Saturday, November 24, 2001
S u n d a y ,  N o v e m b e r  2 5,  2 0 0 1
Monday, November 26, 2001

US Begins Battle for Kandahar

Excerpts from article describing the initial phase of an increased US presence in southern Afghanistan, designed to defeat remaining Taliban forces in and around Kandahar:

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American forces were gathering to attack the Taliban's last stronghold of Kandahar last night. Waves of helicopters were reported to be ferrying troops and ground armour to an airfield close to the Taliban's spiritual centre in the south of Afghanistan.

The Pentagon refused to comment on the report, although information has leaked in recent days of plans for 1,600 US Marines based on ships in the Arabian Sea to go into action on the ground.

Tribal fighters took control of the airfield shortly before large military transport planes and helicopters began to circle and land, said Mohammad Anwar, spokesman for Gud Fida Mohammad, a commander of the anti-Taliban Achakzai tribe.

In Kandahar, one resident said the roar of planes could be heard and large flashes had been seen from the direction of the airfield, 12 miles outside the city.

American troops were said to have secured the perimeter of the field, which has been a target of intense bombing since US air raids in Afghanistan began on Oct 7. A stream of helicopters flew into the base during the evening, unloading soldiers with packs and baggage, Anwar said. ...

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'Hundreds Dead' in Taleban Prison Revolt

Excerpts from article describing the violent uprising by recently imprisoned Taleban soldiers in Mazar-e-Shariff:

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Tanks, Northern Alliance soldiers,
US special forces, and
US planes quell prison revolt

A revolt by foreign pro-Taleban fighters held prisoner in a fort near the northern Afghan city of Mazar-e-Sharif appears to have been brought under control after fighting which reportedly left hundreds dead.

US planes and troops fought alongside opposition Northern Alliance forces to quell the uprising. There is no clear picture of the number of casualties, but a Northern Alliance spokesman said the fighting, which is thought to have involved at least 300 Taleban, left most of the prisoners dead.

(click for prison revolt video)

The foreign fighters, believed to have links to Islamic militant Osama Bin Laden's al-Qaeda network, had been detained in Qala-e-Jhangi fortress following their surrender to the Northern Alliance outside Kunduz on Saturday.

US Defense Department spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Dan Stoneking said the Chechens, Pakistanis and Arabs tried to fight their way out in a battle which raged for several hours. The prisoners are reported to have seized weapons from their guards, whom they killed. ...

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Crows Know How to Show No Bird-brain Behavior

Excerpts from article describing the amazing social and reasoning skills of crows (corvids):

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Smarter than the average bird ... the mental agility of crows and their cousins continues to amaze researchers. If any group of birds least deserved the epithet birdbrain it is the crow family.

The sophisticated social behaviour of crows and their relatives - collectively, the corvids - has earned such respect among scientists that scores of papers have been written debating whether corvids have, quite seriously, a "theory of mind".

There is evidence that individual corvids can picture themselves as players in future social situations, and work out how to take advantage of such imagined scenarios.

The same mental agility that has turned corvids into expert improvisers, planners and strategists has made them the second-best liars, cheats and thieves in the animal kingdom.

One kind of crow has learned to drop nuts in front of the obliging tyres of trucks - but only on pedestrian crossings, so the crows can retrieve their dinner in relative safety.

There is a crow, known only from New Caledonia, that fashions leaves into awls and saws, the better to wheedle grubs out of crevices - the only instance known outside humans of the deliberate construction of tools for predefined purposes. ...

