Explainer Mailbag: FDNY Sisters?

Sometimes Explainer tells a reader that he will answer their question but then fails to do so. (Whenever this happens, don’t blame Explainer. Blame his editor!) In the interest of starting off 2002 with a nearly clean Slate, here are some of those orphaned questions from the past several months.

“I keep hearing about ‘their brother firemen,’ ‘the wives of the firemen,’ etc.,” reader Jennifer Rae Atkins writes. “Did any women firefighters die at the World Trade Center?”

No. There weren’t any women firefighters at the World Trade Center on Sept. 11. Nationally, between 2 percent and 3 percent of all firefighters are women, but New York City has only 27 women among its more than 11,000 firefighters (0.2 percent), far fewer than the 15 percent in cities such as Minneapolis and San Francisco. Of the 343 firefighters and 23 police officers who died Sept. 11, two were women: Kathy Mazza, a Port Authority Police captain, and Moira Smith, a police officer. A paramedic, Yamil Merino, was the third woman among the rescue workers who died. In all, more than 600 women died in the attack on the World Trade Center.

In July, Kent Fisher wanted to know: “What ever happened to Eric Robert Rudolph? Is he still hiding out in a cave in the North Carolina woods?” The question seems more pertinent now, as the manhunt for Osama Bin Laden continues. The answer is that the feds are still looking for him, more than five years after the Olympic Park bombing. (Rudolph is also charged with two other Atlanta-area bombings, and he’s a suspect in a 1998 Birmingham, Ala., abortion clinic bombing.) There’s a $1 million reward for information leading to his arrest, and he’s on the FBI’s 10 Most Wanted list. Rudolph hasn’t been seen since July 1998, when he stole supplies and a pickup truck from a former neighbor. Investigators believe he’s still hiding somewhere in North Carolina, probably in the Nantahala National Forest. But the manhunt has been successful in this sense: There haven’t been any more bombings at abortion clinics or gay nightclubs.

Sarah K. Stover and other readers complain: Shouldn’t John Walker be called an American Talib, and not an American Taliban? Yes, and good memory.

More forgetful Slate readers want to know why President Bush can withdraw from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty without the Senate’s approval. Short answer: Because the Constitution doesn’t mention breaking treaties, only making treaties. Long answer: It’s a little complicated. And for those who need a refresher, here’s the difference between “abrogating” and “withdrawing from” the ABM treaty.

Pat Sheakley has good advice for all the weary travelers who don’t want to be permanently bereft of their nail clippers and other personal items: “At Las Vegas airport, the X-ray machine located a pair of folding scissors in my purse. I was very distressed about the idea of giving them up, so I bought a greeting card, put the scissors in the envelope with the card, taped it well, and sent it home.”

Finally, nobody asked this question, but here’s a pre-emptive answer. What’s the deal with Kashmir? Click here for a slightly outdated explanation.

Next question?