Eight questioned for guerrilla attacks

Six people claiming to be Americans and two who say they are British are in U.S. custody on suspicion of involvement in attacks on coalition forces, an American general said yesterday. They would be the first Westerners reported held in the insurrection against the U.S.-led occupation.

Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski, who is in charge of coalition detention centers in Iraq, said the alleged Americans and Britons were considered security detainees, meaning they were suspected of involvement in guerrilla attacks. She did not identify the purported Westerners but said they were being interrogated by military intelligence in Baghdad, where they were being held. “We actually do have six who are claiming to be Americans, two who are claiming to be from the U.K. We’re continuing the interviewing process. The details become sketchy and their story changes,” Karpinski said. She declined to give any other information.

“We’re not trying to withhold information from you. Some information remains classified for security reasons,” Karpinski said during a tour of Abu Ghraib prison, where Saddam Hussein locked up his political opponents. Asked about the detainees at a Pentagon news conference, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said: “The truth is that the folks that we’ve scooped up have, on a number of occasions, multiple identifications from different countries. They’re quite skilled at confusing people as to what their real nationality is or where they came from or what they’re doing.”


Senate votes to limit media ownership

The Senate approved a resolution yesterday to roll back new media ownership rules that have brought heavy criticism from a broad range of advocacy groups, shifting the fight to the House where Republican leaders pledged to kill the measure.

A White House veto threat also looms over the resolution, which the Senate approved with a 55-40 vote.

The resolution seeks to undo changes to Federal Communications Commission regulations governing ownership of newspapers and television and radio stations.

Critics say those changes could lead to a wave of media mergers and ultimately stifle diversity and local viewpoints in news and entertainment. A federal appeals court already has temporarily placed the rules on hold.

“The public interest prevailed over the big corporate interests today here in the Senate,” said Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) who with Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.) led the effort to pass the resolution.

House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, (R-Texas), summed up the House prospects after the Senate vote: “It’s going nowhere – dead on arrival.”


Israel rejects cease-fire, calls for action

Israeli officials yesterday rebuffed Palestinian proposals for a comprehensive cease-fire, saying the military would not halt strikes in the West Bank and Gaza Strip until Palestinian security forces begin dismantling militant groups.

The Palestinian offer came in an interview on Israel Radio by Yasser Arafat’s national security adviser, Jibril Rajoub, who said that if Israel reined in its military, the Palestinian Authority would bring an end to terror attacks and work toward talks on a final peace settlement.

“There must be a mutual cease-fire based on an end to violence on both sides,” Rajoub said. He said the proposal would be formally submitted to Israel once prime minister-designate Ahmed Qureia puts together his Cabinet. Rajoub wouldn’t commit to dismantling the militant groups – a requirement of the U.S.-backed “road map” peace plan – and Israeli officials made clear that without this the idea was stillborn.


White House: Syria supporting terrorism

Syria is allowing militants to cross its border into Iraq to kill U.S. soldiers and is aggressively seeking to acquire and develop chemical, biological and nuclear weapons, a senior Bush administration official said yesterday.

In addition, he said Syria continues to support organizations the United States lists as terrorist groups.

John Bolton, undersecretary of state for arms control, told a House hearing the United States was trying to change Syria’s behavior through diplomatic means and urged lawmakers to let the effort run its course before passing trade restrictions and other measures.


Bug responsible for many sinus ailments

The metapneumovirus, discovered two years ago, is turning out to be an exceedingly common cause of human misery, responsible for garden-variety colds in grown-ups and more severe coughing and congestion in children. Researchers are beginning to piece together the scope of this ubiquitous but overlooked bug, which now appears to afflict just about everybody, probably over and over.

Though the virus seems to rarely be serious, its vast presence intrigues microbiologists, and it is one of the most talked-about topics at this week’s meeting in Chicago of the American Society for Microbiology.

Experts say the metapneumovirus is almost certainly not a new bug but something that has been around for eons.















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