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Poll shows Obama losing support on Afghan War

African girls recall pain of genital cutting BY NADIA SUSSMAN

New York Times Service

NEW YORK — In a high school classroom in Brooklyn with walls adorned with algebra problems, a 15-year-old girl born in the West African nation of Guinea was talking recently with her friends, after the school day had ended. The small group — all the students had roots in West Africa — was there not to discuss quadratic equations, but something much more personal. The 15-year-old was sharing the memory of the day back in her homeland when a neighbor duped her into going to a hospital. There, she was tied down, and restrained, and subjected to genital cutting. She was 8 at the time, and had to be hospitalized for the bleeding. “I got sick,” the girl said. “I was about to die.” After she had healed, a celebration was held in her honor. Now a high school sophomore, the girl belongs to a group of young West Africans who all share the experience of having been subjected to genital cutting, a procedure that opponents call female genital mutilation. The issue has largely been considered a foreign human rights concern but is starting to pose a bigger challenge here with an increase in the number of immigrants from countries in Africa and elsewhere where the practice is most common. A conference on Wednesday at Harlem Hospital, hosted by the hospital and by the Sauti Yetu Center for African Women and Families, a group based in the Bronx that works to end female genital cutting, will focus on the physical and emotional needs of circumcised women in the United States. Female genital cutting was banned in the United States in 1996. Some parents send daughters overseas to have it done, other girls are cut by relatives without their parents’ knowledge while on vacation abroad. • TURN TO CIRCUMCISION, 2A


New York Times Service





New York Times Service

WASHINGTON — He peers out from the photo in the classified file through heavy-framed spectacles, an owlish face with a graying beard and a half-smile. Saifullah Paracha, a successful businessman and for years a New York travel agent, appears to be the oldest of the 172 prisoners still held at the Guantanamo Bay prison. His dossier is among the most chilling. In the months after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Paracha, 63, was one of a small circle of al Qaeda operatives who explored ways to follow up on the hijackings with new attacks, according to the classified Guantanamo files made available to The New York Times. Working with Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the 9/11 planner who in early 2002 gave him $500,000 to $600,000 “for safekeeping”, Paracha offered his long experience in the shipping business for a scheme to move plastic explosives into the United States inside containers of women’s and children’s clothing, the files assert. “Detainee desired to help al Qaeda ‘do something big against the U.S.’, one of his coconspirators, Ammar al Baluchi,

it frequently is in Europe and Japan. The plutonium could then be used as a substitute for uranium fuel at nuclear plants. But in the MIT report, experts argue that there is no reason to find a substitute for uranium because the existing global supply is plentiful. In fact, there is enough uranium available to fuel 10 times as many reactors as exist today, even if each of the new ones ran for 100 years, the study says. Rather than processing the fuel to retrieve plutonium, the report suggests, the fuel should be “managed” so that the option of doing so is preserved — perhaps by storing the fuel in above-ground silos for a century. It recommends moving it to a centralized repository, starting with fuel from nuclear reactors that have been retired and torn down. A summary of the report released last fall also made that point, but the conclusion is likely to gain far more attention in coming months as federal regulators and Congress awaken to the potential for an accident involving spent fuel. Congress chose Yucca Mountain, a site in the Nevada desert, as the top candidate for a waste burial site in 1987, but President Barack Obama shut down an Energy Department program to

Experts on nuclear power predict that Japan’s Fukushima crisis will lead to a major rethinking of how spent nuclear fuel is handled in the United States but have cast doubt on a proposed solution: reprocessing the fuel to recover plutonium and other materials for reuse. The challenge at the Fukushima Daiichi plant in Japan involves not only damage to three reactors but also the loss of cooling water in at least one pool of spent radioactive fuel, which prompted some U.S. experts to recommend an evacuation to a radius of 50 miles. And that pool was not loaded nearly as heavily as pools at similar reactors in the United States. In a study to be released on Tuesday, engineers and scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology therefore suggest that “the entire spent-fuel management system — on-site storage, consolidated long-term storage, geological disposal — is likely to be reevaluated in a new light because of the Fukushima storage-pool experience”. The accident in Japan has already generated calls for sending the fuel to factories where it would be mechanically chopped up and chemically dissolved to recover the plutonium that is made in routine reactor operations, as • TURN TO FUEL, 2A

