| Medicine: AIDS-proof Stephen Crohn commits suicide at 66!

Stephen Crohn, Who Furthered AIDS Study, Dies at 66 ~ The New York Times.

His boyfriend was dying of a disease without a name.

Beginning in 1978, Stephen Crohn cared for Jerry Green, a handsome gymnast, as he lost 30 pounds, went blind and was ravaged by the kinds of infections that rarely harmed otherwise healthy people.

Mr. Green was one of the first people to die of the disease that became known as AIDS. In the ensuing years, scores of Mr. Crohn’s friends died of it. He had taken no special precautions, and he had been as sexually active as his friends.

But he never got sick.

Mr. Crohn’s resistance helped lead to a deeper understanding of H.I.V., the virus that causes AIDS, and treatments, simply by staying alive and working with doctors to help figure out why he was.

“What he contributed to medical knowledge is really quite extraordinary,” said Dr. Bruce D. Walker, the director of the Ragon Institute of Massachusetts General Hospital, M.I.T. and Harvard.

Mr. Crohn died on Aug. 23 in New York City at 66. The cause was suicide, his sister Amy Crohn Santagata said on Friday in confirming the death, which was not announced at the time.

Mr. Crohn’s immune system and its quirks earned him unsought renown. In 1996, the British newspaper The Independent called him “The Man Who Can’t Catch AIDS,” and he told his story in documentary films and newspaper interviews around the world.

Mr. Crohn had first come to the attention of Dr. Bill Paxton, then a scientist at the Aaron Diamond AIDS Research Center in New York. Dr. Paxton had been looking for gay men who seemed resistant to infection. Working with Dr. David Ho, now the chief executive of the Diamond Center, Dr. Paxton exposed Mr. Crohn’s cells, and those of another promising volunteer, to H.I.V.

“I couldn’t infect the CD4 cells,” he said in an interview. “I’d never seen that before.”

The CD4 white blood cells, which H.I.V. normally penetrates to start the process of disease, locked out the virus. Even at H.I.V. concentrations thousands of times greater than would be encountered outside a test tube, nothing happened.

Years later, researchers isolated the cause. H.I.V. gets into cells by fitting into two receptors on CD4 cells. But thanks to a genetic defect, the second receptor on Mr. Crohn’s CD4 cells was flawed. The malfunctioning receptor, CCR5, had no negative effect on his health and kept H.I.V. from getting in. As he put it in a “Nova” documentary on PBS: “It’s like a key — the virus comes with this. It’s looking for a two-holed keyhole. I don’t have one of the holes. Period. It’s never going to attach to me.”

The genetic anomaly, known as the delta 32 mutation, which produces the flawed receptor, is found in less than 1 percent of the population.

Stephen Lyon Crohn was born on Sept. 5, 1946, in Manhattan to Richard Crohn (who also had the gene) and the former Janet Goren. He was raised in Dumont, N.J., and was educated at New York University, City College of New York and the Art Students League of New York. He lived in Saugerties, N.Y.

Besides Ms. Santagata, Mr. Crohn is survived by two other sisters, Carla Crohn Friedman and Judith Bloom, as well as many nieces and nephews.

Mr. Crohn was an artist and worked as a freelance editor for Fodor’s Travel. His paintings,mainly abstract works that evoked landscapes, were exhibited in New York, San Francisco and elsewhere.

“My brother saw all his friends around him dying, and he didn’t die,” Ms. Santagata said. “He went through a tremendous amount of survivor guilt about that and said to himself, ‘There’s got to be a reason.’ ”

“He was quite extraordinary, and then also quite ordinary,” she said.

Mr. Crohn was the great-nephew of Burrill B. Crohn, a leading gastroenterologist who first described the disease that carries his name.

Mr. Crohn felt he was carrying on “his family’s tradition” by helping researchers, said Dr. Paxton, now a professor of infection and immunity at the University of Liverpool Institute of Infection and Global Health.

The research based on Mr. Crohn’s immune system has led to advances in fighting H.I.V. A drug that blocks the CCR5 receptor, maraviroc, is now used to keep infection from spreading in patients who have contracted the virus. And in 2006, an AIDS patient in Berlin was effectively cured of the disease after receiving bone marrow transplants from a matching donor who had the delta 32 mutation.

“This is a classic case of medical science learning from patients,” said Dr. Walker of the Ragon Institute. “Most of the immunology we know comes from studying other animal models,” he said. “We need to study humans who have real diseases.”

He explained, “You take the extreme examples and try to see how those people are different from the average person with the disease.”

So, he said, Dr. Paxton and colleagues asked, “How is Steve different from the average person with H.I.V. infection? And bingo, they found it.”

Dr. Paxton and Mr. Crohn remained friends. “He was the type of guy who walks into the room, and it lights up,” he said. “I was going to call him this weekend.”

