Clem’s Chronicles: More on NY Terror Plot/Terror Plots Foiled in Illinois, Texas/Aids Vaccine Trial

By Clem Lane

Sep 24, 2009 9:25pm

Well the good news is that all the various terror plot stories seemed to have been nipped in the bud. But there sure seem to be a lot of them….

NY TERROR PLOT/BEAUTY PARLOR BOMB PLAN-We learned a whole lot more about Najibullah Zazi’s alleged intentions today. Zazi, was indicted by a federal grand jury today, charged with conspiracy to build and explode weapons of mass destruction. Brian Ross explains: “what the government essentially said in its court filings today was that Zazi had gathered chemicals and was ready to set off a series of bombs in crowded places.” Those chemicals were gotten from beauty supply stores. Why beauty supply stores? Ross: “Authorities say the same products used in beauty salons to bleach hair, create highlights and treat itchy scalps contain the very set of chemicals listed in a homemade bomb recipe Zazi got from al-Qaeda.” Zazi’s apparent role as “an al-Qaeda ringleader” brought out the following comment from ABC NEWS terrorism expert Richard Clarke: “This is exactly what we have always feared, the so-called ‘cleans’ who can come and go without attracting attention and recruit others for an attack.” And what of those others? Ross notes that “Federal agents say Zazi recruited many others who are still not in custody.” And the plot itself? Richard Clarke again: “Not since 9/11 have we had such a serious attack planned against the United States.”

ILLINOIS PLOT-Now we turn to another plot disclosed today. A man was arrested and charged with murder after planting what he thought was a nearly one-ton bomb in front of the Springfield, Illinois federal courthouse. Pierre Thomas, filing for WORLD NEWS, explains: “According to police, Michael Finton, also known as Talib Islam, drove a van that he believed was carrying nearly a ton of explosives and parked it in front of the courthouse. Then, the FBI says, Finton ‘got out of the van’, jumped into another car and dialed a cellphone to remotely detonate the bomb. It was a sting operation, the explosives were fake. Finton was arrested.” Finton’s path to this action? Thomas: “sources tell ABC NEWS Finton…converted to Islam while serving time in prison. Authorities say he became radicalized and even tried to become a pen pal of John Walker Lindh, an American caught fighting with the Taliban in the days just after 9/11.” In a bit of judicial irony, Thomas notes that “today Finton was charged in the same courthouse he allegedly planned to blow up. If convicted, he faces life in prison.”

DALLAS PLOT- Federal prosecutors say they've arrested a 19-year-old Jordanian national and charged him with trying to bomb a downtown Dallas skyscraper. According to a statement issued Thursday by the U.S. attorney's office in Dallas, Hosam Maher Husein Smadi is charged with attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction. He was arrested Thursday after placing a decoy car bomb at Fountain Place, a 60-story glass office tower. FBI agents have been keeping watch over the man, who lived in the small North Texas town of Italy.

LATE NOTE ON TERROR PLOTS/COORDINATION IN ILLINOIS, DALLAS INCIDENTS-From Pierre Thomas and Jason Ryan: “The FBI concluded two sting operations that culminated in the last 2 days with arrests of terrorism suspects who believed they would be blowing up buildings in Dallas, Texas and Springfield Illinois. Although not connected  officials say the FBI and Justice Department had to coordinate the timing of the two cases so that arrests would not cause suspects to get cold feet with their intention to conduct their operations.”

NORTH CAROLINA TERROR ARRESTS-More details on yet another attempted act of terrorism, this one involving men who were arrested back in July. Quoting from the AP story “Federal prosecutors say two North Carolina terrorism suspects plotted to kill U.S. military personnel and obtained maps of a Marine base in Virginia to plan an attack. A superseding indictment returned Thursday against Daniel Patrick Boyd and Hysen Sherifi is the first time authorities have said the men had specific targets. Prosecutors said Boyd obtained maps of Virginia's Marine Corps Base Quantico to plan an attack. Prosecutors have previously said the men went on training expeditions in the weeks leading up to their arrests in July, practicing military tactics with armor-piercing bullets on a property in rural North Carolina. Seven men are awaiting trial in the case and investigators say an eighth suspect is believed to be in Pakistan.”

