Dispatches > In Brief

In Brief

News highlights from around the world

Issue: "Tools of a tyrant," Aug. 10, 2002

Preparing for the worst

As the first anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks approaches, the New York Police Department wants to learn from the past. The department may make new plans for emergency procedures, including hiring a new chief of emergencies, reducing the number of cops who respond to a calamity, and building a "shadow staff" to take over if senior officers are killed. Right after the World Trade Center attack, thousands of police and firefighters flooded the complex. Twenty-three officers and 343 firefighters died. A private study added urgency to the proposals. A McKinsey & Co. review found that police communication systems were not prepared for a large-scale disaster. It reported that 38 percent of the police officers that responded to the World Trade Center attack did not know to whom to report. It also cited a "perceived lack of a single strong operational leader" and "unclear roles and responsibilities among senior leadership." Experts also cited a lack of communication between fire and police on Sept. 11. They say this problem predated the attack. Officials say that their top priority is ensuring that people donÕt flood a future disaster area as they did on Sept. 11. "On Sept. 11, you had thousands of police officers move into one small area. That is not going to happen again," one officer said.

Man knows not his time

Richard W. De Haan, former head of Grand Rapids, Mich.-based RBC Ministries and creator in 1968 of the weekly Day of Discovery television program, died last month. He was 79 and suffered from Parkinson's disease. When his father, well-known Bible teacher Martin De Haan, died in 1965, Richard took over the family's broadcast ministry. He was the voice of the daily "Radio Bible Class" broadcast for more than 30 years, until his retirement in 1985. Day of Discovery is one of the nation's longest continually broadcast TV programs.

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Chaim Potok, prolific rabbi-turned-author who portrayed American Jewish life from an empathetic insider's perspective through bestselling novels such as The Chosen and The Promise, died of brain cancer on July 23 at his home in suburban Philadelphia. He was 73. The son of Orthodox Jewish Polish immigrants, Mr. Potok embraced Conservative Judaism as a young man in New York and became a rabbi. His literary works often portrayed young Jews struggling to sort out opposing religious and secular influences-a tension, he said, that grew out of his own experience. Among other achievements, he was the first major author to unveil for many in the outside world the inner workings of Hasidic life. | Edward E. Plowman

Law? What law?

The Pacific Northwest unit of the United Methodist Church again has trashed the denomination's law prohibiting "self-avowed, practicing homosexuals" from being ordained or serving as pastors. A seven-member church panel failed last month to come up with the five votes necessary to send the case of lesbian minister Karen Dammann to trial for violating the church law. As a result, the charges were dismissed. She had told her bishop in a letter last year she was in a "partnered, covenanted, homosexual relationship." The action follows dismissal of charges in May against openly gay pastor Mark Williams of Woodland Park UMC in Seattle. | Edward E. Plowman

You have to pay to play

Seven years ago, a tiny California radio station started a revolution. The eclectic KPIG was the first commercial radio station to broadcast over the Internet. Hundreds of others followed, giving listeners a huge range of radio choices from around the world. But now KPIG no longer broadcasts to cyberspace, thanks to new copyright regulations. The new music royalties-which webcasters must pay to recording studios-raised the price of webcasting, and the little 2,850-watt radio station couldn't afford to pay. Radio stations large and small are up in arms over the new royalty standards, set by James H. Billington earlier this summer. (As Librarian of Congress, Mr. Billington oversees the U.S. Copyright Office.) A group of radio stations, including megapower Clear Channel Communications, went to a Philadelphia federal court to appeal his decision. The National Association of Broadcasters opposes Mr. Billington's decision on grounds of the financial burden. The broadcasting trade group also complained that the government's royalty system does not reflect free market conditions, which means that stations are stuck with abnormally high fees for music. This royalty controversy is part of an ongoing struggle to determine the role of copyrights and intellectual property in the digital age. The battle could last for years, which means the road ahead for online music will be bumpy. | Chris Stamper

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