The immediate threat of a bomb attack on the city’s subway system is apparently over, and may have been little more than a hoax by an overseas informant hoping to cash in on some bad information. Even if that turns out to be the case, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly did exactly the right thing in treating the threat seriously and transforming the mass-transit system into a well-patrolled police state last week.
Fernando Ferrer, Mr. Bloomberg’s Democratic opponent in the upcoming Mayoral election, is demanding that the Mayor take voters through each step of the process that led to the decision to beef up security. Mr. Ferrer should save his breath; surely he isn’t suggesting that the Mayor should have bet with New Yorkers’ lives that the murky information coming out of Washington and Iraq was false?
Consider what Mr. Bloomberg had to work with: Last week, he’s told by federal officials that an informant, believed to be Pakistani, has gotten wind of a highly specific plot to attack the New York City subway system with remote-controlled bombs hidden in suitcases and baby strollers, and that this attack may take place within a few days. As many as 20 operatives are reported to possibly be in New York, and the attack is said to be similar in scope and method to the deadly July attacks in London. Federal officials further tell Mr. Bloomberg that their informant has spent time in Afghanistan and has occasionally proven reliable in the past. Although officials from the Department of Homeland Security play down the threat, dismissing it as being of “doubtful credibility,” the F.B.I. says the information should be taken dead seriously. Meanwhile, in Iraq, the Army and the C.I.A. apprehend two men suspected of being involved in the plot and question them.
Given this overview, Mr. Bloomberg takes appropriate action: He stations thousands of extra police officers, uniformed as well as undercover, in the subways, doubles the number of bag checks, and places armed troops in Grand Central Terminal, Penn Station and the Port Authority Bus Terminal. Within a few days, after review and analysis, federal officials conclude that the informant’s information doesn’t hold up to scrutiny, and Mr. Bloomberg reduces the police presence underground.
For Mr. Bloomberg to act differently—as Mr. Ferrer and others apparently think he should have—would have been absurd. Does anyone really believe that the NYPD and the F.B.I. should ever rely on the Department of Homeland Security for determining how to respond to terrorist threats? We applaud Mayor Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Kelly for their bold and wise decision to put safety first. After all, there are no second chances in the war on terrorism.
Pataki Fumbles Ground Zero
The botching of lower Manhattan’s revival continues.
Governor George Pataki, under whose watch the rebuilding of Ground Zero has been stalled and dominated by power plays and turf battles, recently showed some rare backbone—but, typically, his decisiveness led to a bad decision, firmly made.
In ousting the proposed International Freedom Center from a location adjacent to the planned World Trade Center Memorial, Mr. Pataki caved in to critics who feared, unjustifiably, that the center would somehow mock the memory of those who perished in the Twin Towers four years ago. The Freedom Center, it should be remembered, was selected for a prominent place at Ground Zero by the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, which Mr. Pataki, in essence, controls.
The Freedom Center sought to connect the cause of freedom around the world to the sacrifices of Sept. 11, 2001. That seems like a worthy enough goal, but critics charged, with little evidence, that the center actually was a stalking horse for anti-American intellectuals and artists who would inevitably use it to preach leftist, anti-American ideology. Mr. Pataki did more than dignify these arguments: He actually sided with them.
The Governor said in a statement that “there remains too much opposition, too much controversy” over the Freedom Center. Yes, in the face of “controversy,” it would be too much for him to show vision or leadership.
The Governor’s decision led Agnes Gund, the former president of the Museum of Modern Art and a prominent figure in the city’s cultural community, to resign her post with the World Trade Center Memorial Foundation. In a letter to John Whitehead, the chairman of the foundation, she wrote: ‘‘Governor Pataki (and it saddens me to say, Senator Clinton has joined him) has caved and virtually ensured that there will be no cultural component to the redevelopment.’’ Shortly thereafter, investment banker and arts patron Henry Kravis also resigned. And back in August, Barbra Walters of ABC News resigned from the foundation, frustrated by the lack of vision and progress. That three of New York’s most well-connected and influential private figures have pulled out of the memorial project indicates just how deeply Mr. Pataki has bungled things. Does he really expect the foundation to be able to raise the needed $500 million if he can’t satisfy the concerns of some of its most respected board members?
It should be clear that there was plenty of room for a proper and inspiring memorial at Ground Zero, and for an institution like the Freedom Center.
The terrorist attacks of Sept. 11 were not only a tragedy which took the lives of nearly 3,000 people, but also a significant milestone in the city’s history. An institution like the Freedom Center could have served to explain how that horrific attack on civilians fit into the never-ending struggle against the forces of tyranny and religious fanaticism.
But the Governor, never one to stand up for much of anything except the occasional tax cut, chose not to confront critics and controversy. How typical. George Pataki has made a mess of the World Trade Center project. He, and he alone, is responsible for the fundamental lack of progress in rebuilding this crucial site.
Music as Medicine
It turns out that music, in addition to being a balm for the soul, may also be a boost for the heart. New research shows that listening to music with a slow tempo can not only reduce stress, but actually change one’s heart rhythms and affect circulation, by first acting upon one’s breathing patterns.
Published in the British medical journal Heart, the study showed that it wasn’t the type of music one listened to, but rather its pacing, which determined the beneficial effects. For example, Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony brought participants’ heart rates down, while the faster tempo of Vivaldi wound them up, increasing blood pressure as well. Whether the subjects actually liked the piece of music they were listening to, be it classical or rock or rap, didn’t seem to matter. Something else was happening below the conscious mind. “This is the first study to show that breathing can be easily entrained (and subconsciously) using music,” said Dr. Peter Sleight of the department of cardiovascular medicine at the University of Oxford. The researchers also found that heart rates dropped significantly when the music stopped for two minutes.
Not surprisingly, trained musicians showed the most benefit in the study, as they’ve already learned to synchronize their breathing with a piece of music.