Man Pleads Guilty to Terrorist Bomb Plot
F O R T L A U D E R D A L E, Fla., Aug. 8 — A young Pakistani man pleaded guilty today to conspiring to carry out a terrorist plot to bomb power stations, a National Guard armory and local Jewish businesses.
Imran Mandhai, 19, faces between five and 20 years in prison after pleading guilty to one count of conspiracy to damage and destroy property by means of fire and explosives.
Mandhai is scheduled to be sentenced before U.S. District Judge William Dimitrouleas on Oct. 17.
His co-conspirator, Shueyb Mossa Jokhan, pleaded guilty on July 25 to the same charge. Jokhan, a naturalized U.S. citizen from Trinidad, told the judge that he and the Pakistani immigrant scouted targets in Broward and Miami-Dade counties in pursuit of their jihad, or holy war.
The U.S. attorney's office said today that Mandhai admitted to conspiring with Jokhan to bomb power stations and a National Guard armory. He said the attacks were to be followed with a list of demands for the United States government and other governments around the world.
Authorities said the two men also wanted to obtain AK-47 type assault weapons for their jihad training and operations. They also wanted to win the release from custody of an individual described as a "mujahideen" fighter committed to their jihad.
Both men face up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
Mandhai and Jokhan had discussed the bombing of power stations in Pembroke Pines, Dania Beach and Miami Lakes, and near Miami International Airport in meetings recorded by an informant in April 2001, prosecutors said.
They also planned attacks on the Israeli consulate in Miami, Jewish-owned businesses in Weston, and Jewish Community Centers in Aventura and Broward County, Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeffrey Sloman said at a May hearing.
"Jokhan even mentioned Mount Rushmore," Sloman said.
They hoped the bombings would create chaos and they could make various demands, including no help for Israel, freedom for all Muslims in U.S. jails and an American withdrawal from the Middle East, prosecutors said.
Sloman and Leonard Fenn, Mandhai's court-appointed lawyer, did not immediately return phone calls.
— The Associated Press
Jewish Charities Complain About High Rate Terrorism Insurance
M I A M I, Aug. 8 — Jewish charities around the country say their insurance premiums are climbing out of sight because of fears of terrorist attacks on their buildings, forcing them to cut programs for children, the elderly and the poor.
"The word `Jewish' is an unwelcome word in the world of insurance today," said Mike Scheinblum, who volunteers as risk manager for the Greater Miami Jewish Federation, which raises money for dozens of Miami Jewish agencies. He called the premium increases for Jewish groups "passive discrimination."
In some cases, Jewish organizations have reported that premiums for property insurance have doubled since Sept. 11.
Some insurance companies are no longer offering terrorism coverage as part of their overall property insurance policies, or they are offering it at prohibitive rates.
As a result, some Jewish organizations are going without terrorism coverage, leaving themselves open to financial ruin if their buildings or employees are attacked.
"It would bankrupt a nonprofit to have terrorism insurance," said Lewis Stolzenberg, executive director of the Jewish Community Center of New York City's Staten Island. The agency is facing an overall insurance increase of 50 percent to $500,000 and has had to eliminate a shuttle service for senior citizens.
The higher premiums are in addition to the tens of thousands of dollars that some Jewish charities are spending on security, including 24-hour guards and surveillance equipment.
Insurance industry representatives deny Jewish groups are being singled out. They say other businesses and nonprofit groups are also seeing their premiums rise, too, because of the danger of terrorism.
"I do not think that it's directed against Jewish risks in particular," said Vera Inman of Seitlin, a firm that represents Florida insurance providers.
Tami Torres, a spokeswoman for the Florida Insurance Department, said that state regulators are unaware of any price gouging and that the insurance market is tight all over in Florida.
Gary Bomzer of the Michael-Ann Russell Jewish Community Center in Miami said he has had to cut back on after-school programs for children and services for the elderly because the center's property insurance premiums doubled this year to $274,000 — and that is without the terrorism coverage that used to be part of the policy.
"I have a 104-year-old man who comes in for a free hot lunch every day," said Bomzer, whose agency helps over 5,000 people each year. "Where is he supposed to go?" He added: "Every extra penny paid out to an insurance company means I can't help a family whose child has Down syndrome."
