Saturday, April 16, 2016

With Friends Like the Saudis, Who Needs Enemies?

The specter of possible Saudi Arabian government involvement in the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001 has reared its head again, thanks to a compelling, if incomplete 60 Minutes piece on Sunday and a subsequent news report this morning from the New York Times

The 60 Minutes item recapped the alleged links between a mysterious Saudi national in San Diego to Khalid al-Mihdhar and Nawaf al-Hazmi, the two terrorists who resided in San Diego. 

The New York Times noted that the Saudi government has told the Obama administration and members of Congress that it will sell off hundreds of billions of dollars’ worth of American assets held by the kingdom if Congress passes a bill that would allow the Saudi government to be held responsible in American courts for any role in 9/11.

According to the Times, Adel al-Jubeir, the Saudi foreign minister, told U.S. lawmakers personally during last month that Saudi Arabia would be forced to sell up to $750 billion in treasury securities and other assets in the United States before they could be in danger of being frozen by American courts.

This threat from the Saudis only further illuminates the growing hostility between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia. But as I've been saying for 15 years, with friends like the Saudis, who needs enemies? 

Need I remind you that 15 of the 19 hijackers on 9/11 were Saudis? Osama bin Laden was a Saudi. And the financial and personal connections between several Saudis living in this country at the time of the attack and the hijackers are troubling and have never been fully investigated.

For untenable reasons, the Obama administration strongly opposes the passage of the bill that would allow the Saudi royals to be held liable for 9/11. The administration also indefensibly opposes the declassification of the 28 pages of the Joint Congressional Inquiry report that congressional sources tell me shows how mysterious and moneyed Saudis who lived in the United States and had connections to the the Saudi government may have supported the hijackers.

While the 60 Minutes piece on this subject was accurate, it didn’t come close to telling the whole story. The news magazine neglected to mention several enigmatic, moneyed Saudis in San Diego that I discovered during my reporting for Newsweek, and Saudis in other U.S. cities, too, who could have assisted the terrorists.

The 60 Minutes report focused on Omar al-Bayoumi, who had ties to the Saudi government and lived in San Diego for several years until July 2001. Al-Bayoumi, a gregarious figure who always seemed to have money to burn but never had a job, brought the two future hijackers to San Diego from Los Angeles, threw a party for them, and paid $1,550 in cash to cover their first two months' rent, as we noted in Newsweek in 2002.

And as I learned quickly after beginning my coverage of the 9/11 aftermath, al-Bayoumi was widely considered by those who knew him at San Diego’s largest mosque to be a Saudi government agent long before 9/11.

But there were several lesser-known but equally enigmatic Saudis living in the United States who were also linked to the terrorists and who may have supported them.

They included Saad al-Habeeb, who as I reported when I was with Newsweek purchased a building in El Cajon, Calif., near San Diego, with a $450,000 cashier's check for use as a mosque and community center for San Diego's Kurd Muslims. 
Al-Habeeb’s motivation for this gift has never been explained, but it was given on the condition that al-Bayoumi be set up as the building's maintenance manager and given a private office at the mosque, with a phone and a computer.
Leaders of the Kurd mosque told me at the time that al-Bayoumi was never seen in that building, and al-Habeeb disappeared soon after buying the mosque and presumably returned to Saudi Arabia. No one has ever been able to explain the nature of the relationship between al-Habeeb and al-Bayoumi.
Another San Diego Saudi who had links to the terrorists was Osama Basnan, who as Newsweek reported received monthly checks for several years totaling as much as $73,000 from the Saudi ambassador to the United States, Prince Bandar, and his wife, Princess Haifa Faisal.
The checks were sent because Basnan's wife, Majeda Dweikat, reportedly needed thyroid surgery. She then signed many of the checks over to Basnan's friend, Manal Bajadr, who was al-Bayoumi's wife. 
This all could have been innocent. But the money allegedly made its way into the hands of the San Diego-based hijackers, according to the congressional report on 9/11.
Alleged Saudi Support for 9/11 Terrorists in Florida

The list of potential US-based Saudi supporters of the hijackers extended beyond San Diego, though this has not gotten much media attention. Among the most chilling stories is that of Saudi millionaire Abdulaziz al-Hijji and his wife, Anoud, whose upscale home in Sarasota, Fla., was owned by Anoud al-Hijji’s father, Esam Ghazzawi, an adviser to Prince Fahd bin Salman bin Abdulaziz al-Saud, the nephew of King Fahd.