Nancy Siesel/The New York Times

Stephen Crohn at his apartment in New York City in 1996.

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| Back from G20, Ban considering proposals to prompt political solution to Syria crisis!

Back from G20, Ban considering proposals to prompt political solution to Syria crisis ~ UN News Centre.

9 September 2013 – United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today said that two-and-half years of conflict in Syria have produced only “embarrassing paralysis” in the Security Council and that he was considering proposals to the 15-member body in the search for a political solution.

In his first press conference since returning to New York from the G20 Summit in St. Petersburg, Mr. Ban said that should a UN weapons team confirm use of chemical agents in the 21 August incident in Syria, it would be an “abominable crime” and the international community “would certainly have to do something about it.”

“The Syrian people need peace,” he declared.

“Should Dr. Sellström’s report confirm the use of chemical weapons, then this would surely be something around which the Security Council could unite in response – and indeed something that should merit universal condemnation,” Mr. Ban told reporters.

The UN chief added that he is already considering “certain proposals that I could make to the Security Council” when presenting the investigation team’s report.

Those include urging the Council to demand the immediate transfer of Syria’s chemical weapons and chemical precursor stocks to places inside Syria where they can be safely stored and destroyed, Mr. Ban said.

He also urged Damascus to become a party to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), which is the implementing body of the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC).

Syria is not a party CWC, but it is a party to the Geneva (Protocol) of 1925 which prohibits the use of chemical and biological weapons, according to the OPCW.

In response to a question about how quickly the UN can act, if Syria agrees to a transfer of its alleged chemical weapons stock under international control, Mr. Ban said he is sure that the international community will take “very swift action” to make safely store and destroy the chemical weapons stocks.

Meanwhile, the biomedical and environmental samples taken by the UN chemical weapons inspection team have been undergoing analysis in Europe since last week.

Mr. Ban has said he would promptly share the results of the analyses with the 15-member Security Council and all 193 Member States.

Addressing journalists, the UN chief again reiterated the need to come together for a so-called Geneva II conference, which would include representatives of Syrian parties as well as senior United States, Russian and UN officials, to find a political path out of the crisis in the country.

A political solution “is the only viable option at this time”, Mr. Ban said, adding that he and Joint UN-Arab League Special Representative Lakhdar Brahimi, who was also in St. Petersburg, have been working very closely with Moscow and Washington to get all parties to the table.

The UN chief noted that Syria dominated the G20 talks “in a way no other political development has ever done.”

In addition to those discussions at the summit and on the sidelines, Mr. Ban said there was progress on growth, jobs, trade and investment.

Mr. Ban said he was “encouraged” by the response to this call for concentrated actions to achieve the eight anti-poverty targets known as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), define a global development agenda beyond 2015, and addressing climate change.

He looks forward to building on the G20 discussions at the high-level General Assembly debate later this month at the UN Headquarters in New York.

 

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon addresses journalists at United Nations Headquarters. UN Photo/Mark Garten

 


News Tracker: past stories on this issue

Urging political solution on Syria crisis, Ban warns of ‘tragic consequences’ of military action

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| Racial profiling: more than a numbers game!

Racial profiling: more than a numbers gameFaiza PatelOxford Human Rights Hub.

Although minority communities have long complained of racial profiling by police, their claims have generally been dismissed until proven by empirical evidence. And so it was with the New York City Police Department’s stop-and-frisk program. As early as 1999, New York state’s attorney general criticised the effort as racially skewed. Stop and frisk was the subject of a class action lawsuit, which was settled in 2003. But it wasn’t until the police were required to report on the number of people stopped and their race that both public opinion and the legal landscape shifted. The result was the recent federal court decision in Floyd v. City of New York, finding that the NYPD’s stop-and frisk program violated two provisions of the U.S. Constitution: the Fourth Amendment prohibition on unreasonable searches and seizures and the Fourteenth Amendment ban on race-based laws and policies.

The stop-and-frisk numbers tell much of the story:

  • Between January 2004 and June 2012, the NYPD conducted more than 4.4 million stops; of those stopped, 88 percent were completely innocent of any offence.
  • More than half the people stopped were black, even though only a quarter of the city’s population is black.
  • Although stop-and-frisk disproportionately targets minorities, weapons were seized in only 1 percent of stops of blacks, 1.1 percent of stops of Hispanics, and 1.4 percent of stops of whites.

In many ways, these statistics were at the centre of the case. The NYPD argued that the data did not reflect any racial disparity because one should not compare the race of those stopped to the general population. The better comparison, according to the police, is between the proportion of minorities stopped and the proportion of minorities who are suspects in reported crimes. If minorities are identified as suspects in 90 percent of the violent crimes in New York City, then one should expect that 90 percent of those stopped on suspicion of crime would be minority. As New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg bluntly put it, the problem is that the NYPD actually ‘stop whites too much and minorities too little.’