RUTH BADER GINSBURG-Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was hospitalized Thursday after becoming ill in her office at the court. A statement from the court said the 76-year-old justice was taken to Washington Hospital Center at 7:45 p.m. EDT as a precaution. The statement said Ginsburg had received treatment earlier in the day for an iron deficiency that was discovered over the summer. About an hour later, she "developed lightheadedness and fatigue," the statement said. She was found to have a slightly low blood pressure, which the court said can occur after the type of treatment she received. Although an examination found her to be in stable health, she was given fluids and taken to the hospital as a precaution, the court said.

AIDS VACCINE:  Researchers from Thailand and the U.S. announced the first positive results of a HIV vaccine trial in humans.  Dan Harris reports: “The study was carried out in Thailand and involved more than 16-thousand volunteers – all young adults.  Half were given a placebo; half were given the vaccine.  Of the roughly eight thousand people who received the placebo, 74 became infected.  Of those who got the vaccine, 51 became infected.  So while the vaccine worked…it only reduced infections by 31 percent….while the vaccine was somewhat effective against the strain of AIDS prevalent in Thailand, it’s unclear if it will work against strains in, say the U.S. or Africa.  But there is no question this is a much-needed victory in a disease that infects 75-hundred people a day.” What are the next steps?  Roger Sergel, summing up the researchers’ press conference, said “Discussions are currently underway among those involved as to how this trial will be expanded upon.  Dr. Sanjay Gurunathan, Association Vice President of Clinical Development at Sanofi Pasteur, commented that there are ‘two parallel tracks’ to address in the research: ‘extend this trial and do more in-depth analysis of the samples we have, and extend these findings by doing clinical and preclinical studies…to see if we can improve on the results and if necessary produce novel components [in order to] move forward with it.’  Dr. Fauci summarized that moving forward, ‘we will pursue an appropriate balance of the basic science needed to understand the fundamental questions surrounding HIV and clinical research for promising HIV candidates.’  He says he has ‘cautious optimism’ that ultimately developing a highly effective vaccine is ‘within our reach.’” (thanks to Marisa Bramwell for this entry)

G20 SUMMIT:  Leaders of the world’s major economies have gathered in Pittsburgh this evening to debate the global economy, a year after the worldwide financial meltdown.  President Obama, who arrived from U.N. meetings in New York at mid-afternoon, chose Pittsburgh as the summit site because the formerly struggling Rust Belt city has transformed itself economically into a rebounding, environmentally conscious community with a diversified economy. Bianna Golodryga points out:  “It's no wonder President Obama called Pittsburgh a "bold example" of transformation. In the early 80s, the "Steel City" went into a tailspin as manufacturing went into decline.  Pittsburgh lost 80,000 jobs, creating an identity crisis for this one-industry town. But Pittsburgh…survived.”  Bianna says construction played a key role in the turnaround: “A new $320-million arena for the (Pittsburgh) Penguins. A $780-million casino, which opened just last month, and green buildings are going up all over the city.  Pittsburgh’s housing market has remained steady, too. Sales prices here dropped less than one percent in the last year while the national average was down 15.6 percent. And while not immune from unemployment – Pittsburgh’s rate is two percent below the national average.” The G20 Summit is a two-day affair.  There was a welcoming ceremony and dinner tonight and tomorrow there will be a day of meetings at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center, described as the world's first green convention center. And in the streets of Pittsburgh, we’ve already seen the first demonstrations by protestors who like to call themselves ‘anarchists.’  There were some clashes after hundreds of protesters, some holding banners decrying capitalism, tried to march from an outlying neighborhood toward the convention center. Police fired canisters of pepper spray and smoke at the marchers after some of them responded to calls to disperse by throwing rocks and rolling trash bins.  A handful of protestors were seen being taken away in handcuffs.  As for the summit itself, Treasury Secretary Geithner says world leaders have already reached one basic agreement – a consensus on a plan to limit bankers’ compensation by the end of the year.  And Geithner indicated that there is a “shared commitment” among the G20 countries to adopt measures to ward off another crisis and a “great urgency to act together.” (thanks to Ed Bailey for this entry)

