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ISSUE: #. 15. Jan.. 5, 2002 By Bill Weinberg


1. Bombing Continues; Another Village Wiped Out
2. Refugees Still Flee "Liberated" Afghanistan
3. Starvation in Herat "Slaughterhouse"
4. Unocal Advisor is New US Envoy
5. Brits Back in Afghanistan After 80 Years
6. US Marines Search for Taliban in Afghanistan's South...
7. ...As al-Qaeda Re-groups in Pakistan's Lawless Northwest
8. Green Beret Killed in Ambush
9. US Delegates Torture to Karzai Regime
10. RAWA Charges Women in Karzai Regime with Betrayal
11. US Embroiled in Tribal Warfare
12. Ismaili Uprising Crushed
13. Proxy War in Making
14. Cult of Massoud

1. Rumsfeld Won't "Rule Out" Nuke Attack
2. Nuclear Saber-Rattling on Subcontinent
3. Where (and Who) is Dr. Mahmood?

1. Iraq Attack Planned; US Running Short on Cruise Missiles
2. Israel Buys More Fighter Jets

1. Firefighters Rap WTC Probe
2. Did Giuliani and FEMA Bottleneck WTC Probe?
3. Osama & the WTC: It was Personal
4. Witnesses Contradict Official Story on Fl. 587
5. Racist Attacks on Staten Island

1. Terror Anthrax from Army Stockpile
2. FBI Sees Profit Motive in Anthrax Attacks
3. Drug Companies Make Hay From Terror
4. Beware the Bio-Industrial Complex
5. Bio-Police State Plans Drawn Up
6. Osama's Bio-Arsenal: Real or Hoax?
7. Is Your Mail Radioactive?
8. The Cipro Scam
9. Human Guinea Pigs Line Up for More
10. US Scuttles Bio-War Protocol


US aerial bombardment of Afghanistan has receded from the daily headlines, but continues to exact a grave toll on the populace. On Dec. 31, Afghan villagers said a US air strike killed over 100 civilians, many of them women and children. A Reuters cameraman in stricken Qalaye Niazi village in eastern Paktia province said he could see huge craters blasted by bombs. Amid the destruction were scraps of flesh, pools of blood and clumps of human hair. Residents reported the pre-dawn devastation was wreaked by a jet, a B-52 bomber and two helicopters. An official of the local tribal Shura, or council, said US troops had been invited to view the destruction. Paktia province, bordering Pakistan, is just southwest of the Tora Bora mountain cave complex, which was heavily bombed in early Dec. when al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden were supposedly hiding out there. "There are no al-Qaeda or Taliban people here," said villager Janat Gul, adding he lost 24 family members in the raid. A US military spokesman said the incident in Qalaye Niazi, about 2.5 miles north of the provincial capital Gardez, was under investigation. (Reuters, Dec. 31)

The continued bombing puts interim prime minister Hamid Karzai in a bind, having to balance obeisance to his Washington masters against the need to build a modicum of legitimacy with Afghanistan's people. A Jan. 2 New York Times headline said Karzai "Warily Backs US Bombing." He was quoted saying the US must finish off the "terrorists," but "we must also make sure our civilians do not suffer." [top]

Several thousand Afghan refugees are once again amassing at the Pakistani border, fleeing US bombardment and food insecurity, a UN High Commissioner for Refugees rep told reporters in Islamabad. The spokesperson, Fatoumata Kaba, said the UNHCR managed to move some 1,000 of the several thousand who unexpectedly arrived in the desolate border zone to the Landi Karez camp, about 15 kilometers west of the frontier, where rudimentary aid and shelter are available. She said many refugees had traveled up to 20 days. "Just how many of them there are remains uncertain, but at least 3,000 of them are visible while several thousands are reported to be farther out of site in the no man's area." She said the majority of the new arrivals came from southern Afghanistan, but others from as far as Kunduz and Herat in the north and west. The unexpected wave comes after many refugees had returned to Afghanistan following the fall of the Taliban, indicating that the change of government has not brought peace. Kaba said 28 families fled from Kunduz over two weeks ago due to bombardments. (Dawn, Islamabad, Jan. 4) [top]

Maslakh refugee camp--translated as "slaughterhouse"--is on the brink of an "Ethiopian-style humanitarian disaster," aid workers warned the UK Guardian Jan. 3. The camp, 30 miles west of Herat, is home to over 350,000 displaced Afghans--with 100 dying each day of exposure and starvation. With more than 15 years working in humanitarian disasters, Feed the Children executive director Ian Lethbridge says Maslakh is among the worst he has experienced: "I always judge everything by what I have seen in Africa. And this is on the scale of Africa. I was shocked at the living conditions of the new arrivals." The refugees cannot receive aid until they are registered by the World Food Program, and they are coming in from the devastated countryside faster than the camp's skeletal WFP crew can process them. So the WFP-administered camp is surrounded by a fast-growing ring of bivouacked refugees--surrounded by a second ring of makeshift graves. The situation is likely to deteriorate further with the onset of winter snows.

An upbeat front-page story in the Dec. 31 Washington Post, "Massive Food Delivery Averts Afghan Famine," contained not a word of this. It boasted of a $320 million US emergency donation to WFP relief programs in Afghanistan and quoted WFP director Catherine Bertini saying: "There will be no famine in Afghanistan this winter. There will be deaths, because the country was in a pre-famine condition this summer before the war started. But it will be isolated, and not large-scale." A Jan. 4 front-page New York Times story did say that WFP aid convoys coming in from Pakistan are being held up by troops of the Eastern Shura and other (US-backed) tribal armies, who confiscate the food. [top]

The White House announced Dec. 31 the appointment of Zalmay Khalilzad to serve as Special Presidential Envoy for Afghanistan. Khalilzad, "who has extensive experience in defense, Middle East and South Asia affairs," will report to the President through Secretary of State Colin Powell. He will also continue to serve in his current position as Special Assistant for Southwest Asia, Near East and North Africa on the National Security Council. The White House announcement boasts of Khalilzad's extensive background studying the region as an analyst for RAND and an advisor to the State Department. (

The announcement does not mention that Khalilzad was also contracted by the Unocal Corp. in its efforts to woo the Taliban regime for pipeline rights across Afghanistan in the mid-1990s. (see Taliban: Militant Islam, Oil and Fundamentalism in Central Asia by Ahmed Rashid, Yale, 2000, p. 172) [top]

The first British troops have arrived in Kabul to lead the "peacekeeping force," following approval by the Karzai government, Reuters reported Dec. 31. The UK-Karzai accord awaits review by other governments contributing troops to the force before it officially takes effect. The force, expected to number 3,000, is authorized by the UN Security Council to use force to defend itself while "maintaining security" in Afghanistan. Reuters reports the troops are viewed warily by some members of Karzai's regime: "[O]fficials such as Defense Minister Fahim, a former Mujahedeen member and security leader of the Northern Alliance that took Kabul in November, are eager to stamp their own authority on Afghanistan."

