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March 6, 2002 at 12:56 PM
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Insider notes from United Press International for March 6 ...

A leaked Federal Aviation Administration memo written on the evening of Sept. 11 contains disturbing revelations about American Airlines Flight 11, the first to hit the World Trade Center. The "Executive Summary," based on information relayed by a flight attendant to the American Airlines Operation Center, stated "that a passenger located in seat 10B shot and killed a passenger in seat 9B at 9:20 a.m. The passenger killed was Daniel Lewin, shot by passenger Satam Al Suqami." The FAA has claimed that the document is a "first draft," declining to release the final draft, as it is "protected information," noting the inaccuracies in reported times, etc. The final draft omits all mention of gunfire. Lewin, a 31 year-old dual American-Israeli citizen was a graduate of MIT and Israel's Technion. Lewin had emigrated to Israel with his parents at age 14 and had worked at IBM's research lab in Haifa, Israel. Lewin was a co-founder and chief technology officer of Akamai Technologies, and lived in Boston with his family. A report in Ha'aretz on Sept. 17 identified Lewin as a former member of the Israel Defense Force Sayeret Matkal, a top-secret counter-terrorist unit, whose Unit 269 specializes in counter-terrorism activities outside of Israel.

As U.S. Special Forces training troops start preparing for their mission in the former Soviet republic of Georgia, diplomats in the capital, Tblisi, suspect that a far wider stabilization deal is under way. It follows last week's agreement between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze (best known as Mikhail Gorbachev's foreign minister) to change the mandate of Russian "peacekeeping" troops in Georgia's breakaway province of Abkhazia. Georgian Defense Minister David Tevzadze, Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov and spymaster Nikolai Patrushev are all on the record denying a "spheres of influence" deal under which the Russian keeps the Gudauta airbase in Abkhazia and the Americans get the Vaziani airbase near Tblisi, and the Georgians get the green light to start re-asserting control over Abkhazia. The U.S. troops are focusing operations on the suspected al Qaida elements with Chechen guerillas in Pankisi gorge. The Russians want to go after the Chechens commanded by Ruslan Gelaev in Abkhazia's Kodori gorge.

The worlds of archaeology and theology are starting to buzz with word of the Migdol find, near Pella in Jordan, at 90 feet by 60 feet the largest Iron Age and Bronze Age temple found and one that records the crucial transition from polytheism to belief in a single, all-powerful God. Stephen Bourke, the University of Sydney archaeologist who has led the Pella excavations for the past decade, says Migdol "contains local religious history fossilized in stone -- evolving layers like an epic film describing the birth of monotheism." Repeatedly destroyed and rebuilt from 1650 BC to 850 BC, the Migdol temple records the changing forms of worship from Canaanites through the Egyptian New Kingdom Empire, the Philistines and the establishment of the kingdoms of Israel and Judah -- launching the single God of Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

Shaheen Sehbai, editor of the News, a leading Pakistani daily, has resigned in protest against orders to sack three senior reporters. The three include Kamaran Khan, whose exclusive on the confessions of British-born Islamic fundamentalist Sheikh Omar Saeed included lots of potentially embarrassing details about Saeed's work with Pakistan's shadowy ISI intelligence network. Washington wants Saeed extradited for his part in the abduction and slaying of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl -- but Pakistan is stalling. Sehbai bosses, under pressure from the Musharraf government, told him Saeed's revelations damaged Pakistan's national interests. India has now officially asked for more information about the veracity of the reports, which Pakistani officials dismissed as "baseless rubbish." According to Sehbai, Pakistan's government stepped up the pressure by withdrawing all official advertising from the daily.

The British reputation for amiable eccentricity is being stoutly maintained by Gerry McCrudden, first secretary at the High Commission in New Delhi. He has become the first diplomat in Indian history to obtain a license to drive a tricycle rickshaw (while refusing all appeals to carry passengers), claiming it was far more stable than a conventional two-wheel bicycle. He bought it from the wife of his boss, High Commissioner Rob Young, who had intended to use it as a garden ornament.

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