Today's Papers

Ground Asphalt 


The New York Times, the Washington Post, and the Los Angeles Times all lead with news of the first known ground action in the 13-day-old war. More than 100 U.S. ground troops conducted an operation in southern Afghanistan, in the outskirts of Kandahar, the spiritual capital of the Taliban and home of its leader, Mullah Muhammad Omar. In Pakistan, two troops were killed in a helicopter crash that was related to the mission. The latest on the anthrax threat is fronted by everyone, with each paper offering an additional front-page story.

All the papers agree that the significance of the attack is not merely tactical; it also marks a shift in the way the campaign will be conducted. Noting that forces have left the “sanctuary of the air,” the NYT dedicates a second article to the subject. The LAT also runs an analysis article: The headline reads, “Foray is Shift, but No D-Day.”

According to the papers, the ground assault was intended to send a psychological and political message about the United States’ resolve to fight terrorism and the ability of U.S. forces to operate within Afghanistan at will. Hovering in by helicopter under the cover of darkness, Army Rangers and other Special Forces were on the ground for several hours to gather intelligence and flush out Taliban forces. Everyone notes that the bombing was not scaled back in observance of the Muslim Sabbath, as it was last week.

In Shanghai for the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation Forum, President Bush told reporters, “[T]he thing that’s important for me to tell the American people is that these soldiers will not have died in vain.” Bush said that forces were “encircling the terrorists so we can bring them to justice.” Joined by Secretary of State Colin Powell in Shanghai, Bush was briefed at 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time by Vice President Dick Cheney and Gen. Richard B. Myers, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, by a secure video phone from Washington.

Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld was at the Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri to visit B-2 bomber crews before flying to his ranch in Taos, N.M. In response to charges that the U.S. isn’t doing enough to help the Northern Alliance, Rumsfeld called the reports “confused” and “anecdotal.” “There is good coordination from the air with the ground in some places, particularly in the north,” he told reporters. “There is not that kind of coordination as of yet in the south.” Satellite phone interviews with Northern Alliance commanders confirm that rebel forces have been receiving assistance from U.S. ground personnel.

The NYT and WP front Bush’s news conference with Chinese President Jiang Zemin. Bush claimed that Pacific Rim “support is near unanimous,” for U.S. military action against the Taliban and the al-Qaida terrorism network. The NYT notes that Bush did not mention his proposed missile defense during the news conference, which was not broadcasted on live television. When clips were aired, any hint of criticism of Chinese policy was edited.

The papers differ slightly about the leader’s meeting. The WP, which goes high with background accounts of their discussion, paints a less rosy picture. In its first sentence, the Post reports that “very little progress toward resolving any of the long-standing differences between their nations,” was made. Bush repeatedly raised concerns over China selling missile technology to other countries, says the Post. The NYT claims that Bush tried to play down any contentious issues with his host for the sake of cementing the coalition against terrorism. Toward the end of its article, the NYT allows that Bush only “briefly” mentioned that the missile shield is intended to guard against rogue states and not multiple launches from a national arsenal.

Everyone fronts news of two more anthrax infections. A second New Jersey postal worker has been hospitalized and an employee of the New York Post learned that she has been infected. The FBI investigation is honed in on a mailbox in Trenton, N.J., though many questions remain unanswered. Federal officials also confirmed that the spores mailed to New York, Washington, and Florida are almost identical, indicating that they came from the same source. Disputing previous reports, Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge said that the anthrax sent to NBC and Daschle’s office was not “weaponized,” meaning that the spores were not substantially reduced in size for easier inhalation. In a sign that the threat is spreading, a letter postmarked in New York and mailed to a Times office in Rio de Janeiro has shown traces of anthrax.

Back in 1979, deep in the Ural mountains, a Soviet town was panicked by a deadly and nameless disease that was wasting even the healthiest of men, reports the LAT. Even though there were no official news reports on the deaths, the community was terror-stricken, perhaps even more so by not knowing what they faced. As many as 64 people died in the outbreak, and it wasn’t until 1992 that Boris Yeltsin acknowledged that anthrax had escaped from a military compound that was manufacturing it in violation of the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention.

The NYT carries two stories on the pharmaceutical ramifications of the anthrax scare. Bayer A. G., the German manufacturer and patent holder of Cipro, is bumbling through several public relation blunders. There is some concern that it cannot produce enough of the drug, prompting the Canadian health ministry to override its patent and asking a generic manufacturer to fill an order for 1 million tablets.

Cipro is the latest drug to seep into the country from abroad and is in high demand in border towns like Tijuana, Mexico, reports the second story. “Before, only 1 or 2 percent of my customers came for Cipro. Now all the people are looking for it,” says one pharmacist.  “It’s more popular than Viagra,” adds another.

While the NYT investigates the possible profiteering of Cipro trafficking, the Post wonders what the anthrax scare will do to the profitability of trafficking U.S. mail. Volume was down 5 percent in September and revenue was as much as $500 million below forecasts in the first three weeks after the attacks. In addition, damages to a post office near the World Trade Center are at $63 million and mounting. “The rate payer will wind up paying a lot more money for this,” says one analyst.

The LAT explores the rift among U.S. Muslims about the war on terrorism and the difficult political situation it puts them in, not to mention the moral considerations the bombings raise. “The Muslim leadership is in a real dilemma,” because “if they oppose the war, people will point their fingers and say they are soft on terrorism. But if they support it, they may be speaking against their conscience,” says an editor of a Muslim magazine in Los Angeles.

From Pakistan, a WP fronter takes a look at the “gentler” side of Islam. The story notes that Pakistan was founded in 1947 as a Muslim state and a parliamentary democracy. Its first leader, Ali Jinnah, was opposed to a theocracy. The current president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, a moderate Muslim, is trying to curb the influence of extremist groups, which he insists represent less than 15 percent of the populace. “I’m glad we finally have a head of state who is taking this stand. These radical groups brainwash children to hate, and they mix religion with politics,” says the head of a Muslim women’s volunteer group.