Morning Report: July 7, 2005

Terrorist bombs strike London. At least seven coordinated explosions struck the transport system in London, England. An unknown number of people have been killed; current estimates put the toll at at lest 45. BBC: 'At least two people have been killed and scores injured after three blasts on the Underground network and another on a double-decker bus in London. UK Prime Minister Tony Blair said it was "reasonably clear" there had been a series of terrorist attacks. He said it was "particularly barbaric" that it was timed to coincide with the G8 summit. He is returning to London. An Islamist website has posted a statement - purportedly from al-Qaeda - claiming it was behind the attacks. Home Secretary Charles Clarke said blasts occurred between Aldgate East and Liverpool Street tube stations; between Russell Square and King's Cross tube stations; at Edgware Road tube station; and on a bus at Tavistock Square. The Queen said she was "deeply shocked" and sent her sympathy to those affected.' BBC radio currently cites eyewitness accounts of at least ten fatalities. Debka: 'According to unofficial estimates, at least 45 died in the terrorist bombings of London trains and buses and 150 were seriously injured out of a total of 1000 wounded. Red alert declared in France, Italy, Germany and Spain. New York places transport system on high security status. DEBKAfile’s counter-terror experts confirm that on the morning of Thursday, July 7, London came under a large-scale al Qaeda assault exceeding in scale the March 2004 rail attacks in Madrid. A least seven coordinated bomb blasts hit metro stations and trains in central London close to the City financial district as well as buses. The London underground service was shut down and central London bus lines suspended. Because the trains and buses were crowded, the number of casualties is massive, taxing London hospitals to their limit. At only one of the tube stations attacked, Aldgate East, 90 casualties are reported. The bomb blitz was timed for the first day of the G8 summit in Gleneagles, Scotland. Its message: al Qaeda will dictate the world’s agenda – not the leaders of the world’s industrialized nations, especially US president George Bush.' Norm Geras has updates. Current information at Command Post GWOT and Command Post Global Recon. (various)

Desert Storm veteran, activist Michael Donnelly remembered. Michael Donnelly, a native of South Windsor, Connecticut and former Air Force pilot who retired with the rank of Major, died on June 30 from the effects of ALS. Donnelly maintained, despite initial denials from the US Government, that his degenerative illness was service-related; in 1998 he published a book, "Falcon's Cry", which detailed the problems of veterans suffering from the various illnesses collectively known as Gulf War Syndrome. Candace Taylor of the Journal Inquirer reports: 'He began a 15-year military career that included stints as an F-16 pilot and instructor. He received four Air Medals and other honors during his service. Donnelly was an Air Force fighter pilot during the Persian Gulf War in 1991. In 1996, at age 36, he was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS -- commonly known as Lou Gehrig's disease -- while on active duty. ALS is a progressive degenerative disease that attacks nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord, eventually causing the loss of all muscle function. After his diagnosis, Donnelly became a champion for Persian Gulf War veterans battling ALS and other diseases that he believed to be war-related. In his 1998 memoir, "Falcon's Cry," he described tens of thousands of veterans suffering from illnesses related to the war and their struggle for recognition. The government initially denied a link between Gulf War service and ALS. But Donnelly spent six years campaigning in Washington, D.C., at the Pentagon and the Department of Veteran Affairs. Finally, in 2001, Veterans' Affairs Secretary Anthony Principi acknowledged scientific data that showed Persian Gulf War veterans are more than twice as likely as other veterans to develop ALS. Principi acknowledged Donnelly's efforts in the cause and announced that the Veterans Administration would grant full benefits to all Gulf War veterans with ALS.' The local paper's tribute says: 'Maj. Michael W. Donnelly had charisma. He had courage. And even though he knew he was dying, he never lost his sense of humor. "Even when he was dying, he was making jokes," his sister, Denise Donnelly, said Friday. Maj. Donnelly, a retired Air Force pilot and Gulf War veteran, died of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, on Thursday at Manchester Memorial Hospital surrounded by his friends and family. He was 46. "He had a presence that filled the room," Denise said. As the ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease, progressed, Donnelly was no longer able to speak or move. But even when his only means of communication was blinking his eyes, Denise said Donnelly's vivid personality was always there. "His whole person was present in his eyes," she said. After being stricken with ALS while serving in the Gulf War, Donnelly became a champion for veterans who battled illnesses linked to military service. ...' Donnelly left this letter for the people of South Windsor: 'An open letter to the Journal Inquirer and the people of South Windsor: I would like to thank the staff of the Journal Inquirer for the years of tireless and impassioned support you have provided in getting the word out about the high rate of ALS among Desert Storm veterans. It was in large part due to your unstinting coverage of this issue that we were able to achieve recognition of the connection between ALS and service in the Gulf War. In December 2001 the Veterans' Administration acknowledged this connection and opened the way for scores of Gulf War veterans to receive the benefits they earned and also to millions of dollars of federal research money. Thank you. I also want to thank the town of South Windsor for your abiding support. ... In his farewell to baseball speech Lou Gehrig said he considered himself to be the luckiest man on the face of this earth. Only now do I understand what he meant. - Major Michael W. Donnelly, USAF (retired)". A friend of the Donnelly family who attended the funeral reports that Donelley's father gave a stoical, moving, and uplifting eulogy: with the smile never leaving his face, he described how the angels might sound as they took the role of "air traffic control" and guided Michael's soul on its final ascent into heaven. (Journal Inquirer, personal telephone conversation)