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17th June 2001
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  • Indian police arrest suspect for plot to blow up US embassy
  • Bush charms his way from "Toxic Texan" to "Nice Man"
  • Japan braces for near-zero growth
  • Cholesterol linked to Alzheimer's
  • Love triangle was trigger for Nepal massacre 
  • Doctor's election injects air of revolt
  • Spy donated earnings to Mother Teresa 
  • Indian police arrest suspect for plot to blow up US embassy

    NEW DELHI, June 16 (AFP) - Indian police have arrested a Sudanese national suspected to be working for alleged terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden, for planning to blow up the US embassy here, a senior police officer told AFP on Saturday.

    The suspect, identified as Abdel Raouf Hawash, was arrested Friday "with six kilograms (13.2 pounds) of RDX (research developed explosives)," the official said."

    Hawash was under surveillance for approximately three months and the arrest was a joint operation by the Delhi police and intelligence agencies," the official said."

    During questioning, he told us he was associated with Osama bin Laden," the official added.At the time of his arrest, Hawash and an associate Shamin Sarvar, an Indian national from the eastern state of Bihar, were on the look out for a suitable vehicle to execute a car bomb explosion, the official said."

    Hawash, who arrived in India eight years ago, was reported to have said he was "recruited" into bin Laden's group by a "conduit" of the dissident Saudi billionaire."


    Bush charms his way from "Toxic Texan" to "Nice Man"

    GOTHENBURG, Sweden, (Reuters) - George W. Bush's debut on the European stage impressed commentators with what they saw as his charm, toughness and conviction, where once they had dismissed him as the bumbling "Toxic Texan".

    In an image change for the U.S. president resulting from his first NATO and EU summit appearances this week, European editorial writers now mainly see him as a well-mannered "nice man" _ though with steel in him.

    "George W. Bush is manifestly not the 'superficial buffoon and arrogant Texan' portrayed in the media," the left-wing French daily Liberation wrote.

    "At the brief NATO summit in Brussels, the president succeeded in making his European allies' reservations about his missile defence plan look old-fashioned and from another era."

    However Liberation, like most newspapers, said the biggest problem for Bush's image makeover _ and the reason he earned the name "Toxic Texan" beforehand _ was still how he was locked into opposing the Kyoto Treaty on global warming.

    Referring to the meeting with EU leaders in Gothenburg where Bush gave his final thumbs down to Kyoto, Liberation said:

    "Bush did not succeed in repeating (in Gothenburg) the charm operation he pulled off in Brussels."

    But France's conservative Le Figaro had no reservations, even if the new U.S. President is not a wine drinker.

    "Watch out for water drinkers. George W. Bush drinks it straight from the bottle, like a boxer who's gone back to his corner," the newspaper said of Bush's first meeting with European allies.

    In Germany, under a cartoon of a grinning Bush with Stetson and smoking six-shooter, Munich's liberal Sueddeutsche Zeitung newspaper titled its piece "The Boss charming but tough".

    "The Europeans have learnt three things from their first meetings with Bush...One, it is risky to underestimate him; Two, he can be very charming; Three, he is brutally tough and when he has made up his mind to get something, he usually gets it," the newspaper said.

    The sober business daily Handelsblatt fell for Bush's Texan charm but noted it had limits.

    "He's actually rather a nice fellow," it said of his relaxed style during encounters with Europe's leaders.

    "But most of them are not just interested in having a chat. They want to be taken seriously and are looking for concessions. That's where Bush's charm offensive runs up against a wall."

    The Dutch daily Algemeen Dagblad worried that Bush was still coming to terms with his power.

    "In Brussels, people found the president's style strange, as if he himself is not yet comfortable with the idea that he is a world leader," the newspaper said.

    "It is there, rather than in his opinions, that the danger lurks if an international crisis breaks out, because George W. Bush remains a bit of a talking doll."

    Britain's biggest selling Sun and the conservative Daily Telegraph fell over themselves in praising Bush.

    The Sun said "Dubya's" debut Europe trip was "a total success"

    Under the headline "W for Wit", the Sun said Bush "surprised his critics with his wit and intelligence".

    Obviously not aware of the Europe-wide image change that was under way on Bush, the Sun added:

    "As for the French and the Germans, who are less than enamoured with George W and the Land of the Free, The Sun has this advice: It's your loss, not America's."

    Sweden's own Aftenbladt newspaper found Bush "charming"

    "He leaned out and waved. That's how you win votes," the newspaper said.

    It was only in Italy, where tradition can die hard, that newspapers were unmoved.

    "Bush risks remaining hostage to his own caricature, a naive cowboy who is also arrogant, who confuses Slovenia with Slovakia, preserve with persevere, and calls Africa a country," an editorial in the daily Corriere della Sera said. 


