Friday, November 23, 2001
S a t u r d a y ,  N o v e m b e r  2 4,  2 0 0 1
Sunday, November 25, 2001

Kunduz Transitioning to Alliance Control

Excerpts from an article describing both the surrender of larger numbers of Taliban in Kunduz and the possibility of resistance by the hard core foreign al Qaeda fighters there:

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The first northern alliance troops entered Kunduz on Sunday, and the city's Taliban and foreign defenders were surrendering "continuously," alliance spokesmen said. No fighting was initially reported as the alliance moved in.

The alliance also said the top Taliban commander had surrendered, and that it hoped the city's handover would be complete by nightfall.

The fall of Kunduz would mark the loss of the last Taliban citadel in the north of Afghanistan, leaving the Islamic militia with a stronghold only in the southern city of Kandahar. Over the past three weeks, the Taliban have lost three-quarters of their territory.

Northern Alliance soldiers watch a convoy
of Taliban soldiers surrender, 11/24/01

... Kunduz has been under siege by the alliance for the past 12 days, defended by Taliban and foreign fighters, some loyal to Osama bin Laden. As Alam entered the city, the defenders were giving up in droves without a fight, alliance spokesman Zaher Wasik said.

"A lot of Taliban are surrendering. Continuously they are coming to us. There is no fighting," he said, adding that alliance soldiers were converging on Kunduz from all directions.

... It was unclear whether the hard core of foreign fighters loyal to bin Laden – most of them Arabs, Chechens or Pakistanis – would opt to fight to the finish. At least one staged a suicide surrender on Saturday – giving up, then setting off a hand grenade while waiting to be searched. Two of his comrades were killed, and an alliance officer seriously hurt.

A former Taliban deputy interior minister who defected – the most senior Taliban defector thus far – on Saturday said he blamed bin Laden and his foreign fighters as well as extremist Taliban for bringing on the U.S.-led war.

"I have being saying for a long time that the foreigners have to leave our country, that they have plans of their own and are destroying our country," Mullah Mohammed Khaqzar told reporters in Kabul, the capital. ...

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Last Taliban Holdout, Kandahar, Likely to be a Difficult Fight

Excerpts from articles describing the state of affairs in and around the last Taliban stronghold of Kandahar, as well as the likelihood of a US and British buildup which which may precede a final push, by forces opposed to the Taleban, in the coming weeks:

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There have been reliable reports of clashes between Taleban forces and opposing Pashtun tribal fighters along the road between the Pakistan border and the southern Taleban stronghold of Kandahar. In recent days there has been heavy American bombing in the area.

... The road from Kandahar to Spin Boldak, on the Pakistani border, is the last remaining supply line for the southern city. If it is cut, or if territory along the way can be taken and held, immense pressure will be put on Kandahar city.

... The Taleban have said there will be no surrender in Kandahar whatever happens further north in Kunduz. But in this they may have little choice.

... Allied commanders are finalising plans for British paratroopers to fight alongside American soldiers in a major ground offensive to crush the Taliban.

US chiefs of staff believe that they will need to send in thousands of soldiers to bring about the destruction of the Taliban fighters massed in and around Kandahar. The southern city is the organisation's spiritual capital and their last significant stronghold.

... The battle for the southern city of Kandahar, the Taliban's last stronghold in Afghanistan, was launched yesterday as US-backed tribal forces advanced on two approaches to the city.

Allied soldiers are expected to suffer heavy casualties if, as now seems likely, American and British ground troops are forced to move against the city to finish off the Taliban.

The city is the spiritual capital of the Taliban - it is where the movement was founded seven years ago - and its troops are unlikely to give it up without a fight.

Only last week Mullah Bismillah, a former Taliban commander who escaped from the city recently, said his former soldiers would defend the city to their last breath.

... Working on the doctrine of overwhelming superiority, the US chiefs of staff based at their Central Command Headquarters in Tampa, Florida, have drawn up plans to commit both the 101st and 82nd Airborne Divisions to the battle as well as British paratroopers. The combined force would have a strength of about 25,000 men.

To move the troops from their US bases, Fort Campbell in Kentucky for the 101st - known as the Screaming Eagles - and Fort Bragg in South Carolina for the 82nd, will probably take a couple of weeks. ...


Reports that bin Laden Sighted near Jalalabad

Take the following with a grain of salt, as bin Laden sightings tend to be little more than rumor (reference - the report last week that bin Laden was trapped in a 30 square mile area southeast of Kandahar).

Excerpts from an article detailing the latest supposed locale of bin Laden and his protectors:

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Osama bin Laden was seen this week at a large, well-fortified encampment 35 miles southwest of this city, a minister of this region's self-proclaimed government said yesterday.

Hazarat Ali, law and order minister for the Eastern Shura, which claims dominion over three major provinces in eastern Afghanistan, said trusted informants had told him bin Laden was spotted near Tora Bora, a village where two valleys meet in deep mountains in Nangarhar Province.

"We have some people who told us that three or four days ago, Osama bin Laden was in Tora Bora," Ali said. "I trust them like my mother or father. He is moving at night on horseback. He sleeps in caves."

Overlooking the village of Tora Bora is a large network of mountain caves and forts used by the Afghans who fought the Soviet Union in the 1980s.

