September 9, 2005

News for September 9, 2005

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New typhoon heads toward Japan’s Okinawa (September 9, 2005) - A new typhoon was heading Friday toward Japan’s southern island of Okinawa, one day after a powerful typhoon dissipated after battering the country for a week and leaving 32 dead or missing. Packing winds up to 144 kilometers (90 miles) per hour, Typhoon Khanun, which means jackfruit in Thai, was churning south of Okinawa, some 1,600 kilometers (1,000 miles) south of Tokyo, the meteorological agency said. The agency said Khanun was less powerful than Typhoon Nabi, which lashed much of Japan in the past week with heavy rain and strong winds. Moving northwest at 25 kilometers (15 miles) per hour, Khanun is expected to be near Okinawa’s Miyako island, some 300 kilometers (186 miles) south of the subtropical island, on Saturday. By Sunday, the typhoon is likely to be near Taiwan, which is just 400 kilometers (250 miles) west of Miyako island, the agency said. more...


Frustrated: Fire crews to hand out fliers for FEMA (September 9, 2005) - Not long after some 1,000 firefighters sat down for eight hours of training, the whispering began: “What are we doing here?” As New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin pleaded on national television for firefighters - his own are exhausted after working around the clock for a week - a battalion of highly trained men and women sat idle Sunday in a muggy Sheraton Hotel conference room in Atlanta. Many of the firefighters, assembled from Utah and throughout the United States by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, thought they were going to be deployed as emergency workers. Instead, they have learned they are going to be community-relations officers for FEMA, shuffled throughout the Gulf Coast region to disseminate fliers and a phone number: 1-800-621-FEMA. On Monday, some firefighters stuck in the staging area at the Sheraton peeled off their FEMA-issued shirts and stuffed them in backpacks, saying they refuse to represent the federal agency. Federal officials are unapologetic. more...


Al-Qaida’s spectacular ‘Ramadan Offensive’ (September 9, 2005) - Raising new concerns about the use of weapons of mass destruction by terrorists, al-Qaida is planning spectacular attacks next month against the U.S., Russia and Europe in what it is calling the “Great Ramadan Offensive.” The offensive, designed to overshadow the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on New York and the Pentagon, was first referenced in a May 30 letter written by al-Qaida’s Iraq commander Abu Musab Zarqawi to Osama bin Laden. It is the subject of a report written by terrorism expert Yossef Bodansky, the former director of the Congressional Task Force on Terrorism and Unconventional Warfare, to government officials. Ramadan, the holiest period in the Muslim calendar, begins Oct. 4 this year and lasts a month. Zarqawi characterizes the attacks as a “fateful confrontation” with the U.S. and Israel. Airports in Italy and the Netherlands are referenced as specific potential targets, and Italy is already on high alert for possible terrorist attacks. A Zarqawi operative named Abu Abdul Rahman al-Jazaeri is considered a key figure in the planned Italy attacks. He is believed to be in the country, but eluding authorities. Details of the operation came from intercepted communications between top al-Qaida leaders about two weeks ago. “I think that the plan for the next stage that was drawn up has reached you or is on its way to you,” said Zarqawi’s letter to bin Laden. “O God. Make the expedition of Osama proceed toward its goal ... We await your orders as to the next stage of the plan.” more...


A debate of biblical proportions (September 9, 2005) - The recently ended season of excavations at the top of the City of David slope was accompanied by much excitement. With every passing day, more and more parts of an enormous building were unearthed. Dr. Eilat Mazar, the archaeologist in charge of the site, believes this could be the palace King David built after conquering Jerusalem from the Jebusites. The discovery has stirred up the old argument among archaeologists as to whether the events described in the Bible in fact occurred, and in this context, the importance and greatness of David himself. In this case, the disagreement is more than an academic question: It touches on the roots of the connection between the Jewish people and the Land of Israel, and particularly Jerusalem, and could serve as ammunition in any argument over the future of the city. What’s more, the excavation was conducted by the Shalem Center, with the academic auspices of Hebrew University, and in collaboration with Elad, the non-profit association that owns the land on which the City of David visitors’ center is built. The excavation took place in a rectangular strip 10 meters wide by 30 meters long, and the structure that has been unearthed occupies the entire site, even extending beyond its boundaries. It is constructed from immense stones that served as the foundation of a palace. The stones were placed on an earthen landfill in which hundreds of broken pieces of pottery were found, mainly of cooking pots. Mazar, a senior fellow at the Shalem Center and a researcher at Hebrew University, states that the pottery can be dated to the 12th and 11th centuries BCE, in other words, to the Jebusite period, which immediately predates David’s reign. more...


Scientists win right to create human embryo with three genetic parents (September 9, 2005) - BRITISH scientists have been given permission to create human embryos that will have three genetic parents. The fertility watchdog cleared a team at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne yesterday to conduct an experiment to prevent genetic disease by merging single-cell embryos with donated eggs. The decision to approve the procedure on appeal, after two previous applications were rejected, is controversial because it could eventually lead to the birth of children who carry genes from two mothers and a father. It also opens the possibility of “germ-line” genetic engineering, because any children born would carry added genes that would be passed to successive generations. At present, gene therapy to alter defective DNA is permitted only when such changes would not be passed on. more...


