Dispatches The Buzz
Militants kill five, wound 40 in attack on Christian congregation in Pakistan; diplomat vows to stay
'We will be here'
Terrorists once again struck down American civilians on March 17, attacking a Christian worship service just a block from the U.S. embassy in Pakistan, killing two Americans and wounding at least 14. Security at the U.S. embassy in Islamabad was substantially hardened after Sept. 11, but that did not keep militants from lobbing grenades into the nearby International Protestant Church just as worshippers finished singing "This is Holy Ground." The explosions killed Barbara Green, a U.S. embassy personnel officer, and her 17-year-old daughter Kristen Wormsley. Also killed were an Afghan, a Pakistani, and an unidentified victim whose body was blown up beyond recognition. Embassy officials say he may have been one of the attackers. More than 40 churchgoers were wounded, including Mrs. Green's husband Milton and the couple's son Zack, a fifth-grader. The terrorists injured the Sri Lankan ambassador to Pakistan, another Sri Lankan, a dozen Pakistanis, and several worshippers from Iran, Iraq, Ethiopia, Great Britain, and Germany-reflecting the diversity of the Christian community in a country that has grown more militantly Islamic since Sept. 11. The church for several months has been without a permanent pastor, but the congregation has continued to hold weekly services, arranged by members of the congregation, in English, Korean, Urdu, and two Afghan dialects. The nondenominational congregation includes diplomats, aid workers, missionaries, teachers, and other professionals. More recently it took in handfuls of refugees from fighting in Afghanistan. Attendance for Sunday services before Sept. 11 was about 150 but shrank to half that number when many diplomatic missions and international corporations sent employees and family members home after the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon. Mrs. Green and her children had returned to Pakistan only last month after departing in the wake of those attacks. Assailants burst into the Sunday service, at least one with a belt full of grenades that he began throwing into the air and rolling across the floor. American Winnie Ritchie, who teaches English to Afghan refugees in Pakistan, said one of the grenades stopped four feet away from her but did not explode. Jeff Womble, a teacher from Brandon, Fla., said he was sitting three rows from the back of the church with his wife Cindy and 6-year-old son when a young man rushed into the building and hurled grenades toward the middle rows. "I was all right," Mr. Womble told the Los Angeles Times. "Then I checked my wife, and she was hurt. But I couldn't find my son. He had been sitting, crying in between us, and he had been blown two rows back." All three were hospitalized; Mrs. Womble, a nurse, had a broken leg. Her son was in serious condition with shrapnel wounds to the head. U.S. and Pakistani officials increased security last fall in the diplomatic enclave in which the church's building is located. But in contrast to the U.S. embassy's fortified military protection, witnesses say the International Protestant Church 400 yards away was a soft target-a haven for Westerners guarded only by Pakistani police. Churchgoers said even that protection seemed notably slack on the Sunday of the attack, with at least one guard preparing tea at the time of the explosions. It was the second time since Sept. 11 that militants targeted Christian worshippers. On Oct. 28, unidentified gunmen attacked a church in the eastern Pakistani city of Bahawalpur, killing 15 people. The United States sent law-enforcement agents to assist in the investigation of the March 17 attack, along with agents who specialize in protecting embassies. The State Department announced a voluntary departure program, the second since Sept. 11. For families of U.S. diplomats who want to leave, that means a free flight home. But U.S. Ambassador Wendy Chamberlain vowed to stay. Surrounded by bodyguards, she declined reporters' questions just after the attack but said, "Those of you who know me and who know the United States, and who know my president, will know that I will answer these questions another day ... because we will be here." -Mindy Belz Reporters who ignored conservative writer extol him as a liberal
Brock's higher stock
David Brock is a very angry ex-conservative. In his new book Blinded by the Right: The Conscience of an Ex-Conservative, he chronicles his high life as a celebrated investigative journalist for The American Spectator, followed by his coming out as a homosexual (in 1994) and then a liberal (in 1997), and his subsequent regrets at helping the conservative agenda. Mr. Brock uses the book to attack many of the people who were his closest allies and mentors on the right. In addition, he denigrates the entire Republican establishment. Looking back in horror, he suggests that by 1992, the Republicans had embraced "right-wing fundamentalism" and "branded its opponents as immoral and un-American, schemed to probe their private lives, and virtually launched an anti-gay pogrom." Later, he approvingly quotes another ex-conservative gay author, Marvin Liebman, by saying he knew he had been working as "a Jew in Hitler's army." The new book is the culmination of Mr. Brock's second career, this time on the gay left, and the national media have been much more receptive than they were for the first. Nine years ago, conservatives lauded Mr. Brock for his book The Real Anita Hill, which offered a rare and skeptical look into the unproven charges of sexual harassment the Oklahoma law professor and feminist threw at Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas. But few media outlets would even mention Mr. Brock, although NBC's Today show once paired him with a Hill supporter who denounced him throughout the interview. In June 1997, he wrote an article for Esquire magazine called "Confessions of a Right-Wing Hit Man," and he was suddenly a very hot media property. Today put him on all alone with no opponent, as did NBC's Meet the Press, CBS's Face the Nation and This Morning, ABC's Good Morning America, CNN's Crossfire, two CNBC shows, and MSNBC. The media machine last week began again with the new book where the Esquire boomlet left off. On NBC, Matt Lauer introduced him: "His specialty was character assassination and throughout the 1990s he made a living as a right-wing hatchet man. But after years of lies and, some would say, malicious journalism, this Washington insider wants to clear his conscience." Mr. Lauer didn't wonder how "years of lies" about President Clinton would end up with an impeachment and an $800,000 settlement for Paula Jones. Mr. Lauer reminded Mr. Brock about Hillary Clinton's famous Today interview in January of 1998: "After the Monica Lewinsky story broke and Mrs. Clinton was on this program and she talked about the now-famous 'vast right-wing conspiracy,' you were watching that day. Were you a part of that right-wing conspiracy?" Mr. Brock replied: "I was and I was stunned when she said it because I said 'finally somebody gets it.'" Media celebrate Bono