Federal Judge Shira Scheindlin rightly rejected this argument, noting that suspect descriptions were irrelevant because the population being stopped was largely innocent of any crime. It also contradicts a core premise of the U.S. Constitution: individualised suspicion is required for police action. As the judge noted, the NYPD’s contention was not so much a defence against racial profiling as it was a defence of racial profiling.

Police also asserted that so many minorities were stopped was because operations were concentrated in high-crime neighbourhoods, which were largely minority. But Prof. Jeffrey Fagan of Columbia University, an expert witness for plaintiffs, made short shrift of this argument. He showed the judge that even when neighbourhood crime rates were taken into account, the police were stopping minorities disproportionately.

But Judge Scheindlin relied on more than just the numbers. She found that on several occasions the police had stopped plaintiffs without the ‘reasonable suspicion’ required under the Fourth Amendment. She also found, based on the testimony of witnesses (including several police officers) that the NYPD intentionally targeted those it considered to be ‘the right people’ – i.e., minorities. And that the police commissioner and the mayor, rather than heeding complaints about biased policing, had not just condoned, but enthusiastically supported, the NYPD’s stop-and-frisk program.

Testimony from those who had been stopped repeatedly clearly moved Judge Scheindlin to recognise the human toll of stop-and-frisk. ‘While it is true that any one stop is a limited intrusion in duration and deprivation of liberty, each stop is also a demeaning and humiliating experience,’ she wrote. Routinely stopping people of colour as they go about their daily lives makes them distrustful of the police. Such suspicion of law enforcement, the judge pointed out, ‘cannot be good for the police, the community, or its leaders.’

Unfortunately, just as it has ignored the voices of minority communities for the last decade, the NYPD’s leadership obstinately refuses to hear the judge. It has already filed a notice of appeal. A better course would be to recognise that maybe, just maybe, there is something wrong with the way the police have conducted stop-and-frisk, and work to reform it. Other cities have achieved safety without ferociously targeting minorities. New York can as well.

Faiza Patel is the Co-Director of the Liberty and National Security Program at the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law.

Related posts:

  1. Floyd v City of New York: Promise and Challenges in Reforming Stop and Frisk
  2. Fisher v University of Texas: What the Judges Asked
  3. A prelude to Fisher v Texas from the US Court of Appeal Sixth Circuit?
  4. Human Rights and Community Justice: A View from Red Hook, Brooklyn

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| RT’s Truthseeker: Obama’s arrest, Bush’s trial! (12:22)

| RT’s Truthseeker: Obama’s arrest, Bush’s trial! (12:22) ~ YouTube.

“We’ll get Bush in the US” the world’s top war crimes prosecutor tells The Truthseeker after Dubya’s deputies warn him against travel, lawyers file for Obama’s arrest tomorrow when he hits South Africa, huge secret wars in America’s name being masked from the folks funding them.

Seek truth from facts with Yousha Tayob of the Muslim Lawyers Association, leading war crimes prosecutor Francis Boyle, Senior Staff Attorney Katherine Gallagher of New York‘s Center for Constitutional Rights which stopped Bush’s first trip after his waterboarding admission, Marjorie Cohn, author of Cowboy Republic: Six Ways the Bush Gang Has Defied the Law, and former NSA intelligence officer Scott Rickard.

Courtesy: RT (Russia Today) is a global news network broadcasting from Moscow and Washington studios.

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| PRISM: NSA surveillance played little role in foiling terror plots, experts say!

NSA surveillance played little role in foiling terror plots, experts say ~

Obama administration says NSA data helped make arrests in two important cases – but critics say that simply isn’t true!

  • New NSA data center in Bluffdale, Utah
    A new NSA data farm is set to open in the fall in Bluffdale, Utah. A former CIA agent said: ‘[Data-mining] played no role in the Headley case.’ Photograph: George Frey/Getty Images

    Lawyers and intelligence experts with direct knowledge of two intercepted terrorist plots that the Obama administration says confirm the value of theNSA’s vast data-mining activities have questioned whether the surveillance sweeps played a significant role, if any, in foiling the attacks.

    The defence of the controversial data collection operations, highlighted in a series of Guardian disclosures over the past week, has been led by Dianne Feinstein, chairwoman of the Senate intelligence committee, and her equivalent in the House, Mike Rogers. The two politicians have attempted to justify the NSA‘s use of vast data sweeps such as Prism and Boundless Informant by pointing to the arrests and convictions of would-be New Yorksubway bomber Najibullah Zazi in 2009 and David Headley, who is serving a 35-year prison sentence for his role in the 2008 Mumbai attacks.

