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and Afghan troops encountered skilled sharpshooters and better-fortified Taliban positions Thursday, indicating that insurgent resistance in their logistics and opium-smuggling centre was far from crushed

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About two dozen Marines were inserted into an area where skilled Taliban marksmen are known to operate, an officer said, speaking on condition of anonymity because of security concerns.

U.S. and Afghan troops encountered skilled sharpshooters and better-fortified Taliban positions Thursday, indicating that insurgent resistance in their logistics and opium-smuggling centre was far from crushed.

Special Report: Afghanistan

CBS News correspondent Mandy Clark, embedded with U.S. Marines on the frontline, said she could hear single-shot sniper rounds on top of the machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades as Lima Company engaged militants in an intense firefight.

The sniper fire was an added threat on top of the homemade bombs, or IEDs, which the Taliban planted in vast numbers across Marjah, adds Clark.

“Yesterday, our convoy hit one, and just moments ago on the same main bit of road, another convoy hit an IED,” Clark told “The Early Show” via phone from the front.

More coverage from CBS News Correspondent Mandy Clark:

Marines Reach out to Marjah PopulationMarines Drive Into Afghan StrongholdMarines Engage Taliban on Edge of MarjahAfghanistan: Life on the Frontline

A Marine general said Thursday that U.S. and Afghan allied forces do now control the main roads and markets in Marjah, but fighting has raged on elsewhere in the southern farming town. A British general said he expected it would take another month to secure the town.

NATO said six international service members died Thursday, bringing the number of allied troops killed in the offensive to 11 NATO troops and one Afghan soldier. The international coalition did not disclose their nationalities, 인천출장샵 but Britain’s Defense Ministry said two British soldiers were among the dead.

No precise figures on Taliban deaths have been released, but senior Marine officers say intelligence reports suggest more than 120 have died. The officers spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not supposed to release the information.

Brig. Gen. Larry Nicholson, commander of U.S. Marines in Marjah, told The Associated Press that allied forces have taken control of the main roads, bridges and government centers in Marjah, a town of about 80,000 people located 360 miles southwest of Kabul.

“I’d say we control the spine” of the town, Nicholson said as he inspected the Marines’ front line in the north of the dusty, mud-brick town. “We’re where we want to be.”

As Nicholson spoke, bursts of heavy machine-gun fire in the near distance showed that insurgents still hold terrain about a half-mile away.

“Every day, there’s not a dramatic change. It’s steady,” he said, noting that fighting continues to erupt.

The offensive in Marjah is the biggest since the 2001 U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan, and a test of President Barack Obama’s strategy for reversing the rise of the Taliban while protecting civilians.

Plans call for NATO to rush in a civilian administration, restore public services and pour in aid to try to win the loyalty of the population in preventing the Taliban from returning.

But stubborn Taliban resistance, coupled with restrictive rules on allies’ use of heavy weaponry when civilians may be at risk, have slowed the advance through the town. The NATO commander of troops in southern Afghanistan, British Maj. Gen. Nick Carter, told reporters in Washington via a video hookup that he expects it could take another 30 days to secure Marjah.

NATO has given no figures on civilian deaths since a count of 15 earlier in the offensive. Afghan rights groups have reported 19 dead. Since those figures were given, much of the fighting has shifted away from the heavily built-up area, where most civilians live.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai has repeatedly criticized the use of air strikes and other long-range weaponry because of the risk to civilians. Twelve of the 15 deaths reported by NATO happened when two rockets hit a home on Sunday.

The allied troops have to go to great lengths to distinguish insurgents from civilians. Marines detained one man Thursday as he left a compound they had taken fire from. He had no weapon but a quick test found gunpowder residue on his hands – sufficient grounds to arrest him.

Soldiers tied the suspect’s hands behind his back and covered his face with a shawl while he sat cross-legged on the ground waiting to be hauled away.

Throughout Thursday, U.S. Marines pummeled insurgents with mortars, sniper fire and missiles as gun battles intensified. Taliban fighters fired back with rocket-propelled grenades and rifles, some of the fire far more accurate than Marines have faced in other Afghan battles.

The increasingly accurate sniper fire – and strong intelligence on possible suicide bomb threats – indicated that insurgents from outside Marjah are still operating within the town, Nicholson said.

There were also pockets of calm Thursday. Some families returned to their homes, their donkeys laden with their belongings. Several stores reopened in the bullet-riddled bazaar in the north of town, and customers lined up to buy goods for the first time in nearly a week.

One Marjah farmer said the Taliban broke into his home and used it to fire on the troops.

