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Witnesses recall 9/11 hijacker data

By wire services
Published September 2, 2005

WASHINGTON - Pentagon officials said Thursday they have found three more people who recall an intelligence chart that identified Sept. 11 mastermind Mohamed Atta as a terrorist one year before the attacks on New York and Washington. But they have been unable to find the chart or other evidence that it existed.

Last month, two military officers, Army Lt. Col. Anthony Shaffer and Navy Capt. Scott Philpott, went public with claims that a secret unit code-named Able Danger used data mining - searching large amounts of data for patterns - to identify Atta in 2000. Shaffer has said three other Sept. 11 hijackers also were identified.

In recent days Pentagon officials have said they could not yet verify or disprove the assertions by Shaffer and Philpott. On Thursday, intelligence officials provided the first extensive briefing for reporters on the outcome of their interviews with people associated with Able Danger and their review of documents.

They said they interviewed at least 80 people over a three-week period and found three, besides Philpott and Shaffer, who said they remember seeing a chart that either mentioned Atta by name as an al-Qaida operative or showed his photograph. Four of the five recalled a chart with a pre-9/11 photo of Atta; the other person recalled only a reference to his name.

W.Va. senator to seek record ninth term

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Sen. Robert C. Byrd, D-West Virginia, already the oldest member of Congress at 87, is expected to announce next week that he will run for a ninth Senate term.

"He has every intention to seek re-election," Byrd spokesman Tom Gavin confirmed Thursday. "But I'm going to let the senator make his own announcement."

In an e-mail to supporters of the Democrat's re-election, the chairman of Friends of Robert C. Byrd, Ned Rose, said Byrd will make his announcement next week.

At least three Republicans have announced plans to seek the nomination for Byrd's seat.

Theory: Mad cow disease came from humans

A new theory proposes that mad cow disease may have come from feeding British cattle meal contaminated with human remains infected with a variation of the disease.

The hypothesis, outlined this week in the Lancet medical journal, suggests the infected cattle feed came from the Indian subcontinent, where bodies sometimes are ceremonially thrown into the Ganges River.

Indian experts not connected with the research pointed out weaknesses in the theory but agreed it should be investigated.

The cause of the original case or cases of mad cow disease, or bovine spongiform encephalopathy, is unknown, but it belongs to a class of illnesses called transmissible spongiform encephalopathies, or TSEs.

FBI to stop using disputed bullet test

WASHINGTON - The FBI decided Thursday to stop tests that match bullets by lead content, a practice criticized as producing a high rate of false matches between crime scene bullets and bullets taken from suspects.

The bureau said it was informing 300 state, local and foreign law enforcement agencies that had received positive match reports from the FBI Laboratory since 1966. The FBI said it had not determined those results were wrong but informed them so they could take whatever action they deem appropriate.

Criminal defense attorneys have contended that re-evaluation of these tests could affect some convictions on appeal.

Rover takes in view from summit of Martian hill

LOS ANGELES - From a lofty perch atop a Martian hill, NASA's Spirit rover has been taking in a commanding view of a vast horizon since completing a difficult climb to the summit late last month.

On Thursday, scientists released the first full-color panoramic picture of the landscape taken by the rover from its lookout point, showing the rover's tracks in the dust, flat plains of the surrounding Gusev Crater region.

The solar-powered Spirit's yearlong ascent to the peak of Husband Hill - part of the low-ranging Columbia Hills - was a major feat for the six-wheel rover, which along with its twin, Opportunity, landed on opposite sides of Mars in January 2004.

The rover reached the 270-foot-high summit - about the height of the Statue of Liberty - on Aug. 21.

Panel recommends higher Medicaid co-payments

WASHINGTON - A federal commission hunting for ways to slow increases in Medicaid's price tag on Thursday recommended letting states increase co-payments on some expensive drugs as well as several accounting changes in the program.

In most cases, beneficiaries of the nation's health care program for the poor face a maximum $3 co-payment on drugs and other services. But the commission suggested states be allowed to increase this fee on some drugs when a cheaper option is available.

This will encourage patients to choose the less expensive drug, ultimately saving Medicaid an estimated $2-billion over five years, the commission's report said.

[Last modified September 2, 2005, 02:15:35]

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