U.S. flies surveillance plane over Iraq


An American U-2 surveillance plane made its first flight over Iraq yesterday in support of the current U.N. inspection mission, marking another concession by Saddam Hussein’s regime to stave off a U.S.-led attack.

Meanwhile, Iraqi state television broadcast scenes of Iraqi troops in maneuvers to defend the country from a possible U.S. attack. State television also said Saddam praised last weekend’s anti-war protests, singling out those in Italy, Spain and Britain whose governments support the strong U.S. position against Baghdad.

The U-2 flight took place only one week after the United Nations and Baghdad broke an impasse that had kept the reconnaissance plane grounded since the start of inspections in November. The Iraqis agreed to allow U-2 flights last week, fulfilling a major demand by U.N. inspectors seeking to determine if Iraq still harbors weapons of mass destruction.

“At 11:55 a.m., a U-2 surveillance plane entered Iraqi airspace and reconnoitered several areas of Iraq and left Iraqi airspace at 4:15 p.m.,” the Iraqi Foreign Ministry said in a statement. “The reconnaissance operation lasted 4 hours and 20 minutes.”

The statement did not indicate the plane’s flight path.

“A U-2 did fly today,” said Ewen Buchanan, the New York-based spokesman for chief inspector Hans Blix.

Armistice ending Korean War under fire

SEOUL, South Korea

North Korea threatened today to abandon the 1953 armistice that ended the Korean War, accusing the United States of plotting an attack on the communist state.

A spokesman of the North’s Korean People’s Army claimed that the United States was building up reinforcements around the Korean Peninsula in preparations to attack the North, said the North’s official news agency KCNA.

“The situation is, therefore, getting more serious as the days go by as it is putting its plan for pre-emptive attacks on the (North) into practice,” KCNA quoted the unidentified spokesman as saying.

The 1950-53 Korean War ended with an armistice, not a peace treaty, leaving the countries technically in a state of war. A North Korean withdrawal from the armistice would remove the main mechanism that is helping to keep an uneasy peace on the peninsula, where the border between the two Koreas is the world’s most heavily armed.

The announcement is the latest move in a crisis over the North’s recent decision to restart its nuclear programs in violations of international treaties.

Search for Columbia wreckage continues


As the days become weeks since Columbia’s disintegration over Texas, fewer and fewer pieces of Columbia wreckage are turning up, even though the calls keep coming in.

Yesterday, NASA asked farmers and ranchers out West to be on the lookout during spring plowing for anything that might have fallen from the sky on Feb. 1.

“It’s kind of a mixed thing. There’s a tremendous amount of information available already, even though not everything directly points to a particular thing.

There are a lot of circumstantial things,” said NASA’s Steve Nesbitt, who is serving as the spokesman for the accident investigation board.

He added that “there’s a continuing belief and feeling that things are going to continue to develop” and that more debris may be found.

“Everybody wants to contribute. They all want to help and it’s great. The board certainly wants to listen,” Nesbitt said.

Israel gearing up for Iraq missile attack


Israel has been preparing for an Iraqi missile attack since the last Gulf War, and now says it’s ready.

A state-of-the-art missile defense is in place. “Safe rooms” are standard in new homes. Teams equipped against chemical weapons and inoculated against smallpox are set to rush to attack sites. The Home Front Command has set up evacuation centers nationwide. Israelis have picked up gas masks for themselves and tents for small children.

Despite these efforts, there’s an almost daily guessing game on whether Iraq can and will strike Israel.

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon says there’s only a small threat, and government and military analysts seem confident Iraq will not be able to do what it did in 1991, when it hurled 39 Scuds at Israel – sowing panic and inflicting extensive damage, but causing few casualties.

Alzheimer’s linked to fats, study says


Some dietary fats might help prevent Alzheimer’s disease, others may increase the risk and – contrary to some reports – antioxidant vitamins may have no effect on the mind-robbing ailment, two studies suggest.

The study on fats adds to growing evidence that the same type of diet that protects the heart may benefit the brain.

Data are more mixed on effects on Alzheimer’s of antioxidants such as vitamins C and E and beta-carotene, although recent studies have suggested a potential benefit, and scientists say a link makes biological sense.

The discrepancy may be explained by different study characteristics, say authors of the latest antioxidant research, from Columbia University.

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