The FBI's initial investigation of al-Hijji, who abruptly left the United States with his family just weeks before 9/11, leaving behind his home and most of his belongings, concluded that he was visited in his home by several of the 9/11 terrorists, including Muhammad Atta, and one of the 9/11 ringleaders who piloted the American Airlines jet that crashed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center.

This was first reported by the Florida Bulldog (formerly the Broward Builldog) www.floridabulldog.org, a small, nonprofit news organization in South Florida. There’ve been surprisingly few American news organizations that have stayed on the 9/11 trail after nearly 15 years.

But the Bulldog has hounded FBI to not only release the 28 pages, but also to be more forthcoming about its investigations of alleged links between al-Hijji and several other Florida-based Saudis and the hijackers.

Four years ago, the Bulldog filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the Department of Justice and the FBI seeking records of the FBI’s investigation of al-Hijji. Bulldog Editor Dan Christensen told me this week that the news organization is also pursuing a so-called Mandatory Declassification Review of the 28 pages from the Joint Inquiry.

FBI Discredits its Own 9/11 Investigation in Florida

The FBI’s initial findings about Sarasota were inexplicably not included in either Congress’s Joint Inquiry (on 9/11) or the 9/11 Commission report. And this past year, with very little accompanying publicity, the bureau dismissed its own April 2002 report on Sarasota, saying it was “poorly written and wholly unsubstantiated.”
This came as part of the FBI’s congressionally mandated look at its own investigations of 9/11 and to assess its preparedness "in a rapidly evolving and dangerous world.” The report, titled FBI: Protecting the Homeland in the 21st Century, amounted to a virtual whitewash.

The three men on this 9/11 Review Commission, who were paid by the FBI, held no public hearings and had no subpoena power. The three-member commission, whose leaders included Ed Meese, former attorney general during the Reagan administration, concluded that the 2002 report from the FBI in Florida was not accurate, which contradicted earlier summaries of the Florida investigation by the bureau.

Did Law Enforcement Drop the Ball With 9/11 Investigation?

The biggest roadblock to public awareness of any official Saudi role in 9/11 has of course been the government's refusal to release the 28 pages of the 9/11 Commission's report, which President George W. Bush classified in 2003 and which President Obama has refused to release to the public.

Sources tell me that the 28 pages tacitly indict federal law enforcement for not following up on many potential leads after 9/11. But what is undoubtedly not included in the 28 pages are all the names potential US-based Saudi supporters the FBI never contacted. 

I personally interviewed at least a half-dozen people of Saudi origin in San Diego in the weeks and months after 9/11 who had direct links with the terrorists and/or with the mysterious Saudis al-Bayoumi, al-Habeeb, and Basnan. But each of these people said they were never contacted by FBI or any other US law enforcement. 

Friday, January 29, 2016

EXCLUSIVE: Historic China Cancer Conference in Southern California Kicks Off Global Effort to Save Lives

Lymphoma expert Dr. Jonathan Schatz (left), myself, and renowned cancer researcher Dr. Zhizhong Li
My China Lymphoma Project's first annual Global Conference, which took place on Tuesday at the Sanford Consortium for Regenerative Medicine in La Jolla, California, exceeded even our own great expectations. It was a lively, informative and inspirational event whose poignant, overriding theme was the burgeoning friendship between the people of the world's two most powerful countries, and what this compassion can foster.

As we in the United States look for ways to address the unprecedented cancer crisis in China, where more than 7,500 people die of the disease each day, the consensus among the China and lymphoma experts at the conference was that the China Lymphoma Project, which I founded a year ago and of which I am Director, will save many lives in China and hugely increase cancer awareness not only in China, but globally.