“We couldn’t do anything when one of them was forcing his way into our house. What could we do?” said Sayed Wakhan, a sunburned, middle-aged opium poppy farmer in northern Marjah.

But Wakhan, who spoke to reporters as he mixed mud to make repairs on his house, also said he didn’t trust the government forces who now occupy his neighborhood.

“I have suffered at the hands of police, and I don’t like the international forces coming into our area,” he snapped. His remarks were a reminder of the tough job ahead for NATO and Afghan authorities in winning over locals used to an uneasy peace under the Taliban.

Also Thursday, a NATO air strike in northern Afghanistan missed a group of insurgents and killed seven Afghan policemen, the Afghan Interior Ministry said.

A NATO statement acknowledged the report and said it and the ministry were investigating.

In eastern Afghanistan, eight Afghan policemen defected to the Taliban, according to Mirza Khan, the deputy provincial police chief.

The policemen abandoned their posts in central Wardak province’s Chak district and joined the militants there, he said. One of them had previous ties to the Taliban, he said, but would not elaborate.

“These policemen came on their own and told us they want to join with the Taliban. Now they are with us,” Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Muhajid said.


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“Sanctions are not a solution (to the problem) between Iran and the West,” Muallem said. “We are trying to engage a constructive dialogue between the two parties in order to reach a peaceful solution.” Western governments suspect that Iran’s nuclear program — which earlier this month started higher grade uranium enrichment — is just cover for a drive to produce an atomic bomb. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton is spearheading a global campaign to back sanctions against Iran if Tehran won’t halt the uranium enrichment and other aspects of its nuclear program. Iran, which has already been slapped with three sets of United Nations sanctions over its uranium enrichment, denies it has any hidden agenda and insists the atomic program is solely for peaceful purposes. Ahmadinejad’s meetings in Damascus come as tension was already rising between Israel and its Arab neighbors. The Iranian sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity, tell CBS News that Ahmadinejad is expected to meet in Damascus with the chiefs of two of the Middle East’s most widely known Islamic militant organizations, Hezbollah and Hamas. Ahmadinejad was to meet Secretary General Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, the exiled leader of the Lebanese group Hezbollah, and Khalid Mashaal, leader of the Palestinian group Hamas. Both men are now believed to live in Syria. Mouallem publicly blamed Israel last week for, “spreading an atmosphere of war,” and warned that Damascus would not hesitate to strike deep into Israeli territory if provoked. He said quite plainly that any conflict would be “all-out,” regardless of whether “it hits southern Lebanon or Syria.” His remarks were a response to Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak’s own comments a few days earlier that the absence of a peace agreement with Syria could trigger a new Middle East war. Nasrallah recently stated that Israel cannot afford an unwinnable war and blithely threatened an eye for an eye with the Jewish state. Bubbling accusations that Israel’s Mossad spy agency was behind the assassination of Hamas commander Mahmoud al-Mahbouh last month in Dubai have further escalated regional anger. Damascus has been Tehran’s major regional ally for the past three decades. Assad visited Tehran last August, and Ahmadinejad paid a visit to Syria last May. Syria also plays a key role for any brokering of peace between Israel and the Palestinians and controls a long border with Iraq that used to be the main point of entry for foreign Iraqi insurgents. Under Obama, the United States started talking to Syria’s government, in contrast to a policy of isolation under former President George W. Bush. The U.S. road to dealing with Iran’s policy on Iraq, its nuclear program and much else may now be passing through Damascus. Syria, in turn, argues that Washington should make every effort to force Israel to accept the Arab peace initiative. Damascus wants to regain the strategic Golan Heights, an enclave Israel captured during the 1967 Mideast War. It has offered peace in exchange. Last week, William Burns, America’s most senior Foreign Service officer, held talks in Damascus with the country’s head of state, and Robert Ford, the current deputy chief of mission in Iraq, received an ambassadorial nomination to represent U.S. interests in Syria. Such steps will formally reopen diplomatic relations between the two countries, which had been suspended in 2005. Last week, eight years after being lumped into the axis of evil and five years since the assassination of Rafik Hariri, the U.S. State Department lifted an advisory that warned travelers about visiting Syria in hopes of warming relations.

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Eric Larson, executive director of the Group Health Research Institute in Seattle, had another theory: “Some of the variation could be based on patterns of care — how drugs are prescribed to different types of patients and also the baseline levels of vascular risk

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Could cholesterol-fighting statins fend off Alzheimer’s disease?

