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NS 22 Sep 2001

Roots of terror Smart bombs and satellites cannot beat this enemy

AS EVERY hour passes, the smouldering remains of the World Trade Center look more and more like some terrible burial mound. Not just for the thousands of people-the sons and daughters, mums and dads, husbands, wives and lovers-crushed by last Tuesday's avalanche, but also for all our old certainties about the world.

What we have learned, in the starkest way imaginable, is that a human being on a crusade can be deadlier than any laser-guided missile. And now, rightly, we are battening down the hatches. But as we do so, we must not make the mistake of thinking we can ever make the world impregnable to such attackers. Yes, we can secure cockpit doors and doggedly confiscate knives and nail files. We might even get better at spying on the shadowy networks that train these attackers-especially if we stop fooling ourselves that technology alone can do the job. But in the end, there is no comprehensive security fix, no foolproof defence that can work against terrorists whose preferred reward is their own instant, violent death and the subsequent certainty (as they see it) of an eternity in paradise.

We can make life harder for suicide bombers. But as long as they, and the groups that indoctrinate them, exist we will not keep them out of every crowded train, mall and restaurant.

So how do we defeat terrorism? This week's frenzy of political arm-twisting and diplomacy reveals all too clearly how hard it is to get credible evidence on the bin Ladens of the world, and persuade nation states to hand them over. Cruise missiles are useless if you don't know where to aim them. Waging all-out war on countries like Afghanistan risks huge loss of life and destabilising an entire region. The last thing the world needs now is a Taliban-style regime taking over neighbouring Pakistan and its nuclear weaponry.

Appeasement is not an option either. The US and its allies have to take tough action. But each move will have to be precise and measured if they are to avoid the type of escalation the extremists must be hoping for. And in the long run, the most effective way to eradicate suicide attackers is to eradicate the causes of terrorism. This is a sensitive issue. Nobody-repeat, nobody-could ever deserve what happened to the people in New York and Washington, and nothing excuses the attackers. But that does not mean we must submit to the fundamentalism which says that merely to suggest terrorism is rooted in political and economic factors is antiAmerican or an offence to the victims.

Not a bit of it. The Middle East is full of terror groups and full, too, of poverty, suffering and political repression. To say the two are unconnected is fanciful. Downtrodden, uneducated Arab boys on the street are far more likely than their comfortable, educated counterparts to see suicide bombers as warrior heroes and role models. Somehow-and it won't be easy- we must ensure that they acquire a stake in the world. Only then will they stop seeing the West as an enemy intent on exploiting them. And to do that, of course, we must be sure it isn't.

Kicked out Doctors expel would-be baby cloner Severino Antinori from the fold

THE controversial Italian fertility expert Severino Antinori, who wants to clone human beings, is embroiled in a row with the association of the top private fertility clinics. Last week it voted to throw him out, but Antinori says he is still a member.

The board of APART, the International Association of Private Assisted Reproductive Technology Clinics and Laboratories, voted to expel Antinori for °disreputable conduct". It also says he is guilty of "gross violation of membership obligations" relating to a meeting he is supposed to be organising next month.

Antinori learned of his fate in an e-mail from APART president Wilfried Feichtinger, which has been seen by New Scientist. The e-mail accuses Antinori of "disreputable conduct in recent months related to the topic of human reproductive cloning, which has injured the reputation of APART among its members and others in the scientific community".

In a swingeing attack on the media circuses trailing Antinori's every move on human cloning (see New Scientist, 17 March, p 3), Feichtinger's e-mail says: "You should appreciate this decision of the managing board and learn from it that there are certain rules within the scientific community and in medical associations that have to be respected.n

But Antinori rejects the charges against him. "It is not true that I have been expelled," he told New Scientist. He lists 32 backers, whom he describes as "true APART" members, and says that they've voted "to expel" Feichtinger and other prominent members Ricardo Asch and Ettore Barale.

Feichtinger says that some of Antinori's claimed backers have not paid their membership dues for 2001 and that others have never been members.

The second major charge, which Antinori denies, is that a symposium he promised to organise in Monte Carlo next month for APART has collapsed in disarraY Many speakers have pulled out, including lan Wilmut, the creator of Dolly the cloned sheep at the Roslin Research Institute in Scotland. "I accepted the invite to explain why human reproductive cloning would be dangerous," Wilmut says. But following APART's own withdrawal, Wilmut decided against it.

Feichtinger says that with the meeting just a month away, few paying attendees are registered, and many speakers have yet to be confirmed, or have withdrawn. He accuses Antinori of "gross violation of your membership obligations in connection with having undertaken responsibility for organisation of APART's Third World Congress and seriously hiled in the execution of that responsibility, such that APART was forced to cancel [it]."

In a separate letter to APART members, Feichtinger says: "Dr Antinori's appearances and commentary over the past months have attracted much unfavourable attention...His coverage in the media reflects badly on him and has at least the potential, by association, to reflect badly on APART."

Antinori remains defiant, however, claiming that the conference is on track. "In Monte Carlo, you will have the opportunity to check that the congress will be successful," he told New Sciennst. Andy Coghlan