Today's Papers

Holy Toledo!

The Wall Street Journal’s news box leads with (and most others front) the latest Middle East machinations. Two developments: 1) After intense international pressure, Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat has ordered his police forces to take action against extremists. 2) Secretary of State Colin Powell did the Sunday news shows and chatted about the conflict–though there’s no consensus about what he said. The New York Times leads with Alejandro Toledo’s victory in Peru’s presidential race. The Washington Post’s top non-local story appears to be an exclusive: The Federal Aviation Administration is set to announce a 10-year plan to overhaul the nation’s air-traffic control system. The Los Angeles Times leads with some Republican legislators’ softened positions on the export of satellites to China. Three years ago, former President Clinton was berated for being overeager to approve export licenses. Now, some congressmen are fretting that the tighter restrictions they imposed as a result are choking the U.S. satellite industry. The solution? Go back to the Clinton-era policies. USA Today leads with news that scientists have developed an inexpensive way to rid donated blood of many diseases, including malaria, hepatitis, and just about any virus. The treatment, which uses ultra-violet light, greatly increases the potential blood donor pool. Even if somebody has HIV, zap! and their donated blood is clean as a whistle. Like most important breakthroughs, the blood-cleanser was first worked on in a garage.

The NYT, in its off-lead, reports that Yasser Arafat’s order to crack down on extremists has had an immediate effect: There were only a handful of shootings yesterday, as opposed to 25 in an average day. In response, Israel has refrained from retaliating for Friday’s suicide bombing, which killed 19 people. Still, the peace is very shaky. Arafat isn’t likely to go against the wishes of most Palestinians and order the re-arrest of many of radicals he freed last fall. The WSJ wonders whether Arafat is already losing control. “It’s beginning to look like anarchy over there,” an “ex-Israeli intelligence officer” told the paper.  If Arafat doesn’t keep the violence in check, Israel is preparing to launch severe strikes against Gaza and the West Bank.

Each paper seems to have a different impression of Secretary Powell’s statements on the Sunday news shows. The WSJ reports that Powell “pledged a greater U.S. role in the Middle East,” while the NYT headlines: “U.S. to Keep Its Profile Low for Now in Israel Violence.” The papers also have different opinions about CIA Director George Tenet’s travel plans.  The WSJ says that Powell “hinted that Tenet will travel to the region soon to look at security arrangements there.” The NYT heard the opposite: “Secretary Powell suggested in his television interviews today that now was not the right time for Mr. Tenet to go.” The WP, meanwhile, in a piece it stuffs, reports that Tenet may already “be on his way to the region.”

Today’s Papers’ guess for the winner of the Tenet Vacation Puzzler goes to … the NYT: While the other papers seem to have done their State Department reporting with a remote control and a La-Z-Boy, the Times actually picked up the phone (even if it was to talk to nameless “officials”).  It fronts word that “after an intense internal debate” the White House has decided not to send Tenet to the region.

Alejandro Toledo’s victory in the Peruvian presidential race comes slightly more than a year after disgraced former President Alberto Fujimori rigged an election and defeated the Toledo-led opposition. All the papers emphasize Toledo’s working-class cred, pointing out that was a shoe-shine boy and is the son of a mountain sheep herder. The NYT, though, goes a bit ga-ga with a headline describing him as the “Peruvian Son of the Poor.” The papers also remark that Toledo will be the first Peruvian president of Indian descent. (Except the NYT, which is apparently more expert in these matters: “Toledo is the first presidential candidate with strongly Indian physical features elected since Gen. Luis M. Sanchez Cerro in 1931.”) Not all the news from Peru is upbeat. Thirteen percent of Peruvians cast blank ballots. That’s partially a response to reports that Toledo may have sizable skeletons in his closet. According to the WP, Toledo faces allegations that he beat his wife, had a child out of wedlock, and “high-ranking Peruvian officials say they have seen a videotape of him using cocaine in a 1998 orgy with five prostitutes.”

The FAA’s plan to modernize air-traffic control equipment has all sorts of gee-wiz features, says the Post’s lead. There will be “digital radar and better software and controller displays.” Theoretically, this will result in “better, faster, more frequent and safer service.” The FAA, though, has a less than stellar record of implementing modernization programs, partially because they’re out of touch with the airlines. But don’t worry, as the WP paraphrases one airline industry lobbyist, “ongoing flight delays and cancellations have helped the airlines ad the FAA forge a better relationship.”

The NYT goes above the fold with a report that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has ordered the Pentagon to cut off nearly all contacts with the Chinese armed forces. Officially, the new policy is just to review each contact on a case-by-case basis. But it seems that Rumsfeld is personally involved in each case, and he hasn’t allowed a single contact in “recent months.” Some critics, both inside and outside the Pentagon, are questioning the wisdom of Rumsfeld’s tactics. “I think it ensures that the hard- liners in Beijing have ammunition for an increased arms buildup,” said one retired general.

Today’s USAT do-dad graphic (officially titled USA Today Snapshots®) charts which professions people think have the highest ethical standards. No, it’s not journalists. It’s nurses and clergy. But there’s still a chance journos will grace the chart. Tuesday’s Snapshot: “Who has the lowest ethics?”