    Rogers told ABC’s This Week that the NSA’s bulk monitoring of phone calls and internet contacts was central to intercepting the plotters. “I can tell you, in the Zazi case in New York, it’s exactly the programme that was used,” he said.

    A similar point was made in anonymous briefings by administration officials to the New York Times and Reuters.

    But court documents lodged in the US and UK, as well as interviews with involved parties, suggest that data-mining through Prism and other NSA programmes played a relatively minor role in the interception of the two plots. Conventional surveillance techniques, in both cases including old-fashioned tip-offs from intelligence services in Britain, appear to have initiated the investigations.

    In the case of Zazi, an Afghan American who planned to attack the New York subway, the breakthrough appears to have come from Operation Pathway, a British investigation into a suspected terrorism cell in the north-west of England in 2009. That investigation discovered that one of the members of the cell had been in contact with an al-Qaida associate in Pakistan via the email address sana_pakhtana@yahoo.com.

    British newspaper reports at the time of Zazi’s arrest said that UK intelligence passed on the email address to the US. The same email address, as Buzzfeed has pointed out, was cited in Zazi’s 2011 trial as a crucial piece of evidence. Zazi, the court heard, wrote to sana_pakhtana@yahoo.com asking in coded language for the precise quantities to use to make up a bomb.

    Eric Jurgenson, an FBI agent involved in investigating Zazi once the link to the Pakistani email address was made, told the court: “My office was in receipt – I was notified, I should say. My office was in receipt of several email messages, email communications. Those email communications, several of them resolved to an individual living in Colorado.”

    Michael Dowling, a Denver-based attorney who acted as Zazi’s defence counsel, said the full picture remained unclear as Zazi pleaded guilty before all details of the investigation were made public. But the lawyer said he was sceptical that mass data sweeps could explain what led law enforcement to Zazi.

    “The government says that it does not monitor content of these communications in its data collection. So I find it hard to believe that this would have uncovered Zazi’s contacts with a known terrorist in Pakistan,” Dowling said.

    Further scepticism has been expressed by David Davis, a former British foreign office minister who described the citing of the Zazi case as an example of the merits of data-mining as “misleading” and “an illusion”. Davis pointed out that Operation Pathway was prematurely aborted in April 2009 after Bob Quick, then the UK’s most senior counter-terrorism police officer, was pictured walking into Downing Street with top secret documents containing details of the operation in full view of cameras.

    The collapse of the operation, and arrests of suspects that hurriedly followed, came five months before Zazi was arrested in September 2009. “That was the operation that led to the initial data links to Zazi – they put the clues in the database which gave them the connections,” Davis said.

    Davis said that the discovery of the sana_pakhtana@yahoo.com email – and in turn the link to Zazi – had been made by traditional investigative work in the UK. He said the clue-driven nature of the inquiry was significant, as it was propelled by detectives operating on the basis of court-issued warrants.

    “You can’t make this grand sweeping [data collection] stuff subject to warrants. What judge would give you a warrant if you say you want to comb through vast quantities of data?”

    Legal documents lodged with a federal court in New York’s eastern district shortly after Zazi’s arrest show that US counter-intelligence officials had been keeping watch over him under targeted surveillance with the warranted approval of the special intelligence court. During the course of the prosecution, the US served notice that it would be offering evidence “obtained and derived from electronic surveillance and physical search conducted pursuant to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 (Fisa).”

    Feinstein and Rogers have also pointed to the case of David Headley, who in January was sentenced to 35 years in jail for having made multiple scouting missions to Mumbai ahead of the 2008 terrorist attacks that killed 168 people. Yet the evidence in his case also points towards a British tip-off as the inspiration behind the US interception of him.

    In July 2009, British intelligence began tracking Headley, a Pakistani American from Chicago, who was then plotting to attack Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten in retaliation for its publication of cartoons of the prophet Mohammed. Information was passed to the FBI and he was thereafter, until his arrest that October, kept under targeted US surveillance.

    An intelligence expert and former CIA operative, who asked to remain anonymous because he had been directly involved in the Headley case, was derisive about the claim that data-mining sweeps by the NSA were key to the investigation. “That’s nonsense. It played no role at all in the Headley case. That’s not the way it happened at all,” he said.

    The intelligence expert said that it was a far more ordinary lead that ensnared Headley. British investigators spotted him when he contacted an informant.

    The Headley case is a peculiar choice for the administration to highlight as an example of the virtues of data-mining. The fact that the Mumbai attacks occurred, with such devastating effect, in itself suggests that the NSA’s secret programmes were limited in their value as he was captured only after the event.

    Headley was also subject to a plethora of more conventionally obtained intelligence that questions the central role claimed for the NSA’s data sweeps behind his arrest. In a long profile of Headley, the investigative website ProPublica pointed out that he had been an informant working for the Drug Enforcement Administration perhaps as recently as 2005. There are suggestions that he might have then worked in some capacity for the FBI or CIA.

