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White House correspondent Dean Reynolds and the UPI Washington staff provided fast and accurate coverage of John Hinckley's assassination attempt that wounded President Ronald Reagan as the president was leaving the Washington Hilton Hotel. Reynolds was with Reagan and dictated the breaking story from the hotel. He later received the Merriman Smith Award from the White House Correspondents Association for outstanding coverage of a breaking news story. UPI correctly reported that Reagan's press secretary, James Brady, had been wounded but was alive - unlike virtually every other major news organization, which incorrectly reported Brady had been killed, apparently misunderstanding a "yes" response to rapid-fire multiple questions during a chaotic White House briefing. As it became apparent those reports were wrong, ABC-TV anchor Frank Reynolds turned on camera and asked that the correct report be nailed down. His son, Dean, and the UPI White House staff already had done that. A PBS-TV program a few weeks later complimented UPI on its accurate reporting.
Following the attempted assassination of Shlomo Argov, Israel's ambassador to the court of St. James, by Palestinian gunmen, rumors of an imminent invasion of Lebanon by Israel were persistent. Only a day earlier Israeli warplanes had raided a number of Palestinian positions in the Lebanese capital, Beirut. There were reports of Israeli tanks, armor and troops massing on the border. Unipresser Claude Salhani remembers the day the tanks entered Lebanon.
Sunday, June 6, - the morning of the invasion - a group of us -- Vinnie Scholoski, the Beirut bureau chief, his wife Elaine Carey, I, my then girlfriend and wife to be, Cynthia Nuckolls, and a number of other staffers were sitting around the bureau in Beirut, trying to make sense of the situation.
"Using the UPI code book we exchanged a number of coded cables with the UPI Tel Aviv bureau, which was limited in what information they could forward.
I decided to call Timor Goksel, the spokesman for UNIFIL, the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon, whose office was literally a stone's throw from the Lebanese-Israeli frontier.
"Goksel had two phones, one number linking him via the Lebanese telephone company and the other through the Israeli exchange. Attempts to reach him on the Lebanese line proved futile, as the lines appeared to be down. Calling him on the Israeli number was impossible as there were no direct links between the two countries -- Lebanon and Israel being in a state of war.
"UPI at the time had an agreement with the CITA -- the Cyprus telephone operator -- in neighboring Nicosia. I placed a call to CITA, asking the operator to connect me to Goksel, via the Israeli exchange. At first, the operator refused, stating that she was not allowed to, seeing that there were no conventions between the two countries, and the fact that they were technically still at war.
"I argued that technically, she would not be connecting me to Israel as Goksel was physically situated inside Lebanon, on Lebanese soil, even though he might be using an Israeli phone line.
"The plea seemed to work, and she connected me. Once Goksel was on the line, I handed the phone to Vinnie. Goksel confirmed that tanks were massed on the other side of the border. Suddenly, Goksel interrupted the conversation. 'Three tanks have just crossed into Lebanon," he said. "Four, five, six. More are following.'"
Vinnie put out a flash, and UPI broke the news of the invasion.
UPI space correspondent Bill Harwood arrived at the UPI trailer on the NASA press mound at the Kennedy Space Center around 11:30 p.m. Monday, Jan. 27 -- some 10 hours before the scheduled launch of Challenger. "I always came to work before the start of fueling on the theory that anytime anyone loaded a half-million gallons of liquid oxygen and liquid nitrogen into anything it was an event worthy of staffing," he wrote later. It was a bitterly cold night, and from the trailer's large picture window Harwood could see Challenger on the launch pad several miles east, bathed in spotlights.
UPI radio reporter Rob Navies arrived about 4 a.m., and the two went through a pre-launch ritual, with Navies asking: "Will it go?" and Harwood responding "Or will it blow?" "It was a grim little charade we carried out to mask our constant fear of catastrophe," Harwood said.
The scheduled 9:38 a.m. launch was delayed for two hours to make sure there were no dangerous ice accumulations on the shuttle's external fuel tank. As the countdown headed within three minutes of a scheduled liftoff at 11:38 a.m., Harwood was on the phone to UPI national desk editor Bill Trot. Harwood already had filed his story to the desk, and Trot had it up on his computer screen. Harwood reminded Trot not to send the story to the wires until Harwood confirmed vertical motion and gave him the word - two previous launches had aborted at the last second. Challenger's three main engines roared to life on schedule and the shuttle cleared the access tower three seconds later. Harwood told Trot to send the story.
But some 70 seconds after the shuttle cleared the tower, as shuttle pilot Michael Smith said "uh oh," the Challenger exploded. In covering a shuttle launch Harwood and Trot normally kept the phone line open for the entire eight-and-a-half minutes it took the spacecraft to reach orbit, should disaster strike. This time, it had.
As the shuttle's exhaust plume suddenly billowed outward, a single booster rocket corkscrewed out of the cloud. "I sat stunned. I couldn't understand what I was seeing," Harwood wrote later. He told Trot the shuttle was in trouble and said he was ready to dictate, as Trot punched onto his screen the commands for filing a bulletin.
Over the next half hour Harwood dictated to Trot, who filed "running copy" to the wire a few paragraphs at a time.