The USS Cole and fighting in the Middle East dominate the front pages of all three papers. Everybody leads with the explosion that tore through the Cole, which was refueling in Aden, Yemen. The U.S. Navy announced that 17 crew members died as a result of the blast, generally believed to be the result of a carefully planned terrorist attack (although nobody is using the word “terrorism” just yet). The Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times both go above the fold with coverage of the increased pressure placed by world leaders on Arafat and Barak to meet face to face at a summit to end the recent violence. The New York Times covers the proposed summit inside and fronts coverage of the burial of Vadim Norzich, the Israeli reservist beaten to death in a Palestinian police station.
The bodies of seven sailors from the Cole (the LAT runs their photos) have been recovered, and 10 others are missing but presumed dead. Five crew members who suffered minor injuries were treated and then returned to the ship, and 33 others were moved to Ramstein Air Force Base in Germany. Fifty FBI investigators arrived on Friday to determine the cause and origin of the explosion. A hundred more are on the way. Only the NYT goes into detailed speculation about who might be responsible for the attack. Islamic radical groups, which have operated out of Yemen in the past, fell under immediate suspicion. Terrorist experts are considering several theories about reasons for the attack–among them, rising anger in the Arab world against the U.S., by way of Israel, as a result of recent confrontations in the Middle East; and retaliation by Iraq or Iraqi sympathizers who knew that the Cole was to participate in a flotilla enforcing trade sanctions against Iraq. The NYT also reports that two senior military officials said last month that the U.S. received an anonymous warning of an imminent attack against an unspecified American military ship but that it was too vague to be followed up. Congressional leaders have called for an investigation into the decision to refuel Navy vessels in a port known to harbor terrorists. The Pentagon and the State Department have already begun blaming each other for security lapses. The British Embassy in the Yemeni city of Sana sustained structural damage when a bomb was tossed over its wall. There were no casualties, and it’s not clear if the two incidents are related, but there is growing fear that a widespread terror campaign might be under way in the region.
The LAT and WP front, and the NYT runs inside, the status of a proposed Middle East summit. Even as armed Israeli riot police prepare for possible terrorist attacks, and as groups of Palestinian demonstrators shout “Jihad!”, world leaders are urging the two sides to come together to negotiate an end to the current bloodshed. Clinton offered to meet immediately with Arafat, Barak, and Hosni Mubarak. Kofi Annan emerged from a Friday night meeting with Arafat with word that he expected a summit within 48 hours. That prediction might be overly optimistic: Americans, Israelis, and Palestinians have all said that they would meet only after violence in the region has ceased and troops on both sides are withdrawn. That’s not likely to happen soon: Despite a lull in the fighting, clashes are still breaking out intermittently.
All three papers supplement their general coverage of the Middle East situation with front-page personal profiles. The NYT and WP recount the life and funeral of the Israeli reservist lynched in Ramallah. The WP also interviews a leading Palestinian negotiator who has become bitter and confused as he sees the peace process he helped design begin to unravel. Under the picture of an Israeli border patrolman and a Palestinian man standing nose to nose arguing with each other, the LAT runs a story highlighting the intense hatred that exists on each side of the divide, quoting both Israelis and Palestinians who cite the absolute need for war to resolve the dispute.
All three papers front, in grim contrast to the Middle East violence, the announcement that South Korea’s President Kim Dae-jung was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his contribution to reconciliation with North Korea and his commitment to promoting democracy.
On a day when two stories get most of the front-page space, the NYT has the greatest range of coverage, fronting Clinton’s order for an auction of wireless airwaves, Chevron’s attempts to close a deal to acquire Texaco, and growing concerns about bioengineered corn.
Because congestion of the airwaves has hindered research and development of hand-held wireless technology, Clinton ordered a review and auction of broad sections of the airwave spectrum currently owned by government agencies. The auction, to be held in 2002, will grant companies licenses to sell wireless devices, thereby encouraging technological innovation.
Bioengineered corn not approved for human consumption has been discovered at the grocery in two brands of taco shells. The corn is not believed to pose a health risk, but its appearance in consumer products raises a general alarm about food safety and the inability of the food industry to police itself. The developer of the product, Aventis Crop Science, said that it is working to buy up the remaining corn crop to ensure that it doesn’t further contaminate the supply.
Chevron is close to acquiring Texaco for $36 billion in stock and the assumption of debt. The deal, which would have to be approved by the Federal Trade Commission, could be ironed out as early as Monday and would produce the world’s fourth-largest oil concern. Industry experts agree that if the merger goes through, a significant number of jobs will be cut or “streamlined.”