9/27/01--II Will Clinton save the house former slaves built?
Preservationists want Bill Clinton to save an 1890s historic freight depot on the Little Rock, Ark., grounds of his future library. The building, built by former slaves, is in impeccable condition and part of the historic train station and bridge Clinton has vowed to preserve. But his library team says it's too late to incorporate the depot into his shrine plans. They want to tear it down. "Phooey," say preservationists, who cite a document stating that one of the foundation's primary goals is preservation. It doesn't go unnoticed that the president, often called by supportive African-Americans America's "first black president," is pushing to destroy one of the state's first black-built structures. Preservationists want Clinton to tour the depot when he returns to Little Rock next week. His office says that a tour is not on Clinton's schedule.
9/26/01 Intifada takes on Amazon
An anti-Amazon.com E-mail campaign has begun among prominent Jews angered that the E-tailer was featured on an anti-Israeli site, www.intifada.com. That Palestinian group, which promotes removing Israel from what was Palestine, included a link to Amazon where books about the uprising can be purchased. Says our copy of the anti-Amazon E-mail: "That this pretty well eliminates Amazon.com as a bookseller, for those of us that understand that the intifada is about killing Israeli citizens and driving Israel out of the land of their forefathers." As you would expect, Amazon pulled its link from intifada.com, sparking this protest from the site: "This is due to unjustified E-mail campaign against us. Our site will remain a voice of peace in this insanity of hate."
9/25/01 Terror's harbor expresses condolences
Well here’s something that should warm your heartNot! We’ve just obtained a copy of the full condolence letter sent to President Bush by Syrian President Bashar Assad the day after the September 11 terror attacks. It sounds like the so many others from sincere world leaders. "I wish to express to your Excellency on behalf of the Syrian Arab people and on my own behalf our condemnation and strong denunciation of the series of terrorist attacks which astonished the world by their cruelty," he writes. And, like the rest, he suggests that it's time for the world to unite to fight terrorism. But... this is the same Syria linked to several anti-American terrorist actions and which is still a prominent member of the State Department’s list of terror sponsors. Among Syria's sometimes guests: Alleged Hezbollah terror mastermind Imad Mughniya, said to be responsible for the attack that killed 241 American marines in Beirut in 1983. Whether Syria is signaling an unlikely change in policy or was simply covering it’s you-know-what against an American attack, isn’t known, reports our David Makovsky. You judge:
"Dear Mr. President,
"I wish to express to your Excellency on behalf of the Syrian Arab people and on my own behalf our condemnation and strong denunciation of the series of terrorist attacks which astonished the world by their cruelty, their contempt of lives of peoples and properties and their contradiction with all religious, spiritual and human values, and which targeted innocent civilians thus robbing their simplest rights in peaceful and secure living. Those attacks also were aimed against vital sites in the United States of America causing tremendous destruction, the painful and astonishing sight of which will remain inscribed in the memory of man for many generations.
"On this sad occasion I propose to your Excellency and to the world at large, that we together establish sound bases of world wide cooperation aiming at efforts to prevent repit[it]ion what happened, in your country and all regions of the world, to endeavor to uproot terrorism in all its forms and to ensure protection of the simplest of human rights, namely the right of peaceful and safe living everywhere in the world.
"Finally, I express my sincere condolences to your Excellency and to the American people and my profound feelings of grief and sympathy with the bereaved families.
President of the Syrian Arab Republic
September 12, 2001
9/21/01 Gays mourn loss of their own
Gay Americans, stung by the deaths of their brethren killed in the September 11 terror attacks, say they feel less safe from hate crimes now than before. In an E-mail to associates, Elizabeth Birch, executive director of the Human Rights Campaign, the nation's largest lobby for gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and transgenders, says: "This unimaginable loss has struck at the very core of our sense of safety and order. Before the tragedy, even on a good day, many GLBT Americans felt unsafe or at least vulnerable in ways large and small. Now, that feeling has grown even more acute and has blanketed the nation." Still, she sounds patriotic and hopeful, suggesting that the new American unity could fulfill her group's "dream of equality." In her E-mail, [click here to read], Birch identifies the gays killed in the tragedies, including New York Fire Chaplain Mychal Judge, an American copilot, and one of the passengers on the hijacked jet that crashed in Pennsylvania. "As we grieve, we should also allow ourselves to be inspired and lifted by stories of unmatched courage and caring by members of our community who perished."
9/20/01 Special Ops gets special treatment
Pentagon special operations units, which saw their funding clipped and morale sapped during the last administration, will top the list of military departments Congress will pour extra money in to, possibly as soon as this week. Senate sources tell Whispers that the chamber plans to take up Defense spending authorization and appropriations bills this week and that special ops budgets will be expanded. "The Pentagon tells that special ops are just in OK shape. They need to be in better shape if they're going to be our front-line fighters," says a source. Special operations forces have complained that they were ignored by the last administration and, as a result, many experienced officers quit. "Fixing them up is going to require some money for stuff even as small as shooting ranges and fuel," says a Senate source. Both Congress and the White House are looking to the secret services to carry out the terribly dangerous work of sneaking into countries that harbor terrorists and root out the bad guys.