These are the first British troops on Afghan soil since the last were driven out in the 1921 Third Anglo-Afghan War. For the previous 40 years, Britain had run Afghanistan as a vassal state. ( Afghanistan Online ). [top]

US Marines are pulling out of Kandahar airport to search for Taliban forces in the Baghran region of Helmand province, accompanied by unnamed local Afghan forces. US Army troops from the 101st Airborne Division are taking over the airport from the departed Marines. An agreement has purportedly been reached for the surrender of Taliban hold-outs, but compliance seems uncertain. The New York Times calls it the "biggest US operation of [the] ground war." (New York Times, Newsday, Jan. 2) US officials admit many Taliban leaders may be escaping. The Pentagon is dropping more weird psy-op leaflets on Baghran. One shows an altered photo of Osama bin Laden with his beard shaved off and dressed in a business suit, with text reading: "OSAMA BIN LADEN THE MURDER AND COWARD HAS ABANDONED YOU!" (New York Times, Jan. 4) [top]

Osama bin Laden is not believed to be in Baghran, where the Marines are going. "The latest intelligence we've had indicates that the high probabilities are that bin Laden is still alive," Sen. Bob Graham, Select Committee on Intelligence chair, told CNN Dec. 31. "Where he is, is a question mark. The trail has gone cold as to whether he's still in the caves of Tora Bora or, in fact, has slipped into Pakistan." (Reuters, Dec. 31)

If Osama is across the border in Pakistan's Northwest Frontier Province, he is unlikely to be caught. The region is an autonomous zone governed by local Pashtun tribes under a policy dating to the British era. Pakistan's army has limited authority there. Pakistani troops have been helicoptered to the ridge between Afghanistan and Pakistan, but are not venturing into the valleys where al-Qaeda has taken shelter. The army troops would not be welcome there. Said tribal elder Haji Kuchkool: "The army is not good for our traditions. The army men are Punjabis, not Pashtuns. They don't understand our ways, and we must be concerned now about protecting our assets--our trees and our women and the hashish plants and poppies." Local honor codes demand granting refuge to strangers. Said tribal elder Tor Gul on two shepherds who betrayed three al-Qaeda fugitives to the army: "We are very unhappy with these shepherds. Their houses must be burned. Their trees and gardens too." (New York Times, Dec. 31) [top]

US Green Beret Sgt. Nathan Ross Chapman, 31, of San Antonio, was killed in a firefight with unknown gunmen in eastern Afghanistan, near the towns of Gardez and Khost, an area ostensibly controlled by the Eastern Shura tribal alliance. A CIA officer, whose name was not released, was also wounded in the incident. The area lies just west of the Tora Bora cave complex, and the men were believed looking for al-Qaeda holdouts. (New York Times, Jan. 5) This marks the Afghanistan campaign's first US combat death from hostile fire. Three Green Berets were killed in early Dec. from "friendly fire." (seeWW3 REPORT #11) [top]

Afghanistan's new authorities are brutalizing Taliban and al-Qaeda prisoners to "soften them up" before handing them over to US forces. Guards told a reporter they routinely beat inmates to extract information, which is given to US officials. Abdul Qayum, boss of Kabul's Third Directorate prison, said: "At first we use Islamic and humanitarian behavior towards them to get confessions, and if that doesn't work then we use physical force." Qayum, whose prison answers to the interim regime's National Security ministry, declined to say exactly what means were used on his detainees, who number around 50. A US spokesperson said US and allied Afghan forces hold some 7,000 Taliban and al-Qaeda prisoners in various jails, including fortresses, a desert compound, an aircraft hangar and a warship.

Prisoners held by the Northern Alliance are being removed from Kabul to undisclosed locations in the Panjshir valley, one of the group's strongholds. Aghai Gul, a Northern Alliance soldier commanding a checkpoint at Kotali Hihana, on Kabul's northern outskirts, said all his prisoners had been moved--but one was left. Locked in a metal container behind the checkpoint was Mohammed Rahim, 40, pale from four weeks without sunlight. Arrested on suspicion of Taliban collaboration, he told of being kicked, punched and thrashed with a stick. "They beat me so much they had to take me to the hospital, then they took me here. I'm still sick but they won't bring me a doctor." Gul admitted Rahim had been thrashed. "Of course we beat him; sometimes it is the only way to get the truth out of them."

Such methods are mild compared to the torture and slaughter of prisoners perpetrated by Taliban and Northern Alliance troops in recent years. But the Red Cross is concerned that it has been able to register only 4,000 of the 7,000 prisoners. The interim regime is hastening the transfer of prisoners to US forces, which are speeding up construction of improvised jails on military bases. 20 bound and hooded Arab fighters delivered on a C-130 to US Marines at Kandahar brings the number of alleged al-Qaeda members in US custody to at least 45.

Some of these suspects have been sifted from the 3,000 inmates being screened at cold, overcrowded Shibarghan jail in the north, said to be serving one meal a day. Abdul Rashid Dostoum, the Uzbek warlord who is now deputy defense minister in the interim regime, says all foreign prisoners will be handed over to US forces. What will happen to them is uncertain. Washington calls them "detainees," not "prisoners of war"--a term enshrined in international conventions delineating rights and humane treatment. (UK Guardian, Dec. 28) [top]

The Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan (RAWA) has responded to WW3 REPORT's queries about their representation in the Karzai regime. In issue #13, we reported that RAWA veteran Sima Samar had received a cabinet post. But RAWA representative Mehmooda writes: "Sima Samar WAS a member of RAWA. But after being expelled from RAWA, she unfortunately joined our arch enemy--Hezb-i-Wahdat, a criminal pro-Iran fundamentalist party." Hezb-i-Wahdat is the Shiite militia of Hazara warlord Karim Khalili, a sometime member of the Northern Alliance.

A Dec. 11 Pakistan Observer article on a RAWA protest in Islamabad commemorating Human Rights Day quoted a statement from the group on the post-Taliban situation: "The new interim set-up in Afghanistan let by Hamid Karzai, consisting mainly of Northern Alliance leaders, is not acceptable at all to the people of the country and especially the women, because the NA [are] the most murderous violators of human rights."

The statement condemned the few women who have received positions in the new government as loaning cover to a repressive regime: "The Bonn Conference has failed to give due representation to Afghan women as both Seema Samar and [Northern Alliance delegate] Amina Afzali have a criminal record of their past... [T]he leaders of Northern Alliance are trying to show the west that they are civilized and women would be given freedom, but...during their past governance women were raped, assaulted and even kidnapped in the presence of their men..."

The statement said Amina Afzali is a veteran of the Communist Parchami Party which collaborated with the Soviet occupation, and later joined Northern Alliance boss Burhanuddin Rabbani's Jamiat-i-Islami organization.