    Japan braces for near-zero growth

    June 16 (AFP) - A Japanese panel chaired by Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi plans to drop the economic growth target of 1.7 percent for this year and warn of near-zero growth for up to three years, a report said Saturday.The government's Council on Economic and Fiscal Policy plans to announce the new forecast when it releases reform policy guidelines in late June, the Asahi Shimbun said.

    It foresees the world's second largest economy growing only 0.5 percent for two-to-three years from April 2001, the daily said.

    The panel would then drop the official growth target of 1.7 percent for the current financial year to March 2002, it said.

    Japan's gross domestic product contracted 0.2 percent in the three months to March, putting growth for the previous financial year at an anaemic 0.9 percent against the government's goal of 1.2 percent.

    The council also expects the number of jobless people would increase by some 150,000-200,000 as the government pushes ahead with structural reform such as the disposal of bad loans held by banks, it said.

    Japan's jobless rate rose to 4.8 percent in April with 3.48 million people out of work, latest government data showed.

    The council projects some 500,000 people would lose their jobs as banks wipe 12.7 trillion yen (105 billion dollars) of bad loans off their balance sheets, causing borrower companies to fail or cut payrolls, the Asahi said.

    It estimates 150,000-200,000 people of the 500,000 would not find new jobs and would become unemployed, the daily said.

    The depressing figures were to be announced at the initiative of Heizo Takenaka, state minister for economic and fiscal policy and the key man of the government panel, the newspaper said.

    Takenaka believes concrete figures would make it easier for people to understand the council's scenario for an economic revival, it said.

    Draft policy guidelines presented by Takenaka to the council on May 31 included a review of Japan's tax system, capping issuance of government bonds at under 30 trillion yen and generating five million new jobs.

    Koizumi said Thursday Japan was "in a correctional phase" as the government downgraded a key economic assessment for the fifth consecutive month and pointed to recession."

    We have to endure the pain for a better tomorrow. There will be no economic recovery without structural reform."

    The Cabinet Office said in its June report "the economy is deteriorating," using stronger language than in May when it said "the economy is increasingly weakening.""

    Although we have yet to be able to arrive at a conclusion, there is a strong possibility that the economy has entered a recession," Cabinet Office economist Haruhito Arai said.

    Japan was last in recession at the end of 1999.


    Cholesterol linked to Alzheimer's

    LONDON (Reuters) - Scientists on Friday said high blood pressure and cholesterol could increase the risk of Alzheimer's disease in old age. 

    A study by researchers at Finland's University of Kuopio found a combination of high levels of both when a person was middle-aged raised the likelihood of developing Alzheimer's between the ages of 65 and 79. 

    "The combination of these risk factors in mid-life...increased the risk to a greater extent than either of the risk factors on its own," researcher Miia Kivipelto said in a study published in the British Medical Journal on Friday. After questioning 1,500 people and monitoring their cholesterol levels and blood pressure regularly in the 1970s and 1980s, the researchers re-examined them in 1998. They found that those who had high levels of both had a greater risk of developing Alzheimer's disease.


    Love triangle was trigger for Nepal massacre 

    FOUR days before he died at the hands of his son, King Birendra of Nepal issued a regal ultimatum. The Nepalese monarch was a kindly man but he had grown weary of the nagging dispute between Queen Aiswarya and their eldest son, Crown Prince Dipendra, over the young man's choice of bride. Birendra told his son that he had to choose between the woman he wanted and the throne. 

    If the prince married his constant companion, a clever, radiant woman of 29 named Devyani Rana, who was deemed unacceptable at court, he could not succeed his father. 

    If he married his family's choice of bride, 27-year-old Supriya Shah, the charming, compliant daughter of an aide-de-camp to Nepal's Queen Mother, a compromise was possible. He could then follow a dynastic tradition and keep his true love as a discreet mistress. 

    There was one inconvenient obstacle to this solution. Dipendra himself may have toyed with the idea. Indeed, close friends testify that he was seeing both women while he tried to make up his mind. But Devyani and the rest of the Rana family, a prominent political clan, would not hear of it. A modern, self-confident character, she saw no reason to accept any lesser position. She scorned the feudal objection raised by the queen and her coterie: that Devyani's great-grandmother was a mistress, and therefore she could not meet the requirement of seven generations of "pure" lineage. 

    The girl was insistent, the mother immovable, the son distraught. The king intervened to settle the dispute. "Once the father had spoken, according to Nepali culture, that was the end of the matter," said a friend of the crown prince. It was a fatal misjudgement. 