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Best of CNN Videos (November 19 to 24)

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):

De-mining Afghanistan
(2:04) CNN's Harris Whitbeck reports that landmines cover Afghanistan and removing them will help many that are returning to their land to start over (November 24)
Taliban forces surrender
(2:37) CNN's Satinder Bindra says that the latest Taliban troops surrendering may encourage others to surrender as well (November 24)
U.S. Air Force role in Afghan war
(6:00) Military animation shows aircraft and their missions in Afghanistan (November 23)
Special Ops leads hunt for bin laden
(2:04) U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld reviewed Special Operations forces in Fort Bragg, North Carolina. CNN's Bob Franken reports (November 22)
Operation works to save cranes
(1:36) Operation Migration is working to save the endangered whooping crane using an ultra-lite aircraft. CNN's Sean Callebs reports (November 22)
Hope revived for Afghan women
(2:40) Although women in Afghanistan now have some rights and can go back to work, they still have grinding poverty to deal with (November 21)
Mazar-e Sharif bloodbath
(2:01) CNN's Alessio Vinci traveled to Mazar-e Sharif to check into the bloodbath that occurred when surrounded Taliban forces refused to surrender (November 21)
High-tech air support aids manhunt
(3:02) CNN military analyst Maj. Gen. Don Shepperd, USAF (Ret.), outlines surveillance technology available in the hunt for Osama bin Laden (November 20)
Pentagon Day 45
(2:28) CNN's Jamie McIntyre reports the U.S. is considering sending in Marines from ships off the coast of Pakistan (November 20)
Mapping ethnic lines of Afghanistan
(3:22) CNN's Bruce Burkhardt draws a map explaining the complex ethnic lines that make up the population of Afghanistan (November 19)
Taliban still fighting in Konduz
(2:47) CNN's Satinder Bindra brings us a front line view of the fighting near Konduz, Afghanistan (November 19)
Taliban hanging by a thread
(2:02) CNN's Jim Clancy reports that Taliban strongholds along the road to Kandahar are dwindling (November 19)
Mazar-e-shariff returning to normal
(2:27) CNN's Alessio Vinci reports that the city of Mazar-e-shariff tries to get back to normal after being taken over by the Northern Alliance (November 19)

Advance in Curing Human Diseases and Prolonging Human Life

As reported in the 112401 version of the Pro-Humanist FREELOVER Daily, a monumental first step in efforts to utilize therapeutic human cloning to cure a wide range of chronic human diseases has been announced.

Being that I've been a type 1 (juvenile-onset) diabetic for over 41 years (since age 5), I'm quite excited by the prospect which any sane and pro-human advance in curing diseases provides, as well as the prospect for prolonging life for every individual reading this post.

As is typical in this area, the knee-jerk religious conservatives, politicians, President Bush, and anti-abortionists reacted with the likes of "let's make this illegal" or "god must be consulted on this" or "cells which may become human life must not be used by scientists to cure diseases, reduce human suffering, or prolong human life".

For counters to those positions, refer to the over 15 posts I've made related to stem cell research issues.

Excerpts from an article discussing the announcement:

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American scientists claimed yesterday to have cloned the first human embryo, spreading deep alarm among pro-life groups.

If the experiments carried out by Advanced Cell Technology, one of America's leading biotechnology companies, are confirmed, it marks a major development in genetic research.

The breakthrough came during research aimed at finding new treatments for diseases such as Parkinson's and diabetes.

The company has no plans to use cloned embryos to create babies. Instead it wants to exploit the unspecialised stem cells found in newly conceived embryos for a host of new medical treatments.

... Dr Robert Lanza, vice president of medical and scientific development at ACT, based in Worcester, Massachusetts, said: "Our intention is not to create cloned human beings.

"Rather it is to make lifesaving therapies for a wide range of human disease conditions, including diabetes, strokes, cancer, Aids and neuro-degenerative disorders such as Parkinson's and Alzheimer's disease."

The ACT team said it created the embryo using the same technique that was used for Dolly the sheep.

It first scraped out the DNA from a human egg cell, then injected it with the nucleus from a human skin cell and finally kick-started the egg with electricity.

... The experiments were intended to exploit the potential of embryonic stem cells - the body's "master cells", which can go on to turn into any type of tissue such as muscle, blood, skin or brain.

They can be cultured indefinitely, providing an unlimited supply of tissue for transplant. Researchers believe that combining stem cell research with cloning will one day allow doctors to create a cloned embryo of a patient for use as a tissue factory.

The company did not say whether it had successfully removed embryonic stem cells from the cloned embryo.

Michael West, chief executive officer of ACT, said: "The entities we are creating are not individuals. They're only cellular life; they're not human life." ...

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