The Times of India reported Jan. 1 that women in Kabul who heeded Afzali's radio appeal to shed their burqas faced harassment and humiliation. Even Deba Usefzai, an official in the new education ministry, said, "Everyone was pointing at me and staring at me. Some men began pushing me while I was waiting for a bus... I felt really scared." She has returned to wearing her burqa. reported Dec. 30 that Afghan women are returning to the workforce following a government decree reversing their dismissal by the Taliban. Many had been reduced to begging or prostitution after losing their jobs under the Taliban. "However," the report conceded, "there is little prospect of paid employment, as most state workers have not received any wages for seven months."

Samar and Suhaila Siddiqi, the two female cabinet members, are refusing to wear burqas as an example. But Siddiqi made clear she will not challenge such fundamentals of local Islamic law as polygamy and strictures against abortion. "As Muslims, we can't demand abortion rights," she told Newsday Jan. 6 [top]

Local warlord Pacha Khan Zadran of Paktia province is accused by his rivals of providing information for the deadly and embarrassing US air-strikes on a convoy of tribal leaders traveling to Kabul for the interim regime's inauguration ceremony (seeWW3 REPORT #13). Zadran denied he told US forces where to strike, but insisted they were doing a great job. "In my opinion, America has not made any mistake in its bombing," he said. Asked about the Dec. 31 strike on Qalaye Niazi village which likely left over 100 dead, Zadran said: "They were not al-Qaeda people, but maybe they were supporting them." (New York Times, Jan. 3) [top]

Pro-government Afghan forces have crushed an armed uprising by a local militia chief after six weeks of sporadic clashes, the Afghan Islamic Press reported. The Pakistan-based news service said Northern Alliance forces captured the town of Darra Keyan, stronghold of the minority Ismaili community in Baghlan region. The report said up to 300 had been killed in fighting there since November. The agency quoted an unidentified Northern Alliance spokesman: "We have captured Darra Keyan and now the entire Baghlan province is now under our control." The clashes began after the Taliban retreated from the area, AIP said. The militia of Ismaili warlord Jafer Naderi battled troops loyal to current Afghan defense minister Mohammad Qasim Fahim. After withdrawing from Darra Keyan, Naderi's fighters moved into Balkh province, under the control of Uzbek warlord Abdul Rashid Dostum, now deputy defense minister. Dostum's northern domain may now face a continued Ismaili insurgency. (Times of India, Jan 1) [top]

The common aim of overthrowing the Taliban achieved, the foreign powers involved in Afghanistan may be reverting to their former rivalries. Iran, until recently a de facto US ally, is now being linked to al-Qaeda by government leaks. Read a Dec. 31 front-page New York Times headline: "Bin Laden Sought Iran as an Ally, US Intelligence Documents Say." The story cited "secret intelligence reports" alleging al-Qaeda emissaries visited Iran in 1995.

On Dec. 31, Reuters reported Tajik forces hi-jacking, robbing and imprisoning Pashtun civilians along the Kandahar-Herat road. Kandahar is held by Pashtun forces traditionally backed by Pakistan and the US, while Herat is held by Tajik forces backed by Iran and Russia.

A Jan. 1 editorial by Eric Margolis in Pakistan's Dawn newspaper saw intrigues over oil pipeline routes behind the realignment: "The United States and Pakistan have long sought to build pipelines running due south from Termez, Uzbekistan, to Kabul, Afghanistan, then down to Pakistan's Arabian Sea ports at Karachi and Gwadar. Oilmen call this route, 'the new Silk Road,' after the fabled route used to export China's riches. But this requires a stable, pro-western Afghanistan. Iran has intrigued in Afghanistan since 1989 to keep that nation in disorder, thus preventing rival Pakistan from building its long-sought Termez-Karachi pipeline. When Pakistan ditched its ally, the Taliban, in September, and sided with the US, Islamabad and Washington fully expected to implant a pro-American regime in Kabul and open the way for the Pak-American pipeline. But this was not to be."

A more powerful factor seen is Russia: "In a dazzling coup, Russian President Vladimir Putin stole a march on the Bush administration, which was so busy trying to tear apart Afghanistan to find Osama bin Laden it failed to notice the Russians were taking over half the country. The wily Russians achieved this victory through their proxy Afghan force, the Northern Alliance. Moscow, which has sustained the Alliance since 1990, re-armed it after Sept. 11 with new tanks, armored vehicles, artillery, helicopters and trucks. The Alliance's two military leaders, Gen. Rashid Dostoum and Gen. Muhammed Fahim, were stalwarts of the old Communist regime with close links to the KGB."

Margolis notes that this is becoming a pattern for Moscow: "Putin put the chief of the Russian general staff, Viktor Kvashnin, and the deputy director of the KGB, in charge of the Alliance. During the Balkan fighting in 1999, the hard-charging Kvashnin outfoxed the US by seizing Pristina's airfield, thus assuring a permanent Russian role in Kosovo. Now, he's done it again. To the fury of Washington and Islamabad, Kvashnin rushed the Northern Alliance into Kabul, in direct contravention of Bush's dictates. The Alliance is now Afghanistan's dominant force. The Russians have regained influence over Afghanistan, revenged their defeat by the US in the 1980s' war, and neatly checkmated the Bush administration which, for all its high-tech military power, understood little about Afghanistan."

Iran and Russia are in an alliance of convenience, as each would ultimately like to see the pipeline built through its own territory. Meanwhile, they have a mutual interest in preventing consolidation of a US-backed regime in Afghanistan. And their top man in Afghanistan, Northern Alliance leader Burhanuddin Rabbani, still holds the presidential palace. USA Today reported Jan. 3: "In a slap at Karzai, Rabbani has refused to move out of Palace No. 1, the presidential residence and Afghan equivalent of the White House. He has been there since the Northern Alliance took over the capital from the fleeing Taliban in mid-November. Karzai is staying in the Nursery Palace, a residence once used for visiting dignitaries much as Blair House is used in Washington." [top]

A posthumous personality cult is growing around Northern Alliance military commander Ahmed Shah Masoud, who was assassinated in a suicide attack Sept. 9. Portraits of Masoud have become ubiquitous in Kabul, and an especially large image of the slain Tajik warlord dominated the scene at the interim regime's inauguration ceremony (UK Observer, Dec. 23). Interim prime minister Hamid Karzai rejected demands by his defense minister Muhammed Fahim and several other cabinet members to print Masoud's photograph on Afghanistan's new currency note (PNS, Dec. 24). Karzai did, however, journey to the Panjshir Valley to make a public visit to Masoud's grave just before the inauguration (Washington Post, Dec. 16). [top]


Calls for use of nuclear "bunker-busters" in Afghanistan (seeWW3 REPORT #14) have apparently reached the halls of Congress. On Oct. 28, CNN's Wolf Blitzer, speaking with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, said: "I interviewed Congressman Steve Buyer of Indiana. He says if those 5,000-pound bombs can't do the job he would want you to consider using tactical nuclear weapons... What do you think about that?" Rumsfeld insisted his Daisy Cutters were "able to do the job," but hedged: "I don't rule out anything..." When pressed by Blitzer, he said: "The United States has historically refused to rule out the use of weapons like that." Blitzer persisted: "Nuclear weapons, and that's the case right now?" Rumsfeld replied: "Uh-huh." (www. [top]

