The test tube of botulinum presented by Washington and London as evidence that Saddam Hussein had been developing and concealing weapons of mass destruction, was found in an Iraqi scientist's home refrigerator, where it had been sitting for 10 years, it emerged Monday. \nDavid Kay, the expert appointed by the CIA to lead the hunt for weapons, told a congressional committee last week that the vial of botulinum had been "hidden" at the scientist's home, and could be used to "covertly surge production of deadly weapons." \nSince then, the discovery of the vial has been at the heart of the debate over prewar claims that Iraq had an arsenal of banned weapons. \nIt has been cited in justifications of the invasion by US President George W. Bush and by British Foreign SecretaryJack Straw, who described botulinum toxin as "15,000 times more toxic than the nerve agent VX." \nThe US state department even argued that the discovery of the test tube meant that Kay's Iraq Survey Group (ISG), contrary to its own claim, had found a weapon of mass destruction. \nHowever, newly disclosed details about the circumstances in which the botulinum vial was found, have raised fresh questions about its significance. \nWhile presenting his progress report to Congress, Kay did not say when and where the botulinum had been hidden but he told a television interviewer on Sunday that the scientist involved said he was asked to hide the botulinum in his refrigerator at home in 1993. \nIraq admitted pursuing a biological weapons program to UN inspectors two years later. It is unclear whether the Iraqi scientist had received any orders from the regime after that date. \nIt is also unclear whether the vial contained the bacteria botulinum, from which the toxin is drawn, or the toxin itself, as Kay claimed in interviews over the weekend. \nFurthermore, the most lethal form of the germ is the A strain, while the form found by the ISG was the B strain. \nKay admitted that "we have not yet found shiny, pointy things that I would call a weapon," but he insisted there was plenty of evidence of Saddam's intentions to reconstitute weapons programs once free of international scrutiny. \nHe said the scientist who had the botulinum toxin in his refrigerator had also been entrusted with many more strains of biological weapons, including anthrax, but had given them back "because he said they were too dangerous; he had small children in the house." \nMore evidence of such programs was included in a 200-page classified version of the 13-page report made public, but experts in the ISG, including former UN inspectors, have so far not been allowed to read the classified version, according to one of their former colleagues. \nThe refusal to allow the ISG experts to read a report on their own work adds weight to suspicions that the report has been manipulated. "They're under huge pressure to come up with whatever," the former colleague said. \nKay has said privately that he had finished the report in mid-September. But its publication was held up for about two weeks, while more work was done on it at CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia. \nHe has said that the ISG will need six to nine more months to complete its search, which has so far cost dollars 300m. The Bush administration has asked Congress for another $US6 million. \nHe said that the 1,200-strong ISG team -- drawn from the US, Britain and Australia -- were following up an abundance of leads, including the claim by the Iraqi scientist that he had been asked in 1993 to look after anthrax and other biological agents. \nKay also said that the ISG had found some evidence to support the prewar claims that Iraq was trying to buy uranium in Africa. \nThat claim had been undermined by the discovery that a letter purporting to be an offer by the Niger government to sell uranium to Baghdad turned out to be a fake. \nBut Kay said: "We have found a document that is an unsolicited -- as far as we can tell -- proposal to sell uranium to them from another African country, not Niger. And we're continuing-that's an active area of a current investigation."
ACADEMIC FREEDOM: One professor told her students to submit anonymized papers and not to record any online classes. Some US schools have announced similar steps Students at Oxford University specializing in the study of China are being asked to submit some papers anonymously to protect them from the possibility of retribution under the sweeping new security law introduced three months ago in Hong Kong. The anonymity ruling is to be applied in classes, and group tutorials are to be replaced by one-to-ones. Students are also to be warned that it will be viewed as a disciplinary offence if they tape classes or share them with outside groups. The Hong Kong National Security Law was imposed on June 30 by Beijing after more than a year of pro-democracy
Japan’s government yesterday urged people to seek help if they were struggling to cope, following Sunday’s death of the popular actress and Miss Sherlock star Yuko Takeuchi, 40. News of her death shocked the nation and follows other recent cases of Japanese celebrities taking their lives, with figures showing a recent rise in suicides. Takeuchi was a household name in Japan and had given birth to her second child in January. Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato did not mention a particular case, but said that some people were struggling to cope during the COVID-19 pandemic. “There has been an uptick in the number
China on Thursday lashed out at the US at a high-level UN meeting over its criticism on the COVID-19 pandemic, with its envoy declaring, “Enough is enough.” Two days after US President Donald Trump used his annual address to the General Assembly to attack China’s record, US Ambassador to the UN Kelly Craft, also took an outraged tone — after which her Chinese counterpart showed palpable anger. “I must say, enough is enough. You have created enough troubles for the world already,” Chinese Ambassador to the UN Zhang Jun (張軍) told a Security Council meeting on global governance attended through videoconference
PAPAL POLITICS? The controversial Australian prelate’s return to Rome comes just days after the pope fired one of his most powerful opponents over a financial scandal Cardinal George Pell, Pope Francis’ former finance minister, is to soon return to the Vatican during an extraordinary economic scandal for the first time since he was cleared of child abuse allegations in Australia five months ago, a church agency said yesterday. Pell is to fly back to Rome today, CathNews, an information agency of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference said, citing “sources close to” Pell. Pell’s return follows Francis last week firing one of the cardinal’s most powerful opponents, Cardinal Angelo Becciu, over a financial scandal. Pell was regarded as the third-highest-ranking Vatican official and was attempting to wrestle the Holy See’s