Tuesday, November 27, 2001
W e d n e s d a y ,  N o v e m b e r  2 8,  2 0 0 1
Thursday, November 29, 2001

Is bin Laden in Tora Bora Caves?

Suspicions are high that bin Laden, and a cadre of up to two thousand of his closest defenders, are in and around a mountain fortress at Tora Bora, 35 miles southwest of Jalalabad. Excerpts from articles detailing those suspicions:

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If bin Laden is in the mountain fortress of Tora Bora, he is protected by caves as enduring as the rock from which they are carved.

... Today, by all accounts, it is an al-Qaeda redoubt, the hideout of some 2,000 Arab fighters devoted to Osama bin Laden. Many of them fled the city of Jalalabad, 35 miles across the tawny plain to the northeast and traditionally the fortress’s main supply point.

American jets have been bombing Tora Bora, trying to drive an explosive wedge into the rocks, just as the Russians did; trying to demonstrate that even if it is well protected and formidable, it is not impregnable.

... Bin Laden is believed to be moving by night between caves in the honeycombed mountains, protected by a loyal band of Arab al-Qaeda fighters.

US Special Forces have been gathering as much information as possible from local people - or possibly captured Taleban fighters - on where Bin Laden could be hiding.

... Defence sources are increasingly sure that bin Laden is in the Tora Bora complex.

“We’re now convinced this is where he is and where the 1,000 or so al-Qaeda fighters with him will make their last stand,” said one.

... Although American and British intelligence analysts realise that bin Laden may have devised a deception plan, there is now so much material, covertly and overtly acquired, pointing to Tora Bora as his hideout that military planners are likely to be focusing much of their effort on drawing up a plan to attack the mountain stronghold.

Defence sources said that bin Laden no longer had the ability to switch from one part of Afghanistan to another because of the Northern Alliance advances and the increasing presence of US Marines in the south, and that Tora Bora provided him with a seemingly impenetrable fortress.

The conviction that bin Laden is at Tora Bora, a complex of deep caves carved more than 1,000ft into the 13,000ft mountain, has come after analysis of all the accumulated intelligence, human as well as technical.

Bin Laden Tunnel Complex

(click for large size image)

... The United States military will be deploying its best men and slickest technology to search for signs of Osama bin Laden in the mountaintop hideout of Tora Bora. If they find him, it will mean a fight to the death.

Arab fighters in the base have said they have no intention of surrendering or of escaping across the nearby border and through snow-covered passes into Pakistan.

Gen Tommy Franks, commander of the US campaign, said Tora Bora was one of two places in which bin Laden could be hiding. "These are the two areas that we are paying very, very careful attention to," he said.

An Afghan reporter who travelled incognito to Tora Bora described a vast, wooded highland redoubt which offers good defensive possibilities. ...

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Therapeutic Cloning Ethics

Excerpts from articles describing some of the seldom discussed facts of the first two weeks after a human conception has occurred, ethical issues associated therewith, therapeutic cloning techniques, and what the future may hold as a result of research into cures for diseases, reduction of human suffering, and the prolonging of human life:

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Scientists have finally cloned a human embryo
The breakthrough promises cures for terrible diseases. Here's the inside story:

... The source of the hysteria is a widespread misunderstanding of just what an early embryo is ... "If you ask the average person, they will tell you it's a tiny little person with buggy eyes," says West. "But, in fact, these are just a few reproductive cells, not much different than eggs or sperm. They are the raw materials of life, but they are not a person."

Most scientists agree. During the first 14 days after an egg is fertilized, the group of cells is known as a "preimplantation embryo."

In nature, the majority of these pass from the body without ever attaching to a woman's uterus and developing further.

If one truly believed that these were individual human lives being lost, ... then this should be considered a huge public-health crisis, and there would be a massive medical campaign launched to save these "lives."

Moreover, these preimplantation embryos often split off to become two or more entities or, conversely, two groups of the cells sometimes merge together.

And currently, there are an estimated 1 million of these early embryos left over worldwide from in vitro fertilization procedures, poised to be discarded.

... many medical developments have been at least temporarily halted because of ethical qualms.

Religious leaders found vaccines objectionable because they interfered with God's plan for who should get sick, and in vitro fertilization was condemned in the 1970s by many of the same conservative ethicists who today oppose therapeutic cloning.

Organ transplants were once seen as objectionable.

And recombinant DNA technology-the ability to create synthetic genes-was banned from top universities like Harvard and MIT for years, for fear that horrible and dangerous creatures would be produced. But much of the opposition melted when the technology was used to create a synthetic form of insulin to treat diabetics, and today recombinant DNA is used in virtually every research lab in the world.

... Cures without qualms ... Because it is harder to view as a potential human life, a
parthenogenetic embryo might be a more acceptable source of stem cells, the versatile cells that promise to provide replacement tissue for ailing patients.

Perfect match. Yet for now, parthenogenetic embryos could supply perfectly matched stem cells only to women of childbearing age, because only they could provide the eggs that would generate the cells.

Ultimately, Cibelli thinks men who produce viable sperm could also be helped: An egg's DNA could be replaced with genes from sperm, and the egg could then be activated to become a "parthenote."

Advanced Cell Technology has a patent on file for yet another technique that could ease ethical concerns, though its therapeutic promise is far less certain.

The jellylike material inside an egg contains thousands of proteins that make the parents' old DNA young again, ready to develop into an embryo.

By dropping bits of that material into a body cell, scientists might be able to take the cell back in time to an embryonic and moldable state without actually creating an embryo.

But the true revolution will come, says Cibelli, when scientists finally understand how an egg works its rejuvenating magic.

At that point, they will be able to synthetically reprogram patients' cells, converting them directly into stem cells.

"The ultimate goal is to move beyond cloning," Cibelli says. "It's a transitional step that will teach us how the egg works so that we can eventually stop using eggs." In other words, the only way out of cloning is through it.

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