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News Briefs

Britain Not Yet Confirming C-130 Was Shot Down

British officials said Monday that they were investigating the crash of a British C-130 plane in Iraq on Sunday and could not confirm any connection between the crash and Islamic militants.

Two militant groups took responsibility on Monday for downing the plane, but neither claim could be substantiated. The first statement was issued on an Islamic Web site by Ansar al-Islam, a group that has been loosely linked to al-Qaida. It said it had shot down the RAF C-130 Hercules on Sunday, election day in Iraq. “A group of young mujahedeen from Ansar al-Islam managed to detect a C-130 Hercules flying at low altitude from Baghdad to Balad, and downed it with a guided rocket,” the statement said.

Later in the day, Al-Jazeera television broadcast a video that appeared to show the downing of the British transport plane, with a claim that the “Islamic National Resistance in Iraq” had filmed the attack and claimed responsibility for it.

Senate Democrats Cool to Bush’s Social Security Plan

Six of the seven Democratic senators from the states where President Bush plans to campaign for his Social Security plan this week say they are unalterably opposed to his main principle of diverting tax money into personal investment accounts.

Sen. Bill Nelson of Florida takes an unequivocal stand typical of what others have expressed in interviews and public statements. “I will oppose diverting money from the Social Security trust fund,” Nelson said in a speech at a luncheon in West Palm Beach on Monday.

He continued: “I will fight against cuts to Social Security benefits. I will fight against any plan that relies on massive borrowing and increases the debt. And I will fight to protect this program that provides a safe and reliable source of retirement income for millions of Americans.”

The one exception among the seven was Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska, who said in an interview he could not make a commitment on Social Security until he saw the specifics of the president’s plan.

A New Language Arises, And Scientists Watch It Evolve

Linguists studying a signing system that spontaneously developed in an isolated Bedouin village say they have captured a new language being generated from scratch. They believe its features may reflect the innate neural circuitry that governs the brain’s faculty for language.

The language, known as the Al-Sayyid Bedouin Sign Language, is used in a village of some 3,500 people in the Negev Desert of Israel. They are descendants of a single founder, who arrived 200 years ago from Egypt and married a local woman. Two of the couple’s five sons were deaf, as are about 150 members of the community today.

The Al-Sayyid clan has long been known to geneticists, but only now have linguists studied its sign language. A team led by Dr. Wendy Sandler of the University of Haifa says in Tuesday’s issue of The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that the Al-Sayyid sign language developed spontaneously and without outside influence. It is not related to Israeli or Jordanian sign languages, and its word order differs from that of the spoken languages of the region.