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America responds notebook

Compiled from Times wires

© St. Petersburg Times,
published October 5, 2001

Lethal fever spreading along Pakistan border

QUETTA, Pakistan -- Cases of a deadly hemorrhagic fever are growing along the border with Afghanistan and could spread more rapidly if war forces more Afghans to flee their homeland.

The latest victim, Lal Mohammed, a 40-year-old truck driver, died Thursday, hours after reaching the hospital. Eleven people have died in the past four months of the disease, known as Crimea-Congo hemorrhagic fever, according to doctors, and 63 have been hospitalized with the virus.

"We are very much scared," said Dr. Akhlaq Hussain, director of Fatima Jinnah Hospital, which has set up a makeshift isolation ward. "We don't know how bad it is in Afghanistan or what refugees will bring here."

The disease -- which is found in Africa, Asia, the Middle East and Eastern Europe, and has nothing to do with bioterrorism -- has taken 34 lives in the border area from Kandahar, Afghanistan, to Quetta over the past 18 months, Hussain said.

Medical researchers say the death rate from the disease is about 30 percent when care is available, making it less deadly than the better-known Ebola virus, another hemorrhagic fever. In 1998, however, an outbreak of Crimea-Congo in Afghanistan killed 12 of the 19 people infected.

Pacifists planning events around nation Sunday

Peace groups around the nation are preparing vigils and rallies on Sunday to demand legal and diplomatic alternatives to war.

The American Friends Service Committee, Pax Christi USA, the War Resisters League and others have asked their members to participate in the gatherings, including a march and rally in New York.

Marches and vigils have already been held in Washington, Philadelphia and western Massachusetts. Sunday events are also planned in Chicago, Philadelphia and southeast Florida, among other places.

Members of Pax Christi, the national Catholic peace movement, plan to participate in at least 13 antiwar events on Sunday, Dave Robinson, the group's national director, said. One will be in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Palm Beach, where Pax Christi members plan to gather in a church to pray the rosary for peace.

Gore backs Bush position on fighting terrorism

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. -- In his second public address since the electoral deadlock in Florida last year, Al Gore stuck to the unity pledge he made last week, affirming President Bush's leadership and refraining from any partisan rhetoric.

At Harvard University, he echoed the Bush administration's position about fighting terrorism. When asked whether he thought the United States should seek to try the terrorists in court instead of killing them, Gore said: "That's not the first priority that comes to my mind right now. . . . There's no doubt they learned from leaks and information from the last trial. We as a nation have the responsibility to protect our people.

"These people don't have any demands. They don't have an agenda. They are nihilistic. They are trying to kill as many Americans as possible."

When one student asked whether he supports the recent spate of antiwar rallies on college campuses, he said: "I don't know what the point of the rallies are. We have a bunch of people out there trying to kill us, and I don't think there's any reason for us to try to stop them from killing us. Hello?" The crowd applauded.

House panel wants oil reserve filled

WASHINGTON -- Amid concerns about energy security, lawmakers sent a signal to the administration Thursday that they would like to see more oil pumped into the government's Strategic Petroleum Reserve.

The administration reacted with little enthusiasm to the idea. There is some concern that if the government began buying large amounts of oil it would drive up prices, putting further pressure on the economy.

Still, a House subcommittee with little debate and no opposition approved a resolution formally urging that the emergency stockpile be expanded to its full capacity of 1-billion barrels.

Recovery workers honor 'cross' at ground zero

NEW YORK -- A cast iron "cross" found in the rubble of the World Trade Center has been adopted by recovery workers as a symbol of faith and blessed with holy water by a Franciscan priest.

The 20-foot-tall cross, consisting of two metal beams, fell intact from one of the twin towers into a nearby building.

Laborer Frank Silecchia, 47, found the cross standing almost upright two days after the towers toppled Sept. 11.

On Wednesday, workers hoisted the cross atop a 40-foot-high foundation, formerly a pedestrian walkway. Construction workers, firefighters and police officers stood quietly by as the Rev. Brian Jordan blessed it with holy water.

Odds and ends ...

ATTACK COSTS: The World Trade Center disaster will cost New York's economy as much as $105-billion over the next two years, city officials said Thursday as they warned of budget woes even with a big federal bailout.

SENATOR'S SONG: Sen. Orrin Hatch is preparing to release a new song he wrote dedicated to victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Production of the Utah Republican's glossy, soft-rock tribute, America, United, is complete and the CD single is scheduled to be released in two weeks.

OFFICER FIRED: A suburban Atlanta police officer lost his job after sending an e-mail advocating the killing of millions of Arabs and suggesting the United States "eliminate the entire Arab world" if terrorism continues. Ray Sanford, a police crime analyst in Griffin, made the comments just days after the Sept. 11 attacks on an e-mail discussion list he had created for law enforcement officers.

MILITARY MORTGAGES: The Mortgage Bankers Association of America is asking military reservists and National Guard members who have been called to active duty to inform their home mortgage lender and discuss their eligibility for lower rates under a new government policy.

On Sept. 24, the government announced interest rate reductions for all members of the Reserves and National Guard who are called to active duty and who have home mortgages with Federal Housing Authority-approved lenders.

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