John Fishel, president of the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, the country's second-largest federation after New York's, predicted his agency's premium will go up as much as 50 percent, and the policy will probably not include terrorism coverage.
"The cost of coverage was dramatically impacted by 9/11," he said.
Ed Rosen, director of the Dave & Mary Alper Jewish Community Center in Miami, said premiums went up $110,000 this year, forcing him to lay off staff and cut programs. The agency runs a summer day camp for 600 children, a camp for needy children, an athletic program, and services for the elderly.
In Congress, the House and Senate have passed plans that would subsidize terrorism insurance. But legislators have yet to reconcile the two versions, despite appeals from business and nonprofit groups.
Jewish and consumer groups complain that in cases where terrorism coverage is still available, the policies are inadequate. "They come with a whole host of exclusions — such as biological, radiological and chemical attacks — the very types of attacks our leaders have warned us to be on the lookout for," said Marty DePoy of the Coalition to Insure Against Terrorism.
—The Associated Press
Experts: Sept. 11. Anniversary Could Cause Mass Depression
N E W Y O R K, Aug. 8 — Sept. 11, 2001, is a day many Americans would strike from their collective memory if they could. But, psychologically speaking, they may not have that choice.
As the anniversary of the attacks that killed about 3,000 people approaches, many Americans are having nightmares, flashbacks, tearful outbursts and needless quarrels as their minds subconsciously dredge up the horror of that day, psychologists say.
The terms "anniversary reaction" and "grievers' firsts" refer to time cues that re-trigger feelings surrounding a traumatic event. The cue can be anything from the season of the year the trauma occurred, to a specific day, date or hour.
The anniversary of the terror attacks that destroyed the World Trade Center's twin towers and part of the Pentagon presents a danger of throwing New York, the entire nation and even other parts of the world into emotional turmoil.
"There could be mass depression," said Dr. Michael Nuccitelli, of SLS Health psychiatric facility in Brewster, New York, whose patients include families of the World Trade Center victims.
"We are going to experience grief as a nation — parallel to the fact that there was mass shock. As a nation, we couldn't believe it happened," he said.
On that clear September morning, Dr. Alan Hilfer was driving on the West Side Highway to work at Maimonides Hospital in Brooklyn when he had "the great misfortune," as he put it, to see the first hijacked jetliner smash into one of New York's most prominent landmarks at 8:46 a.m.
"It was a beautiful day and the sun roof was open," the psychologist said. "I heard a plane flying very low over my head and then what I thought was a sonic boom. I looked up and saw the World Trade Center explode. Other drivers and I pulled over and just stood and watched the paper floating down. I can still see it. It will be burned in my mind forever."
He was already driving away when the second hijacked airliner struck the other 110-story tower about 20 minutes later.
He said the experience changed him.
"I will never, ever, be as complacent or unaware or take for granted the things I did before," said Hilfer, who not only had to help patients, but handle his own grief as well.
"My colleagues and I used to meet informally and privately for discussions, but those meetings have tapered off," Hilfer said. "In general, I've been so amazed by people's courage, kindness, and resilience that it has re-energized me."
Many people dread reliving the day and some are finding they can no longer put off seeking professional guidance.
"A mother who lost her daughter in the World Trade Center called me in tears. She is already anticipating the anniversary," said Anie Kalayjian, visiting professor of psychology at Fordham University. "Her nightmares are increasing, she's having flashbacks and her work is being affected."
Kalayjian has been researching the psychological effects of the terror attacks on students, mental health workers and corporate employees who worked in the area.
She believes the strong emotional response is involuntary, but may be prevented proactively with support groups, anniversary gatherings and memorials to help process feelings.
The Journal of the American Medical Association, in its Aug. 7 issue, cited a new Web-based National Study of Americans' Reactions to Sept. 11, which found that post-traumatic stress disorder was significantly higher in New York at 11.2 percent than in Washington, D.C. at 2.7 percent, and major cities including Boston, Philadelphia, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles at 3.6 percent. In the rest of the country it was 4.0 percent. The data was collected between Oct. 12 and Nov. 12, 2001, from 2,273 adults recruited before Sept. 11.