U2 can be famous
Reporters treat some political activists like rock stars-because they are rock stars. Time recently put Bono, the lead singer of U2, on its cover, and celebrated him as not only the largest rock star of our time, but as a "shrewd, dedicated political advocate, transforming himself into the most secular of saints, becoming a worldwide symbol of rock 'n' roll activism." Bono's cause is convincing Africa's creditors to erase the debts of the troubled continent. It wasn't long before President Bush let Bono tag along with him for the day on March 14. At one appearance, the president saluted the singer for his willingness "to lead to achieve what his heart tells him, and that is nobody-nobody-should be living in poverty and hopelessness in the world." While he honored the president's receptiveness, Bono couldn't resist a shot at the war president, suggesting that AIDS in Africa is "a bigger threat than rogue states. It's a bigger threat than Saddam Hussein." AP: Baby out of womb is a fetus
On March 12, the House of Representatives easily passed by voice vote the Born-Alive Infants Protection Act, which simply declares that federal law should recognize a baby with a heartbeat and respiration as fully human. But some reporters just can't agree. The Associated Press reported that "The House voted Tuesday to define a fetus that is fully outside a woman's body as having been 'born alive,' which would give the fetus full legal protection." Within hours, House staffer John Cusey and Douglas Johnson of the National Right to Life Committee protested to the AP editor on duty that "fetus" is not an accurate term for a human infant removed from the womb. But later AP dispatches only compounded the error, saying the bill was aimed at the District of Columbia's partial-birth abortion ban, which D.C. does not have. Mr. Johnson concluded that "if the AP editors really believe that a living, breathing baby, completely outside the mother, is still a 'fetus,' merely because an abortion has preceded the live birth, then that provides a good illustration of the kind of mindset that makes the bill necessary." House passes bill to rein in frivolous lawsuits, "forum shopping" by trial lawyers
Congress' classy action
Trial lawyers may finally be up against an institution with deep pockets that they can't sue: Over the objections of many lawyers and Democrats, the U.S. House of Representatives this month voted 233-190 to pass a bill to reduce frivolous class-action lawsuits. The reform bill now moves to the Senate. Class-action lawsuits can be big business for trial lawyers. By pooling together large groups of people with the same small grievance, they can extract huge settlements from corporations. But plaintiffs often receive tiny benefits while trial lawyers reap the windfall. In one case against the maker of Cheerios, lawyers' fees exceeded $2 million and class members received coupons for more cereal. One airline suit awarded $16 million to lawyers, while class members received a $25 discount if they bought a ticket for more than $250. The reform bill would shift many class-action cases from state to federal courts. Supporters want to stop the practice of "forum shopping," in which lawyers file suits in state courts with a history of granting plaintiffs large awards. A case would go to federal court if any plaintiff and any defendant live in different states and when the total claims exceed $2 million. "Currently attorneys lump thousands and sometimes millions of speculative claims into one class action and then race to any available state courthouse in the hopes of a rubber-stamp settlement," said Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. One oft-noted place where class-action suits proliferate is the stock market, especially when new or risky ventures fall apart. Wild swings in the stock market can leave investors anguished when the risks they've taken don't pan out. When enough shareholders get angry, lawsuits spring up, accusing falling companies of some sort of wrongdoing. Man knows not his time: former NBC head Sylvester Weaver
Not proud of the peacock
Sylvester "Pat" Weaver helped invent modern TV programming. The former NBC head, who died of pneumonia on March 15 at age 93, created the Today and Tonight shows and developed the concept of prime-time specials. Mr. Weaver came to NBC in 1949, when there were only 2 million TV sets in the country. One of his first acts was to rescue Meet the Press from cancellation. Mr. Weaver went on to change TV by creating shows that were controlled by the network rather than by sponsors. One of his biggest ideas was a 1952 attempt to drain the audience from morning radio by launching Today. Mr. Weaver's tenure was short; he was forced out of NBC in 1956. Later, he said that he was displeased by the medium he helped shape. "It's very disappointing," said the man who scheduled TV's first opera broadcasts. "There's occasional good things on, but there's no consistent arts programming." Publisher destroys 4,000 copies of controversial book
Their own worst enemy
HarperCollins, publisher of one of this year's most controversial business books, is standing by the book despite threats of a libel suit-sort of. The company decided to destroy 4,000 copies of Nicholas W. Maier's Trading with the Enemy, according to The New York Times, but is reprinting the book without offending passages. Enemy is an exposé of James J. Cramer, the former hedge fund manager who founded TheStreet.com. Mr. Maier, a former Cramer employee, contends in his book that the investor used media connections to manipulate stock prices and traded on inside information. Mr. Cramer dismisses the charges as Mr. Maier's "revenge for my firing him in 1998 for his gross negligence in failing to carry out simple instructions." James A. Fox, vice president and general counsel of HarperCollins, conceded in a letter that three pages of the book contained false assertions that Mr. Cramer traded on inside information about the Western Digital Corporation. Remaining in the book are Mr. Maier's accusations that his ex-boss was a manic tyrant who started his days by playing Coolio's Gangsta's Paradise on a boom box, smashed office equipment in anger, and shouted things like "I love the smell of money in the morning" and "Everyone out there is the enemy." Trading with the Enemy is just one of an entire genre of books by ex-Wall Streeters who fill page after page with stories of greed and abrasiveness at their former employers.