9/20/01 Getting closer to bin Laden
In possibly the first direct link between last week's terror hijackers and Osama bin Laden, a well-placed Saudi source tells Whispers that one of the 19 FBI suspects trained in the terrorists' hideout of Khandhar, Afghanistan. The source, knowledgeable with the terrorist training camps, tied Wail Alshehri to bin Laden's base of operations. Wail was one of the five attackers who commandeered American Airlines Flight 11, the first plane to plow into the World Trade Center. He lived in Afghanistan for several years, says the source, who requested anonymity. Wail and his brother Waleed, who was aboard the same flight, belonged to the large, wealthy Al-Sogeli clan from southern Saudi Arabia, the source says. Bin Laden is also a wealthy Saudi.
9/19/01 Bias is a fact of life for Arab-Americans James Zogby, president of the Arab-American Institute, praises the president for urging Americans not to lash out at Arab-Americans in the wake of Black Tuesday’s killings, but in his heart he knows that some will. "Being Arab-looking today is going to be a problem ... especially if you are Muslim.” At a breakfast meeting with reporters Tuesday, Zogby said that while there have been documented reports of violence against Arab-Americansand death threats to himmost of the calls to his office [http://www.aaiusa.org/] and home have been from well-wishers. In fact, others in his office complex two blocks from the White House have brought in potluck lunches because they know some AAI workers are worried about walking in public. Ditto for Arab-Americans inside the White House. Says one: "People just want to hug me." A poll handed out by Zogbyand done by his brother John Zogbyseems to back that up. Some 62 percent view Arab-Americans favorably, but less than half of those polled knew any Arabs or Muslims. One detail: Supporters of former Vice President Al Gore were more likely (55 percent) to have Arab or Muslim friends than President Bush’s supporters (41 percent).
9/17/01 $1 billion bounty on bin Laden
It was bound to happen: A group of Los Angeles telecom millionaires is setting up a "bounty fund" to raise $1 billion or more to "wipe out" the terrorists and harboring governments responsible for Tuesday's terrorist attacks in New York City, Washington, and Pennsylvania. "Now it's time to wipe out the wasp nests of terrorism," says Edward Lozzi, a West Coast PR agent lined up to handle the fund. Lozzi says in an interview that all Americans will be encouraged to donate and that the money will be used to hire mercenaries to kill or arrest those responsible. He singled out the government's top suspect: Osama bin Laden. And if the government gets there first, the money will be donated to Tuesday's victims. He wouldn't identify the business people yet but said they plan to come forward and even set up a Web page for donations once the dust settles. He described the bounty fund creators as Internet and telecommunications executives who have been big contributors to both President Bush and former President Clinton. "I don't think there's any American who wouldn't donate," he tells Whispers. Naturally, the government doesn't support mob rule, and he says the executives have considered that but are still moving forward. In fact, he adds, the business people are already raising money. Lozzi owns Edward Lozzi & Associate, a public relations and media consultant firm, [http://www.lozzipr.com/] of Beverly Hills, and is a former press aide to former President Bush.
9/14/01 Hill wishes Rudy could stay
As Congress continues to draw up multibillion-dollar packages to help victims of Tuesday's terror attacks, some members are investigating ways to suspend New York City's mayoral election to keep retiring Mayor Rudolph Giuliani in charge. "Members want him to stay, for at least a year," says a source involved in the unlikely plan. New York did suspend its mayoral primary, which was to have taken place on Tuesday, the day two hijacked jets slammed into the World Trade Center, a third into the Pentagon, and a fourth crashed in Pennsylvania. The city yesterday announced a new vote scheduled for September 25. Congressional budget leaders, however, are unsure of Giuliani's replacement candidates. Congress this week moved to provide $40 billion for aid to those affected by the violence. The money is also to fund President Bush's antiterror plan. Congress is mapping out additional packages. Aides to key lawmakers say there would be fewer strings attached to the funds heading to New York if Giuliani, considered the leader of the city's recovery effort, could remain in charge in some fashion.
9/14/01 A bit of good Pentagon news
One reason that the grim death toll at the Pentagon might not be as high as first feared was the recent installation of Mylar sheeting on the building's windows. The sheeting, part of the ongoing renovation of the Pentagon, helps to turn regular glass into safety glass by preventing shattering. Some of those in the building Tuesday morning when terrorists slammed a jet into one wing, credit the Mylar with saving their lives. One Army officer told our Richard J. Newman, "The Mylar glass saved my ass. I was 30 feet away from where it hit and I walked away." Added another officer: "Mylar saved a lot of lives."
9/13/01 Rumsfeld's scolding directed at Hatch
So whom was Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld targeting when he went on a tirade Wednesday against those who leak classified information? Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah. Senate, intelligence, and Pentagon sources say that Rumsfeld and other national security officials were outraged that the senator talked with reporters about intercepted secret information about the terror attacks into the Pentagon and World Trade Center. News reports show that Hatch discussed intercepts between associates of chief suspect Osama bin Laden about the attacks. The worry: leaks that that will dry up sources of information about the bin Laden gang, which may retaliate if it can figure out who the source was. "Everybody knows that Sen. Hatch is a very patriotic American," says a Hatch aide, "and he would never leak information that was classified." He said Hatch had spoken over a "non-secure" phone with a senior American intelligence official on Tuesday and asked what he could tell the media. "He did this with their okaythat is what he thought," the aide explained.