    Headley was also, ProPublica found, the subject of several inquiries by agents of the FBI-led Joint Terrorism Task Force. A year before the Mumbai attacks his then wife, Faiza Outalha, reported on him to the US embassy Islamabad, saying he was on a secret mission in India and was a “drug dealer, terrorist and spy”.

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| Gang stole $45m from cash machines across globe in hours, say prosecutors!

Gang stole $45m from cash machines across globe in hours, say prosecutors ~ Associated Press in New Yorkguardian.co.uk.

Virtual criminal flash mob’ used bogus swipe cards loaded with data from hacked bank databases to commit thousands of thefts.

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Seven people are being held in connection with a case US prosecutors describe as a ‘massive 21st-century bank heist’. Photograph: Gene J Puskar/AP

A gang of criminals stole $45m (£29m) in a matter of hours by hacking their way into a database of prepaid debit cards and then draining cash machines around the globe, US prosecutors have said.

Seven people were being held on Thursday in connection with the case, which prosecutors said involved thousands of thefts from machines using bogus magnetic swipe cards carrying information from Middle Eastern banks. The fraudsters moved quickly, working in cells to loot financial institutions around the world.

US attorney Loretta Lynch called it “a massive 21st-century bank heist”.

One of the suspects was caught on surveillance cameras, his backpack loaded down with cash, authorities said. Others took photographs of themselves with giant wads of notes as they made their way up and down Manhattan.

Here’s how it worked:

Hackers got into bank databases, eliminated withdrawal limits on prepaid debit cards and created access codes. Others loaded that data on to any plastic card with a magnetic stripe – old hotel key card or expired credit card worked fine as long as they carried the account data and correct access codes.

A network of operatives then fanned out to rapidly withdraw money in multiple cities, authorities said. The cells would take a cut of the money, then launder it through expensive purchases or ship it wholesale to the global ringleaders.

It appears no individuals lost money. The thieves plundered funds held by the banks that back up prepaid credit cards, not individual or business accounts, Lynch said.

She called it a “virtual criminal flash mob”, and a security analyst said it was the biggest cash machine fraud case she had heard of.

There were two separate attacks, one in December that reaped $5m (£3.2m) worldwide and another in February that brought in about $40m in 10 hours in about 36,000 transactions. The scheme involved attacks on two banks, Rakbank in the United Arab Emirates and the Bank of Muscat in Oman, prosecutors said.

The plundered machines were in Japan, Russia, Romania, Egypt, Colombia, Britain, Sri Lanka, Canada and several other countries. Law enforcement agencies from more than a dozen countries were involved in the investigation.

The accused ringleader in the US cell, Alberto Yusi Lajud-Pena, was reportedly killed in the Dominican Republic late last month, prosecutors said.

An indictment accused him and the other seven New York suspects of withdrawing $2.8m in cash from hacked accounts in less than a day.

Such cash machine fraud schemes are not uncommon.

Some of the fault lies with the ubiquitous magnetic strips on the back of the cards. Much of the world has abandoned them in favour of chip and pin cards. But because US banks and merchants have stuck to cards with magnetic strips, they are still accepted around the world.

Lynch would not say who masterminded the attacks globally, who the hackers are or where they were located, citing an ongoing investigation.

Lajud-Pena was found dead with a suitcase full of about $100,000 in cash. Dominican officials said they arrested a man in the killing who said it was a botched robbery.

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| Now US claims agents tracked bin Laden son-in-law for years before arrest!

U.S. agents tracked bin Laden son-in-law for years before arrest ~ Mark Hosenball, WASHINGTON, Reuters.

(Reuters) – U.S. investigators tracked Suleiman Abu Ghaith, a son-in-law of Osama bin Laden, for about 10 years before he was detained in Jordan and brought by the FBI to New York City in the past few days, U.S. officials familiar with the investigation said.

An FBI agent and a New York police detective together spent more than a decade investigating Abu Ghaith, not only for his role as a spokesman for al Qaeda after the September 11, 2001, attacks on New York and Washington but for activities they believed he was involved in before 2001, said one official.

On Friday, Abu Ghaith pleaded not guilty in Manhattan federal court to conspiring to kill Americans, becoming one of the highest-ranking al Qaeda figures to face trial in the United States for crimes connected to the September 11 attacks.

He was captured on February 28 and brought secretly to the United States on March 1, prosecutors said in court. Law enforcement sources say he was detained in Jordan by local authorities and the FBI after was believed to have been expelled from Turkey.

But it was in Iran where Abu Ghaith is believed to have spent most of the past decade, having taken refuge there following September 11, 2001, with a group of other associates of bin Laden, the al Qaeda leader killed by U.S. forces in Pakistan in 2011.

