Explosion on bus kills at least 3 Israelis

GAN SHMUEL, Israel

An explosion tore through a bus on a main highway in Israel”s north yesterday, and police said three passengers and a Palestinian suicide bomber were killed.

An eyewitness, Emanuel Biton, told Army Radio he saw the blast “rip the bus into pieces, and things were flying everywhere.”

Police said a suicide bomber set off the explosion, killing three passengers. Six other people were injured, two critically, doctors said.

The bus was near an Israeli military base when the bomb went off, ripping off its sides and part of the roof. Ambulances and police vehicles raced to the scene on the highway, which runs east to west from Hadera near Israel”s coast to Afula, near the Jordan River valley.

The bus attack came as U.S. envoy Anthony Zinni was holding talks with Israeli and Palestinian leaders, trying to cement a truce to end 14 months of violence.

“Unfortunately, there is no letup in the wave of terror against the state of Israel,” said Dore Gold, an adviser to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

Sharon was about to leave for the United States when the bomb went off on the bus. It was not known whether he would postpone his trip.

NASA to examine why tail fell off Flight 587

WASHINGTON

National Transportation Safety Board investigators have asked NASA to help them find out why the tail of American Airlines Flight 587 fell off.

The board said yesterday that the vertical stabilizer and rudder are being sent to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration”s research center in Hampton, Va. The center has expertise in analyzing nonmetallic composite materials of the kind used to build the tail on the Airbus A300, the board said.

“We know the tail came off in flight and we”re trying to find out why it happened,” NTSB spokesman Ted Lopatkiewicz said.

This is not the first time NASA has been asked to help with a safety board investigation, but it is the first time the focus has been on the lighter-weight composites increasingly used in airplane construction.

Investigators have been focusing on the tail, which sheared off the plane before it crashed Nov. 12 shortly after takeoff from Kennedy Airport in New York. All 260 people on board and five on the ground were killed. Aviation experts have said that the tail should not have fallen off the plane even though the aircraft hit two wakes from a Japan Air Lines 747 that took off before it.

Fugitive suspected in anthrax hoaxes

WASHINGTON

Clayton Lee Waagner, one of the FBI”s most-wanted fugitives, is a suspect in a string of anthrax hoax letters sent to abortion clinics, Attorney General John Ashcroft announced yesterday.

Ashcroft said the FBI had obtained information over the Thanksgiving holiday indicating Waagner had claimed responsibility for sending more than 280 letters to clinics across the United States. The FBI considers Waagner “extremely dangerous. He has survival skills and may be heavily armed,” Assistant FBI Director Rueben Garcia said.

Ashcroft called Waagner a “self-described anti-abortion warrior.”

The Feminist Majority Foundation said more than 450 clinics and advocacy organizations in 12 states received letters in envelopes carrying white powder and letters signed by “the Army of God.” None of the powder sent to the clinics has tested positive for anthrax.

Iraqi sanctions set to be overhauled

UNITED NATIONS

The Security Council unanimously approved a resolution yesterday extending the U.N. humanitarian program in Iraq and setting the stage for an overhaul of U.N. sanctions against Baghdad next year.

The resolution was drafted by the United States and Russia, which have been feuding over policy toward Iraq for several years, and marked another sign of growing cooperation between Washington and Moscow, especially since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Disputes over Iraq have usually left extension of the oil-for-food humanitarian program to the last moment.

But the U.S.-Russian compromise enabled the council to approve a six-month extension a day before the current phase expires at midnight today.

Ecstasy more harmful to women than men

LONDON

Ecstasy, the increasingly popular party drug, may cause more brain damage in women than in men, new research suggests. A study published this week in The Lancet medical journal compared brain scans of people who had taken 50 or more Ecstasy tablets in their lifetimes with those of a group who had never taken the drug. The findings indicated women but not men lost a significant number of brain cells, even though the men had taken more Ecstasy over the years.

Fifty tablets is considered the threshold for increased risk of developing psychiatric problems. Experts said the preliminary findings raised an interesting possibility but that larger studies are needed to confirm the results. The illegal drug, also known as MDMA, is also said to suppress the need to eat, drink or sleep, making it possible to endure parties for two or three days.

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