Amsterdam flight not a test run for terror attack, FBI says

The FBI probe of two men arrested in Amsterdam after suspicious items turned up in one of the men’s luggage is finding they were probably not on a test run for a future terror attack, a U.S. official said Tuesday, casting doubt on earlier suggestions even as Dutch authorities held the pair on suspicion of conspiring to commit a terrorist act.

The U.S. does not expect to charge the men, a law enforcement official said. The two men arrested in Amsterdam – both traveling to Yemen – did not know each other and were not traveling together, a U.S. government official said.


Removal of ovaries lowers cancer threat, research says

Surgery to remove healthy ovaries gives a triple benefit to high-risk women: It lowers their threat of breast and ovarian cancer, and boosts their chances of living longer, new research suggests.

The study is the largest to date to find advantages for preventive surgery for women who carry BRCA gene mutations. Women with the faulty genes have a dramatically higher cancer risk than other women – five times greater for breast cancer and at least 10 times greater for ovarian cancer.


McCain’s daughter talks about Palin in new book

John McCain’s daughter says in a new book released Tuesday that Sarah Palin brought drama, stress and uncertainty to her father’s failed bid for the presidency in 2008, but she doesn’t blame the vice presidential nominee for losing the race.

In “Dirty Sexy Politics,” Meghan McCain portrays conflicted feelings about her father’s surprise choice for a running mate. She reveals that she called Palin “the Time Bomb.”

“I was waiting for her to explode,” McCain wrote.

“There was a fine line between genius and insanity, they say, and choosing her as the running mate was starting to seem like the definition of that line.”

But McCain also praises the Palins as “nice and down-to-Earth” and says she was impressed with Palin’s ability to captivate and inspire women.

In the end, she writes, her father lost because “Obama was unbeatable” – the electorate and the news media were too enamored with a fresh new face who represented a monumental change from then-President George W. Bush.


Man resentenced, terror enhancement applied

A former Osama bin Laden aide who stabbed a federal prison guard in the eye was sentenced Tuesday to life in prison after telling the court he’s not a terrorist and hearing his victim tell him he will go to hell.

U.S. District Judge Deborah Batts said Mamdouh Mahmud Salim, 52, deserved a life sentence for his “unusually cruel, brutal” attack in 2000 on guard Louis Pepe at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in lower Manhattan. She ordered Salim to pay $4.72 million in restitution to cover the medical expenses for Pepe’s continuing rehabilitation.

The stabbing left Pepe brain-damaged and blind in one eye. The sentence caused Pepe’s sister, Eileen Trotta, to thrust her fists in the air enthusiastically and to pat Pepe on the back.

More than a half-dozen guards who watched the proceeding congratulated a smiling Pepe afterward as he rolled his wheelchair out of court.

Pepe, asked how he felt, said, “Pretty good.”

The sentence for Salim was actually a resentencing, since a federal appeals court said in December 2008 that the judge should have imposed a terrorism enhancement to the guilty pleas he entered to crimes of conspiracy to murder a federal official and attempted murder of a federal official. The judge originally sentenced Salim in 2004 to 32 years in prison.

Salim, who before the Sept. 11 attacks was believed to be the highest-ranking al-Qaida member held in the United States, was not in court but appeared by video on courtroom monitors.


Fighting in Mogadishu continues, at least 70 dead

Eight days of deadly clashes between government forces and al-Qaida-linked insurgents have forced dozens of people to seek surgical care and left Somalia’s capital in a critical state, the international Red Cross said Tuesday.

The fighting in Mogadishu started Aug. 23 and has already killed more than 70 civilians, while wounding hundreds more.

Islamist insurgent movement al-Shabab, which controls much of central and southern Somalia, is trying to overthrow the weak, U.N.-backed Somali government and install a harsh brand of Islam across the country.

Benjamin Wahren, the International Committee of the Red Cross’ deputy aid chief for the Horn of Africa, told reporters in Geneva on Tuesday that he didn’t see how the situation “could worsen at the moment.”

The number of people seeking surgical help at two city hospitals has reached at least 200 during the fighting, he said.

Almost 7,000 troops from the African Union protect Somalia’s government. Without those troops in place, that government would likely fall within hours.


DUBAI, United Arab Emirates

Imam: N.Y. mosque battle bigger issue than real estate

The imam leading plans for an Islamic center near the site of the Sept. 11 attacks in New York said Tuesday the fight is over more than “a piece of real estate” and could shape the future of Muslim relations in America.

The dispute “has expanded beyond a piece of real estate and expanded to Islam in America and what it means for America,” Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf told a group that included professors and policy researchers in Dubai.

Rauf suggested that the fierce challenges to the planned mosque and community center in lower Manhattan could leave many Muslim questioning their place in American political and civic life.

But he avoided questions over whether an alternative site is possible. Instead, he repeatedly stressed the need to embrace the religious and political freedoms in the United States.

“I am happy to be American,” Rauf told about 200 people at the Dubai School of Government think tank.

It was his last scheduled public appearance during a 15-day State Department-funded trip to the Gulf that was intended to promote religious tolerance. He is scheduled to return to the United States later this week.

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