Current and former U.S. officials said that group, known to U.S. investigators as the al Qaeda “Management Council,” was kept more or less under control by the Iranian government, which viewed it with suspicion. Along with Abu Ghaith, members of the group included Saif al Adel, one of al Qaeda’s top military commanders, and Saad bin Laden, one of bin Laden’s sons.

A former U.S. official said that in late 2002 and early 2003, CIA officers held secret discussions in Europe with Iranian officials regarding the possible expulsion to Saudi Arabia or another country of Abu Ghaith and fellow al Qaeda operatives in Iran.

At the time, the United States had information indicating the al Qaeda figures in Iran might be in contact with militants in Saudi Arabia who posed potential threats to Saudi interests.

But the secret discussions fell apart when Iran suggested that, in return for its expulsion of the al Qaeda operatives, the United States should crack down on the Mujaheddin-e-Khalq, an Iranian exile group that until recently was the target of U.S. and European sanctions for its alleged involvement in violence, the former official said.

‘TRYING TO EVADE CAPTURE’

It is not clear when Abu Ghaith left Iran, although it is believed to have been recently. Nor is it clear how U.S. authorities tracked him. But officials said they believed he recently spent more energy trying to evade capture than engaging in threatening activities.

Last December, an American official said, a U.S. judge issued a warrant for Abu Ghaith’s arrest for conspiring to kill Americans. Interpol, the international police agency, then issued a “Red Notice” for Abu Ghaith, the equivalent of an international arrest warrant, the official said.

Hurriyet, a Turkish newspaper, said the United States asked Turkey to extradite Abu Ghaith after he was detained in Ankara in early February. The newspaper, whose account was not confirmed by U.S. officials, said he was held for 33 days after being arrested by the Turks at a luxury hotel, but later released after a Turkish court ruled he had not committed a crime in Turkey.

The newspaper said Turkish authorities had considered deporting him to Iran, but that the Iranians would not accept him. Turkey then decided to send him to Kuwait via Jordan, according to Hurriyet.

U.S. law enforcement sources said that when he reached Jordan, Jordanian and FBI officers detained him and arranged for his transport to New York City.

U.S. officials said the decision to bring Abu Ghaith to New York for trial in federal court was made at the highest levels of the administration of President Barack Obama.

Officials said it was unclear whether Abu Ghaith had much information about current al Qaeda activities or plots.

The officials noted that the indictment that federal prosecutors in Manhattan filed against Abu Ghaith alleged only that he “served al Qaeda” from around May 2001 “up to and including in or about 2002.”

(Additional reporting by Matt Spetalnick in Washington; Editing by Mary Milliken and Peter Cooney)

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| Bin Laden’s son-in-law captured + brought to New York from Jordan!

Bin Laden’s Son-in-Law in Custody in New York ~

DEVLIN BARRETT And TAMER EL-GHOBASHY, Wall street journal.

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Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, identified by counterterrorism officials as a spokesman for the terror group once led by his father-in-law, was recently deported from Turkey to Jordan, where U.S. agents captured him, one person familiar with the case said.

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WASHINGTON—A son-in-law of Osama bin Laden and longtime suspected member of al Qaeda has been captured and brought to New York City by U.S. counterterrorism operatives, according to multiple people familiar with the matter.

Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, identified by counterterrorism officials as a spokesman for the terror group once led by his father-in-law, was recently deported from Turkey to Jordan, where U.S. agents captured him, one person familiar with the case said.

On Thursday, officials said the suspect was in federal custody in New York City and would likely make a court appearance later this week. It wasn’t yet clear what specific charges he faces, but U.S. officials consider him a longtime member of the core al Qaeda terrorist group.

The suspect was flown to New York by the Federal Bureau of Investigation last week, and he has been talking to interrogators since then, according to the people familiar with the case.

After the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks, Mr. Abu Ghaith appeared in al Qaeda videos condemning the U.S. air strikes on Afghanistan, saying al Qaeda would retaliate against the U.S. and Britain. After those videos appeared, Kuwait stripped him of citizenship.

Rep. Peter King (R., N.Y.) said the capture “shows again that core al Qaeda is being devastated. It goes right to the heart of al Qaeda, because it’s bin Laden’s son in law. That’s a psychological victory for us and a psychological defeat for al Qaeda.”

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| After Islamophobic hate crime in New York City, mayor wants public to ‘keep death in perspective!’

After Islamophobic hate crime in New York City, mayor wants public to ‘keep death in perspective’ ~ Annie Robbins and Alex Kane, Mondoweiss.

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Mayor Michael Bloomberg on Friday urged residents to keep Sen’s death in perspective as he touted new historic lows in the city’s annual homicide and shooting totals.

