Tuesday, December 4, 2001
W e d n e s d a y ,  D e c e m b e r  5,  2 0 0 1
Thursday, December 6, 2001 to Thursday, December 20, 2001

Last Fight to Oust bin Laden

Excerpts from articles describing the latest efforts to capture or kill bin Laden and his defenders in the Tora Bora caves area:

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Last fight to oust an unwanted foreigner.

Hunting Down bin Laden

It was perfect bombing weather. The B52 bomber cut a fine white line through the blue skies south of Jalalabad, making silent circles around its target. When the bombs dropped near Tora Bora, the crash echoed through the hills surrounding the Maleva Valley and the plumes of grey smoke rose as though the mountains were on fire.

Afghan fighters watch US bombings
of Tora Bora cave areas

There was silence, then, a few seconds later, the Afghan anti-Taleban soldiers began cheering and laughing. “For too long we have had foreigners using our country for war,” Mangal, a Pashtun soldier who once fought the Russians, said. “Bin Laden is a foreigner and if the Americans help us to get him out, that is good.”

Shortly after, three Soviet tanks positioned strategically on the Bamokhail Ridge looking out over Tora Bora began firing. The Afghans aimed then released a shell that fell in the hills with a dull, heavy thud and a vibration that shook the earth on which we were standing.

Tora Bora, the mountain complex of tunnels the name of which means “Black Dust”, is thought to hide 1,500 al-Qaeda fighters and, possibly, Osama bin Laden. It sits inside a 13,000ft mountain, hidden by pine trees and with an entrance wide enough for a car. From the top of the Ghree Khil mountain, the Pakistani border is only a day’s walk to the south.

... When asked about the reward money that the US Government has offered for bin Laden, many soldiers acted surprised, even insulted. “We are fighting for our country,” one sniffed. Sorhab Khan, another commander, added: “We don’t believe in the reward. We aren’t fighting for money.”

... The Tora Bora base, only 50 miles south of Jalalabad, offers numerous exit routes into Pakistan.

... In addition to a vast network of caves and tunnels throughout the mountain base, al-Qaeda fighters have designed mountaintop firing positions from inside caves and behind cliffs. These posts are fortified using scrap metal ripped from the sides of destroyed Soviet tanks and helicopters. ...

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Interim Government in Afghanistan - New Leader Sets Out Aims

Hamid Karzai, an ethnic Pashtun,
will head interim government

Excerpts from article describing the Bonn agreement setting forth the way in which Afghanistan will attempt to transition to a democratic government over a two year period, an effort required in order to qualify for billions in foreign aid to rebuild the country:

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The man appointed to lead Afghanistan for the next six months has said that the country needs economic opportunities and democratic elections in order to move forward.

Hamid Karzai, an ethnic Pashtun, told the BBC that former Taleban figures could play a role in a future government if the Afghan people wanted them, but that "foreign terrorists" must be expelled and tried.

"Foreign terrorists that have made Afghanistan their base have brought unbelievable suffering to our people and my country. "They must leave Afghanistan and be taken to justice," he said when asked about Osama Bin Laden, who is accused of masterminding the 11 September attacks on the United States.

Delegates from four Afghan factions agreed on Wednesday to set up a transitional government headed by Mr Karzai after 20 years of war.

... Mr Karzai told the BBC that decisions about the type of government the country would have and who it would include must be made by the Afghan people.

He also said that if local forces could not provide "security in this critical time of transition, then the presence of a UN force would be a good thing". He was talking by satellite phone from north of the southern Afghan city of Kandahar, where his forces are battling the Taleban for control.

He said he believed Taleban leaders would "transfer power to local tribal chiefs and local clergy ... sooner rather than later".

... Guide to Afghan Powerbrokers ...

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Chinese Folk Remedy Reportedly Fights Cancer

One of my two sisters died of a mestastes to the brain, caused by breast cancer, a few years ago. So, when I saw the following article from a generally reputable news
source, my interest was piqued.