"The tragedy created a developmental ripple effect," said Nuccitelli. "It has accelerated people's decision making."
In a relatively short period after the event, many couples either renewed their commitment or decided to divorce.
"One couple thinking about having children made a decision within a month to go ahead. Another took 11 weeks to agree that they don't want to bring a child into this horrible world," he said.
Last Sept. 11, upstate New Yorkers Debra and Julian Keiser were preparing to celebrate their daughter Amy's 14th birthday. This year, there will be no party that day.
"Maybe a week before or after," said Debra. "It's just too sad."
In the nation's heartland, Kansas antiques dealer Dagni Anders and her husband, Dale, an engineering specialist for Cessna Aircraft, are going ahead with plans to mark their 37th wedding anniversary, but with a twist.
At their Wichita church with a new pipe organ, a master organist will present a patriotic concert. "That should be a fitting way to recognize both our anniversary and the more recent events of Sept. 11," she said.
A residual effect for New Yorkers in particular is a "startle response," meaning they are more sensitive to loud noises such as thunder or fireworks.
But that should diminish over time, psychologists say.
Kalayjian believes the world community will experience the anniversary reaction to some extent.
"The feeling of sadness will be overwhelming," she predicted.
Just after the attacks, she said she got 200 e-mails a day offering condolences.
"I've traveled a lot since it happened," she said. "People in Germany — from 12-year-old kids to 60-year-old women — were telling me what they were doing or eating at that exact moment, what they were holding in their hand. Their memories were very explicit, which is indicative of a major impact."
To be sure, Kalayjian said the feelings of sadness will be mixed with some anger and some helplessness.
"Some people are scared of being sad and would rather be angry," she said. "But that is an unhealthy way of coping."
"One of the downsides of grief is that we can become self-destructive," Nuccitelli agreed. "People should be careful about doing too much of anything — gambling, alcohol or drug usage."
"As we get closer to the day, we'll see more people reacting. The feelings will build day by day, and take several weeks to diminish," said Nuccitelli.
Hilfer suggested people who anticipate being affected should ignore the media as much as possible for a week before the anniversary and for a few days after .
First WTC Family Accepts $1.04 Million Federal Award
W A S H I N G T O N, Aug.8 — The family of a man killed in the World Trade Center attack has accepted a $1.04 million award from the federal victims compensation fund, the first to acknowledge accepting a payout.
The victim was a recent college graduate in his 20s, who was unmarried and without children, and who earned nearly $60,000 a year in the financial services industry, according to Roberta Gordon, the lawyer for his family.
The fund, created by Congress after Sept. 11 and run by Kenneth Feinberg, awarded the man $1.19 million for his unfulfilled financial potential and for the family's pain and suffering — minus life insurance and workers compensation payments.
Feinberg estimated that average awards from the fund will be $1.85 million.
But Gordon said today that the award was on the high end of the family's expectations.
"I thought it was eminently fair," Gordon said.
Many families ambivalent about the fund are watching the first batch of awards to get a sense of how generous Feinberg will be and how he will rule on some still ambiguous issues. To be eligible for the payments, families must agree not to sue airlines, the government or other entities.
Awards are based on a formula that includes earning potential and a non-economic payout for pain and suffering of $250,000.
Another $100,000 is added for a spouse or each dependent child.
Gordon called the award "another sad milestone" for the family.
"They want closure," she said. "This is very emotional for them. Getting this award is not a joyous occasion."
Gordon agreed to share details of her clients' case but only on condition that their identities not be revealed.
News of the award was first reported in The New York Times. It could be some time still before the family sees the money, and questions remain over exactly how it will be distributed, Gordon said. A portion of the award must adhere to a victim's will or state estate laws if no will exists. Another portion must meet laws governing wrongful death payouts. The award notice came with a detailed legal checklist that, among other things, asked whether the family wanted the award in a lump sum payment or in another form.
About 650 victims' families have applied to the fund so far.
The Justice Department, which is administrating the fund, said it could not confirm details of the case or say whether others have accepted fund awards. Spokesman Charles Miller said in the next few weeks the department would post on its Web site information about those who have accepted awards from the fund to provide an idea of the awards' size. Names and other identifying characteristics would not be included, he said.
—The Associated Press