Saturday, November 17, 2001
S u n d a y ,  N o v e m b e r  1 8,  2 0 0 1
Monday, November 19, 2001

Taleban May Give Up Kunduz and Kandahar, Talks Underway

Excerpts from article describing the efforts to end Taleban control of the northern city of Kunduz and the ongoing separate negotiations to end Taleban control of the southern city of Kandahar:

Northern Alliance soldiers watch
explosions after a U.S. plane drops
bombs on Taleban positions in
Kunduz province, 11/18/01

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Taleban commanders have been negotiating to end the siege of the northern Afghan town of Kunduz by the Northern Alliance, as US forces stepped up their bombardment around the town.

The commander of the Taleban's last stronghold in northern Afghanistan, Mullah Dadullah, told the BBC his forces, which include foreign fighters, were prepared to leave Kunduz but only if they were guaranteed safe passage.

Wave after wave of B-52 bombers and navy jets pounded positions around the town on Sunday, sparking off huge explosions on hilltops where the Taleban have dug in.

Ahead of a Sunday deadline for Taleban forces to surrender, Northern Alliance troops tightened the siege and blasted away with tanks and artillery from positions overlooking the valley.

Taleban fighters are still defending their southern stronghold of Kandahar, where reports say tribal leaders have been trying to negotiate a peaceful handover of the city.

... Sunday's air raids on Kunduz were the biggest in more than a week, correspondents in the area said.

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Stem Cell Showstopper, Without Cloning They Aren't Likely to Work

Early embryos, such as this one shown
on the tip of a needle, may become
a source of stem cells. But without
cloning, these cells could be useless.

Excerpts from article briefly describing challenges which lay ahead in the stem cell research arena based on current scientific restrictions resulting from shortsighted political / religious obstacles ...

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New pancreatic cells for people with diabetes. Regenerated hearts for those who have suffered heart attacks. Repaired spinal cords for paraplegics.

... The National Academy Weighs In

The specter of immune rejection is "a substantial obstacle" to the use of stem cells for therapies, declared a panel of experts convened by the National Academy of Sciences in a report issued on September 11.

The researchers and ethicists raised concerns about the potential health risks of using stem cell lines because such cells could contain mutations and have been grown in the presence of mouse cells, which could harbor viruses.

Cloned stem cells "should be actively pursued," the report concluded. ...

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  • Scientific American [link inactive]

Vessels of Death or Life

Angiogenesis--the formation of new
blood vessels--might one day be
manipulated to treat disorders from
cancer to heart disease. First-generation
drugs are now in the final phase of
human testing .

Excerpts from article detailing the way in which treatments are being developed to enlarge or restrict the growth of blood vessels in order to treat a wide range of human diseases, conditions, and disorders ...

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They snake through our bodies, literally conveying our life's blood, their courses visible through our skin only as faint bluish tracks or ropy cords.

We hardly give them a thought until we cut ourselves or visit a clinic to donate blood. But blood vessels play surprisingly central roles in many serious chronic disorders.

New growth of the body's smallest vessels, for instance, enables cancers to enlarge and spread and contributes to the blindness that can accompany diabetes.

Conversely, lack of small vessel, or capillary, production can contribute to other ills, such as tissue death in cardiac muscle after a heart attack.

Accordingly, we and other scientists are working to understand the mechanisms that underlie abnormal vessel growth.

This effort will help us develop and optimize drugs that block vessel growth--or improve vessel function.

The Two Faces of Angiogenesis

The study of small vessel growth--a phenomenon referred to generally as angiogenesis--has such potential for providing new therapies that it has been the subject of countless news stories and has received enthusiastic interest from the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries.

Indeed, dozens of companies are now pursuing angiogenesis-related therapies, and approximately 20 compounds that either induce or block vessel formation are being tested in humans.

Although such drugs can potentially treat a broad range of disorders, many of the compounds now under investigation inhibit angiogenesis and target cancer. ...

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  • Scientific American [link inactive]
Best of CNN Videos (November 12 to November 18)

Pop-up windows for some of the best of recent CNN web videos (Note - CNN adds videos frequently - see their web sites for links to all of their video selections):

Bomb-sniffing dogs in demand
(1:55) CNN's Anne McDermott reports that businesses, airports, celebrities and others now want bomb-sniffing dogs (November 18)

U.S. led bombing continues
(1:44) CNN's Ryan Chilcote reports on the bombing over Konduz, Afghanistan (November 17)

