NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Angry Iranians set fire to gas stations in Tehran after the government imposed rationing measures with little warning just a month after pump prices jumped 25 percent. The rationing measures were announced two days after British troops reported spotting Iranian soldiers crossing the border into southern Iraq.
The announcement that private cars would be limited to 26 gallons of fuel monthly at a subsidized rate caused long lines at fuel stations as residents tried to fill their tanks before rationing went into effect, according to the Associated Press. In Tehran, two gas stations were torched and several others reportedly were attacked “by vandals” June 27. Unconfirmed reports filtered in that stations in several other cities also were in flames.
The presence of Iranian troops in Iraq “is an extremely alarming development and raises the stakes considerably,” an unidentified intelligence source told The Sun tabloid. “In effect, it means we are in a full-on war with Iran -– but nobody has officially declared it.”
Although Iran is a major exporter of oil, it has to import more than 50 percent because it has low refining capacity. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s failure to improve Iran’s faltering economy has sparked widespread criticism.
ETHNIC CHRISTIAN DIES FROM TORTURE INJURIES — A young man from a Vietnamese tribal group died April 20 from injuries inflicted while he was being interrogated by government officials.
Not long after Vin Y Het, an ethnic Hroi man from Krong Ba, became a Christian in September 2006, local authorities pressured him to sign a document recanting his faith, according to Compass Direct news service. When he refused, he was savagely beaten. He is survived by his pregnant wife and two small children.
News of Het’s death was confirmed as Vietnamese President Nguyen Minh Triet met with President Bush in Washington. Vietnam is widely criticized for its abuse of human rights. Congressional leaders confronted the Vietnamese president about recent crackdowns on peaceful human rights advocates, including the imprisonment of Christian activists Nguyen Van Dai and Le Thi Cong Nhan.
WORLDWIDE PRAYERS TARGET ‘HELL ON EARTH’ — Celebrations of the 100th anniversary of the great Pyongyang Revival opened June 25 with a global prayer initiative for spiritual awakening in North Korea.
Although the revival in 1907 is regarded as one of the greatest awakenings in Christian history, the spiritual and physical climate in the reclusive communist country is now “hell on earth,” according to Suzanne Scholte, chairman of the North Korea Freedom Coalition.
The Global Week of Prayer for North Korea focuses attention on a country where Christians are systematically persecuted and millions of people live with chronic hunger, according to the World Food Program. An estimated 2 million North Koreans died during a severe famine in the 1990s.
DOCTORS JAILED FOR BABY AIDS DEATHS — Seventeen doctors and health officials in Kazakhstan were sentenced June 27 to prison terms ranging from a few months to eight years in the deaths of 10 babies who were infected with HIV/AIDS.
Dozens of children were infected with the virus, mostly through hospital blood transfusions, in the Central Asian country where the number of registered HIV/AIDS cases has nearly doubled each year since 2000, according to Reuters news service. Families of the infected children protested when four senior health officials were given suspended sentences.
Healthcare in Kazakhstan is substandard because medical facilities have seriously declined since the collapse of the Soviet Union.
TROOPS INTERVENE TO PREVENT ABUSE — In an effort to combat physical and sexual abuse of women and children in the Northern Territory, Australia’s government is banning alcohol and pornography in aborigine villages and sending police and soldiers to restore law and order to the communities.
Critics condemned Australian Prime Minister John Howard’s plan as paternalistic, and some families reportedly fled their homes for fear the government would take their children away, according to the AFP news service. Indigenous Affairs Minister Mal Brough, however, said the intervention was necessary to protect children.
“Tonight, tomorrow night, and the next night, kids could look forward to more hell,” Brough said. “Well, now we hope we can break that cycle.”
BLAIR TO FOCUS ON MIDDLE EAST PEACE — Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair will use the principles that helped him forge peace in Northern Ireland to advance peace talks in the Middle East as an envoy of the “Middle East Quartet” -– diplomatic representatives of the United States, the European Union, Russia and the United Nations.
“He thinks, and I believe he is right, that if you have hands-on, persistent engagement you can make real progress,” Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern said June 27, according to AFP. Ahern was a key ally of Blair in negotiating a new power-sharing agreement between Catholic and Protestant factions in Northern Ireland.
Blair believes the Israeli-Palestinian issue “is the source of all the problems in the wider Middle East and until we get the Palestinian issue right, the two-state solution, we’re not going to deal with all of the other issues,” Ahern said.
‘THE SIMPSONS’ TEACHING ANGLICAN YOUTH — In an effort to teach children spiritual truth and moral values -– and bolster flagging attendance -– the Church of England is releasing a new book that uses episodes from the TV cartoon “The Simpsons” to illustrate biblical life principles.
Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams said the cartoon was “generally on the side of the angels and on the side of sense” and added that “remarkable strength and remarkable mutual commitment” lay beneath the family’s dysfunctional image.
The book’s author, Owen Smith, said the cartoon series “is hugely moral, with many episodes dealing with issues and dilemmas faced by young people,” the Sunday Telegraph reported.
Anglican leaders hope “Mixing it Up with the ‘Simpsons'” will help keep youth interested in the Church of England, which has seen a decrease of 12 percent in the number of younger teenagers attending worship between 2000 and 2005.