A new, large study suggests that if they do have that power, it may depend on the specific statin, and the gender and race or ethnicity of the person taking it.

For example, black men appeared to gain no benefit from taking any statin, while white women may lower their risk regardless of which statin they take, the researchers said.

The findings don’t prove that statins reduce the chances of developing Alzheimer’s. And if they do shrink the risk, the effect seems to be small.

Still, “those with high exposure to statins had a reduced risk of [Alzheimer’s disease] compared to those with low exposure. And it varied by type of statin and for men, women and for different racial and ethnic individuals,” said study author Julie Zissimopoulos. She is associate director of the Schaeffer Center for Health Policy and Economics at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles.

Previous research has suggested that high cholesterol in later life seems to boost the risk of Alzheimer’s disease while statins reduce it, said Dr. Gail Li. She is an associate professor in the department of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the University of Washington in Seattle.

But Li, who was not involved with the new study, added that statins don’t seem to help patients who already have Alzheimer’s.

The new study aimed to understand how specific groups of people might be affected by the therapy.

The researchers tracked almost 400,000 statin users, 대전출장샵 all aged 65 or older, who took the medications between 2006 and 2013.

In the study, Zissimopoulos said, “We examine individuals who have been taking statins consistently for at least two years, between the years 2006 and 2008, and follow them for another five years to examine onset of Alzheimer’s. We compare them to groups of individuals with low exposure that either took statins less consistently between 2006 and 2008, or started them later — after 2008.”

Overall, the researchers linked high use of statins to a 15 percent lower risk of Alzheimer’s in women and a 12 percent lower risk in men compared to those who had low use.

Those who took simvastatin (Zocor) had 10 percent to 23 percent lower risk, depending on their gender and race. However, the researchers saw no benefit for black men.

Among those who used atorvastatin (Lipitor) the most, white men and black men had no apparent benefit, while the risk of Alzheimer’s was 16 percent to 39 percent lower for white women, black women and Hispanics.

Only white women appeared to gain a benefit from high usage of pravastatin (Pravachol) and rosuvastatin (Crestor): They had about an 18 percent lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, the findings showed.

According to Zissimopoulos, the lifetime risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease is between 9 percent and 17 percent at the age of 65.

For her part, Li is skeptical of the new findings. She eyed the results with caution, saying there may be too few people in some of the ethnic groups to come up with statistically reliable conclusions.

Dr. Benjamin Wolozin, a professor with the departments of pharmacology and neurology at Boston University School of Medicine, said genetics may explain the differences between the groups. As to why statins may reduce Alzheimer’s risk, he said it may have something to do with the power of the drugs to promote good blood flow to the brain.

An expert in aging research, Dr. Eric Larson, executive director of the Group Health Research Institute in Seattle, had another theory: “Some of the variation could be based on patterns of care — how drugs are prescribed to different types of patients and also the baseline levels of vascular risk. Black men are likely to have more than just high cholesterol levels — [they may have] other conditions that increase risk and aren’t affected by statins.”

What should people who use statins do?

Larson said, “People who have high levels of cholesterol and other conditions that predispose them to vascular diseases should definitely consider taking statins for their benefit in general, and can also feel like they are doing something for their risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s.”

But, he added, “I would not use the results of this study to guide choices of statins. Things like tolerability, cost and so forth may be more important for many people.”

The study was published online Dec. 12 in the journal JAMA Neurology.


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Erdan said he is well aware of the need to strike a balance between freedom of expression and public safety

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JERUSALEM — Israeli authorities have foiled over 200 Palestinian attacks by monitoring social media and sifting through vast amounts of data to identify prospective assailants ahead of time, according to Israel’s public security minister. These pre-emptive actions put Israel at the forefront of an increasingly popular — and controversial — trend used by intelligence and law enforcement agencies around the world that use big data technology to track would-be criminals.

While the technology appears to be effective, its tactics drew angry Palestinian condemnation and have raised questions about civil liberties.

Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan, who oversees the national police force, said Israel’s use of algorithms and other technology has been an important factor in lowering the number of knife and shooting attacks in Israel in recent years. He planned on sharing Israel’s knowledge with counterparts at an international security conference he is hosting that begins Tuesday.

“The experience we now have, we can help other countries deal with this kind of terrorism,” he said. He said working with allies “can lead us to a much better result in fighting lone wolf terrorists.”

But Hanan Ashrawi, a senior Palestinian official in the West Bank, called the Israeli profiling techniques “horrific” and an “added dimension” to Israeli control over Palestinian lives.