I didn't find much skepticism in the article, and I cannot vouch for its accuracy, so please read and research the information in your normal manner of doubt / hope / interest in edification regarding the possibilities which reside in our natural world ..

Excerpts from the article follow:

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Plant compound sparks chain reaction that kills tumor cells.

Dec. 4 — Chinese folk medicine has yielded a promising new approach for treating cancer. Using a dash of logic and modern lab techniques, Seattle scientists have shown
that a compound extracted from the wormwood plant seeks out and destroys breast cancer cells, while leaving healthy cells unscathed.

In laboratory experiments, the compound killed within 16 hours virtually all human breast cancer cells exposed to it in the test tube, reports Henry Lai, a bioengineering
researcher at the University of Washington. Just as importantly, he says, nearly all of the normal cells exposed to it were still alive.

And a dog with a type of bone cancer known as osteosarcoma so severe that it couldn’t walk across the room made a complete recovery within five days of receiving the treatment. X-rays showed the animal’s tumor “had basically disappeared,” says Lai, adding that he believes the dog is still alive two years later.

“Not only does [the drug] appear to be effective, but it’s very selective,” Lai says. “It’s highly toxic to the cancer cells, but has a marginal impact on normal cells.”

So what is this “novel” anti-cancer compound? It’s called artemisinin — and actually, it isn’t new at all. Chinese folk practitioners extracted it from the plant Artemesia annua L., commonly known as wormwood, thousands of years ago for use in the treatment of malaria, Lai says.

After a “secret recipe” for the treatment was discovered on a stone tablet in the tomb of a prince of the Han Dynasty during an archaeological dig in the 1970s, artemisinin re-emerged as a therapy for the mosquito-borne disease, Lai recalls.

In fact, a purified form of the plant compound is now the drug of choice for treating malaria in many areas, particularly where chloroquine-resistant strains have emerged, he says.

Why it works - Experiments into why artemisinin works as an anti-malaria agent led to its tests as an anti-cancer drug. The key turned out to be a shared characteristic of the malaria parasite and dividing cancer cells: high iron concentrations.

When artemisinin — or any of its derivatives — comes into contact with iron, a chemical reaction ensues, spawning charged atoms that chemists call free radicals. In malaria, the free radicals attack and bind with cell membranes, breaking them apart and killing the single-cell parasite.

Cells, too, need iron to replicate DNA when they divide, Lai says. And since cancer is characterized by out-of-control cell division, cancer cells have much higher iron concentrations than do normal cells.

On their surfaces, cancer cells also have more so-called transferrin receptors — cellular pathways that allow iron to enter — than healthy cells. In the case of breast cancer, the cells have five to 15 times more transferrin receptors on their surface than normal breast cells, Lai says.

And so entered the dash of logic: About seven years ago, Lai reasoned, why not target cancer cells with the anti-malaria treatment?

Working with assistant research professor Narendra Singh, Lai devised a strategy and obtained funding from the Breast Cancer Fund in San Francisco. The work appears in the November issue of the journal Life Sciences.

... If the treatment lives up to its early promise, it could revolutionize the way some cancers — particularly aggressive, fast-growing ones — are approached, he adds. ...

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Army of God Anthrax Hoaxer Arrested

Excerpts from article regarding the arrest of an anthrax hoaxer:

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Fugitive anthrax hoaxer captured in FBI chase. A fugitive suspected of hundreds of anthrax hoaxes against abortion clinics was captured by the FBI last night. Clayton Lee Waagner, who believed that he had been chosen by God to wage war on doctors
who carry out abortions.

... In a June message attributed to Waagner that appeared on the “Army of God” website, he wrote that God had showed him how to open a highsecurity door at the prison.

In his message, Waagner issued a warning to abortion providers: “I’m a terrorist to a very narrow group of people, but a terrorist just the same. As a terrorist to the abortionist, what I need to do is envoke (sic) terror. I wish to warn them that I am coming. I am anointed and called to be God’s Warrior.” ...

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  • The Times [link inactive]