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PAKISTAN

Girl in blasphemy case is cited in report as 14

ISLAMABAD – A Christian girl accused of blasphemy is a juvenile, according to a medical report presented to a Pakistani court, a finding that improves her chance of being released on bail and eventually acquitted of the charges.
The girl, who has been identified only as Rimsha, was arrested here earlier this month after being accused of desecrating the Quran. Her family said she was 11 years old and had mental disabilities, including Down syndrome. The Vatican has backed their plea that she be released.
The medical report judged that Rimsha was a minor under the law but determined that she was 14. Her lawyer, Tahir Naveed Chaudhry, said the doctors also found that her mental development “does not match her age,” meaning she has learning difficulties. She was not in court.
Rimsha was charged with blasphemy after police came under pressure from a mob.
The court will hear the case again Thursday, when it will consider bail.
Rimsha’s family members have fled from their home here, as have many Christian residents of her area.
– McClatchy Newspapers
MIDDLE EAST

Muslim nations, Israel ensnarled in N-dispute

VIENNA (AP) – Muslim nations and Israel are heading for a confrontation at a 154-nation meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency here next month over an Arab initiative to criticize Israel’s secretive nuclear program.
Documents submitted for that meeting show that Arab nations are seeking Israel’s censure, a move the Jewish state says is a sideshow that deflects attention from the real danger to Mideast peace – Iran. In asking September’s meeting of the Vienna-based IAEA to reprimand Israel, Jordan says Israel is guilty of thwarting “all initiatives to free the region of the Middle East of weapons of mass destruction, and in particular of nuclear weapons.”
Israel warns that the Arab initiative is “serving Iran’s attempt to divert the attention of the international community … [from] its quest for nuclear weapons.” Israel is widely assumed to be the only Mideast country with such arms. But it refuses to confirm or deny its status, sticking to a policy of ambiguity.
ARGENTINA

Gulls’ threat to whales prompts shooting plan

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) – Saving the whales is something Argentines take so seriously that authorities are planning to shoot seagulls that have developed a habit of attacking the huge marine mammals.
Environmentalists say humans are the real problem, creating so much garbage that the gull population has exploded, endangering the whales.
Both sides agree that what was bizarre animal behavior a decade ago has now become a real hazard for threatened southern right whales in one of their prime birthing grounds, turning whale-watching from a magical experience to something from a horror movie.
Gulls off the coast of the Patagonian city of Puerto Madryn have discovered that by pecking at the whales as they come up for air, they can create open wounds. Then, each time the whales surface, it’s dinner time: Gulls swoop down and dig in, cutting away skin and blubber with their beaks and claws.
“It’s not just that the gulls are attacking the whales, but that they’re feeding from them, and this way of feeding is a habit that is growing and becoming more frequent,” said Marcelo Bertellotti of the National Patagonia Center, a government-sponsored conservation agency.