Pakistan has ceded to Indian demands for the arrest of Hafez Saeed, founder of the Kashmir separatist group Lashkar-i-Taiba, but India's ambassador to the US Lalit Mansingh called it "too little, too late." (Newsday, Dec. 31) Saeed was arrested for "incitement" rather than for the recent terrorist attacks India accuses him of, and the two countries remain poised for war (New York Times, Dec. 31). Indian Defense Minister George Fernandes says his military is eager to fight and that thousands of Indian reinforcements would be in place within days on the Kashmir border. When asked about the possibility of a nuclear exchange, he said: "We could take a strike, survive and then hit back. Pakistan would be finished." (London Times, Dec. 31)

A front-page photo in the New York Times Jan. 4 showed Pakistani residents--their belongings bundled onto tractors, wagons and even bicycles--fleeing the border zone for Lahore in anticipation of imminent war. Villages on both sides of the line have been emptied as Indian and Pakistani troops laid mines and even exchanged artillery fire across the border in recent days. On Jan. 1, the Times reported on a bizarre ritual in which "border guards from Pakistan and India strutted menacingly to within a sword's length of one another and scowled theatrically before turning on their heels to lower their national flags at the only border crossing between these two countries." There ceremony, at the border post of Wahga, was cheered by nationalist demonstrators on the Pakistani side--but "a smaller band of anti-war protesters...tried to break up the ceremony and were beaten back by guards wielding swagger sticks." A photo showed an elderly woman protestor being restrained by Pakistani guards at the border. "We came to the border to address ourselves to both countries," said protest leader Asma Jehangir. "We have been lucky to avoid a war. We have these two hostile armies standing eyeball to eyeball, and it takes the miscalculation of a single individual to start something."

David Ben-Aryeah summed up the nuclear stakes for Global Vision News Network, Dec. 31: "Following both Indian and Pakistan's underground nuclear tests in May 1998, it has been assessed that India has several types of missiles capable of carrying 'hot' warheads up to a range of 2,000 km ( Agni II) , whilst Pakistan has the Ghauri II with a similar range. Both countries are working on the development of missiles with a range of over 3000 km and last month India announced a 28.2% rise in defense spending, the largest single year increase in the country's history." ( Global Vision News Network)

A Jan. 4 blurb in India Abroad sketched how foreign powers fuel the subcontinental arms race. The US has cleared the sale of an Israeli Phalcon early warning radar system to India in a $1 billion deal. The US had previously opposed the sale, contending it could escalate tensions on the subcontinent. But the Israeli paper Haaretz quoted a Bush administration source saying the White House takes a positive view of developing relations between India and Israel "in a number of fields." Pakistan, meanwhile, is set to acquire two squadrons--46 planes--of F-7 MG fighter jets from China, fitted with a Grifo airborne radar system. (India and Israel see a mutual enemy in the Islamic world, while China and Pakistan see one in India.) [top]

Press accounts remain contradictory on the whereabouts and true identity of the two Pakistani nuclear scientists detained on suspicion of links to the Taliban and al-Qaeda, Sultan Bashiruddin Mahmood and Chaudry Abdul Majeed. Although the Wall Street Journal reported Dec. 17 the two scientists had been released (see WW3 REPORT #14), the BBC reported Dec. 28 Dr. Mahmood's mother was petitioning the Lahore High Court for his release. Both accounts denied Dr. Mahmood and his colleague were involved in developing Pakistan's nuclear weapons--contradicting early reports after their Oct. arrest (seeWW3 REPORT #5).

A Nov. 1 BBC report echoed Pakistani government denials that Dr, Mahmood worked on the weapons program, but said he worked at the top levels of nuclear research in Pakistan for over 30 years. The report said he launched Pakistan's uranium enrichment program, and oversaw the Khushab research reactor before he quit two years ago in protest of Pakistan's plans to sign the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. The report also said: "In recent times Dr Mehmood's strong religious beliefs have caused controversy in the scientific community. In the 1980s he was ridiculed for putting forward a method for calculating the temperature of hell and for suggesting that genies could be controlled and their energy harnessed. He is the author of the book The Mechanics of Doomsday: Life after Death. According to the online retailer, the book is 'a most interesting scientific analysis of the actual mechanics of Doomsday and the fate of the various planetary bodies, based on signs derived from statements in the Koran.'"

Aniruddha Das, co-producer of Asia Pacific Forum on New York's WBAI Radio, told WW3 REPORT: "Technically speaking, Dr. Mahmood wasn't directly involved in the design of the bomb. He is not a weapons designer or bomb designer." But after seeing through the uranium enrichment program, he was assigned to lead a program "to produce weapons-grade plutonium." While the 1998 test bomb probably used uranium, Das says Pakistan "does, however, have a growing stockpile of plutonium now ready to be used." Das writes that Dr. Mahmood is also big on "Islamic Science" and "has made strong links with Islamic militant/fundamentalist groups." (Information from Asia Pacific Forum interview with Zia Mian of the Program for Science and Global Security, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs) [top]


Senior Pentagon officials, led by deputy defense secretary Paul Wolfowitz, want to adapt the Afghanistan strategy to Iraq. A Pentagon study group set up by Wolfowitz is examining a detailed war plan put forward by Ahmad Chalibi, leader of the opposition Iraqi National Congress (INC). Under these proposals, Washington would arm and train Iraqi opposition forces--then send in air power and elite units to back them up. The Joint Chiefs of Staff are apparently arguing for a much bigger commitment of US ground troops--capable of taking on Saddam without help from the INC (which is far weaker than Afghanistan's Northern Alliance). The CIA is pushing for covert action to destabilize the Saddam Hussein regime, and is "putting out renewed feelers to Iraqi military defectors who may have influence and contacts within Saddam's forces." Pentagon officials, however, point out that previous coup attempts have all failed, resulting in the execution of scores of officers. Secretary of State Colin Powell is said to have "reservations about the wisdom of tackling Saddam head-on... Last month, the State Department flew at least a dozen exiled Iraqi officers to Washington to discuss Iraq's future after Saddam--a sign that Gen. Powell may now favor the CIA option." (UK Telegraph, Dec. 23)

The Pentagon has one clear obstacle to an immediate attack on Iraq--the supply of air-launched Cruise missiles is running low. The Defense Department is pressing Boeing, the missile's manufacturer, to speed up production. Even so, the first of the new batch ordered last year is not expected for months. The Afghanistan campaign, following the 1999 bombing of Yugoslavia, has left the Pentagon with an inventory "believed to be fewer than 30." Nonetheless, President Bush pledges to maintain the war on terrorism in 2002. "Above all, this coming year will require our sustained commitment to the war against terrorism," he said in his weekly radio address. "We cannot know how long this struggle will last. But it can end only one way: in victory for America and the cause of freedom." (UK Telegraph, Dec. 30) [top]

