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Fallujah’s infants suffer from sharp rise in birth defects

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Doctors and officials in Fallujah are appealing to the international community for an investigation into the unnatural increase in birth defects, 5 years after two major battles between the U.S. military and Sunni militia groups took place there.

The war-ravaged population center has seen an increase of up to 15 times as many chronic deformities in infants since pre-war levels, according to a report by the UK’s Guardian. Documented statistics for birth defects in Fallujah have only emerged in recent months, but the rate of abormalities, including early-life cancers, is high enough to cause alarm at Fallujah’s General Hospital.

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“We are seeing a very significant increase in central nervous system anomalies,” the hospital’s director, Dr Ayman Qais, told the Guardian. “Before 2003 I was seeing sporadic numbers of deformities in babies. Now the frequency of deformities has increased dramatically.”

“Most are in the head and spinal cord, but there are also many deficiencies in lower limbs,” he said. “There is also a very marked increase in the number of cases of less than two years with brain tumors. This is now a focus area of multiple tumors.”

Fallujah was the site of the only two ‘set-piece’ battles to take place after the U.S. invaded Iraq in 2003. Fighter jets bombed the city and heavy artillery was used in conjunction with the controversial incendiary white phosphorus.

Samira Abdul Ghani, a pediatrician, was asked by The Guardian to keep track of all birth defects for a three-week period at Fallujah General Hospital. In that time alone, 37 infants were born with anomalies, many of them with neural tube defects.

A neural tube defect is an opening in the spinal cord or brain that occurs very early in human development. 1 in 1,000 babies born in America suffer from neural tube defects.

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Dr. Bassam Allah, head of Fallujah’s children’s ward, urged international agencies last week to start taking soil samples and investigating the abnormal births.

UPI reports that Basra and Najaf, cities similarly racked by heavy fighting, have also seen sharp increases in the number of birth defects.

The Guardian’s video investigation can be found here.

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‘The president isn’t above the law’: Supreme Court expected to rule on two key Trump cases on Thursday

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Can Donald Trump refuse to hand over his financial records to Congress and New York prosecutors simply because he is president of the United States? The Supreme Court will rule Thursday on two related cases to answer this, with potentially widespread political implications.

The decision by the nine justices could lift the veil on Trump's finances ahead of the November 3 election.

Unlike all of his predecessors since Richard Nixon in the 1970s, New York real estate mogul Trump refused to release his tax returns, despite promising to do so during his 2016 White House campaign.

Trump made his fortune a key component of that campaign, and his lack of transparency raises questions about his true worth and possible conflicts of interest.

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Australia offers safe haven to Hong Kongers, sparking China fury

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Australia offered pathways to permanent residency for thousands of people from Hong Kong on Thursday in response to China's crackdown on dissent, drawing a furious reply from Beijing.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said his government was suspending its extradition agreement with the city and, in addition to extending the visas of 10,000 Hong Kongers already in the country, threw open the door to thousands more wanting to start a new life Down Under.

Morrison said the decisions were taken in response to China's imposition last week of a tough new security law in Hong Kong, which he said "constitutes a fundamental change of circumstances" for the semi-autonomous territory.

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‘Glee’ star Naya Rivera missing, feared drowned

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"Glee" star Naya Rivera is missing and feared drowned at a California lake, local officials said, with rescuers to continue a search for her on Thursday.

The Ventura County Sheriff's office earlier tweeted it was looking for a "possible drowning victim" at the lake, and said a dive team was being deployed to the area.

Rivera, 33, is best known for her role as high school cheerleader Santana Lopez in "Glee", the TV series that she starred in for six seasons.

She rented a boat on Wednesday to take her four-year-old son onto Lake Piru, northwest of Los Angeles, local media cited the County Sheriff as saying.

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