Friday, October 07, 2005


Washington Monument Evacuated

So not only did they pull that stunt with the NY subway, now this from NBC4 in DC:
U.S. Park Police have evacuated the Washington Monument.

Police received a telephone threat to the Washington Monument. The National Mall area near the monument has been evacuated. A source said that the threat has limited credibility.

Constitution and Independence avenues have been closed, as well as 15th and 17th streets.
I mean come on, is this really possible that we're having all these threats the day after Bush made his speech about al-Qa`ida being out to get us and so we need to kill them in Iraq? I mean, sure it's possible, but all I know is that it's raining really hard right now here in DC and I'd be mighty pissed if I had to be standing in the rain around the Mall somewhere because of this. But that's just me.

(Thanks, Amanda, for the alert and the link)



Khalid Amayreh and Graham Usher both have articles in al-Ahram about the ascendancy of Hamas in the Gaza Strip and the implications of this in the upcoming elections (including the U.S. and Israeli rhetoric and actions to shape the outcome of these elections). Usher notes that:
Israel renewed its policy of assassinating militants, bombing civilian infrastructure and arresting Palestinians in mass sweeps, all methods tried and tested throughout the Intifada. For the first time since the 1967 War, it used artillery to clear entire regions in Gaza and flew F-16s to trigger sonic booms at a rate of one every two hours.

The aim of the onslaught was two-fold. In Gaza it was intended to sow fear among the civilian population, creating a popular groundswell for the PA to "act" against Hamas and Islamic Jihad. In the West Bank the purpose was to wreck Hamas as an electoral force. Of the 415 Palestinians Israel arrested last week, 250 were Hamas members, most of them civilian cadre, including 14 local government candidates and 15 campaign managers. The sweep also netted political leaders Hassan Youssef, Mohamed Ghazzal and Ahmed Haj Ali, all three driving forces behind the turn to elections in the movement.

The rain brought its harvest. By 24 September, Hamas leader in Gaza, Mahmoud Al-Zahar, announced an end to all military operations from the Strip. And on 27 September instructions were issued to Gaza's Palestinian police to "arrest any person" not in uniform [sic]. Both decisions were taken unilaterally, without consultation and in response to the Israeli attacks. And both lay the seeds for confrontation.
Confrontation erupted, with the flashpoint being a skirmish between Muhammad al-Rantisi (son of `Abd al-`Aziz al-Rantisi, the assassinated Hamas leader) and PA police forces. Amayreh writes:
The clashes continued until midnight, when Egyptian mediators reportedly pressed the two sides to stand down.

Hamas and the PA had been exchanging accusations and recriminations since the Jabalya refugee camp incident of 23 September. "There is a faction of the PA trying to eradicate Hamas, and that plans widespread conflict in the West Bank," said Hamas representative in Lebanon Muhammed Nazzal in interview with the Associated Press on Sunday. "The hands of this faction -- backed by Washington and London -- are stained with Palestinian blood, and Hamas will confront it, even at the price of civil war," Nazzal said. Talk of civil war was received with disbelief in the occupied territories. Even Hamas leaders sought to distance themselves from it.

This notwithstanding, the relationship between the PA and Fatah on the one side and Hamas on the other is rapidly deteriorating.
Furthermore, if the PA decides to postpone the elections, or if it decides to acquiesce in the U.S. and Israeli desire to disarm Hamas before allowing it to participate, the divide between the two groups will widen. And Fatah/the PA will continue to lose ground, I think, to Hamas, both in Gaza and in the West Bank. In the meantime, Sharon and the Israeli right (as well as the anti-Palestinian right in the U.S.) can point to the Gaza Strip and say "You see, we give them a chance and this is what they do with it -- do you really think we can afford to do the same thing with the West Bank? With East Jerusalem? No no no, my friends, the Palestinians once again blew their chance."


Cervical Cancer Vaccine

There is some pretty uplifting news in the world of medical research, as a vaccine against HPV (the primary cause of cervical cancer in women) has shown to be 100 percent effective in the short term. But that's not all.
A second analysis, including hundreds more women participating in the ongoing study, showed that after just one dose the vaccine was 97 percent effective. That analysis found only one of the 5,736 women who got the vaccine developed cervical cancer or precancerous lesions, compared with 36 among the 5,766 who got dummy shots.

Barr said the 97 percent rate was more "real world," given that patients sometimes miss or delay follow-up shots or tests.
To have 97 percent be your more "real world" figure is pretty amazing. So what's the most effective way of getting this out there and making sure that cervical cancer is something that women will no longer have to fear?
"You have to get students in grammar school, middle school, high school (vaccinated) before they become sexually active," [Dr. Gloria Bachmann, director of The Women's Health Institute at Robert Wood Johnson Medical School in New Brunswick] said.
So let's get on that, right? And the sooner the better! Well, not so fast. The Christian right isn't so pleased about this whole thing. As Katha Pollitt wrote in May in the Nation:
"Giving the HPV vaccine to young women could be potentially harmful," Bridget Maher of the Family Research Council told the British magazine New Scientist, "because they may see it as a license to engage in premarital sex." Raise your hand if you think that what is keeping girls virgins now is the threat of getting cervical cancer when they are 60 from a disease they've probably never heard of.

I remember when people rolled their eyeballs if you suggested that opposition to abortion was less about "life" than about sex, especially sex for women. You have to admit that thesis is looking pretty solid these days. No matter what the consequences of sex--pregnancy, disease, death--abstinence for singles is the only answer. Just as it's better for gays to get AIDS than use condoms, it's better for a woman to get cancer than have sex before marriage. It's honor killing on the installment plan.


Are we really going to play this game again?

So there are no color codes being bandied about. But, amazingly enough, the day the president gives a speech to rally support for the war in Iraq and in which he mentions that the U.S. has foiled no less than ten al-Qa`ida plots against it, is the same day that a threat on the NYC subway system gets big play in the headlines. Now, I'm not saying that the threat against the NY subway isn't 100% valid. No, a Bush administration official admitted as much.
But a Bush administration official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because details of the investigation are classified, said "recent operations abroad" determined that the threats were dubious.

In a statement, the Department of Homeland Security said, "The intelligence community has concluded that this information is of doubtful credibility."
Maybe I'm too much of a conspiracy theorist over here, but it just seems too perfect that a threat of "doubtful credibility" is on the front page right next to Bush's speech on Iraq and al-Qa`ida.

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