Today's Papers

A Blow to the Peace Process

The Washington Post, New York Times, and USA Today  lead with the series of three suicide bombs in Israel this past weekend that killed 25 people and wounded 200. The latest bombing, in the port city of Haifa, killed 15. Hamas claimed credit for the attacks. The Los Angeles Times  leads with the United States’ tough talk to Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. “It’s a moment of truth for Mr. Arafat,” said Secretary of State Powell, who spoke with the Palestinian leader yesterday. “I said to him, ‘This cannot be just a “We’ll round up some suspects and that’ll be the end of it.” You’ve got to go beyond that.’ ” The Wall Street Journal’s worldwide newsbox is topped with the battle for the Taliban’s remaining stronghold, Kandahar. U.S. planes continued to bomb the city, while tribal and Taliban forces duked it out at the city’s airport.

Arafat ordered a state of emergency and promised to arrest members of Hamas and other radical organizations. Israel and the United States weren’t impressed. Neither was the Post, which went to press before the late-breaking development that the Palestinian Authority had actually begun the arrests. The paper’s above-the-fold analysis is headlined: ARAFAT PICKS WORDS OVER ACTIONS. The NYT, meanwhile, says that Arafat has “accepted the terms” of what the Times calls “a dangerous test.” The papers explain that Arafat may be trapped because Hamas likely has more support among Palestinians than he does.

The papers all go high with President Bush’s response to the attacks, specifically his demands of Arafat, which the NYT says “paralleled” the President’s demands of the Taliban. “Chairman Arafat must do everything in his power to find those who murdered innocent Israelis and bring them to justice,” said Bush. If Arafat doesn’t crack down sufficiently, he risks political isolation and, says the Post, being kicked out of the territories or even killed by the Israelis.

The NYT, in the 17th graph of its lead, mentions one potential consequence of the bombings: The United States will probably hold off on any potential showdown with Iraq. “We just can’t overload the circuits,” said one official.

The papers report that the Marines are walking around Afghanistan looking for Taliban, but haven’t found any yet. A senior Marine officer told the Post that the war seems to be reaching a “culmination point.” But a Marine pilot said the Taliban “still have teeth,” although he added, “We have pliers.”

The Post stuffs word that another Marine unit has begun to arrive at the U.S. base near Kandahar, which is also apparently hosting a handful of liaison officers from Britain, Germany, and Australia.   

The NYT reports that “a preliminary analysis” of the powder used in the anthrax attacks suggests that it is “virtually indistinguishable” from the anthrax created by the now-defunct U.S. biological weapons program. The powder in the Leahy letter contained “as many as” one trillion anthrax spores per gram, nearly the theoretical limit. (Of course, given that language, it could also have contained one spore per gram.) Since no lab or other country is known to have created such virulent anthrax, investigators are now considering the possibility that the sender may somehow have been connected to the old military program. 

To further the inside-job theory, the NYT quotes at length from a report by William C. Patrick III, a biological warfare expert, who concluded that outsiders were unlikely to be able to produce high-quality anthrax. The Times, though, doesn’t get a comment from Patrick himself.

But the Journal does. In response to one scientist’s assertion that the anthrax “almost certainly” came from a U.S. weapons program, Patrick said, “She is flat wrong.”

In the same article, the WSJ reports that the anthrax sender, wherever they worked, made a boo-boo. They forgot to remove the anthrax’s electrostatic charge, meaning it was more likely to stick to surfaces and less likely to float into the air. While the snafu probably saved some lives, it may also explain why there was some cross contamination: The spores ended up sticking onto nearby envelopes.

The WP reports that investigators have found that a letter sent near the Bronx home of Kathy Nguyen went through a mail-sorting machine just seconds after Senator Leahy’s anthrax-laced letter was sent through. There’s no evidence that Nguyen touched the letter, but it could be that she was somehow a victim of cross contamination. A postal official though, doubted it, arguing, “I can see it cross-contaminating something, but then to have enough power to kill somebody through inhalational anthrax, gee.”

USAT goes below the fold with word that the FBI has decided to share intelligence reports with thousands of local police departments. Ever since Sept. 11, local police have been grumbling that the FBI has been too stingy with information. USAT doesn’t mention another bit of the bad-blood saga: Some local police, perhaps feeling jilted by the feds, have been less than enthusiastic about questioning folks on behalf of the Justice Department.

The papers all front the news that Enron, a formerly high-flying energy company, has filed for bankruptcy, the largest in American history. Yesterday Enron also filed suit against its competitor and former suitor, Dynegy, claiming that Dynegy illegally pulled out of its agreement to purchase the company last week.

An article in yesterday’s NYT Week in Review said that some scientists have been questioning why cloning is such a no-no. According to the Times, “If cloning could be made safe (a big if), these proponents say, it could bring the joys of parenthood to infertile couples, single people and gay people—in short, anyone who cannot now have a genetically-related child.”

The LAT fronts artist David Hockney’s contention that many of the Old Masters—Rembrandt, Vermeer, etc.—used a “camera lucida” to project images of their subjects onto canvas, thus allowing the artists to trace their paintings. Hockney, whose theory was the basis of a symposium this past weekend, insists that though some artists used an extra tool, it doesn’t diminish their achievements. But Susan Sontag doesn’t buy that, “If David Hockney’s thesis is correct, it would be a bit like finding out that all the great lovers of history have been using Viagra.”