Today's Papers

AIDS on the Level?

The New York Times leads with a nighttime Israeli tank raid into a Palestinian-held town on the West Bank that Israel says has been a base for some recent suicide bombers. The paper says that after bulldozing a police station, the Israelis withdrew. The story also reports unconfirmed Palestinian claims that the Israelis took about 70 locals with them who’d been jailed in the town for collaborating with Israel. Witnesses in the town, says the NYT, also claim that during the incursion there was a firefight that killed several Palestinians, but Israel denies returning fire. The Washington Post leads with worrisome new government numbers on AIDS in the U.S. that suggest an end to the sharp decline in the spread of infections and deaths seen since the mid-’90s. Also worrying AIDS specialists, says the paper, are new signs of increased rates of infection and risky sexual behavior among young gay men and low-income black women. The Los Angeles Times, which also fronts the Israeli raid, leads with a government report, prepared some time ago (and first tipped last week in the WP) but only released yesterday, concluding that while Wen Ho Lee should have been investigated, a U.S. federal atomic espionage probe zeroed in on him too aggressively, ignoring evidence that might have led in other directions and often overstating preliminary findings and relying on analysts who weren’t experts in the relevant technology. However, the report also concludes that Lee was not targeted because he is of Chinese extraction. USA Today, which also fronts the latest AIDS stats, leads with a new poll (reflecting prior surveys at the paper and elsewhere) suggesting that most people in the U.S. (60 percent of the respondents) back President Bush’s decision limiting federal stem-cell research funding to work involving cells already derived from embryos, but also that most believe his stance was motivated by politics (52 percent) as opposed to deeply held beliefs (36 percent). The story also goes high with Bush’s comment yesterday, reported in all the papers, that he would veto any attempt by Congress to expand embryonic stem-cell research beyond the limits he’s set forth.

The Post lead says that researchers conclude that the previously observed drop in the HIV/AIDS rate was due to the development of powerful new drugs, and that the newer leveling off means these therapies have already reached most people who know they are infected and have access to health care. That is, the key to progress now seems to be expanded HIV testing and health-care access. The story also says it’s important to find new treatments for cases where the virus is drug resistant, although it doesn’t say how widespread this phenomenon is.

The AIDS headlines vary interestingly. The WP’s reads “SHARP DROP IN AIDS TOLL MAY BE OVER,” and the LAT’s is almost identical. The Wall Street Journal says, “AIDS EPIDEMIC MAY HAVE STABILIZED, BUT PREVENTION IS STILL KEY.” USAT’s says, “U.S. AIDS THREAT REBOUNDS.” None of the headlines mentions young gay men or low-income black women.

The WSJ reports, sourcing an unnamed Bush administration official, that some Chinese companies are continuing to help Iraq upgrade its air defense system, five months after China promised it would tell them to stop. The story says that last week’s U.S./British airstrike against Iraq targeted a communications station built with Chinese help and that U.S. officials believe Chinese-laid fiber optics were involved in a “surprisingly close call” (the paper’s words) last month when an Iraqi missile detonated near a U.S. U2 spy plane.

The NYT is alone in fronting Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi’s visit yesterday to his country’s national war-dead shrine, which honors among millions of WWII soldiers, including several convicted war criminals. Because of their presence, many in China and Korea had objected to the visit. Koizumi had originally planned to go tomorrow, the anniversary of Japan’s World War II surrender, but the Times says his change of schedule mollified no one.

A NYT op-ed, by former Sen. Paul Simon, scares with its dire forecast of a shortage that’s coming soon, especially in the poorer and hotter parts of the planet: a shortage of water. Simon says that President Clinton was told in an intelligence brief last year that in 15 years there will be such a severe lack of the wet stuff that if no remedial steps are taken, regional wars will break out. Simon adds that even in the unlikely event the current conflict between Israelis and Arabs is resolved tomorrow, “in 10 years or less the area is likely to explode over water.” Simon sez: The only answer is comprehensive water-sharing agreements backed by an international court.

A WP insider reports that this summer in California alone there have been five cases of adults leaving kids behind in closed-up cars where they died from the severe heat within. The paper says nationwide this year, 54 young children have died this way. A trend just starting in response in several states: laws that punish parents for leaving kids alone in cars, even if they aren’t injured.

Back to AIDS for a beat. A letter to the WP points to a possible source of widespread infection that the feds’ report doesn’t mention: Manicure instruments in salons. The writer, a doctor, notes that in Washington, D.C., cosmetologists are not required to use a process on their instruments that will kill viruses on them. What’s worse, he wrote the city about this and never got an answer. Today’s Papers has a tip for assignment editors: Check it out.

The NYT editorial page passes along word of a scholarly article published this week showing some surprising connections between Yale University and slavery: Money from the slave trade financed YU’s first endowed professorship, its first endowed scholarship, and its first endowed library fund. And eight out of 10 of its residential colleges are named for slave owners, but none are named for abolitionists.