the surge of rockets from Islamic extremist group Hamas and ground offensives from Israeli forces, innocent inhabitants of Gaza City turn to other options for shelter and safety. The Gazans run into one problem: they are literally trapped.

The rectangular geography of the Gaza Strip poses implications for those wishing to relocate. The Gaza Strip, which is 25 miles long and between three and seven miles wide, has concrete walls and fences along the perimeter of the eastern and northern boundaries. Israel and Egypt can be found at the southern end of the strip and the western side of the strip borders the Mediterranean Sea, leaving the Gazans immovable.

Due to the travel restrictions on Gazans from Egypt and Israel, Gazans are forced to seek out new living situations within the unsafe area. Those along the border have fled to relatives’ homes and those with nowhere else to turn have looked to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency’s (UNRWA) emergency shelters for accommodation.

Beginning on July 7, UNRWA issued a state of emergency in all areas within the Gaza Strip.

Early this morning, UNRWA tweeted, “More than 83,000 people are now taking refuge in UNRWA schools in #Gaza. Numbers are growing.”

Despite consistent efforts to keep up with the rising number of inhabitants, the UNRWA has run into several difficulties, some more unexpected than others. Last week, 20 rockets were found in one of the agency’s abandoned schools. Following the discovery, the agency issued a statement that prohibited the storage of the Gaza militants’ harmful rockets in their facilities.

UNRWA continues to distribute food and water to the shelters but the combat has disrupted the delivery of the supplies. The agency runs into numerous other problems, such as the destruction of schools, as the conflict escalates.

In the past 24 hours, numbers released by the UNRWA revealed a devastating loss for both sides. Innocent Palestinian and Israeli citizens are facing the repercussions of the battle.

This morning, President Obama said Israel has the right to defend itself against Hamas but that the United States has “serious concerns about the rising number of Palestinian civilian deaths and the loss of Israeli lives.”

He went on to say that the focus should be “a cease-fire that ends the fighting and that can stop the deaths of innocent civilians, both in Gaza and in Israel.” 

Inside United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) on July 18, 2014 in Gaza City. Israel launched a Gaza ground campaign after 10 days of bombardments from the air and sea failed to stop militants' rocket attacks, stepping up an offensive that already has taken a heavy toll in civilian lives.(Photo by Momen Faiz/NurPhoto/Sipa USA) (Sipa via AP Images)

Special Heart Book Signing: Politics and Prose

I am wrapping up the 'Special Heart' book tour, but I wanted to share these photos taken at Politics and Prose in Washington, DC. Children's National helped with this signing and it was a huge success--Paul even came with us to sign a few books. He was a little shy at first, but he really got into it and even started to sign his name with a heart and a scar next to it. 

Thank you to photographer Cassidy DuHon for these photos. 

Paul gearing up for the signing

A little shy at first--

Paul signs his name wiht a heart and a scar next to the heart

Paul signs his name with a heart and a scar next to it--chicks dig scars ;)

Gearing up for more books--

With Paul's cardiologist Dr. Deneen Heath

Pictured with Paul's Cardiologist Dr. Deneen Heath

Paul meeting Emma-- also 7 and has undergone 2 open-heart surgeries

A very special moment-- Paul met Emma, who is also 7 years old and has had 2 open-heart surgeries. Emma is waiting on a third surgery. They compared scars and seemed to really enjoy meeting one another--

Special Report Grapevine: Protecting Our Borders From The YMCA

Clean Streets?: Detroit's financial woes are well publicized, but you may not have heard that the crime has dropped big time.  Compared to last year, robberies are down 37%, break-ins have dropped 22%, and there has been a 30% decline in carjackings.

One opinion-- "Part of the drop in crime and robberies in particular is because criminals are thinking twice that citizens could be armed."

That is not the NRA chairman or the gun lobby..this is from Detroit's police chief James Craig who also cited good work from police investigators is part of the crime decline. One gun control advocate isn't buying the story from the police chief, saying it is a complicated issue.

"Our position is, more guns equals more crime."

Taking it to the Streets: Arizona congressional candidate Adam Kwasman was trying to protest the arrival of immigrant children to a small town. While giving a speech to the crowd  a bus arrived and the Republican tweeted a picture of a yellow school bus saying, "Bus coming in. This is not compassion. This is the abrogation of the rule of law."

The candidate approached the bus before letting it continue.

The problem? The bus was full of YMCA campers..not illegal immigrants. Kwasman later apologized for the mixup.

The Name Game: Finally, the Washington Redskins may have their day in court but if they enter one judge's domain the team's name is not welcome. In a footnote  Judge Peter Messitte took a stand, "The Court will refrain from using the team name...referred to hereafter simply as "the Washington Team."

The name may not be welcome on TV either. The head of CBS Sports has not ruled out banning the team's name, saying they will likely leave it up to the announcers. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell echoed that --"We don't dictate to our broadcast partners how they cover the game. That's their decision."

The owner of the Redskins Dan Snyder has vowed not to change the name. 

