- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 4, 2009


Pneumonic plague hits farming town

BEIJING | China locked down a remote farming town after two people died and 10 more were sickened with pneumonic plague, a lung infection that can kill a person in 24 hours if left untreated.

Police set up checkpoints around Ziketan in northwestern Qinghai province, where townspeople reached by the Associated Press by phone Monday said the streets were largely deserted and most shops shut.

Authorities urged anyone who had visited the town of 10,000 people since mid-July and has developed a cough or fever to seek medical treatment.

The World Health Organization office in China said it was in close contact with Chinese health authorities and that measures taken so far to treat and quarantine sickened people were appropriate. The disease is caused by bacteria and can be treated with antibiotics.


Al Qaeda renews offer of truce

CAIRO | Osama bin Laden’s deputy said in a video message released Monday that the al Qaeda leader’s offers of a truce with the United States and Europe remained on the table, though he ridiculed President Obama as “the new face of the same old crimes.”

In a video posted on an Islamic militant Web site, al Qaeda’s No. 2 leader, Ayman al-Zawahri, scorned Mr. Obama over the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the U.S. approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Nonetheless, al-Zawahri said “fair” truces offered by bin Laden were still valid.

In 2004, bin Laden offered a truce to European countries that do not attack Muslims. Two years later, he offered the American people a “long-term truce” without specifying the conditions, though in that same audio recording he also warned that his fighters werepreparing new attacks in the United States.

“These offers were dealt with impolitely but are still valid, and the offer is fair,” al-Zawahri said. “But they (Americans) want a relationship with us based on suppression.”

“Obama is like a wolf whose fangs tear your flesh and whose paws slit your face and then he calls on you to talk about peace,” he said.

In the message released Monday by al Qaeda’s media operation, Al-Sahab, al-Zawahri said Mr. Obama is seeking to mislead the Muslim world with calls for better ties and was doing so because wrath from the Muslim world had inflicted catastrophes upon the United States.

“We are not idiots to accept meaningless flexible words. Obama is the new face with the same old crimes,” he said.


Christians protest killings by Muslims

ISLAMABAD | Pakistani Christians were closing their schools across the country for three days starting Monday to protest the killings of eight members of their community by Muslims, violence that drew condemnation from Pope Benedict XVI.

Hundreds of Muslims, reportedly spurred on by a radical Islamist group, stormed a Christian neighborhood in the eastern city of Gojra on Saturday, burning dozens of houses after reports surfaced that some Christians had desecrated a Koran.

Six Christians died in the flames, while two were killed by gunshots, as police did little to stop the attackers.

Christian leaders and Punjab province Law Minister Rana Sanaullah said an initial probe had debunked the Koran defilement rumor. Paramilitary troops and other security forces were patrolling the city Monday.


Firefighters gain as weather cools

LA PALMA | Lower temperatures Monday helped firefighters battle two forest fires that have raged on La Palma in Spain’s Canary Islands for three days.

One fire in the west of the island has been brought under control and it was hoped that another in the east could be contained later Monday, island environmental director Julio Cabrera said.

La Palma is one of the least developed and most verdant of the Canary Islands, off West Africa, and was celebrated by pop star Madonna in her song “La Isla Bonita,” the title of which is the island’s local name.

The change in weather had even brought some brief spells of rain.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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