Lymphoma, the type of cancer I've been fighting and writing about for 19 years, is already the fifth most common cancer in the US. And it is one of several types of cancer that is alarmingly on the rise in China, especially in urban areas where there are hazardous levels of pollution. But unlike lung cancer and some others, lymphoma remains a great mystery to most people in China -- despite the fact that it is becoming much more common.

The good news is China's government is making a concerted effort to address the problem by, among other things, recently "declaring war" on air and water pollution. And there are a number of biotech companies in China currently researching new lymphoma treatments, as well as several new partnerships between China and US drug and biotech companies to bring more existing treatments to China. But word of much of this has not yet reached the people of China, many of whom still think lymphoma is a death sentence.

The conference this week effectively represented our project's mission, which is to utilize the latest communication technologies (smartphone apps, ebooks, social media) to provide much-needed information and hope, as well as comfort and compassion, to China's lymphoma cancer sufferers and their families. 

Many people in China who receive a lymphoma diagnosis just go home and give up. With access to new information about treatments and stories of Chinese people as well as others around the world who have been treated and are now doing fine, that will change. 

An Impressive Global Gathering in La Jolla

Cancer researcher/author Dr. Zhizhong Li -- Photos by Caitlin Prenga
Among the outstanding speakers at our conference was one of my newest friends, Dr. Zhizhong Li (right), a cancer researcher at the Genomics Institute of the Novartis Research Foundation and writer/blogger who is hugely popular on social media in China for his insightful and accessible science writings about cancer.

Zhizhong, who is known on his popular blog and on WeChat as "Pineapple," told the enthusiastic crowd that researchers must remind themselves from time to time when they're in the lab' that all of their work is for people who are suffering.

Zhizhong is a widely respected scientist who's done extensive research on pediatric cancers, as well as lymphoma and several other types of cancer. The author of the clever and fact-filled "Cancer Insights" book that is a big hit in China, Zhizhong is in touch with the human side of cancer. I'm proud that he and I have joined forces to help cancer patients in China and worldwide.

Myself (left) and Denovo Biopharma President Xiangming Fang
Another informative and fascinating talk was given by Dr. Xiangming Fang (left), President and Co-Founder of Denovo Biopharma, a biotech company with offices in China and San Diego. She told the audience that her company will soon begin Phase III clinical trials of a lymphoma treatment throughout China, and that these trials could also come to America and Europe.

Dr. Jonathan Schatz (pictured at top), a globally respected lymphoma physician and researcher from Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of Miami, pledged his and the hospital's support for the project, talked about the need for more international cooperation between physicians, and suggested the project should pursue more epidemiological studies on lymphoma in China.

Big Announcements Made at the Conference 

On that very note, we were proud to announce at the conference that we've just reached an agreement with epidemiologist Steve Coughlin at the University of Massachusetts' Division of Public Health to leverage recent advances in smartphone application (app) technology to inform and inspire China's lymphoma patients and their loved ones. 

I was staggered when I learned recently that China has 700 million people with smartphones, by far the most of any nation on earth. Chinese people use the phones in virtually every aspect of their lives. But one thing that is not available as far as we know is an app for cancer patients. There is very little cancer patient advocacy in China.

An editorial written by Dr. Coughlin and myself, which will be published in a respected science journal in a matter of weeks, lays out our plan to seek federal grants to develop an app for China's lymphoma patients that, among other things, describes aspects of their cancer, provides resources and information about treatment options in China and others that are coming soon, explains what side effects to expect from the cancer and the treatments, and offers inspiration, hope, humor and emotional support for patients and their families.

In addition to the smartphone app, the project will also publish an exclusive new book I have already begun to report and write for China's lymphoma patients (both in ebook form and hard copy) that profiles China lymphoma survivors' stories, including famous China lymphoma survivors such as Kai-Fu Lee, the hugely popular micro-blogger and creator of Google China, as well as just regular folks (men, women and children) throughout China.

All of this will of course be FREE to China's lymphoma patients, and will be available in Chinese and English. 

The project will also provide China's lymphoma patients with peer-to-peer counseling from others who've already been treated, access and referrals to psychotherapists, state-of-the-art websites, blogs, vlogs, videos, and a new social media site just for them.