Lockheed Martin Aeronautics announced that Israel has agreed to buy 52 additional F-16 fighter jets, exercising a $1.3 billion option under a contract signed last year. Israel ordered 50 of the fighters last year and said in June that it intended to exercise the option for additional planes. Lockheed Martin said Israel will pay the US government $2 billion for the additional jets, of which Lockheed Martin will get $1.3 billion. The company said the aircraft will be assembled at its Fort Worth plant but airframe and avionics components will be produced in Israel. The first F-16I--the I stands for Israel--is scheduled to be delivered in 2003. Shares of Lockheed rose 18 cents to $45.89 in afternoon trading on the New York Stock Exchange following the announcement. (AP, Dec 22) [top]


An editorial in the Jan. edition of Fire Engineering, a respected fire-fighting trade magazine with ties to the FDNY, calls the investigation of the World Trade Center collapse "a half-baked farce" and calls for a "full-throttle, fully resourced" effort. The piece by Bill Manning, editor of the 125-year-old monthly, protests that steel from the site was not preserved for study. "Did they throw away the locked doors from the Triangle Shirtwaist fire? Did they throw away the gas can used at the Happy Land social club fire?... That's what they're doing at the World Trade Center. The destruction and removal of evidence must stop immediately." The editorial also said a growing number of fire engineers theorize that "the structural damage from the planes and the explosive ignition of jet fuel in themselves were not hot enough to bring down the towers."

Fire Engineering's senior advisors included FDNY Deputy Chief Raymond Downey, the department's top structural expert, who was killed in the Sept. 11 attack. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) has joined a group of relatives of firefighters killed in the disaster in calling for a special "blue-ribbon panel" to study the collapse. A FEMA spokesperson declined to comment. (NY Daily News, Jan. 4) [top]

Members of the elite team of engineers assembled to asses why the World Trade Center towers collapsed are accusing the outgoing administration of Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) of bottlenecking the probe. Reported the New York Times Dec. 25:

"Saying that the current investigation into how and why the twin towers fell on Sept. 11 is inadequate, some of the nation's leading structural engineers and fire-safety experts are calling for a new, independent and better-financed inquiry... Sen. Charles E. Schumer and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, both of New York, have joined the call for a wider look into the collapses.... Experts critical of the current effort, including some of those people who are actually conducting it, cite the lack of meaningful financial support and poor coordination with the agencies cleaning up the disaster site. They point out that the current team of 20 or so investigators has no subpoena power and little staff support and has even been unable to obtain basic information like detailed blueprints of the buildings that collapsed...

"In calling for a new investigation, some structural engineers have said that one serious mistake has already been made in the chaotic aftermath of the collapses: the decision to rapidly recycle the steel columns, beams and trusses that held up the buildings. That may have cost investigators some of their most direct physical evidence with which to try to piece together an answer. Officials in the mayor's office declined to reply to written and oral requests for comment over a three-day period about who decided to recycle the steel...

"Interviews with a handful of members of the team, which includes some of the nation's most respected engineers, also uncovered complaints that they had at various times been shackled with bureaucratic restrictions that prevented them from interviewing witnesses, examining the disaster site and requesting crucial information like recorded distress calls to the police and fire departments... 'This is almost the dream team of engineers in the country working on this, and our hands are tied,' said one team member who asked not to be identified. Members have been threatened with dismissal for speaking to the press. 'FEMA is controlling everything,' the team member said...

"To deal with nearly 300,000 tons of crumpled steel, the city quickly decided to ship it to scrap recyclers. Dr. Frederick W. Mowrer, an associate professor in the fire protection engineering department at the University of Maryland, said he believed the decision [to recycle the metal] could ultimately compromise any investigation of the collapses. 'I find the speed with which potentially important evidence has been removed and recycled to be appalling,' Dr. Mowrer said." [top]

Writing in the on-line Slate magazine (, Laurie Kerr speculates that apart from wanting to attack the WTC as an ostentatious symbol of US power, "Bin Laden may have had another, more personal motivation.. The World Trade Center's architect, Minoru Yamasaki, was a favorite designer of the bin Ladin family's patrons--the Saudi royal family--and a leading practitioner of an architectural style that merged modernism with Islamic influences... The story starts in the late 1950s, when Yamasaki, a second-generation Japanese-American, won the commission to design the King Fahd Dhahran Air Terminal in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia. His design had a rectilinear, modular plan with pointed arches, interweaving tracery of prefabricated concrete, and even a minaret of a flight tower. In other words, it was an impressive melding of modern technology and traditional Islamic form. The Saudis admired it so much that they put a picture of it on one of their banknotes. As a scion of the Bin Ladin contracting firm, destined to inherit some portion of its vast operations, Osama bin Laden would certainly have been aware of Yamasaki's Saudi Arabian projects. Indeed, his family may have built them. (Minoru Yamasaki Associates won't say, but the bin Ladens were involved with almost all royal construction.)...

"Yamasaki received the World Trade Center commission the year after the Dhahran Airport was completed. Yamasaki described its plaza as 'a mecca, a great relief from the narrow streets and sidewalks of the surrounding Wall Street area.' True to his word, Yamasaki replicated the plan of Mecca's courtyard by creating a vast delineated square, isolated from the city's bustle by low colonnaded structures and capped by two enormous, perfectly square towers--minarets, really. Yamasaki's courtyard mimicked Mecca's assemblage of holy sites--the Qaaba...and the holy spring--by including several sculptural features, including a fountain, and he anchored the composition in a radial circular pattern, similar to Mecca's. At the base of the towers, Yamasaki used implied pointed arches--derived from the characteristically pointed arches of Islam...

"Having rejected modernism and the Saudi royal family, it's no surprise that Bin Laden would turn against Yamasaki's work in particular. He must have seen how Yamasaki had clothed the World Trade Center, a monument of Western capitalism, in the raiment of Islamic spirituality. Such mixing of the sacred and the profane is old hat to us--after all, Gilbert Cass' classic Woolworth Building, dubbed the Cathedral to Commerce, is decked out in extravagant Gothic regalia. But to someone who wants to purify Islam from commercialism, Yamasaki's implicit Mosque to Commerce would be anathema. To bin Laden, the World Trade Center was probably not only an international landmark but also a false idol." [top]