    "He was an unhappy, isolated figure in an isolated family," said a diplomat who met the prince on many occasions. "He was putting on weight due, I think, to his drinking. He was not yet married, and it was getting late for a Nepali. He had told his friends that he would have it out with his mother by his 30th birthday, which would have been June 27." 

    But his father's ultimatum had supervened. 

    In the aftermath, many Nepalis questioned how a man so drunk that he had to be helped to bed could murder nine men and women. A possible answer: according to a source with impeccable connections to the royal family, laboratory tests revealed traces of cocaine in Dipendra's bloodstream. 

    When they brought Birendra into the hospital, he still had a heartbeat. "The surgeons tried everything," said a witness. "But they were too late." 

    The hospital was overwhelmed. "When I got there I saw seven or eight bodies just lying on the concrete floor," said a friend of the crown prince. Dipendra had been put on a ventilator but in the early hours of last Monday, the doctors disconnected the tubes and wires from the corpse known as His Majesty King Dipendra. Bire-ndra's less popular brother, Gyanendra - father of Paras - was declared king. 

    The Sunday Times (UK)


    Doctor's election injects air of revolt

    The elderly woman looked up from her list of voters and immediately recognised the benign, bespectacled face of the doctor who had tended her husband in his fading years. 

    Slowly, the teller reached out and gripped the hand of Richard Taylor and thanked him for the nine extra years the consultant had given her husband. "You will never know how much that meant to me," she said. 

    It was a moving moment and one which convinced Taylor, 66, that he had been right to stand for election as an independent people's champion. For 23 years he had worked as a doctor at Kidderminster hospital. A surge of popular protest at its closure swept Taylor into a new career as an MP in the House of Commons. He won the former Labour seat with a thumping majority of 17,630. 

    Taylor had stood as an independent in Wyre Forest on a single issue: to protest about the decision of a new Labour government to close the casualty department, all its ancillary acute services and 192 in-patient beds at Kidderminster in order to concentrate services at a new hospital in Worcester. 

    How does a retired doctor, who in his own words probably ought to know better, find himself plucked from a cosy retirement of birdwatching and fishing to be sent to the corridors of power? 

    It is a tale of rebellious people, both old and young, taking up a noble cause in the most traditional of ways, through protest marches, petitions and letter writing. Even Robert Plant, the rock star, joined the campaign. 

    Taylor, however, knows there are no simple answers to the malaise of the NHS. He believes it probably requires a reasonable increase in taxes to fund an improvement in standards allied to genuine effective management improvements, not just tired old ideas repackaged with new acronyms. But he believes he can make a difference. 

    He foresees that after Kidderminster and another protest over the siting of a waste incinerator in the area, he will have to tackle the broader issues of being an MP, although many are mirrored in his own microcosm. If Taylor is successful it will be a warning to the Blairite foot soldiers who tried to spin him out of Wyre Forest at every turn. 

    "Next time anyone angry at a school closing, the axeing of another hospital, a lack of bobbies on the beat, in fact, any failure in any public service, they may be able to follow the example of Wyre Forest," he said. 

    "Perhaps we will create a whole band of independents who will really break the mould of British politics." 

    - The Sunday Times (UK)


    Spy donated earnings to Mother Teresa

    WASHINGTON, (AFP) - Former FBI agent Robert Hanssen began spying for the Soviet Union as early as 1979, six years before the FBI's given date of 1985, and gave some 10,000 dollars in spy earnings to Mother Teresa, CBS News reported Friday. 

    On May 15 Hanssen, a 56 year-old senior FBI counterintelligence operative, was indicted on 21 counts including spying for Russia and the former Soviet Union starting in 1985. Fourteen of the 21 charges could carry the death penalty as punishment. 

    But according to CBS News Hanssen began at least six years earlier: around 1979 Hanssen's wife Bonnie became suspicious of his suspicious behavior and confronted him, CBS reported, citing sources closes to Hanssen's family. 

    Hanssen then confessed to a Roman Catholic priest of the conservative Opus Dei movement, and donated more than 10,000 dollars that he had been paid by the Soviets to Mother Teresa of Calcutta, according to CBS. Hanssen then reportedly stopped spying for six years, according to another source who spoke to the network. 

    Hanssen was arrested February 18 after dropping a batch of documents at an agreed location in a public park in Virginia. But when Hanssen resumed his spying he continued to report his activities as sins to Opus Dei priests, according to Alen Salerian, a psychiatrist hired by his defence team, interviewed by CBS. 

    Salerian also told CBS that Hanssen was tormented by psychological pain due to a "factor x" _ a "psychological wound" so serious that it had contributed to the government's reported decision not to seek the death penalty. But Salerian, who claimed he was speaking to CBS with Hanssen's endorsement, said professional ethics meant he could not reveal the exact nature of this "factor x." 

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