We also announced at the conference our new coordination with the School of Leadership and Education Sciences (SOLES) at the University of San Diego (USD), whose clinical psychologists and staff are working with us to provide practical information and support for China's lymphoma patients with regard to the emotional and cognitive aspects of a lymphoma diagnosis. This will of course pay close attention to and show respect for China's culture.

China Lymphoma Project Reaches Tipping Point

Our project is resonating with an increasingly broad audience worldwide. As I told the gathering in my conference introduction, the biotech and cancer hospital communities in both China and the US are now rushing to get involved. The tech community is coming to us, as are a variety of healthcare companies. So is the environmental community. And pretty much any company doing business in China and anyone who cares about China's people recognizes now the value of our initiative. The support grows daily.

Dr. Lilly Cheng, Director of The Confucius Institute, SDSU
We're now proudly connected with 37 cancer hospitals in China, and that number keeps growing. We have positive and substantive relationship with several American universities, biotech leaders from China and the US, our nonprofit partner the Asian Heritage Society, and Professor Lilly Cheng (right), Director of the Confucius Institute at San Diego State University, my alma mater.

Dr. Cheng, who is our project's Chief Ambassador, gave a stirring speech at our conference in which she called on people to act now, not later, and support our project so we can help China's cancer patients and make a real difference. Dr. Cheng has already made several trips to China on our behalf to meet with cancer hospital executives and more.

Support From Chinese Government Officials

Hua Liu, Consul of Science & Technology, Photos by Caitlin Prenga
There were also three representatives at our conference from the Chinese Consulate General in Los Angeles, including our distinguished opening speaker Hua Liu (left), Consul in Science and Technology. Members of the Consulate General's office warmly pledged their support. We look forward to working closely with them.

Other speakers at the conference included Dr. Huan-You Wang, a pathologist and lymphoma diagnostic expert at UCSD Moores Cancer Center, my personal cancer hospital. Dr. Wang, who is from China, stressed the need for all cancer patients to get the correct diagnosis, and noted that while there are many brilliant doctors and scientists in China, diagnosing cancer in China still has a long way to go. 

Typically, he said, pathologists in China are not specialists, they cover all diagnoses, not specific types of cancer.

Dr. Catriona Jamieson, the respected physician and expert in lymphoma and other blood cancers and Director of Stem Cell Research at the UCSD Moores Cancer Center, spoke brilliantly yet conversationally about the groundbreaking efforts at Moores to identify new ways to treat cancer, including lymphoma. She also explained a few of the encouragingly growing number of partnerships between cancer scientists in China and the US.

Conference co-host Amanda Caniglia, myself, and Col. Deanna Won
Colonel Deanna Won (far right), the retired 26-year Air Force veteran, stage IV cancer survivor, China expert, and integrative and holistic health coach, shared with the rapt crowd her experience with stage IV cancer. She was just days from death and in Hospice care, but her cancer reversed and now she's a powerful and in-demand motivational speaker and is writing a book about her remarkable survival.

Yours truly (left) and Dr. Jinghong Li
The final speaker was Dr. Jinghong Li (left), President Elect of the San Diego Chinese American Association and esteemed physician at UC San Diego who trained at Peking University Health Science Center, Beijing. Jinghong gave a charming and informed talk about her work with cancer patients and others and expressed her deep gratitude and support for the project.

Please Support This Global Friendship Initiative

The China Lymphoma Project is seeking funding to fulfill our friendship mission. To support this historic project with a tax-deductible educational grant, please send a check payable to our nonprofit partner, The Asian Heritage Society, to 10488 Orozco Road, San Diego, CA 92124.

In addition to being part of an unprecedented friendship coalition between the people of China and the United States, every company and individual that supports our project will receive extensive and positive media attention in China and the US. 

This well-written and researched story about our project ran this week on the eve of our launch event in Healthline, America's fastest-growing health news site with more than 40 million monthly visitors. This is the kind of media attention we will be receiving moving forward, both in the US and China.

The time is now, not later, to support this effort. If you have any questions, or if you want to get involved in our project, call me or email me. My cell is 858-397-4950. My email is jreno@san.rr.com. 

Thanks for your support,

Jamie Reno
Founder and Director
The China Lymphoma Project