Thursday, November 29, 2001
F r i d a y ,  N o v e m b e r  3 0,  2 0 0 1
Saturday, December 1, 2001

Army May Gas bin Laden Out of Tora Bora Caves

Excerpts from article describing the possibility that a disabling gas may be used to smoke bin Laden out of the Tora Bora caves:

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Osama bin Laden could be flushed from his Tora Bora hideaway by military engineers drilling holes in the mountain and filling the cave complex with a disabling gas.

It is one option being considered before a frontal assault on the caves by US Marines and special forces in order to avoid heavy casualties.

Richard Cheney, America’s Vice-President, confirmed yesterday that bin Laden was now thought to have taken refuge in the Tora Bora complex in the White Mountains in eastern Afghanistan.

“I think he was equipped to go to ground there,” he said. “He’s got what he believes to be fairly secure facilities, caves underground. It’s an area he’s familiar with.” ...

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  • The Times [link inactive]

Afghanistan Military Status as of 11/30/01

US Sea Watch Turns Tide on Terrorists

Excerpts from article detailing increased efforts to defend US shipping lanes since the September 11th attack on America:

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Since September 11 these have been anything but normal times, which is why a squadron of five armed vessels led by the Forward is now patrolling the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay — one of the busiest waterways in the country — and guarding against the sort of scenarios that would usually occur only in Tom Clancy novels.

They are thinking the unthinkable. They are watching for tankers full of petrol, propane or liquid natural gas that terrorists could turn into floating bombs. They are looking for cargo ships packed with explosives, or container vessels trying to sneak in the components of chemical, biological or nuclear weapons through America’s back door.

They are on the alert for attempts to hijack cruise ships full of tourists, rogue ships bent on ramming bridges, or a suicide attack on a US warship by one of the thousands of small pleasure craft that ply the Bay.

... Right around America the US Coast Guard went on its highest state of alert since the Second World War in the immediate aftermath of the September 11 attacks, and it has remained there ever since ... in New York, Boston and Miami harbours, San Francisco Bay, the Houston ship canal, the Puget Sound, the Great Lakes, the Mississippi and Long Beach, California.

Coast Guard vessels that would normally be in the Caribbean or off the coast of Mexico, intercepting drug runners and illegal immigrants, have been called back to throw as tight a cordon as they can manage around America’s 361 ports and 95,000-mile coast.

... To date they have found nothing more fearsome than contraband, stowaways and some safety violations. Petty Officer Stephanie Campbell, 26, from Indiana, said: “The Army and Air Force are doing their stuff in Afghanistan, and we’re fighting the war here on our shores.”

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  • The Times [link inactive]
Breakthrough for Stem Cell Research

Excerpts from articles describing the manner in which stem cell research has been used to develop brain cells:

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A major breakthrough in stem cell research has been announced that makes treatments for degenerative brain diseases like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's look more feasible.

Two separate teams of scientists have succeeded in making stem cells originally derived from human embryos turn into brain cells. Researchers currently believe it may be possible to transplant such newly-created brain cells into brain disease sufferers.

... Stem cells are a kind of master cell that can develop into a variety of tissues. When taken from very small embryos they seem to be even more flexible, with the ability to become any kind of cell in the body at all.

They also seem to live and grow forever in lab dishes, unlike “differentiated” cells that have become skin cells, muscle cells and so on, providing a potentially endless source of tissue, and perhaps someday even organs, for transplant.

... “The list of diseases that may be treatable with human embryonic stem cell research is vast and includes neurological disorders (such as) Parkinson’s disease, white-matter loss or spinal cord injury, and many non-central nervous system disorders (such as) juvenile diabetes, muscular dystrophy or cardiac dysfunction.” ...

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  • BBC
  • MSNBC [link inactive]

Pictures Show How Nerve Cells Form Memory Connections

Excerpts from article describing pictures which display the way in which long and short term memories are created by the formation of connections via nerve cells in the brain:

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Scientists at the University of California, San Diego have produced dramatic images of brain cells forming temporary and permanent connections in response to various stimuli, illustrating for the first time the structural changes between neurons in the brain that, many scientists have long believed, take place when we store short-term and long-term memories.

... a "Holy Grail" for neuroscientists who have long sought concrete evidence for how nerve connections in the brain are changed temporarily and permanently by our experiences.

"The long-term memories stored in our brain last our entire lives, so everybody had assumed that there must be lasting structural changes between neurons in the brain. ... Although there's been a lot of suggestive evidence to indicate that this is the case, it's never before been directly observed."

... In their experiments, the UCSD researchers discovered that when they stimulated a cell once, the actin inside the cell was activated and temporarily moved toward neurons to which they were connected.

The activity in the first cell also stimulated the movement of actin in neighboring neurons, which moved away from the activated cell.

Those changes in the cells were temporary, however, lasting for about three to five minutes and disappearing within five to 10 minutes.

"The short-term changes are just part of the normal way the nerve cells talk to each other. ... The long-term changes in the neurons occur only after the neurons are stimulated four times over the course of an hour. The synapse will actually split and new synapses will form, producing a permanent change that will presumably last for the rest of your life."

Neuron showing actin formation
in response to stimuli

"The analogy to human memory is that when you see or hear something once, it might stick in your mind for a few minutes. If it's not important, it fades away and you forget it 10 minutes later. But if you see or hear it again and this keeps happening over the next hour, you are going to remember it for a much longer time. And things that are repeated many times can be remembered for an entire lifetime."

"It's like a piano lesson. ... If you play a musical score over and over again, it becomes ingrained in your memory." ...

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