9/13/01 Capitol terror and no escape plan
House and Senate leaders plan to push the U.S. Capitol Police to review and drill their emergency evacuation plans after panic swept through congressional buildings Tuesday amid reports that a fourth suicide jet was headed their way. Congressional sources say that the police have a plan but have never briefed lawmakers on it or practiced evacuation drills. Aides describe massive terror Tuesday morning. In the House, leadership aides say they first figured they were in danger when they heard police radio traffic discussing a possible jet attack just seconds away. But when asked where to go, police simply told them to leave the building. In the Senate, Minority Leader Trent Lott was quicker to act. Even as he was drafting a statement on the terror attacks on the World Trade Center, he heard the report of a third jet slamming into the Pentagon and he ordered his staff: "Get outta here!" As they left, Capitol Police were still letting tourists into the Capitol, unaware of the danger.
Eventually, an evacuation began, but only for some leaders, such as Speaker Dennis Hastert, taken to Andrews Air Force Base. Other bigs, like House Majority Whip Tom DeLay and House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt, as well as some Senate leaders where taken to police HQ just blocks from the Capitol. All leaders were eventually moved by chopper and limo to hideouts in West Virginia and Virginia, like Mt. Weather, a high-tech underground communications center near Round Hill, Va., some 75 miles from Washington.
Whispers visited Mt. Weather and saw several limos with police lights and District or government tags going in and out of the gates, guarded by officers toting rifles. We also passed an escort of five U.S. Park Police on Harleys. Sources say several generals were also taken there to begin war planning. It wasn't easy for everyone to get there: We hear that some House leaders who drove to Andrews on their own to catch the chopper ride weren't initially recognized. For other House and Senate members, it was fend for yourself. Some hung out in Capitol Hill coffee shops. Others, like Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York, went to the homes of staff. By Tuesday evening, everyone had returned, and a review of the botched evacuation of the Capitol was begun by the House Committee on Administration.
9/12/01 A first for NATO
For the first time in the organization's history, NATO officials said Wednesday that they would invoke the alliance's mutual defense clausea provision of its charter that declares that an attack on one NATO nation is an attack on all. NATO officials are set to meet today.
The invocation of so-called Article V would raise the possibility of full NATO retaliation for the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington on Tuesday, the officials told U.S. News.
"It's incredible that our allies would stand up and be counted," says one source close to the discussions. "This means that whatever the U.S. response, we have at least 18 others willing to join a military coalition."
The decisions by the NATO officials came within hours after FBI agents uncovered several apparently promising leads to the identities of some of the individuals responsible for the hijackings of the aircraft used in the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
Government officials say intelligence information and other evidence point to the involvement of millionaire Saudi exile Osama bin Laden. President Bush on Wednesday called the attacks "acts of war" and vowed to "use all our resources to conquer" whoever was responsible.
Bruce B. Auster
9/7/01 Ben Stein joins N.J. guv race
Funnyman and GOP activist Ben Stein is joining New Jersey gubernatorial candidate Bret Schundler's campaign this week, appearing in ads slamming foe Jim McGreevey as a tax-hungry politician. Playing the teacher's role in a classroom, Stein says, "McGreevey means higher taxes and less money for your parents." The ad, provided to Whispers, was done for the Club for Growth, which donates to candidates who favor Reaganomics, especially lower taxes and a smaller government. The ads begin running Friday.
Click here for the text of the ad.
9/6/01 Divorce threats from Republicans
You'd think that with the recent history of Democratic men cheating on their wives, the "grrrls" would be looking the GOP's way. But married women are abandoning the Republican Party. GOP sources tell Whispers that the group once in the Republican column is miffed that President Bush has stopped talking about education and family issues. To turn that around, Bush is being lobbied hard by Republican leaders to spend September addressing women-friendly issues. "Our married-women numbers are in the tank and there'll be a revolt among Republicans if he doesn't use the bully pulpit to turn this around," says a House Republican strategist.
9/5/01 Senator Hutchison's ray of sunshine
It was probably the most over-reported news item you never saw: Texas Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison and her husband Ray were adopting a baby. We heard about it two months ago and while her office confirmed the adoption negotiations, we were asked not to report it. Seems there was some concern that publicity might ruin the deal. So Whispers didn't report it and last weekend the happy family finally announced the adoption of four-month-old Kathryn Bailey Hutchison, or Bailey for short. Then the most amazing thing happened. Hutchison sent a thank you to reporters who heeded her request for privacy. Yesterday, in a mailing tube sent from Dallas, we received an official Senate umbrella with a note attached. Under the headline "It's raining sunshine at our house," the senator and her hubby wrote: "Thank you for honoring our privacy as we proceeded through the process of adopting our wonderful daughter, Bailey, and as we experience the joy that she has brought to our family." No problemo.