American Airlines Flight 587 left 265 dead when it plunged into the Rockaway section of Queens on Nov. 12. Now New York Post columnist Steve Dunleavy dismisses as "claptrap" the National Transportation Safety Board's official story that the tail fell off mysteriously. "No tail fell off, not before the explosion. I swear to that," he quoted retired firefighter Tom Lynch, who was jogging on Rockaway Beach Boulevard on Nov. 12. "I had my head up taking in that beautiful, clear day and was staring straight at the plane. It made a bank turn and suddenly there was an explosion, orange and black, on the right-hand side of the fuselage. It was a small explosion, about half the size of a car. The plane kept on going straight for about two or three seconds as if nothing had happened, then 'vwoof'--the second, big explosion on the right wing... It was only then that the plane fell apart. It was after the explosion and I'm telling you, the tail was there until the second explosion." Lynch, who lives near the crash site in Belle Harbor, claims he has 13 people who saw the plane on fire before the breakup. He contacted the FBI, NTSB, Rep. Anthony Weiner, and Sens. Chuck Schumer and Hillary Clinton. "I got no response from anyone," said Lynch. "Sabotage? That's for other people to decide. At first, we hear there were seagulls in the engine, the plane was caught in a jet stream and the tail fell off. No damn tail fell off until after the second explosion." But NTSB spokesman Ted Lopatkiewicz said: "We don't have any evidence of an explosion [after searching] the wreckage or from the cockpit recorder. It doesn't mean it didn't happen." (New York Post, Dec. 2) [top]

A Pakistani-owned deli was gutted in a blaze at 200 Rhine Ave. in the Concord section of Staten Island just before Christmas. Fire Chief John Belnavis said the fire started after "someone threw something under the door." Employees said a man "cursing and screaming" tossed a burning object into the store and ran. Owner Hamim Syed is a founder of the Pak-American Civic Association and a leader in the borough's Republican Party. (Staten Island Advance, Dec. 23) In the immediate aftermath of 9-11 there was a spate of racist attacks on Staten Island. A Pakistani worker at an Oakwood bagel store was hit in the neck with a stickball bat, and spontaneous street mobs harassed pedestrians of suspect ethnicity, sporting signs reading "HONK IF YOU HATE ARABS" and "DEMAND A NUCLEAR RESPONSE!" (Sept. 13) There were also protests outside a National Wholesale Liquidators outlet on Staten Island in Sept. following rumors that employees danced on the roof and burned a US flag after the 9-11 attacks. Despite false rumors that the store is run by Egyptians, the Rosen family, which owns the store, is Jewish and fled Nazi Germany during the Holocaust. The store does hire some workers of Middle Eastern descent. (Sept. 23)

A local ad-hoc group, Workers Struggle Against Anti-Muslim Terror on Staten Island, pledged to hold vigils in support of the Syed family at the gutted deli. (Moorish Orthodox Radio Crusade, WBAI, Dec. 25) [top]


FBI-contracted genetic fingerprinting studies indicate that the anthrax spores mailed to Capitol Hill are identical to stocks of the deadly bacteria maintained by the US Army since 1980, say scientists familiar with the tests. While many laboratories possess the Ames strain of anthrax involved in this Fall's bio-terrorist attacks, only five have been found to possess spores with perfect genetic matches to those in the tainted letters. All five labs trace back their samples to one source: the US Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Disease (USAMRIID) at Fort Detrick, MD.

The matching samples are at Fort Detrick; the Dugway Proving Ground military research facility in Utah; the British military lab at Porton Down; and microbial depositories at Louisiana State University and Northern Arizona University. The FBI investigation into the attacks increasingly focuses on whether US government bio-war research programs--including one run by the CIA--may be the source of deadly anthrax powder sent through the mail. Of the domestic labs, Dugway has attracted the most FBI attention, as it is the only facility known to have processed anthrax spores into the easily-inhaled powdery form in recent years.

The genetic fingerprinting team was led by Paul Keim at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, which has been comparing the Ames strain bacteria found in the letters to other Ames samples from various university and government laboratories. "That's good detective work in the sense of determining the origins; this will narrow the search for the people who had access to the strain," said Jennie Hunter-Cevera, president of the University of Maryland Biotechnology Institute.

The CIA's bio-war program, ostensibly designed to find ways to defend against bio-terrorism, involved the use of small amounts of Ames strain, an agency rep said. The CIA declined to say where its Ames-strain material came from. The spokesperson did say that the CIA's anthrax was not milled into the volatile powder found in the letters, and that none of it is missing. While the CIA has had small amounts of Ames anthrax in its labs to "compare and contrast with other strains," the spokesperson said, the agency did not "grow, create or produce the Ames strain." The anthrax contained in the letters "absolutely did not" come from CIA labs, he said. (Washington Post, Dec. 16)

The Dugway Proving Ground also developed its own weapons-grade Ames anthrax spores since at least 1992, and has shipped samples of the bacteria to Ft. Detrick. Shipping records indicate samples were sent back and forth by FedEx between the two facilities several times in recent years. The FBI would not comment on the Dugway program. To date, the anthrax-laced letters have killed five people in Florida, Connecticut, New York and Washington DC. (Washington Post, Dec. 13) [top]

The FBI is pursuing the possibility that financial gain was the motive behind the deadly anthrax letters, government officials say. Richard Ebright, a microbiologist with Rutgers University, said the list of possible scenarios and perpetrators would be long--ranging from drug manufacturers to decontamination and cleanup companies. "Doesn't narrow the field much, does it?" he quipped. The FBI has apparently interviewed staff members at Battelle Memorial Institute in Columbus, OH, a US Army contractor, which has acknowledged making a powder form of anthrax to use in testing sensors and other equipment. The FBI only recently learned that a CIA "defensive" bio-war program has involved Ames-strain anthrax. Investigators learned belatedly that the CIA possessed Ames anthrax spores because the agency was not listed among 91 labs registered with the federal Centers for Disease Control to handle various strains of anthrax bacteria. (Washington Post, Dec. 21) [top]

Bad news for humanity can be good news for biotech firms in the vaccine business. To make that point to investors, the small British vaccine company Acambis peppered its latest annual report with some of the most unsettling recent headlines: "Virus closes Central Park," "Travel raises the threat of world plague" and "The rise of the superbug." Acambis stock soared as investors learned the company (with its US partner, Baxter International) had muscled out industry giants Merck and Glaxo SmithKline to win a US federal contract to make enough smallpox vaccine to dose every citizen in the event of bio-terrorist attack. "For all the wrong reasons, we are quite excited," said Acambis chief financial officer Gordon Cameron. "This is a transforming event for the company." (New York Times, Nov. 30)

Smallpox vaccines had a high side effect rate before their civilian use ended in 1972. Warns one account: "Doctors predict that inoculating every American now would kill hundreds of people and leave another 1,000 or more with brain damage. Drug makers want complete immunity from liability, with any lawsuits directed at the federal government instead... Two Congressional Democrats who have played a leading role for decades in vaccine legislation, Senator Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts and Representative Henry A. Waxman of California, are drafting bills to create a federal fund to compensate victims of bio-terrorism vaccines. The fund would be modeled on an existing fund to help children hurt by childhood vaccines. As is the case with the childhood vaccines fund, people harmed by bio-terrorism vaccines could still sue vaccine makers, but only in cases of gross negligence or fraud." (New York Times, Nov. 8)

