Beyond the Blast

MotherJones.com's guide to undercovered news, commentary and resources to help put the Sept. 11 terror attacks and their aftershocks into context. Updated throughout the day.

Fri Nov. 16, 2001 3:00 AM EST

November 16, 2001

Gay partners of attack victims fight for aid -- Village Voice
Gay and lesbian partners of victims of the World Trade Center attacks are fighting to get the benefits they would receive had they been married, reports Andy Humm. George Cuellar, who lost his partner of 20 years, said Social Security officials told him to not "even think about it." Ultimately, Humm reports, the ball is in Attorney General John Ashcroft's court. In the next few weeks he will decide who is entitled to a share of the $15 billion set aside for disaster victims' families and loved ones.

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Maasai: Anthrax, shmanthrax -- Middle East Times
While thousands of Americans down daily doses of anthrax-fighting Cipro, members of Kenya's Maasai community are wondering what the concern is all about, reports John Kamau. "We have lived with it, we have got used to it," says 78-year-old Maasai elder Lenyaele ole Kenta. "It's nothing big." Tribe members often contract the disease after eating meat from infected cattle, says Karnau. Ole Kenta claims some tribe members have even developed an immunity to it, while those who develop symptoms rarely die. A quick snack of a young shoot of the olmisigiyoi bush usually does the trick.

Meet Islam's feminists -- Counterpunch
Despite all the burka-shrouded Afghan women that have appeared on American television screens in recent weeks, many women in the Islamic world do not match the increasingly popular image of an oppressed, veiled population relegated to the sidelines of life, writes Fawzia Afzal-Khan. "There are Muslim women who are feminists, theologians, writers, lawyers, activists, scholars both in 'Islamist' societies... as well as in the 'west,'" she says, pointing to such notable examples as Egyptian novelist and activist Dr. Nawal El Saadawi.

November 15, 2001

Introducing Amerithrax -- FBI
Nope, it's not a new over-the-counter pill that boosts patriotism, nor is it the title of a new X-Files episode. 'Amerithrax' is the thought-provoking title of the FBI's new campaign to enlist public help in tracking down anthrax letter-mailers. The agency has posted "linguistic and behavioral assessments" of the letters received by the New York Post, Tom Brokaw and Sen. Tom Daschle and is asking citizens "to study these assessments and reflect on whether someone of their acquaintance might fit the profile."

Infesting Afghanistan -- Business Week
First came drug-sniffing dogs; soon, it may be mine-detecting bees. Jane Black reports that the Defense Department's Advanced Research Projects Agency is working on a program to train bees to hone in on the smell of TNT. Once trained, the bees would be equipped with tiny tracing devices and let loose in mine fields in places like Afghanistan, says Black. Another of the agency's projects aims to develop a rock-climbing robotic cockroach that could cover rough terrain easily, helping investigators locate survivors in a disaster site. Far-fetched, perhaps, but Black points out that DARPA does have considerable techno-cred: they invented the system which evolved into the Internet.

November 14, 2001

Assassinations, yes; torture and nukes, maybe -- The Christian Science Monitor
A new Christian Science Monitor/TIPP poll indicates that most Americans would support the assassination of foreign leaders if they felt such killings would protect America from future terrorist attacks. A third of those polled also believe the government should be allowed to torture terror suspects, while a quarter say they could back the use of nuclear weapons against terrorist states. Still, Abraham McLaughlin reports that support isn't unlimited. "If there weren't any children involved, and it was the only way to kill terrorists," one person polled responded, "then, yes."

Taliban's retreat no rout -- Stratfor
In a country where rapid power shifts are the norm, the US should not be fooled into thinking that the Northern Alliance's current success guarantees defeat for the Taliban. "If the United States and its allies misread the Taliban withdrawal as a rout, they could quickly find themselves locked in a nasty guerrilla war in Afghanistan," warns Stratfor , a Texas-based strategic forecasting thinktank. The US should note, Stratfor says, that "the Taliban's retreat was premeditated and orderly," and that Taliban forces are headed to the Taliban-sympathetic south, "intact, with most of their arms and equipment."