“It’s a very tragic case, but what we want to focus on today is the overall safety in New York,” Bloomberg told reporters following a police academy graduation.

What kind of perspective is Bloomberg referencing? If someone said “I shoved a Jew in front of a train because I hate Jews,” would Bloomberg be touting drops in the city’s annual homicide and shooting totals? Quite an insensitive comment, at the very least.

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A horrific crime if we’ve ever seen one–and a reminder that Islamophobia affects many communities outside Muslim ones.

From the AP:

A woman who told police she shoved a man to his death off a subway platform into the path of a train because she hates Muslims and thought he was one was charged Saturday with murder as a hate crime, prosecutors said.

…..

“I pushed a Muslim off the train tracks because I hate Hindus and Muslims ever since 2001 when they put down the twin towers I’ve been beating them up,” Menendez told police, according to the district attorney’s office.

……

Mayor Michael Bloomberg on Friday urged residents to keep Sen’s death in perspective as he touted new historic lows in the city’s annual homicide and shooting totals.

“It’s a very tragic case, but what we want to focus on today is the overall safety in New York,” Bloomberg told reporters following a police academy graduation.

What kind of perspective is Bloomberg referencing? If someone said “I shoved a Jew in front of a train because I hate Jews,” would Bloomberg be touting drops in the city’s annual homicide and shooting totals? Quite an insensitive comment, at the very least.

After this news broke, Twitter was aflutter with people pointing to Pamela Geller as one culprit pushing anti-Muslim sentiment in the city. Geller’s organization, the American Freedom Defense Initiative, recently put up a new crop of ads that features the World Trade Center burning with a Qu’ran verse printed to the right of the towers. 

Geller’s role in promoting anti-Muslim sentiment of the sort that leads to Islamophobic hate crimes should not be in dispute. But what should also be highlighted is how New York City’s own police force has promoted anti-Muslim bigotry time and time again, from surveillance of Muslims that places the whole community under suspicion to training officers with an Islamophobic flick. 

Friend of Mondoweiss Lizzy Ratner made this point in her excellent piece on Geller in The Nation:

Though Geller and her crew are fringe elements, they are not random or spontaneous, idiopathic lesions on the healthier whole. They are, quite sadly, part of this country, outcroppings of something big and ugly that has been seeping and creeping through the body politic for years. In the decade since September 11, anti-Arab and anti-Muslim bigotry has become an entrenched feature of our political and social landscape. It lurks in the hidden corners of everyday life—in classrooms and offices and housing complexes—as well as in the ugly scenes that occasionally explode into public consciousness. In the special registration of Middle Eastern men after 9/11. In the vicious campaign against Debbie Almontaser, the American Muslim school teacher who tried to open the Arabic-language Khalil Gibran International Academy (KGIA) and was tarred as an extremist. In the attack on the Park51 Islamic center, more commonly (if less accurately) known as the Ground Zero mosque. In the New York Police Department’s selective surveillance of Muslim communities. And that’s just New York City. All of these instances should have called on our horror and outrage, and in all too many of them, society hasn’t lived up.

This crime appears to be the latest manifestation of New York City’s Islamophobia. This time, it cost a life.

Annie Robbins is Editor at Large for Mondoweiss, a mother, a human rights activist and a ceramic artist. She lives in the SF bay area.

Sen The Passport photo of 46-year-old Sunando Sen, pushed to his death because a woman thought he was Muslim (Photo: Christie M. Farriella for New York Daily News)

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| POLICE: NY GUNMAN SET ‘TRAP’ FOR FIREFIGHTERS!

POLICE: NY GUNMAN SET ‘TRAP’ FOR FIREFIGHTERS ~  JOHN KEKIS, AP.

 

WEBSTER, N.Y. (AP) — An ex-con gunned down two firefighters after luring them to his neighborhood by setting a car and a house ablaze early Monday, then took shots at police and committed suicide while several homes burned.

Authorities used an armored vehicle to help residents flee dozens of homes on the shore of Lake Ontario a day before Christmas. Police restricted access to the neighborhood, and officials said it was unclear whether there were other bodies in the seven houses left to burn.

The gunman’s sister, who lived with him, was unaccounted for. The gunman’s motive was unknown.

William Spengler fired at the four firefighters when they arrived shortly after 5:30 a.m. at the blaze in Webster, a suburb of Rochester, town police Chief Gerald Pickering said. The first police officer who arrived chased the gunman and exchanged shots.

Spengler lay in wait outdoors for the firefighters’ arrival, then opened fire probably with a rifle and from atop an earthen berm, Pickering said.

“It does appear it was a trap,” he said.

Spengler had served more than 17 years in prison for beating his 92-year-old paternal grandmother to death with a hammer in 1980 at the house next to where Monday’s attack happened, Pickering said. Spengler, 62, was paroled in 1998 and had led a quiet life since, authorities said. Convicted felons are not allowed to possess weapons.