Last summer, the US military held a "readiness exercise" in which troops responded to a simulated smallpox attack on Oklahoma City. In the exercise, ominously dubbed Dark Winter, the epidemic quickly spun out of control, spreading to 25 states and affecting millions. (New York Times, Nov. 4) A CDC plan on responding to a smallpox attack reassuringly calls for only people who have been close to an infected person to be immediately vaccinated. (AP, Nov. 27) [top]

Corporate lobbyists are "swarming around the Capitol" to get their favored measures in a new emergency bio-terrorism bill. Versions of the legislation drafted by the biotech and pharmaceutical industries would give drug companies an exemption from the anti-trust laws in the name of cooperation on vaccine development. Another measure is a "Price Anderson Act" for the bio biz, a reference to the 1957 law limiting corporate liability for nuclear accidents. The law would set a $250,000 limit on damages for pain, suffering and death caused by drugs or vaccines developed to combat bio-terrorism. (New York Times, Dec. 11)

Top executives from Merck, Bristol Myers-Squibb, Bayer, Pfizer, Eli Lilly and Johnson & Johnson have been meeting regularly with high-ranking Bush administration officials to discuss the bio-terrorism crisis. Their lobbyists are pushing for legislation on Capitol Hill to extend the industry's monopoly patents by six months on many existing drugs which were slated to become public domain. The measure, portrayed as part of the response to terrorism crisis, could reap billions for the industry but cost consumers. (New York Times, Nov. 4)

President Bush has granted the Secretary of Health & Human Services the power to classify information as secret, a move "that shows how the battle against terrorism is drawing domestic agencies into the national security apparatus." Says Health & Human Services spokesperson William Pierce: "The bottom line is relatively simple. We are now a homeland security agency, part of the homeland security council." The new policy gives the Department the right to define information as "secret" (likely to cause "serious damage to the national security"), but not "top secret" (likely to cause "exceptionally grave damage to the national security"). (New York Times, Dec. 20) [top]

A model law drafted for states at the request of the federal Centers for Disease Control (CDC) would give authorities sweeping powers to order quarantines, restrict public movement and impose mandatory testing and vaccination during a biological attack. The law would grant state governments authority to isolate people deemed a threat to the public health, mandate medical testing of all citizens, and order private doctors to do the testing. Authorities could close roads, seal off areas, and seize control of private buildings, hospitals and radio stations and other "communication devices." The draft outlines new responses to the threat of deadly agents like smallpox or Ebola. "The current laws are hopelessly antiquated," said Lawrence Gostin, professor of law and public health at Georgetown University and the draft's principal author. "They predated all of the modern threats to the public health." Even before Sept. 11, the federal government wanted states to update their public health laws, some of which date to the 19th century. The CDC asked specialists writing the draft at Johns Hopkins and Georgetown universities to put it on a fast track after the anthrax attacks. The draft tries to head off the concerns of civil libertarians, giving citizens the right to court review if they object to being forced into quarantine or to take drugs. The draft has been delivered to the CDC for tinkering. State government associations, including the National Governors Association and the National Conference of State Legislatures, also collaborated. (AP, Oct. 31)

The draft law says authorities could "require isolation or quarantine of any person by the least restrictive means necessary to protect the public health" as a general principle. "If we don't do it, what would happen? I don't think we've got any choice but to quarantine," said Dr. Lew Stringer, medical director of North Carolina's special operations response team. "The first thing you do is shut down the roads. Then you shut down the interstates, you shut down the schools, you shut down the businesses. You're shutting down essential services, not just non-essential ones." (Knight Ridder Newspapers, Nov. 7)

The CDC has a quarantine division with 81 staffers and field offices in Miami, San Francisco, New York, Atlanta, Chicago, Los Angeles, Seattle and Honolulu. In one CDC simulation, involving a fake plague that struck at a rock concert in Chicago, questions arose about what to do with people who insisted on breaking the quarantine, according to Randy Larsen, director of the ANSER Institute of Homeland Defense, an Arlington, VA, think-tank. "What are your rules of engagement?" asked Larsen, who also teaches military strategy at the National War College. Would a National Guardsman, he asked, shoot a grandmother trying to evade quarantine? Maybe, said Georgetown's Lawrence Gostin. "You have to use all reasonable force to exercise that power." (Knight Ridder Newspapers, Nov. 7) [top]

Hundreds of text documents and video files apparently left on a computer in Kabul by al-Qaeda operatives are now in the hands of US investigators, and are said to provide evidence the group was planning bio-terror attacks. Frequent users of the computer, who left their names or aliases on dozens of files, appear to include two of Osama bin Laden's top lieutenants: Dr. Ayman al-Zawahri and Mohammed Atef. Dr. Zawahri is a former Cairo surgeon who merged his own Egyptian terror outfit with al-Qaeda in 1998, and is widely regarded as Osama's chief strategist. Atef, killed in a Nov. bombing raid near Kabul, headed al-Qaeda's military wing and is accused of masterminding the 1998 US embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania. Soon after the African bombings, the computer files show al-Qaeda embarked on a bio/chem-warfare project code-named "curdled milk." An April 1999 memo by Dr. Zawahri notes that "the destructive power of these weapons is no less than that of nuclear weapons." The memo laments al Qaeda's slowness in exploiting these weapons: "despite their extreme danger, we only became aware of them when the enemy drew our attention to them by repeatedly expressing concern that they can be produced simply." The memo gives a detailed primer on US chemical and germ warfare research, and lists a catalog of exotic killers, from anthrax to Rocky Mountain spotted fever. A May 7, 1999 file indicates that al-Qaeda had earmarked $2,000 to $4,000 for "start-up" costs of the program. A May 23 letter written under one of Dr. Zawahri's presumed aliases reports discussing "very useful ideas" during a visit to Abu Khabab, the alias of a prominent Egyptian scientist. "It just needs some experiments to develop its practical use." (Wall Street Journal, Dec. 31)

More chilling are accounts of a house in Kabul where the Pakistani NGO Ummah Tameer-i-Nau (UTN) had its offices. UTN's president is Dr. Bashiruddin Mahmood, the Pakistani scientist who was arrested by his government in Oct. on suspicion of leaking nuclear secrets to the Taliban or al-Qaeda. UTN helped Afghans with flourmills, school textbooks and road-upgrading. But the evidence left behind suggests to an Economist reporter that they were working on a plan to build an anthrax bomb. In an upstairs room, "what appeared to be a Russian rocket" had been disassembled, and a canister labeled "helium" left on the worktop. On the floor were multiple copies of documents about anthrax downloaded from the Internet, and details about vaccination plans for US troops. The number of copies "suggested seminars were taking place there." One of the downloaded documents featured a picture of ex-US Defense Secretary William Cohen holding a five-pound bag of sugar to demonstrate the amount of anthrax needed to kill half the population of Washington, DC. On the floor was a small bag of white powder, "which this correspondent decided not to inspect." Calculations and drawings in felt pen filled up a white classroom board, including designs for "something like a weather balloon," with lines and arrows indicating a suggested height of 10km (33,000 feet). There was also a sketch of a jet fighter flying towards the balloon alongside the English words: "Your days are limited! Bang!" Concludes The Economist: "Whoever fled this house when the Taliban fell was working on a plan to build a helium-powered balloon bomb carrying anthrax. Whether it was detonated with a timer or shot down by a fighter, the result would have been the same: the showering of deadly airborne anthrax spores over an area as wide as half of New York City or Washington, DC." (The Economist, Nov. 22)

