Today's Papers

1,500 Good Men

The Los Angeles Timesleads with the agreement of four Afghan groups, including the Northern Alliance, to sit down together with U.N. mediators next week in Berlin. The goal, said U.N. officials, is to choose about 20 representatives from different ethnic factions who could then form some sort of transitional government. Some Alliance commanders have already said they’re against the idea of sharing power with two of the other invited groups. The Wall Street Journal’s worldwide news box and the New York Timeslead with news that the Pentagon is considering sending 1,500 Marines to help track down Bin Laden. (Although Today’s Papers criticized it, USAT broke this story yesterday.) The Washington Postleads with news that some in the military are calling for the Pentagon to name a single commander to oversee domestic defense, meaning everything from National Guardsmen at airports to bioattack quick response teams. USA Todayleads with word from the FBI that the letter sent to Sen. Leahy contained an enormous amount of anthrax, “overkill,” as one official put it. The letter is believed to have infected more than 50 bags of mail.

Everybody fronts word that a 94-year-old woman in rural Connecticut likely has inhalation anthrax. Definitive tests are due tomorrow. The NYT notes that the woman rarely ventured outside her hometown of Oxford, Conn. And health officials don’t know how she might have been infected. One idea: Perhaps she received a letter that had been cross-contaminated with a small amount of anthrax, and since she’s elderly, she was more susceptible to the disease.

The NYT says the Pentagon hasn’t committed to deploying the Marines. It depends on how the war goes.  The Times says that if the Marines do join the hunt, they “would probably be [used] only for lightning-quick raids—like the October special forces strike against Mullah Omar’s residence in Kandahar—not to establish a long-term presence by building bases or trying to seize and hold Afghan territory.”

The NYT says that Bin Laden most likely isn’t in Taliban-held territory. “Do the math,” an official said. “The Taliban lost a lot of territory very quickly. The places where bin Laden used to hang out are mostly now in opposition territory.” That makes the idea of offering locals piles of cash to nab Bin Laden seem promising.

USAT fronts the Taliban’s claim that they won’t go quietly. “We are not in a position to negotiate with anyone,” said one Taliban official. “We don’t feel defeated. We will fight the jihad until the very end.”

 The WP fronts a news analysis saying that the U.S. could find itself in a guerrilla war in southern Afghanistan. “We’re going to be in this business for a long time,” said a senior military planner, who may simply have been hedging his bets. “There are a lot of really difficult days ahead.”

The NYT reports that New York City officials have significantly lowered their count of dead and missing from the World Trade Center attacks. The city is now reporting about 3,800 victims, as opposed to the 5,000 reported in the weeks after the attacks. As more duplicate names get pulled from the list, the Times says the number will likely fall even more, probably below 3,000. Some newspapers (namely the Times) and charities have been reporting that lower number for weeks. Still, says the NYT, it’s hard to get the smaller stats into the public’s consciousness. Everybody from Don Imus to Secretary of State Powell still cites the 5,000 figure. 

The WSJ reports that some airlines have set up “premium checkpoints” for frequent flyers and assorted VIPs to fly through security. According to the paper, the lines may be shorter, but the security isn’t any easier. “This line of five people had me waiting 10 minutes,” said one frequent flyer. “They took everything electronic out of my carry-on.”

The papers report inside that the Coast Guard found a capsized boat yesterday that was believed to have been carrying 30 Cubans. No survivors have been found.

NYT stuffs news of the latest rebellion: Despite requests from the feds, some police departments say they aren’t interested in helping the FBI interview any of the 5,000 immigrants the g-men have decided to question. The police chief of Portland, Ore., Andrew Kirkland, has outright refused to conduct the interviews. The chief said that Oregon has a law against interviewing immigrants simply because they are immigrants. “I didn’t have to think too long about it,” said Kirkland. “We’re not going to do it.”

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