- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 11, 2002

Mourn, but reflect

It's no wonder first lady Laura Bush is urging Americans from coast to coast to turn off their television sets today.

While in no way diminishing the tragic toll of innocent life snatched from U.S. soil one year ago today, there is a concern that fears of terrorism have a "disproportionate grip" on the American psyche.

Questions, speculations and fears about pending, even "inevitable" terrorist acts have been daily fare on television, radio and in newspapers ever since September 11, often spurred by federal government warnings like yesterday's that increased the terror alert warning to "orange," its second-highest level.

Now, on this first anniversary of the terrorist attacks, two scientists are urging that "healthy doses of reason and skepticism" are needed to help the nation weigh threats of terrorism on a more "sensible scale."

Jet Propulsion Laboratory scientist Alan Harris and Southwest Research Institute scientist Clark Chapman point out that the terrorism toll of September 11 more than 3,000 are actually comparable to the total U.S. traffic deaths that occur "every month." Flu-related deaths, in addition, are projected to amount to 20,000 this year.

In fact, some 15,000 Americans are murdered every year by fellow Americans.

"U.S. citizens have far more to fear from their compatriots than foreign terrorists," according to an article the scientists wrote for Skeptical Inquirer, a magazine on science and reason.

"Our greatest vulnerability to terrorism" conclude the scientists, "is the persisting, irrational fear of terrorism that has gripped our country."

Alive again

The director of the Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS) has apologized to the retired military colonel who we wrote yesterday was "declared dead" by the Pentagon and had his bank account raided of $9,300 in retirement pay.

"We have instructed all our adjudicators regarding the necessity of following proper procedures when posting death notices and to pay careful attention to details," DFAS Director Thomas R. Bloom wrote yesterday to retired Army Col. Donald R. Condrill.

"Your retired pay account is now correct and funds inappropriately removed from your personal bank account have been restored."

As for the DFAS informing Col. Condrill in writing that in order to straighten out the government's error he would personally have to "go to a base, police station or consulate and have them send a letter verifying that you are alive and well," Mr. Bloom says effective immediately:

"The phrases 'alive and well' are no longer used. The only phrases to be used are 'a statement that the member's identification was verified' and 'a statement that the member is alive.'"

Internet inroads

It took 19 months, but Joseph Farah, former editor in chief of the Sacramento Union, has obtained congressional press credentials for his widely-read Internet news site, WorldNetDaily.com.

The congressional Standing Committee of Correspondents yesterday voted 3-2 to grant press credentials to WND, which employs more than a dozen people, but only after Mr. Farah threatened legal action. His earlier application for congressional accreditation was rejected.

"They say there is not enough original content" among other things, Mr. Farah told us earlier this year. He appealed by citing numerous "exclusives" penned by WorldNetDaily's Washington bureau chief, Paul Sperry, a former reporter for Investor's Business Daily.

One of the two "no" votes was cast yesterday by Jim Kuhnenn of Knight Ridder, who told the board that Mr. Sperry should not be rewarded because he wrote unflattering stories about the committee on the Internet site.

"I cannot in good conscience support Paul Sperry's application for a credential because if I do, I would be endorsing his brand of extortion journalism," said the reporter. "It has no place in our profession."

Partisan front

Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott of Mississippi couldn't help but inject politics into weather forecasting when playing meteorologist on the Fox News Channel's top-rated morning show, "Fox and Friends."

"There it is, that's my area right there. The Mississippi Gulf Coast," boasted the Republican leader. "My house is right there, a rocking chair sitting right there. Beautiful weather there today. About 88 degrees, I'd say, in Biloxi and Pascagoula, Mississippi.

"But I tell you what. We are bonded today, from this area of Mississippi to Manhattan. We're together. The weather is almost the same, too. We can use some rain. In fact, if it would save a little of the taxpayer's money, I'd like to move some of that rain up to South Dakota. Rain Senator [and Democratic majority leader Tom] Daschle out a little bit there."

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