Today's Papers

The Road to Surfdom

The Washington Post leads with the belief of both U.S. and Yemeni investigators that there is a growing body of evidence linking the Cole bombing to fugitive terrorist Osama Bin Laden, already wanted for the 1998 terrorist bombings of two U.S. embassies in Africa that killed 224 people. USA Today goes with news that a civilian Pentagon intelligence specialist quit in protest one day after the Cole attack because his superiors had ignored warnings he made last summer about terrorist threats in the Persian Gulf, warnings that apparently were not passed along to military commanders in the region. The New York Times leads with AT&T’s much-anticipated decision to abandon its three-year-old strategy of becoming a single provider of long-distance, wireless, cable TV and Internet access and instead break itself into four companies. The top nonlocal story at the Los Angeles Times is the popular revolt in the Ivory Coast, in which tens of thousands of citizens and renegade soldiers took to the streets to protest an attempt by the country’s military ruler to nullify last Sunday’s election, forcing him from power.

The WP lead, citing an AP report, enumerates some of the recent threats of Gulf attacks that have prompted military forces in the region to go on alert. Targets mentioned include a school and various embassies in Bahrain and a military site in Qatar. The story quotes an unnamed Clinton administration source as saying that the threats talk about “a specific time frame and a specific location.” The LAT front Gulf terrorism piece, which also refers to the Pentagon specialist, adds a detail: a credible threat that a suicide bomber would try to drive an explosives-laden vehicle onto a runway under a U.S. aircraft. There is no way of telling from USAT’s lead if the protesting intelligence specialist’s warnings were likewise specific–an important consideration because at any given time, government message traffic is full of vague security warnings. The LAT piece addresses this somewhat, quoting a Pentagon statement saying that the analyst “did not have information that would have provided tactical warning of the attack on the USS Cole.” The NYT says this inside (and identifies the analyst by name). A separate inside NYT piece further reminds why the whole warnings game is so tricky, bringing word that a think tank has just released a report concluding that the threat of unconventional terrorism–meaning via chemical and germ weapons–is overstated, so much so that the federal government’s response to it is wasteful and ill-conceived.

Everybody’s coverage of the AT&T move says that it reflects a failure of the company’s full-service plan, but the piece on the move atop the Wall Street Journal’s front-page business news box is the harshest in saying that the company’s core business was “hemorrhaging.” The LAT front piece says that in so far as it reflects AT&T’s inability to successfully move into the sectors of the industry it hadn’t been in before, the development calls into question the idea that telecommunications deregulation would foster new competition. By the way, everybody’s story says the company is being split into four businesses–everybody’s, that is, except the LAT’s, which says it’s three. It all has to with how you define “company.” LAT says that at the end of the day, there will be “three stand-alone companies and a fourth tracking stock.”

The LAT is alone in fronting a new scientific report that significantly strengthens the case for saying that the accelerated degree of global warming now conceded to be taking place comes from human activity. The study also says that the warming trend could mean temperatures 11 degrees Fahrenheit higher on average by the end of this century.

The WP goes inside with a UCLA researcher’s report about online use, which concludes, in contrast to some widely quoted earlier studies, that “the Internet has become a new source of social contact,” claiming that surfing is often a “shared household activity.” Conclusions include: Nearly half of users spend time online each week with someone else sitting next to them, more than a quarter of users said they made online friends they hadn’t met in person yet, and about 12 percent said they had met friends in person they first made online. On the other hand, about 25 percent of the people surveyed said they sometimes felt ignored because someone in their home was using the Internet too much. But that’s compared to 37 percent for TV.