U.S. steps up search for bin Laden
(1:58) The Pentagon hopes to extract information on Osama bin Laden's whereabouts from five captured senior Taliban officials. CNN's Jamie Mcintyre reports (November 16)
U.S. ground troops in Afghanistan
(2:16) CNN's Jamie McIntyre says the U.S. admits to having ground troops joined with Northern Alliance forces engaging in combat (November 16)
Herat celebrates liberation
(2:42) CNN's Kasra Naji reports celebrations abound in the Afghan city of Herat after being freed from years of rule by the Taliban (November 16)
Ominous documents in Kabul
(3:33) CNN's Christiane Amanpour reports on documents found in Kabul that detail nuclear weapon assembly instructions (November 16)
Top Al Qaeda leader reported killed
(9:24) CNN's Mike Boettcher reports on Mohammed Atef, one of the highest-ranking members of Al Qaeda (November 16)
Women of Kabul slowly unveiling
(3:59) CNN's Christiane Amanpour says the women of Kabul are still cautious about enjoying their new freedoms in the post-Taliban era (November 15)
Voice recorder points to turbulence
(2:54) Investigators are looking into the possibility that turbulence may have caused the crash that killed at least 262 people. CNN's Kathleen Koch reports (November 14)
Pentagon: Airstrikes not over
(2:18) U.S. officials say airstrikes will continue until their mandate for expelling the Taliban has been met. CNN's Bob Franken reports (November 14)
Static-free radio
(1:36) Jennifer Bowker, from affiliate KCRA, has more on the new technology of satellite radio (November 14)
Bush meets with Putin
(2:28) President Bush announced the U.S. would cut two-thirds of its nuclear missile arsenal. CNN's John King reports (November 14)
Kabul welcomes alliance troops
(2:40) CNN's Matthew Chance traveled with Northern Alliance troops into the Afghan capital (November 13)
Alliance take over Kabul
(3:04) CNN's Matthew Chance traveled with Northern Alliance troops as they took control of the Afghan capital of Kabul (November 13)
Northern Alliance pushing south
(2:10) With victories in the north and in the west, fighters of the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance are pushing south. CNN's Matthew Chance reports (November 12)
Northern Alliance gaining ground
(2:16) CNN's Satinder Bindra has more on the continued war in Afghanistan against the Taliban (November 12)

India, Pakistan, and the Bomb

Excerpts from article detailing the background leading up to the risk of nuclear war between Pakistan and India:

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In New Delhi, anti-Pakistan protesters,
wearing the mask of death and bearing the
Indian flag, gather outside the Pakistani Embassy after Pakistan's nuclear tests in 1998. Some are holding up baby bottles
to mock Pakistan as an infant nation.
It is not known whether the same
protesters had objected to India's own
nuclear tests several weeks earlier.

The Indian subcontinent is the most likely place in the world for a nuclear war.

As the U.S. mobilized its armed forces in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of September 11, the world's attention focused on Pakistan, so crucial to military operations in Afghanistan. When Pakistani president Pervez Musharraf pledged total support for a U.S.-led multinational force on September 14, many people's first thought was:

What about Pakistan's nuclear weapons? Could they fall into the hands of extremists? In an address to his nation, Musharraf proclaimed that the "safety of nuclear missiles" was one of his priorities.

... The renewed concern about nuclear weapons in South Asia comes a little more than three years after the events of May 1998: the five nuclear tests conducted by India at Pokharan in the northwestern desert state of Rajasthan, followed three weeks later by six nuclear explosions conducted by Pakistan in its southwestern region of Chaghai.

These tit-for-tat responses mirrored the nuclear buildup by the U.S. and the former Soviet Union, with a crucial difference: the two cold war superpowers were separated by an ocean and never fought each other openly.

Neighboring India and Pakistan have gone to war three times since British India was partitioned in 1947 into Muslim-majority and Hindu-majority states. Even now artillery guns regularly fire over the border (officially, a cease-fire line) in the disputed region of Kashmir.

In May 1999, just one year after the nuclear tests, bitter fighting broke out over the occupation of a mountain ledge near the Kashmiri town of Kargil. ... High-level officials in both countries issued at least a dozen nuclear threats.

The peace and stability that some historians and political scientists have ascribed to nuclear weapons--because nuclear nations are supposed to be afraid of mutually assured destruction--were nowhere in sight. Wiser counsel eventually prevailed.

The end of the Kargil clash, however, was not the end of the nuclear confrontation in South Asia. The planned deployment of nuclear weapons by the two countries heightens the risks. With political instability a real possibility in Pakistan, particularly given the conflict in Afghanistan, the dangers have never been so near.

... Domestic developments added to the pressure. India witnessed the rise of Hindu nationalism. For decades, parties subscribing to this ideology, such as the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), had espoused the acquisition of greater military capability--and nuclear weapons. It was therefore not surprising that the BJP ordered nuclear tests immediately after coming to power in March 1998.

The Indian tests, in turn, provided Pakistani nuclear advocates with the perfect excuse to test. Here again, religious extremists advocated the bomb. Qazi Hussain Ahmad of the Jamaat-e-Islami, one of the largest Islamist groups in Pakistan, had declared in 1993: "Let us wage jihad for Kashmir.

A nuclear-armed Pakistan would deter India from a wider conflict." Meanwhile the military sought nuclear weapons to counter India's vastly larger armed forces.

... Deployment increases the risk that nuclear weapons will be used in a crisis through accident or miscalculation. With missile flight times of three to five minutes between the two countries, early-warning systems are useless. Leaders may not learn of a launch until they look out their window and see a blinding flash of light.

They will therefore keep their fingers close to the button or authorize others, geographically dispersed, to do so. ... Even before September 11, South Asia had all the ingredients for a nuclear war:

  • possession and continued development of bombs and missiles,
  • imminent deployment of nuclear weapons,
  • inadequate precautions to avoid unauthorized use of these weapons,
  • geographical proximity, ongoing conflict in Kashmir,
  • militaristic religious extremist movements,
  • and leaders who seem sanguine about the dangers of nuclear war. ..

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  • Scientific American [link inactive]