“They are trying to justify the various ways in which they violate the Palestinian people’s rights, including the right to due process and the right to privacy, using Facebook and using social media as a means of gleaning information to prove people’s guilt ahead of time,” she said.

In September 2015, Israel found itself facing a wave of stabbings, shootings and car rammings carried out by “lone wolf” attackers, or individuals unaffiliated with militant groups acting on their own. It was a significant departure from past waves of organized violence led by armed groups like Hamas.

Since then, Palestinians have killed over 50 Israelis, while Israeli forces have killed over 260 Palestinians, most of whom Israel says were attackers. However, the number of attacks has dropped significantly — from 170 “serious attacks” in 2016 to 90 last year to 25 this year, according to Erdan’s ministry.

Israel has blamed the attacks on anti-Israel incitement in Palestinian social media, while Palestinians say despondent attackers were driven by a lack of hope after decades of Israeli occupation and repeated failure in peace talks.

Research compiled by Erdan’s office points in both directions. Erdan said that interviews with jailed attackers have found that many suffered from personal problems, such as depression or family pressure to enter an arranged marriage, but were also inspired to act, often with little notice, by violent material online.

Erdan, who is also minister of strategic affairs, the agency responsible for fighting the “Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions Movement,” said Israel has turned to various technologies to counter the attacks. That includes facial recognition devices and smart cameras that detect suspicious behavior in real time.

In addition, his ministry, working with the Justice Ministry and Shin Bet internal security agency, has created a team to scour an “ocean of data” on social media for objectionable content and to identify attackers before they act.

Members include psychologists, legal advisers and experts who have developed algorithms that analyze online activity. Violent posts, the suspect’s profile, such as age or hometown, and 경기도출장샵 other supporting evidence are factored into the analysis.

“Every event can lead to a discussion. You have to look for the special words that might lead you to the conclusion that something is dangerous,” Erdan said. “The algorithm leads you to suspect someone.”

The system has nabbed over 200 people who Erdan said confessed that they were planning attacks. Suspects have included both Palestinians and Arab citizens of Israel, including cells allegedly inspired by the Islamic State group.

“When you increase the number of people who are involved in monitoring the social networks, you more and more learn how to define the profiles you are looking for,” he said.

Erdan said there is always a “dilemma” about whether a potential suspect is a serious threat or not, and that police often have just a few hours to decide whether to make the arrest.

“It’s complicated,” he said.

There were no figures on how many innocent people were misidentified as potential suspects. But Erdan’s office said in such cases, the people are quickly released.

Both the Justice Ministry and Shin Bet did not respond to requests for comment.

Ashrawi, the Palestinian official, questioned the claims that suspects had confessed, saying anyone can be pressured into confessing to anything. She also noted that Palestinians are subject to Israel’s military court system, which has a near 100 percent conviction rate. “What is incredible to me, the rest of the world is not horrified by what is happening here,” she said.

Andrew Ferguson, a professor at the David A. Clark School of Law at the University of the District of Columbia, said Israel appears to be one of the world leaders in using big data for policing activity. He said some U.S. police departments have begun using similar techniques, albeit on a much smaller scale due to civil liberties concerns.

“You may be seeing the future in Israel,” said Ferguson, author of “The Rise of Big Data Policing: Surveillance, Race, and the Future of Law Enforcement.”

“Israel is at the cutting edge of using this technology in ways that we haven’t seen in other countries, partly because other countries have been concerned about pushback from civil liberties groups,” he said.

Erdan said he is well aware of the need to strike a balance between freedom of expression and public safety. Judges must sign off on all arrests and be convinced that the suspects truly pose a threat to public safety.

Despite such concerns, he believes the know-how Israel has gathered can help allies deal with similar attacks. He said expertise will be shared with other participants at this week’s conference, which kicks off Tuesday. Participants include U.S. Homeland Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and to officials from Belgium, Germany, Kenya, Singapore, Spain and other countries.

The agenda will include terrorism, radicalization and cyberattacks. High on the agenda will be government relationships with social media companies. Even with all the technology at his disposal, Erdan said he believes the social media giants should do far more to stop the spread of online hate.

Israel has long urged Facebook and Twitter to remove what it sees as inciting material posted online.  Erdan said Facebook has “improved” responses to Israeli complaints, while Twitter is still “very bad.”

A goal of the conference is to rally support for concerted pressure on the social media companies to do a better job of policing content, or to consider common legislation to define “red lines.”

“To create a new world without any kind of rules, that is something that first it’s not fair, and second, it’s endangering the safety of people around the world,” he said.


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