Today's Papers

Radioactive Russian Rifles

The New York Times leads with Russian saber rattling against Chechnya, a story run inside by the Washington Post. The WP leads with the widening of a probe into U.S. Embassy officials in Colombia, who are suspected of smuggling drugs to the U.S. through the embassy’s mail system. The Los Angeles Times, continuing its extensive follow-up on Tuesday’s shooting at a Jewish day-care center, leads with an interview of the LAPD chief, who says that all assault rifles and some types of handguns should be banned nationwide, collected, and destroyed.

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin threatened to launch airstrikes against the Islamic government in Chechnya, which he accuses of supporting the week-old invasion of Dagestan by Chechen Islamic commandos. In a tactful demurral, the Chechen government denied supporting the rebels and then promised to make invading “Russian helicopters drop from the sky like rain.” Putin said that Russian forces were advancing on the Dagestan rebels and that if necessary Russia will follow the guerrillas into Chechnya, which in 1996 humiliated the Russian military and gained de-facto independence. A Post story–run on Page A13–notes that Putin has yet to be confirmed by parliament, and it quotes a Russian military analyst proclaiming in the Moscow Times that “Russia can blow out the lights in London and Washington and yet has failed time and again to contain relatively small bands of Chechen fighters on its territory.”

The LAT reports that Washington state corrections officials are reviewing the conduct of Buford Furrow’s probation officer, who never made unannounced checks of Furrow’s house and car for weapons. This despite Furrow’s frequent claims that he was homicidal and suicidal, and despite a judge’s order that he stay away from deadly weapons.

The LAT also tracks how one of Furrow’s guns–the 9mm Glock semiautomatic pistol he used to shoot a mailman–made it into his hands. The pistol, which was originally sold to a small police department near Tacoma, Wash., had at least five owners before Furrow. A year ago, Furrow sold two of his guns–the Glock and a Bushmaster .223-caliber rifle found in his van–to a pawn shop and later bought them back. The LAT quotes the pawn shop owner saying that had the transaction taken place several months later, he could have used a new Brady law provision to prevent their resale. This seems slightly reassuring, but the same Times article reports that Furrow had six other handguns and rifles in his van besides the two he sold to and bought from the pawnshop.

The NYT fronts an investigation into whether Washington state mental-health workers should have forcibly institutionalized Furrow. Apparently, Furrow’s was a borderline case: He had slashed his wrists, tried to stab workers at a mental health facility, and constantly talked about his violent, racist fantasies; on the other hand, he had had only one run-in with the law, had sought psychiatric care, held a degree in engineering, and had held numerous jobs, including one at the Boeing Co. Mental-health experts quoted in the story argue that Furrow’s case is not nearly as clear-cut as the cases against the Capitol-building gunman or the recent New York City subway pusher.

The NYT fronts a story noting the rise of revisionist history textbooks in Israeli schools. The books do away with Israel’s patriotic, “David-vs.-Goliath” myths in favor of a broader perspective. For example, the new books say that it was Israel, not the Arab states, which held the military advantage in the 1948 war for independence, and that Palestinians left their land not because they smugly assumed Israel would lose the war but because they were afraid or forced out by Israeli soldiers. The books use the politically verboten term Palestinian, as well as the Arab word for the 1948 war–the Naqba, or catastrophe.

The Post reports that experts at a uranium plant in Kentucky believe that while dismantling nuclear missiles, radioactive gold, lead, aluminum, and nickel were melted into ingots and sold to the private sector. This resulted from a far-sighted 1950s Energy Department program to recycle scrap metal from nuclear weapons facilities into forms that could be used in household products, jewelry, and even children’s braces. Guys, better bring a Geiger counter along when you buy that engagement ring for your sweetie.