Two firefighters, one of whom also was a town police lieutenant, died at the scene, and two others were hospitalized. An off-duty officer who was passing by also was injured.

Another police officer, the one who exchanged gunfire with Spengler, “in all likelihood saved many lives,” Pickering said.

Emergency radio communications capture someone saying he “could see the muzzle flash coming at me” as Spengler carried out his ambush. The audio posted on the website RadioReference.com has someone reporting “firefighters are down” and saying “got to be rifle or shotgun — high powered … semi or fully auto.”

Spengler lived in the house with his sister, Cheryl Spengler, and his mother, Arline Spengler, who died in October. He had originally been charged with murder in connection with grandmother Rose Spengler’s death but pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of manslaughter.

A friend said William Spengler didn’t seem violent but hated his sister. Roger Vercruysse lived next door to Spengler and recalled a man who doted on his mother, whose obituary suggested contributions to the West Webster Fire Department.

“He loved his mama to death,” said Vercruysse, who last saw his friend about six months ago. “I think after his mama passed, he went crazy.”

Vercruysse also said Spengler “couldn’t stand his sister” and “stayed on one side of the house and she stayed on the other.”

The West Webster Fire District learned of the fire early Monday after a report of a car and house on fire on Lake Road, on a narrow peninsula where Irondequoit Bay meets Lake Ontario, Monroe County Sheriff Patrick O’Flynn said.

The fire appeared from a distance as a pulsating ball of flame glowing against the early morning sky, flames licking into treetops and reflecting on the water, with huge bursts of smoke billowing away in a brisk wind.

Two of the firefighters arrived on a fire engine and two in their own vehicles, Pickering said. After Spengler fired, one of the wounded men fled, but the other three couldn’t because of flying gunfire.

A police armored vehicle was used to recover two men, and eventually it removed 33 people from nearby homes, the police chief said. The gunfire initially kept firefighters from battling the blazes.

The dead men were identified as police Lt. Michael Chiapperini, 43, the Webster Police Department’s public information officer; and 19-year-old Tomasz Kaczowka, also a 911 dispatcher.

Pickering described Chiapperini as a “lifetime firefighter” with nearly 20 years in the department, and he called Kaczowka a “tremendous young man.”

Kaczowka’s brother, reached at the family home Monday night, said he didn’t want to talk.

The two wounded firefighters, Joseph Hofstetter and Theodore Scardino, were in guarded condition in the intensive care unit at Strong Memorial Hospital, authorities said. Both were awake and alert and are expected to recover.

Hofstetter, also a full-timer with the Rochester Fire Department, was hit once in the pelvis, and the bullet lodged in his spine, authorities said. Scardino was hit in the chest and knee.

At West Webster Fire Station 1, there were at least 20 bouquets on a bench in front and a bouquet of roses with three gold-and-white ribbons saying, “May they rest in peace,” ”In the line of duty” and “In memory of our fallen brothers.”

A handwritten sign says, “Thanks for protecting us, RIP.” Two candles were lit to honor the dead.

Grieving firefighters declined to talk to reporters. At an impromptu memorial vigil Monday evening, about 100 people stood in the cold night air, some holding candles. A fire department spokesman made a brief appearance, thanked them all and told them to go home and appreciate their families.

Cathy Bartlett was there with her teenage son, who was good friends with Kaczowka. Bartlett’s husband, Mark Bartlett, has been a firefighter there for 25 years but missed the call this morning.

“Thank God my husband slept through the first alarm and didn’t get up until the second one went off,” she said.

The shooting and fires were in a neighborhood of seasonal and year-round homes set close together across the road from the lakeshore. The area is popular with recreational boaters but is normally quiet this time of year.

“We have very few calls for service in that location,” Pickering said. “Webster is a tremendous community. We are a safe community, and to have a tragedy befall us like this is just horrendous.”

O’Flynn lamented the violence, which comes on the heels of other shootings including the massacre of 20 students and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.

“It’s sad to see that this is becoming more commonplace in communities across the nation,” O’Flynn said.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the State Police and Office of Emergency Management were working with local authorities.

“Volunteer firefighters and police officers were injured and two were taken from us as they once again answered the call of duty,” Cuomo said in a statement. “We as the community of New York mourn their loss as now two more families must spend the holidays without their loved ones.”

Webster, a middle-class suburb, now is the scene of violence linked to house fires for two Decembers in a row.

Last Dec. 7, authorities say, a 15-year-old boy doused his home with gasoline and set it ablaze, killing his father and two brothers, 16 and 12. His mother and 13-year-old sister escaped with injuries. He is being prosecuted as an adult.

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Associated Press writers Chris Carola, George Walsh and Mary Esch in Albany contributed to this report.

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