But the Chicago Tribune had a more prosaic explanation for this profligate flaunting of terror paraphernalia: "It may have been a hoax." (Chicago Tribune, Dec. 2) [top]

Congressional mail is backed up by weeks as it is irradiated to kill possible anthrax contamination, according to a memo by Jay Eagan, chief administrative officer for the House of Representatives. "The Postal Service expects that shipments will continue to be limited and sporadic as its new irradiation process is fine-tuned," says the memo. Titan Industries of Lima, OH, is irradiating two trailer loads of government mail a day. A second facility run by Ion Beam Applications in Bridgeport, NJ, has the mail that went through the postal facility in Hamilton Township, NJ, where the anthrax-laced letters were mailed. (Daily News, Dec. 11)

Gifts of fruitcakes sent through the mails were down this holiday season due to public fears about irradiation. Plans to irradiate the entire mail stream raise safety and legal issues. Experts warn that irradiation could affect the "effectiveness and stability" of drugs and biological products sent through the mail. "Zapping food packages at levels high enough to kill anthrax--about 10 times the dose used on products such as fresh ground beef--also would violate Food & Drug Administration regulations. The FDA must first approve any use of irradiation on specific foods, including dose amount, and requires that all irradiated food be prominently labeled." The Postal Service plans to install 8 electron beam accelerators at East Coast post offices. While this is a "non-nuclear" method, most irradiation plants use the nuclear by-product Cobalt-60. (Cox Newspapers, Nov. 23)

The terrorism crisis may be a boon to the irradiation industry as consumer resistance has slowed plans to use the process as a general food preservative. Flavor, consistency and nutrition of food can be negatively impacted by irradiation. And while the process does not make food radioactive (barring an accident), irradiating mail may be more dangerous--metal objects such as paper clips and staples may actually absorb the radiation and remain "hot." (See WW3 REPORT #5) [top]

Last year, the US government took the unusual step of pressuring Bayer Corp. to rush a medicine called Cipro through the approval process for treatment of anthrax. The older antibiotics penicillin and doxycycline were known to be effective against anthrax, but there were fears that Russian scientists had engineered a strain resistant to those drugs. Due to the rarity of the disease, Cipro was never tested against anthrax in people. But based on its effectiveness against other bacteria and an animal study from 1993, the Food & Drug Administration designated Cipro the only medicine officially approved for inhalation anthrax.

The Fall's actual bio-terrorism attacks involved an anthrax strain that was not bio-engineered to be resistant to the safer and cheaper drugs--and the number of people exposed was far fewer than planners had feared. But when the public discovered that Cipro was the only approved medicine for inhalation anthrax, demand soared. And the 60-day course was widely accepted even though no studies had indicated it was necessary for the kind of attack that occurred. The full impact of large numbers of people taking Cipro will not be known for months. Already, patients with other illnesses who desperately need Cipro have been deprived of the medicine--and people taking the drug nationwide report dizziness, headaches, nausea and achy joints. Concern is mounting that Cipro over-sue will spawn resistant microbes, rendering ineffective a drug considered to be a last resort.

"We have never faced the mass use of an antibiotic for 60 days; there's no precedent for that in medicine," said William Hall, president of the American College of Physicians and the American Society of Internal Medicine. The studies that originally established the safety of Cipro involved regimens of 7 to 10 days. "We are conducting the world's largest uncontrolled experiment, including all these people and TV personalities," said Stephen Porter, a Tennessee pharmacologist who runs Virtual Drug Development Inc., which is trying to make an alternative medicine to Cipro. (Washington Post, Nov. 3) [top]

Four dozen congressional staff members who had been exposed to anthrax accepted the US government's offer of vaccinations after receiving official warnings about side effects and the lack of proof the shots will be effective. The first shots were given on Capitol Hill, where a letter laced with anthrax spores was sent to Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle in Oct. Each person who opted to receive the shots had to sign a consent form outlining risks. The form also said it is unknown whether the shots provide any more benefit than antibiotics alone. Thousands of congressional staff members and postal workers are eligible to receive the vaccine. Washington Mayor Anthony Williams said the city's health department does not currently recommend the vaccinations. Possible side effects include soreness, redness, itching and swelling in the arm that can last up to a week, the consent form said. Between 5 and 35% of those vaccinated will have muscle aches, joint aches, headaches, malaise, rashes, chills, low-grade fever or nausea. The vaccine doses come from a batch recently made by BioPort Corp. of Lansing, MI, which is awaiting full regulatory approval for its renovated manufacturing plant. The FDA said it has yet to make a decision on final clearance. (Reuters, Dec. 20)

The vaccine was initially approved for US military service members, and the Pentagon has turned over 220,000 doses to the FDA and Health & Human Services Department. About 2.1 million doses have been administered to military personnel. (New York Times, Dec. 16) Since 1998, the Defense Department has pumped over $130 million into BioPort, whose most prominent shareholder is retired Admiral William J. Crowe, former Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in the Reagan and "Poppy" Bush administrations (Mother Jones, Jan./Feb). [top]

An international conference on germ warfare disbanded in chaos and anger after the US sought to cut off discussions on enforcing the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention. The treaty, ratified by the US and 143 other nations, bans development, stockpiling and production of germ warfare agents--but has no enforcement mechanism. The Geneva conference was called to discuss proposals drawn up by a working group on legally binding enforcement. The US stunned European allies by proposing to terminate the group's mandate. In response to the US stance, further international discussion of the measures has been suspended until at least Nov. 2002. John R. Bolton, US undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, accused some signatories to the treaty--including Iraq and Iran--of having already violated it. "I wish we could have continued talking, but it was obvious that we would not reach an agreement. There were just too many areas of disagreement," Bolton told Reuters in Geneva. "A cooling-off period will be a good thing." In July, the US became the only country to announce its opposition to the proposed enforcement protocol. The White House said it would draw up alternative ways to strengthen the treaty. As the Geneva conference opened, Bolton presented a US plan that would not make the protocol binding under international law, and left out provisions to establish an international body empowered to investigate suspicious facilities and perform spot visits.

Watchdog groups protested the US position. "What John Bolton and the US delegation did was to scuttle realistic practical opportunities to develop an international strategy on germ weapons, mainly because the Bush administration international instrument to curb bio-weapons that includes possible on-site challenge investigations," said Darryl Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association. The Federation of American Scientists issued a statement calling the US action "sabotage," and said European diplomats "privately accused the US of deceiving them." (Washington Post, Dec. 8) [top]


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