UN NUCLEAR RESOLUTION:  At the United Nations today, President Barack Obama chaired the meeting of the Security Council – the first for an American president.  In the spring President Obama pledged to pursue ratification of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, and today he succeeded – the Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution banning countries from testing nuclear bombs.  "We now face proliferation of a scope and complexity that demands new strategies and new approaches," the president said. "The historic resolution we just adopted enshrines our shared commitment to a goal of a world without nuclear weapons, and it brings Security Council agreement on a broad framework for action to reduce nuclear dangers as we work toward that goal."
“The lofty goal of the resolution – a world without nuclear weapons,” Jake Tapper reported on WORLD NEWS.  Here’s Tapper with the details of the treaty: “The resolution promotes disarmament among existing nuclear powers, calls for beefed up security for nuclear materials and punishments for nations that violate the nuclear non-proliferation treaty.”
Today’s resolution was supported by China, France, Russian Federation, the United Kingdom, the United States (the five permanent members of the Security Council), Austria, Japan, Uganda, Burkina Faso, Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, Viet Nam, Costa Rica, Mexico, Croatia and Turkey. (thanks to Marisa Bramwell for this entry)

GHADAFI TENT, AGAIN:  Libyan leader Moammar Ghadafi’s tent was pitched briefly today on the Bedford, NY property owned by business mogul Donald Trump, but was quickly taken down after city officials issued a stop-work order and criminal summons.  A source tells WABC that the tent was set up by a relative of Ghadafi’s.  The AP reports that Bedford town attorney Joel Sachs said he would seek a court injunction if the tent wasn’t removed by Friday. (thanks to Marisa Bramwell for this entry)

HEALTH CARE REFORM/PUBLIC OPTION VOTE TOMORROW-From Jon Karl: “Tomorrow is high noon for the public option in the Senate. I am told that Senators Chuck Schumer and Jay Rockefeller will force a roll-call vote tomorrow morning in the Senate Finance Committee on two amendments that would create a government-run insurance program – a top priority for liberal Democrats that was left out of the bill drafted by Finance Chairman Max Baucus.
The amendments are not likely to pass because they will be opposed by all Republicans, and at least three Democrats on the committee are cool to the idea of a public option (Lincoln, Carper, Bill Nelson), but Schumer has been trying to negotiate with those Democrats to craft a version of the public option they could support.
If the amendments fail, it would appear the public option is all but dead in the Senate (although liberals will try to resurrect it when the full Senate takes up the bill).”

EXISTING HOME SALES DROP-From Dan Arnall: “Defying analyst expectations, sales of pre-owned homes dropped during August according to a report from the National Association of Realtors out this morning. The survey of existing home sales showed a 2.7% drop in the pace of sales during August to a seasonally adjusted annual pace of 5.10 million units. This is the first month-over-month drop since March and is worse than the 5.35 million unit pace economists were expecting to see.” Arnall notes the “widely-held belief that the recent recovery in residential real estate is fragile” and points to some potential troubles ahead. Arnall: ”That fragile nature is likely going to be tested in the next few months as the $8000 first-time buyer tax credit is set to expire and many analysts believe mortgage rates will begin to climb as the Fed’s $1.2 trillion buying binge of mortgage-backed securities begins to wrap-up.”

PATRICK NAMES INTERIM KENNEDY SUCCESSOR-From Rachel Martin: “Almost a month to the day after the death of Senator Edward Kennedy, the Governor of Massachusetts has named his temporary successor. Today in a press conference in Boston, Governor Deval Patrick (D-MA) named Paul Kirk as the second Senator from Massachusetts. Kirk, 71, was a close friend and confidante of the late Senator Kennedy for over forty years. He joined Ted Kennedy’s staff in 1969, serving there for eight years. He later went on to chair the Democratic National Committee in the 1980s. Today he is a Boston-based attorney and has served as the chairman of the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation’s board of directors.”