Go-ahead for ‘double mother’ embryo (September 9, 2005) - British scientists have won permission to create a human embryo that will have genetic material from two mothers. The Newcastle University team will transfer the pro-nuclei of a human embryo made by one man and woman into an unfertilised egg from another woman. The ground-breaking work aims to prevent mothers from passing certain genetic diseases on to their unborn babies. Such diseases, which are known as mitochondrial, arise from DNA found outside the nucleus and are inherited separately from DNA in the nucleus. The mitochondria are the “powerhouse” of the cell, producing most of the energy that people need to grow and live. The organs in the body that require a lot of energy to work properly, such as the brain, heart and kidney, are particularly dependent on well functioning mitochondria. One unique feature of mitochondria is that they have their own DNA, which is inherited from the mother only. If this DNA is faulty, then children can be at risk from developing a mitochondrial disease. These diseases can damage the cells of the brain, heart, liver, kidney and skeletal muscles and confine sufferers to a wheelchair. At present there is no known cure. more...


Mosquito Populations Are Expected to Flourish in Flood Areas (September 9, 2005) - The incessant buzz is just beginning. Breeding in standing water throughout the Gulf Coast, voracious mosquitoes will soon inundate some areas devastated by Hurricane Katrina, landing at a rate of up to 200 a minute on exposed arms and legs, the LOS ANGELES TIMES claims on Friday. A few will carry West Nile virus or other diseases, experts say, but most simply will be a maddening nuisance to relief workers and evacuees sleeping outdoors or in damaged homes. In inland areas, away from the worst storm damage, the problem could be just as bad. “You have people sitting out on the porch, sitting out in the yard,” said Jerome Goddard, chief entomologist for the Mississippi Department of Health. “You can’t stay in the house, because its too hot -- the power’s off. ... You can’t cover up, because you burn up.” Friday’s forecast for the Mississippi state capital, Jackson, is 92 and sunny, with 50 percent humidity. “You just want to scream,” Goddard said. more...


Magnitude 7.7 NEW IRELAND REGION, P.N.G. (September 9, 2005) - U.S. Geological Survey, National Earthquake Information Center: World Data Center for Seismology, Denver. The following is a release by the United States Geological Survey, National Earthquake Information Center: A major earthquake occurred IN THE NEW IRELAND REGION, PAPUA NEW GUINEA about 40 km (25 miles) east southeast of Taron, New Ireland, Papua New Guinea or about 870 km (540 miles) northeast of Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea at 1:26 AM MDT, Sep 9, 2005 (5:26 PM local time in New Ireland). The magnitude and location may be revised when additional data and further analysis results are available. No reports of damage or casualties have been received at this time; however, this earthquake may have caused damage due to its location and size. The magnitude was furnished by the NOAA Pacific Tsunami Warning Center, Ewa Beach, Hawaii.


Another homosexual parade after hurricane devastation in New Orleans (September 9, 2005) - For the second time this week, homosexuals held a gay-pride parade in Louisiana, a state that suffered catastrophic damage by Hurricane Katrina. Last night’s event took place in the city of Lafayette, where events were renamed “Southern Decadence in Exile” after the storm canceled last week’s “Southern Decadence,” a tradition that began in 1972. The parade commenced a few minutes late from its 5 p.m. start time, but that didn’t seem to bother participants. “Queens are always late,” Levy Easterly, 43, of New Orleans, told the Daily Advertiser. “And we need time to get a buzz.” Robert Baxter, one of the driving forces behind the event, told the paper, “We’re trying to show the world that the gay community wasn’t killed off.” While the local newspaper reported there were a “couple dozen” participants in yesterday’s march, the website 365Gay.com put the figure at “several hundred.” “Every gay home in town is filled to the rafters with friends and relatives from New Orleans,” Baxter told the website, noting he has eight Katrina survivors living with him in Lafayette. “There isn’t a person in this town who hasn’t been affected in one way or another by the hurricane. We didn’t get a drop of rain here, but our lives are changed forever.” more...


College bars Christian from sharing faith (September 9, 2005) - A man barred from speaking about his Christian faith on a New York state college campus filed a civil-rights lawsuit claiming violation of his free-speech rights. Officials at Ulster County Community College in Stone Ridge, N.Y., told Greg Davis of Indian Lake, N.Y., that he needed to file a facilities use permit application to speak about his faith with students in a public, grassy area on campus in October 2003. But when he did so, his application was denied because the school claimed his desired religious expression does not constitute a “cultural, educational, social or recreational” activity. Attorneys with the Arizona-based Alliance Defense Fund are representing Davis. “This is simply another example of overzealous school officials attempting to marginalize people of faith,” said ADF Senior Legal Counsel Nate Kellum. Kellum said the lawsuit is necessary “to protect this man’s constitutional rights and ensure that the school does not wrongly discriminate against speakers with a religious perspective.” “The Constitution does not say that speech is only free if it meets certain arbitrary categories developed by public officials,” said Kellum. “But it’s ridiculous nonetheless to say that religious expression does not fall into one of those categories.” more...


As anarchy spreads in Gaza, the Israeli troop pullback is put on fast forward (September 8, 2005) - Israeli soldiers will be ready for exit at 24-hour notice before the allotted Sept. 12-15 timeline. DEBKAfile reported earlier an Israeli army warning to the Palestinians to maintain a 400-meter distance from the perimeter fences of evacuated settlements and approach roads. Intruders will be shot. Furthermore, Palestinians firing on retreating Israeli forces will face an instant artillery response. Israeli ministers were asked to leave their weekend telephone numbers with the cabinet secretariat in case a vote becomes necessary to effect a full overnight troop withdrawal from the Gaza Strip. Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians are expected to defy Palestinian Authority orders and stage a stampede for the vacant properties. Sharon informed ministers Wednesday that defense minister Shaul Mofaz will hold responsibility for Gaza Strip security only until the last Israeli soldier exits. After that, it passes to vice prime minister Shimon Peres. more...