Tuesday, March 26, 2002

Color-coded alert system gains attention with jokes
WASHINGTON (AP) — Homeland security chief Tom Ridge jokingly responded to recent parodies of the federal government’s color-coded guide to the terrorist threats, saying there’s more to it than him “dipping into a bag of M&Ms to determine the color of the day.”

“I assure you there’s a little more science to it than that,” Ridge told a meeting of local and regional leaders Monday.

But far from being upset by gags on television and in newspaper cartoons, Ridge said making Americans aware of the new alert system is important, no matter how that is accomplished.

“I’m grateful for all this attention,” he said. “We needed a system that communicated in a common vocabulary about the level of risk.”

Ridge came to the meeting to emphasize that his office depends on close coordination and planning among local, state and federal officials to make the United States more secure

Bush’s cousin considers lieutenant governor position
BOSTON (AP) — A cousin of President Bush, insurance consultant Jamie Bush, says he’s considering a run for lieutenant governor of Massachusetts.

“I think it would mean that we would see tremendous growth in the Republican Party, not just because of the name, but because that’s a priority for me,” Jamie Bush said in a telephone interview Monday. “It’s a priority of (GOP gubernatorial candidate) Mitt Romney also. I think a combination of the two names — not just my name — would be good for Massachusetts.”

Bush, 46, of Hingham, is the son of Prescott S. Bush Jr., brother of former president George H. W. Bush. Romney was chief of the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics.

He said he wanted to explore how much support he has within the Republican Party before officially entering the race. He expects to make a decision by the end of this week.

Already running for lieutenant governor are businessman James Rappaport and former Melrose mayor Patrick Guerriero, whom acting Gov. Jane Swift had picked as her running mate before she dropped out of the race last week.

The state GOP convention is scheduled for April 6.

New Mexico wildfire destroys 28 homes
ALTO, N.M. (AP) — Bare chimneys stood amid burned rubble and twisted metal in an affluent mountain subdivision where a fast-moving wildfire destroyed 28 homes.

As firefighters mopped up hot spots Monday, some of the hundreds of people who fled at the height of the fire emergency Saturday began returning to see if their homes survived.

The blaze in the mountains of southern New Mexico slowed significantly and was 60 percent contained, said Terri Wildermuth, state Forestry Division spokeswoman.

“They’re expecting very little fire behavior today (Monday) because of lower winds, lower temperatures and higher humidity,” she said.
No one had been injured.

Gov. Gary Johnson said the blaze started Saturday when a resident dumped fireplace ash in the back yard, mistakenly thinking the ashes were cold.

Wind gusts of up to 50 mph pushed the flames, but the wind died down Sunday.

9/11 crash victims’ families will hear cockpit recording
WASHINGTON (AP) — Relatives of the 40 passengers and crew killed Sept. 11 aboard hijacked United Airlines Flight 93, which crashed in rural Pennsylvania, will be allowed to hear the cockpit recordings during a single, private listening session next month, the FBI says.

The highly unusual decision was approved personally by FBI Director Robert Mueller, an FBI official, speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed Monday. Families have been asking the FBI to let them hear what transpired in the cockpit after some passengers apparently rushed the hijackers with the cry, “Let’s roll!”

The FBI official confirmed that families of the crash victims will be allowed to listen to the audio recordings in Princeton, N.J., on April 18. The flight, which crashed in a field in Shanksville, Pa., had departed earlier in the day from Newark, N.J., for San Francisco. It had turned mid-flight and apparently was headed toward Washington when it went down with four hijackers aboard.

The National Transportation Safety Board, which investigates aviation accidents, has never allowed relatives to listen to the cockpit tapes, spokesman Ted Lopatkiewicz said. Under federal law, the safety board can’t release the tapes and can only give out transcripts during a public hearing or when a majority of factual reports on the crash are completed, Lopatkiewicz said.

‘Let’s Roll’ unveiled on decal on F-16 fighter jet
EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP, N.J. (AP) — As Flight 93 widow Lisa Beamer watched, the Air National Guard on Monday unveiled a star-spangled nose decal emblazoned with Todd Beamer’s famous fighting words, “Let’s roll,” on an F-16 fighter jet.

“I’m honored that you would use Todd’s words as a rallying cry for our war against terrorism,” Beamer’s widow said. “When I hear those words, I think of the grit and determination Todd and his fellow passengers had.”

The decal has already been applied to select aircraft throughout the Air Force and Air National Guard.

Todd Beamer, 32, telephoned from the hijacked United flight Sept. 11 and said “Let’s roll!” before he and other passengers apparently confronted the terrorists. The plane crashed into the Pennsylvania countryside, killing all 44 people on board.

National parks plagued by lack of funds and pollution
WASHINGTON (AP) — Mountain views in some of the country’s signature national parks are clouded by air pollution, while historical monuments are crumbling for lack of cash, a park advocacy group said.

The National Parks Conservation Association on Monday released its annual list of “America’s Ten Most Endangered National Parks.”

Mojave National Preserve in California is among the newcomers to this year’s list. Among the problems cited: water drained by nearby development, illegal wildlife poaching and habitat damage from off-road vehicles.

The list also includes Yellowstone National Park, the country’s first park, and Federal Hall National Monument in New York, the lower Manhattan site where George Washington was sworn in as president.

“Although our national parks are protected on paper, the dangers they face continue to multiply,” said Thomas Kiernan, president of the conservation association. “Our national parks need to be protected and fully funded, and the parks must be freed from the burdens of encroaching development and air and water pollution.”

Kiernan said President Bush’s proposal to increase funding for national parks is a good start, but more is needed.


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