Paul and Daniel Pose with Tennis Trophy

Paul and Daniel didn't mind my 2nd place trophy following the Washington Kastles Charity Classic-

Lack of planning leads to another CDC hiccup

By: Bridget Creel, Special Report Summer Associate

Over the past ten years, four instances have occurred where the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have sent active bacteria samples to outside labs. An anthrax scare took place last month, marking the fifth mishap for the CDC. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) insisted on further investigation and recently exposed new details of the incident.

Backtracking to June 19, the CDC announced that scientists working at the lab in Atlanta had been unintentionally exposed to anthrax. The CDC quickly took action and provided antibiotics for those who were affected. Following the scare, there was no indication that any of the scientists were infected.

It is expected that in every instance, the CDC takes cautionary measures and assesses all risks before encountering dangerous bacteria. With that being said, how could a slip up like this happen for the fifth time?

On Friday, the CDC published a detailed report of the event, with everything from findings to action plans.

According to the CDC’s report, “The overriding factor contributing to this incident was the lack of an approved, written study plan reviewed by senior staff or scientific leadership to ensure that the research design was appropriate and met all laboratory safety requirements.”

Additional aspects that contributed to the occurrence included the use of unwarranted sterilization methods, no confirmation for inactive materials and insufficient knowledge of the procedures.

As officials further investigated the catastrophe, additional information was uncovered. A report by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) said that the CDC should have sterilized anthrax samples before the samples were sent to the other CDC labs. The report also found that there were several different factors that went against safety guidelines including use of expired disinfectants, use of defective security measures, lack of examination of exposed scientists and the transfer of the bacteria through Ziploc bags.

A House hearing was held today that discussed recent reports of the problems caused by the CDC. The hearing addressed issues such as ways to improve biosafety, the broader implications of the event and whether or not Congressional action should take place.

The CDC labs have been closed and will not reopen until safety guidelines are put in place, CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden said. 

Hotel Transformed to House Illegal Immigrants

A non-profit group is laying out plans to turn the Palm Aire Hotel in Weslaco, TX into a facility to house illegal immigrant children between the ages of 12-17. The group was awarded a $50 million federal contract to purchase the hotel.

The facility would hold 600 beds and house the illegal children for an average of 15 days, providing them with meals, medical care, educational programs, and even outdoor recreational facilities that currently include a pool, gym, and tennis courts. 

City officials have put a hold on the plans due to permit issues, but the the organization, Baptist Child & Family Services, hopes to have the facility operational by October 1st.

Some are concerned about the other landowners in the area, as well as how many children the facility will hold and how they will decide what children will stay or be turned away. A fence would be placed around the facility, and restrictions would be put in place. 

The facility would employ around 650 people, and proponents of the plan say this is a responsible move in the right direction. 

What do you think? Is this a good idea? Let us know here on the blog or on Twitter @BretBaier.

For more on this story please visit here.

 

UPDATE: Group drops the plan following public relations obstacle

 

Immigration Sparks Potential Public Health Crisis

By: Bridget Creel, Special Report Summer Associate                                                                                                                                                                                                   

The flooding of Central American immigrants brings many concerns to Americans and has been the forerunner for debate over the past several weeks. However, a matter that has been put on the backburner is the risk of a public health crisis that could quickly unfold after immigrants pass through to the United States. 

60,000 illegal immigrants have come into the United States over the past nine months. Each immigrant undergoes a similar procedure once they reach Border Patrol, which typically consists of a health and safety screening before they reach a detention center. Due to the excess amount of immigrants coming into the country at such a fast pace, it is evident that proper screenings cannot be successfully carried out in an efficient amount of time.

Border Patrol agents rely heavily on the results from verbal and visual inspections. These inspections warrant the risk of missing the diseases that do not turn up from physical appearance.

According to the health care policy of the United States, any communicable diseases must be assessed and treated before immigrants reach the ground within the United States. The Department of Homeland Security prohibits any immigrants carrying “a communicable disease of public health significance” from entering the country. That may seem simple enough but what is not obvious is that immigrants who do not show proof of vaccination from diseases are prohibited from entering the United States by law.

The CDC regulations require a very specific medical exam when immigrants enter the country. “During the exam, applicants are required to show proof that they have received certain vaccines. If an applicant does not have proof of having received the required vaccines, the law states that the vaccines must be given at the time of the medical exam.”

The immigrants who travel great lengths and experience life-threatening events before reaching the border are not expected to carry documents for proof of vaccination. It is up to the judgment of Border Patrol agents to decide whether or not an immigrant receives vaccination.

The problem continues to expand, literally, because immigrants are sent to areas beyond the border towns. Immigrant officials no longer have space in the detention centers located in the states along the border. The detention centers create more health concerns, as the immigrants are forced to eat, sleep and wash in the same areas. The crowded facilities leave officials no other choice but to send the immigrants elsewhere.

If immigrants are not properly vaccinated, scattering immigrants in different areas of the country will only increase the rapid spread of disease. Once diseases are dispersed throughout the country, confining and treating the diseases becomes almost impossible.

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