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UFO chase or routine flight?

Question: A recent article reported on a strange blue light seen on something flying low over Washington at incredible speeds. F-16s were scrambled from Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland to investigate. Can you provide an update?

Answer: There is no update. The North American Aerospace Defense Command in Colorado, which has responsibility for defending U.S. airspace, didn't respond to several requests for information, nor did Andrews.

As reported initially, two F-16 jets from Andrews were scrambled around 1 a.m. July 26 after radar detected a low, slow-flying aircraft in area airspace.

"We had a track of interest, so we sent up some aircraft," Maj. Douglas Martin, a NORAD spokesman, said at the time. "Everything was fine in the sky, so they returned home."

Renny Rogers of Waldorf, Md., had a different take on things: "It was this light blue object, traveling at a phenomenal rate of speed . . . I told my neighbor, "I think those jets are chasing a UFO.' "

But pilots with the D.C. Air National Guard's 113th Air Wing, which flew the F-16s, reported nothing unusual. "It was a routine launch," said Lt. Col. Steve Chase, a senior officer with the wing.

Foiled assassination

Question: I've read several times recently that Saddam Hussein attempted to assassinate former President Bush. I don't remember ever having heard of this before. What are the facts?

Answer: The alleged plot occurred in 1993, before the former president arrived in Kuwait that April. He was there to be honored as the leader of the Persian Gulf War alliance that had expelled Iraqi troops in 1991.

Although initially there was some doubt about the plot, U.S. officials in May 1993 indicated that an FBI inquiry substantiated accusations that the Iraqi government had been involved in the assassination plan.

The officials also said an unexploded car bomb intended to kill Bush during that visit to the emirate matched the design of Iraqi explosives discovered during the Persian Gulf War.

The Kuwaiti government charged 14 men with planning the assassination attempt. One of the alleged ringleaders told the Kuwaiti court that Iraqi intelligence agents had provided them with false identity papers, trained them in the use of explosives and ordered them to kill Bush.

In June 1994, five Iraqis and one Kuwaiti were sentenced to death. Six other Iraqis and a Kuwaiti were sentenced to prison terms. One Kuwaiti was acquitted.

A promise kept

Question: I often hear and read about the Susan Komen Foundation in connection with breast cancer awareness. What is the history of the organization, and who is or was Susan Komen?

Answer: The Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation in Dallas resulted from a promise made between two sisters, Susan G. Komen and Nancy Brinker, said spokeswoman Jennifer Halpin.

Komen was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1978, when less was known about the disease and women who had it rarely discussed it in public.

Before she died at 36, she asked her sister to do everything possible to bring an end to breast cancer. Brinker kept her promise by establishing the foundation in 1982 in her sister's memory.

Twenty years later, the foundation is a global leader in the fight against breast cancer through its support of research and community-based outreach programs and through screening and treatment projects worldwide, Halpin said.

Lifelong suffering

Question: I remember reading about a youngster dubbed "Girl X" who was brutally attacked in the stairwell of her Cabrini-Green public housing high-rise in Chicago in 1997. What has become of her?

Answer: The victim, later identified as Toya Currie, lives at a long-term care facility. She became blind after being raped, beaten and poisoned. She couldn't speak or walk.

Now 15, she requires 24-hour medical care and communicates with eye and facial movements.

Payment was made earlier this year to settle a lawsuit that alleged the Chicago Housing Authority and its security contractors failed to protect the child. Currie will share in the $3-million settlement.

Her mother, Belinda Bohlar, said the money will be used to make all of her daughter's days "more comfortable and as close to normal as possible."

Patrick Sykes, who was convicted of assaulting Currie, was sentenced in July 2001 to 120 years in prison.

Have a question about the news? Colin Bessonette will try to get an answer. Call (404) 222-2002 or write to him at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, P.O. Box 4689, Atlanta, GA 30302, or e-mail him at q&aajc.com.

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