Get a massage for social justice -- Alternet
With the Bush Administration asking us to shop for America, Michael I. Niman claims that Buy Nothing Day, the annual call to put away your credit card, is as important as ever. "Our consumption isn't helping workers in poor countries any more than it's fighting terrorism. In fact, it's fueling the global inequalities that breed hate and terrorism," Niman argues. Acknowledging that many will find it difficult to observe the November 23 holiday, Niman suggests an alternative: Patronize a farmer's market, an independent bookstore, or the neighborhood masseur and turn Buy Nothing Day into "Buy Local Day."

Investigators make a psychic connection -- Sunday Times (UK)
Evidently impressed by all those late-night commercials, US intelligence officials are reportedly looking to recruit psychics to to bolster their investigation into the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Referred to in official channels as "remote viewers," the psychics were first recruited by the CIA and FBI to lend their powers to the fight against Communism. Now, they're being approached again, the Times reports. This time, intelligence officials are reportedly asking the psychics to predict future attacks and the whereabouts of Osama bin Laden. No word yet on whether they'll charge by the minute for phone consultations.

November 13, 2001

Arab news network blasted -- The Guardian (UK)
Al-Jazeera, the Arab world's only independent news station, has been the target of US criticism for its broadcasts of Osama bin Laden's home videos. Now it appears the network was the target of a US missile. The Guardian reports that Al-Jazeera's offices in Kabul were destroyed by a missile that also damaged the local offices of The Associated Press and the BBC. The missile, which struck as anti-Taliban forces advanced on the capital, might have been intended for the Taliban Ministry for the Suppression of Vice and the Promotion of Virtue, which has offices across the street from al-Jazeera.

Good news for Soldier of Fortune-- The Independent (UK)
It's not only cable news networks that are pulling in record audiences with coverage of war and terrorism. All the unpleasantness is also proving a boon for the bottom line of the militaristic monthly, Soldier of Fortune. Newsstand sales of SOF soared in the days following the Sept. 11 attacks, while new subscriptions have jumped from three to about 20 a day, reports Andrew Gumbel. "The magazine is more interesting than it might at first appear," writes Gumbel. "It truly cares about events outside the borders of the US, which makes it a rarity. ... Unlike the mainstream media, it has also been unafraid to question US government institutions."

Conservatives to campus critics: quit kvetching -- The Boston Globe
With America's airports, nuclear facilities and government building already being heavily patrolled, Patrick Healy reports that a conservative group founded by Vice President Dick Cheney's wife are turning their efforts to policing a heretofore little-noticed security risk: dissenting opinions on college campuses. The American Council of Trustees and Alumni, which Lynne Cheney helped found, has issued a report slamming 40 college professors, as well as the president of Wesleyan University, for making statements ''short on patriotism and long on self-flagellation'' in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks. ''College and university faculty have been the weak link in America's response to the attack,'' the report states. ''It's a little too reminiscent of McCarthyism,'' says Hugh Gusterson, an associate professor of anthropology at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who the report chides for drawing a connection during a campus rally between American suffering following the terrorist attacks and the suffering of Afghans during decades of conflict.

November 12, 2001

Anti-anthrax lotion -- Fortune
Drug giant Bayer isn't the only company that stands to make a killing by saving the lives of people threatened by anthrax. NanoBio, a tiny Michigan-based biotech company that produces an ointment that reportedly kills almost every kind of bacteria on contact, is finding itself overwhelmed with outside interest, reports Julie Creswell. The federal government is pounding on their doors, but company officials aren't so sure that's a good thing: they're leery about becoming too well-known as the anti-anthrax company, writes Creswell.

War support wanes in Europe -- In These Times
While some US officials are calling for an escalation of the war in Afghanistan, growing numbers of Europeans are losing their appetite for destruction, reports Douglas Ireland. Recent polls show that a majority of people in England and France no longer support the war while 55 percent of the Italian public oppose a ground assault. Why? In part, says Ireland, becasue Europeans get "a daily diet of TV images extensively portraying the civilian casualties of US bombing ... The video of the carnage of children (inevitable in bombing Afghanistan, where nearly half the population is under 15), women and the elderly is seen only fleetingly on US TV screens, thanks to the self-censorship of our networks -- which prefer running endless hours of sanitized footage provided by the Pentagon."

Fewer rangers, more tourists in national parks -- The Associated Press (via The New York Times)
Hundreds of National Park Service rangers have been reassigned to homeland security detail since Sept. 11. At the same time, the parks they used to patrol are being inundated with surging numbers of tourists. "People are going back to the parks to get away from the news," suggests one park official.

Compiled by MotherJones.com staff.

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