Today's Papers

Let the Good Times Fold


The Los Angeles Timesleads with news that, it’s official, the U.S. economy shrunk last quarter, by .4 percent. That’s the first contraction in eight years. The paper says the number would have been twice as large were it not for a “fluke” in the way the government keeps trade statistics. USA Todayleads with a different statistic: “The number of people detained in connection with the Sept. 11 terror attacks has soared 66% since Oct. 10, the day before the first of two ‘high alert’ warnings.” The paper says that the increasing pace of the arrests are “the clearest sign yet” that the government is using the secretive detentions to try to prevent terror attacks rather than apprehend people connected to Sept. 11. The New York Timesleads with a summary of the military campaign in Afghanistan. It emphasizes that, according to anonymous Pentagon sources, the U.S. is planning on increasing the number of military advisers in Afghanistan. The Wall Street Journal’s worldwide news box starts off with an interview with Secretary of State Colin Powell in which he said that the U.S. will not stop its air campaign during Ramadan, although it may slow it down. Powell also dissed the Northern Alliance (“not yet [a] first-class military organization by any stretch of the imagination”) and said that since Sept. 11, U.S. relations with both Iran and Russia have improved markedly. The Washington Postleads with the death from inhalation anthrax of Kathy T. Nguyen, a New York City hospital worker. Health authorities still have no idea how Nguyen contracted the disease.

Tests of Nguyen’s apartment and workplace both came back negative for anthrax. In fact, the only thing that has tested positive is some of her clothing. By the time Nguyen checked herself into a hospital and was diagnosed with anthrax, she was too ill to be interviewed by investigators. “So far we have not been able to trace to any specific thing that leads us to her contact with anthrax,” said New York’s police commissioner.

The Post says up high that this anthrax case leads experts to believe “that the wave of bioterrorism could expand in coming days.”

Elsewhere, health officials announced that another postal worker in New Jersey has tested positive for skin anthrax. The man worked at a facility that, so far, has no other anthrax cases. After the day’s first-class mail was sent out, authorities shut down the facility, the largest in Jersey.

Amid all this, the FBI’s deputy director, who had been in charge of the anthrax investigation, announced his retirement yesterday.

The papers report that B-52s carpet-bombed—that is, dropped a whole bunch of closely packed bombs on top of—front-line Taliban positions. (The Pentagon, by the way, has determined that the term “carpet-bombing” is déclassé and yesterday unveiled its replacement: “using the long stick.”) The NYT says the B-52s circled above their targets, dropped their bombs, and then  “a mile-long strip of Taliban-held territory exploded into flames.” “It’s very good! It’s very good!” shouted one Northern Alliance commander.

Even with the intensified bombings, it seems the Northern Alliance still isn’t in a position to attack. The anti-Taliban troops on the front still don’t have enough ammunition or fuel. “I should have 1,000 liters per tank,” one commander said. “We now have 100 liters per tank,” enough to move for one day.

That may be a good thing because as the WP reports, efforts to create a post-Taliban coalition are in “disarray, crippled by clashing egos and agendas.” Some of the parties are refusing even to meet with one another. “It’s a disaster,” said one diplomat.

The WP stuffs relief agencies warning that the food shortage in Afghanistan has grown much worse. “We’ve reached 2 million people in the last month, but that’s no great shakes when we need to get up to 6 million,” said a U.N. spokeswoman. Some experts called for the creation of military-protected humanitarian routes to bring in aid.

The papers report a truly frightening development: U.S. intelligence officials are worried that one of Pakistan’s top nuclear scientists mayhave connections with al-Qaida and the Taliban. Pakistan has detained the man. “There are certain questions that we need to ask him,” said a Pakistani government official. In the past, al-Qaida has tried to buy nuclear material.  

The NYT fronts word that the White House has drafted a proposal to strengthen the 1972 biological weapons treaty. One of the administration’s suggestions: Make it illegal for individuals to buy, build, or handle biological weapons. Many critics pointed out that the proposal isn’t as comprehensive or stringent as the one the Bush rejected last summer. 

WP off-leads with news that the U.S. and Russia are close to a deal on missile defense. The agreement, outlines of which were reported a few weeks ago, is pretty straightforward: The U.S. would get to develop a missile-defense system while both the U.S. and Russia would cut their nuke stockpile by two-thirds. Russia would also get to save face since the U.S. would put off announcing a pullout from the ABM treaty.

And finally, today’s winner of the “banner headline in normal times” award goes to … Microsoft and the Justice Department, which reached a tentative agreement in the latter’s antitrust suit. Sixteen states who are party to the suit still need to ratify the agreement, but the outcome appears to be that Microsoft will let P.C. makers ship computers with many of Mr. Gates’ program icons hidden from view.