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Insider Report: Panama Warns al-Qaida Near Canal

Monday, 21 March 2005 12:00 AM

Headlines (Scroll down for complete stories):

1. Panama's Security Chief: al-Qaida Is Here
2. Italy Massively Taps Its Citizens' Phones
3. Mercury Pollution and Autism Linked
4. Zogby: Iraqis Want U.S. to Leave
5. Former GOP Boss Zings Jeb and George

1. Panama's Security Chief: al-Qaida Is Here

Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf reports that the al-Qaida terrorist group is active in Panama and may be making the Central American country a base of operations.

Panamanian security chief Javier Martinez, speaking at a U.S.-organized seminar in his country earlier this month, said al-Qaida also is planning an attack on the Panama Canal.

The paper did not cite additional specifics.

The news of al-Qaida's Panama connection is not new to Insider Report subscribers.

In January, NewsMax's Insider Report, quoting a source close to U.S. intelligence, reported that al-Qaida operatives have set up shop in Panama City.

U.S. intelligence believes the terror group is using Panama as either a base or a transit point and may be making use of Panama's banks.

We also noted that there remain other U.S. security concerns in Panama. Panama's recently installed president, Martin Torijos, is seeking closer ties to Cuba's Fidel Castro, who is no friend of the U.S.

And a Chinese company still runs the canal that America built.



2. Italy Massively Taps Its Citizens' Phones

Italians are known for speaking their minds, pouring out their hearts and just generally speaking loudly, in public. So it would seem hard to keep a secret there.

But even Italians, who are used to airing their lives in public, believe authorities may be going a bit too far in tapping mobile phone conversations.

The largest operator, Telecom Italia Mobile, or TIM, has informed government officials that it can't keep up with requests for more taps. Currently, the company's 5,000 duplicate lines, which are used for eavesdropping, are being used.

Based on the number of TIM cell phone subscribers, that means about 15,000 are being bugged at any given time.

Authorities say they have to rely on taps and recorded evidence because witnesses are so fearful of testifying in cases where Mafia justice reigns.



3. Mercury Pollution and Autism Linked

NewsMax has reported of the link between vaccinations and autism, including a special report it published by Dr. Russell Blaylock.

Blaylock claims that many vaccines include toxic mercury.

More evidence of a mercury-autism connection: University of Texas researcher Claudia Miller says data indicate that mercury released mostly from coal-fired power plants may be boosting the cases of autism.

Reuters reports that Miller's study found the incident of autism -- a complex developmental disability that affects an individual in the areas of social interaction and communication -- has risen dramatically in Texas counties where mercury emissions also rose.

Hundreds of coal-fired plants release about 48 tons of mercury into the air each year in the U.S.

"The main finding is that for every thousand pounds of environmentally released mercury, we saw a 17 percent increase in autism rates," said Miller. "The study shows that there may be a very important connection between environmental exposure to mercury and the development of autism."

"Now we think that due to the rising exposures to pollutants like mercury, they may be at the root of some of these cases," she said.

4. Zogby: Iraqis Want U.S. to Leave

U.S. officials were delighted at the turnout of voters for Iraq's first free elections in more than a generation.

But according to an analysis of the demographics of voters by pollster John Zogby, the results should be carefully examined by Bush administration officials trying to bring order to the disorderly nation.

While Zogby estimates voter turnout to be between 43 percent and 60 percent -- a respectable figure, given the threats of violence by insurgents -- a large portion of Iraqis were not included.

"The turnout was sectarian," Zogby said in his analysis. "Shi'a voting for control of the government; Kurds voting as an expression of their freedom; Sunni Arab failure to vote as a function not only of threats, but a clear expression of their growing sense of disenfranchisement."

Simply taking the overall numbers as marking the election a success is "invalid and dangerous," Zogby warned.

That's because key pieces of data could point to future trouble.

First, most Sunni Arabs believe the insurgent-led violence in Iraq is legitimate.

Second, a substantial majority of both Sunni and Shi'a Arabs want the U.S. to leave, now that elections have been held.

5. Former GOP Boss Zings Jeb and George

Former Florida Republican State Chairman Tom Slade's claim to fame is that he was the key architect of making Florida a solid Republican state.

He also played a major role in getting Jeb Bush elected governor.

Now, however, the former state party chairman may be sorry he was so good at his job.

In a January interview with University of South Florida political scientist Darryl Paulson for an upcoming book on the state's Republican Party, Slade said Gov. Bush lacks "the maturity … and wisdom" to be president.

Worse, he says, the governor's rule in Florida is "dictatorial" in nature and that he isn't prone to taking advice -- problems that could hinder the Republican Party in general down the road.

Finally, he describes the Bush brothers as "arrogant as hell."

But wait. The Tampa Tribune learned of the Paulson interview, and when it contacted Slade to inform him that his comments would be part of a story published by the newspaper, he changed his tune somewhat.

He told the Trib his comments about Bush's maturity "referred not to his present opinion of Bush, but to the opinion he held earlier in Bush's political career, after his loss in the 1994 governor's race," the paper reported.

Nowadays, Slade said, he's of a different opinion.

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Headlines (Scroll down for complete stories): 1. Panama's Security Chief: al-Qaida Is Here 2. Italy Massively Taps Its Citizens' Phones 3. Mercury Pollution and Autism Linked 4. Zogby: Iraqis Want U.S. to Leave 5. Former GOP Boss Zings Jeb and George 1. Panama's...
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Monday, 21 March 2005 12:00 AM
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