In the News

WORLD

PARIS – A leaked French intelligence document raises the possibility Osama bin Laden died of typhoid, but President Jacques Chirac said Saturday the report was “in no way whatsoever confirmed,” and officials from Kabul to Washington expressed skepticism about its accuracy.

There have been numerous reports over the years that bin Laden had been killed or that he was dangerously ill, but the al-Qaida leader has periodically released audiotapes appealing to followers and commenting on current news events.

The regional French newspaper l’Est Republicain printed what it described as a copy of a confidential document from the Direction Generale de la Securite Exterieure intelligence service citing an uncorroborated report from a “usually reliable source” who said Saudi secret services were convinced that bin Laden had died.

The document, dated Thursday, was sent to Chirac and other top French officials, the newspaper said.

Chirac said he had no comment about the document.

NATIONAL

WASHINGTON – The Iraq war has contributed to an increased threat of terrorism, according to an intelligence assessment that Democrats have seized, saying it was further evidence that Americans should choose new leadership in the November elections.

The classified assessment of the war’s impact on terrorism came in a National Intelligence Estimate that represents a consensus view of the 16 disparate spy services inside government, an intelligence official said Sunday. The official, confirming accounts first published in Sunday’s New York Times and Washington Post, spoke on condition of anonymity because the report is classified.

The report found that the war has helped create a new generation of Islamic radicalism and that overall terrorist threat has grown since the Sept. 11 attacks.

The White House issued a written rebuttal that argued administration officials have been making some of the same arguments as in the intelligence estimate. A White House strategy booklet released this month described the terrorists as more dispersed and less centralized and still a threat to the United States.

The president has said the United States is safer since the Sept. 11 attacks and that fighting the terrorists in Iraq keeps them from attacking America. He has said leaving Iraq would make the world less safe.

STATE&LOCAL

RICHMOND – If every American contributes $8, the U.S. National Slavery Museum could open exhibits as early as next year, Bill Cosby, a key contributor to the project, said Friday.

Cosby joined Mayor L. Douglas Wilder in launching a new campaign to raise $100 million toward the Fredericksburg museum’s $200 million cost by asking people to give up what Cosby termed “the price of two shots of Scotch.”

Cosby also encouraged parents to donate on their kids’ behalf.

Cosby said he came up with the $8 idea while brainstorming on what the average American could afford to give. Wilder said the number also has symbolic significance to what is touted as the first national museum dedicated solely to telling the story of American slavery.

“The figure 8, in shape, is both of the shackles, which is the symbol of slavery,” said Wilder. “If you turn it on its side, it’s the symbol of infinite freedom.”

RICHMOND – This week, legislators will finally get around to talking about the issue of transportation in a scheduled four-day session that starts Wednesday, but substantive new state revenue for roads, rails and transit has effectively been ruled out.

About 100 bills ranging from transit funding for the Metro subway and bus system that serves Northern Virginia to a proposal to raise cash from an electronic horse race wagering device await the House and Senate.

Kaine’s approach has been low-key in the run-up to this week’s session, unlike his nonstop, high-profile – and ultimately unsuccessful – statewide advocacy last winter for the first comprehensive transportation funding plan since 1986.

Kaine still insists, however, that a new source of sustainable, statewide transportation funding is imperative, and he views bills the House and Senate can agree to as a starting point to achieve that.

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