Eastern Shura commanders say operatives of al-Qaida, bin Laden's organization, paid the villagers of Tora Bora $50 a family to vacate the village weeks ago.

Ali's lieutenants say as many as 2,000 foreign fighters — "Arabs," as they are called here — are at Tora Bora, too, armed with machine guns and surface-to-surface missiles. He described the fighters as "experienced and suicidal." ...

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First Human Cloned Embryo

The cloning of a human embryo for therapeutic purposes has been successfully accomplished. This critical step is a milestone which may some day lead to creation of replacement tissue and organs for a range of diseases:

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Cloned early-stage human embryos—and human embryos generated only from eggs, in a process called parthenogenesis—now put therapeutic cloning within reach.

They were such tiny dots, yet they held such immense promise. After months of trying, on October 13, 2001, we came into our laboratory at Advanced Cell Technology to see under the microscope what we’d been striving for—little balls of dividing cells not even visible to the naked eye.

Insignificant as they appeared, the specks were precious because they were, to our knowledge, the first human embryos produced using the technique of nuclear transplantation, otherwise known as cloning.

... Therapeutic cloning—which seeks, for example, to use the genetic material from patients’ own cells to generate pancreatic islets to treat diabetes or nerve cells to repair damaged spinal cords—is distinct from reproductive cloning, which aims to implant a cloned embryo into a woman’s uterus leading to the birth of a cloned baby.

We believe that reproductive cloning has potential risks to both mother and fetus that make it unwarranted at this time, and we support a restriction on cloning for reproductive purposes until the safety and ethical issues surrounding it are resolved.

... We are eager for the day when we will be able to offer therapeutic cloning or cell therapy arising from parthenogenesis to sick patients. Currently our efforts are focused on diseases of the nervous and cardiovascular systems and on diabetes, autoimmune disorders, and diseases involving the blood and bone marrow.

Once we are able to derive nerve cells from cloned embryos, we hope not only to heal damaged spinal cords but to treat brain disorders such as Parkinson’s disease, in which the death of brain cells that make a substance called dopamine leads to uncontrollable tremors and paralysis. Alzheimer’s disease, stroke and epilepsy might also yield to such an approach.

Besides insulin-producing pancreatic islet cells for treating diabetes, stem cells from cloned embryos could also be nudged to become heart muscle cells as therapies for congestive heart failure, arrhythmias and cardiac tissue scarred by heart attacks.

... The cloning process also appears to reset the "aging clock" in cloned cells, so that the cells appear younger in some ways than the cells from which they were cloned. In 2000 we reported that telomeres—the caps at the ends of chromosomes—from cloned calves are just as long as those from control calves. Telomeres normally shorten or are damaged as an organism ages.

Therapeutic cloning may provide "young" cells for an aging population. ...

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Therapeutic Cloning:
How Is It Done?

(click for details)

Cloning: Ethical Considerations

(click for details)

Cloning and the Law

(click for details)

Dead Sea Scrolls to Cause Vatican to Revise the Bible

The facts thus far revealed (many heretofore widely known) regarding the complete dead sea scrolls (recently published):

  • No Jesus (supposedly due to the burying of the scrolls prior to the time the Jesus stories were written up [one must wonder how such a supposedly important character was missing as of 68AD, close to 40 years after he would have died, had he ever lived], although the scrolls were buried after Paul's christ stories were written),
  • No virgin birth (apparently a translation error of Greek from Hebrew),
  • Contradictory pentateuchs,
  • Further revelation of the ever-changing nature of "the bible"
  • A 5-year plan by the Vatican to revise impacted parts of "the bible"

Excerpts from an article describing some of these tidbits of information leaking out about the scrolls:

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Publication of the Dead Sea Scrolls – 15,000 papyrus documents discovered in the desert that have changed scholars' views on the Bible – is finally being completed, after more than half a century of bitter squabbling, censorship and academic controversy.

Fifty-four years after the first of them was found in a cave in Qumran, on the north-western shore of the Dead Sea, publication of all the scrolls and fragments has been completed in 37 volumes.

All but two have been published in scholarly editions, and those two are being edited.

The scrolls are believed to have been written by a Jewish sect sometime between 200BC and early in the 1st century AD, and the first were rediscovered in a cave by a shepherd boy in 1947.

The theory is that they were hidden there in 68AD during the Jewish revolt against the Romans. Others were found in nearby caves during the 1950s.

The completion of publication is a landmark for academics and for Christians and Jews, whose most dearly held beliefs have been challenged by the scrolls – including that of the Virgin birth of Christ, which arose from the use of the word for virgin in early Greek versions of the Bible. The scrolls reveal that this was a mistranslation: the original Hebrew word used simply meant young woman.

Now the completion of the scrolls' publication coincides with an admission by the Vatican that it is to revise parts of the Bible accordingly, a task likely to take five years.

Fragment of the
book of Daniel

... Experts have studied the scrolls and discovered much about the way the Bible was written, including its discrepancies, contradictions and repetitions.

The first five books – Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy – were ascribed to the same writer, Moses, but they have many inconsistencies.

The scrolls include several different editions of the books of Exodus and Numbers, and the Psalms. They revealed that the Bible was not a rigidly fixed text, but was edited and adjusted to make the text more relevant to its audience.

It was not only the religious significance of the work that the scrolls questioned but also their historical truth, for they revealed that the writers would have coloured their accounts with their prejudices too. ...

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