SWINE FLU VACCINE-From Yunji de Nies: “Six to seven million doses of the H1N1 vaccine will be available starting the first week of October, and that vaccine should be effective against the virus within eight days.  That’s the word from Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and the CDC’s Dr. Anne Schuchat, who spoke with reporters at the White House today.   Those initial doses will be in spray form, safe for adults and children two years and older, but pregnant women will have to wait for the injection version.  The Secretary said if all goes according to plan, 40 million doses, a mix of spray and shots, will be available by the middle of the month, and 10 to 20 million more each week, eventually reaching a total of 250 million.”

IRAN/AMERICAN HIKERS- Leaders of U.S. Muslim groups who met with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad say they are "guardedly optimistic" that three American hikers held there would be released soon. Nihad Awal, director of the Council on American Islamic Relations, says the U.S. Muslim community would remain engaged on the issue until a "favorable result" is reached. The meeting happened Thursday. Shane Bauer, 27, Sarah Shourd, 31, and Josh Fattal, 27, have been held since apparently straying into Iran while hiking in northern Iraq in July. Since then, their families have had no information other than that the three were being detained. (AP)

CENSUS WORKER- Kentucky State Police say the preliminary cause of death for a census worker found near an eastern Kentucky cemetery is asphyxiation. The body of 51-year-old William E. Sparkman was found in rural Clay County on Sept. 12. State police said in a statement Thursday that Sparkman was found with a rope around his neck that was tied to a tree, but his body was in contact with the ground. Capt. Lisa Rudzinski, commander of the Kentucky State Police post in London, says law enforcement "has not been able to rule out accidental death, suicide or homicide."

GEORGIA FLOODING-President Barack Obama issued a disaster declaration for Georgia today, ordering federal aid to assist state and local recovery efforts in the wake of severe storms that caused massive flooding this week. Vice President Joe Biden was scheduled to survey flood damage Friday. Obama's declaration makes federal funding available to affected residents of Carroll, Cobb, Paulding, Douglas and Cherokee counties. Aid may include grants to help pay for temporary housing, home repairs and other serious disaster-related expenses.

YOSI SERGANT RESIGNS- Today Yosi Sergant resigned. The former communications director for the NEA led a controversial conference call on August 10, where he encouraged artist to create work to promote the Obama administration's agenda.  Initially he was demoted – today he's gone. No doubt Glenn Beck will see this as a victory, as he's been calling for Sergant to step down, much like he did with Van Jones. A statement from the National Endowment for the Arts (reads) "This afternoon Yosi Sergant submitted his resignation from the National Endowment for the Arts. His resignation has been accepted and is effective immediately." (Yunji de Nies)
GUANTANAMO/UIGHURS- The Obama administration says at least six, and as many as eight, Chinese Muslims held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, will soon leave their island prison for freedom in another island nation, Palau. Word of the upcoming transfer to the tiny Pacific country, planned for sometime after Oct. 1, came in a letter released Thursday from Solicitor General Elena Kagan to the Supreme Court. Kagan also confirmed that Palau has agreed to accept all but one of the 13 Chinese Muslims, or Uighurs, who remain at Guantanamo. (AP)
OIL PRICES- Oil prices fell sharply Thursday for a second straight day as growing supplies of crude, gasoline and heating oil exposed how badly the recession has cut into energy demand. Benchmark crude for November delivery fell 4.4 percent, or $3.08, to settle at $65.89 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract tumbled $2.79 to settle at $68.97 on Wednesday. (AP)
NEW OXYCONTIN PILL- Federal health advisers on Thursday recommended approval for a new version of the painkiller OxyContin that is designed to be harder to abuse. A Food and Drug Administration panel of experts voted 14-4 in favor of the reformulated OxyContin from Purdue Pharma. However, the same experts recommended the company be required to conduct a follow-up study to track patients taking the drug over the long term. The FDA is not required to follow the group's advice, though it usually does. Stamford, Conn.-based Purdue Pharma LP has touted the new pill's plastic-like coating, which is designed to make the drug harder to crush and snort or inject. (AP)

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