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A group of detainees kneel during an early morning Islamic prayer in their camp at the U.S. military prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Spent nuclear fuel should be preserved, experts say BY MATTHEW L. WALD

of al Qaeda’s efforts to make 9/11 just the first in a series of attacks to cripple the United States, intentions thwarted as the Central Intelligence Agency captured Mohammed and other leaders of the terrorist network. The plots reportedly discussed by Mohammed and various operatives, none of them acted upon, included plans for a new wave of aircraft attacks on the West Coast, filling an apartment with leaked natural gas and detonating it, blowing up gas stations and even cutting the cables holding up the Brooklyn Bridge. For the small circle of al Qaeda operatives described in the December 2008 assessment of Paracha, terrorism appears to have been a family affair. There was Mohammed, the terrorist network’s top plotter, and his nephew, Baluchi, who was married to another militant, a U.S.trained neuroscientist, Aafia Siddiqui. And there was Paracha and his son, Uzair. The newly revealed assessments, obtained last year by the group WikiLeaks and provided by another source to The Times, have revived the dispute, nearly as old as the prison, over whether mistreatment of some

WASHINGTON — More U.S. citizens disapprove of President Barack Obama’s management of the war in Afghanistan than support it, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll, a finding that reflects the public’s broader concern over the course of the nearly decade-old conflict. U.S. citizens have given Obama wide leeway in escalating the conflict in Afghanistan, which as a presidential candidate he called “the war we have to win”. That latitude is changing — and fairly quickly — as the longer-running of the two wars he inherited approaches the 10-year mark. In the Post-ABC News survey released Monday, 49 percent of respondents said they disapprove of Obama’s management of the war and 44 percent voiced approval. The disapproval mark is the highest on record in Post-ABC News polling. Overall, the figures have essentially flipped since January, the last time the poll asked the question. In that survey, 49 percent approved of Obama’s handling of the Afghanistan war and 41 percent disapproved. The change in public opinion comes at the start of the annual fighting season in Afghanistan, a period that U.S. military commanders have warned will probably be more intense than previous ones as the Taliban seeks to retake ground lost to U.S. forces over the past year. After a months-long strategy review in fall 2009, Obama announced that he would send an additional 30,000 U.S. troops to Afghanistan in hopes of changing the course of the war. He also set July 2011 as the date he would begin pulling out those forces, putting U.S. commanders and Afghan leaders under pressure to show progress over that time. In recent months, U.S. military

told Guantanamo interrogators, the files say. Paracha discussed obtaining biological or nuclear weapons as well, although he was concerned that detectors at ports “would make it difficult to smuggle radioactive materials into the country”, the file says. Paracha’s assessment is among more than 700 classified documents that fill in new details


Saifullah Paracha, was one of a small circle of al Qaeda operatives who explored ways to follow up on the hijackings with new attacks.

Crackdown in Syria rings alarm bells in West BY ANTHONY SHADID

New York Times Service

BEIRUT — Syria’s bloody crackdown on protesters — which seemed to signal a new, harrowing chapter in a conflict that has already killed nearly 400 people — provoked growing international concern on Tuesday with calls for the violence to stop and talk of possible sanctions.

Gunfire continued in Dara’a on Tuesday after the Syrian army stormed the restive city with tanks and soldiers a day earlier in an escalation of the counteroffensive against Syria’s five-week-old uprising, according to residents. At least 25 people had been killed there Monday, residents and human rights activists said. Witnesses also reported that


The video grab shows a group of men throwing objects at a tank in Dara’a, Syria, on Sunday.



protesters gathered in apparently impromptu demonstrations on the city’s largely deserted streets despite continued detentions, which numbered in the dozens Monday. “History will serve as our witness,” one resident, Alaa Hourani, said by phone. Such was the alarm in the West about developments in Syria, a critical regional player adjacent to Israel and a close ally of Iran, that the United States State Department urged U.S. citizens not to visit the country and said those already there should leave immediately. An official travel advisory late Monday said the State Department had ordered the evacuation of diplomats’ families and some personnel not essential to the functioning of the U.S. Embassy in Damascus — measures similar to those taken in Egypt as the uprising there unfolded earlier this year. Britain also urged its citizens with “no pressing need” to remain in Syria to leave. Britain’s Foreign Secretary, William Hague, said on Tuesday that moves were under way at the United Nations Security Council. the European Union and among some Arab countries to send a “strong • TURN TO SYRIA, 2A


INDEX THE AMERICAS ..........4A WORLD NEWS ...........6A OPINION .......................7A COMICS & PUZZLES ..6B

4/27/2011 3:06:34 AM


Edition, 27 april 2011