Today's Papers

The Shoe Must Go On

The New York Timesleads with word that “warlike momentum” is building between India and Pakistan, which have both moved troops to their shared border.  Unlike in recent years, this buildup is along the full length of the border, not just in Kashmir, and according to diplomats, it’s the largest buildup in years. The Los Angeles Timesleads with reports that airports are tightening security after Saturday’s botched attempt at an airliner bombing. Most notably, security officers are now asking many would-be passengers to take off their shoes and hand ‘em over for inspection. The result is lines of up to one hour. The Washington Postleads with the arraignment of the guy who caused all this trouble, Richard Reid. Asked whether he’d tell the truth to the court, Reid replied, “Yeah.” But he hasn’t spilled anything yet, and authorities still haven’t figured out why Reid wanted to blow up the plane.

The LAT, quoting a security expert, suggests that such wholesale shoe removal is unnecessary. Instead, airlines should just make sure that those passengers who are pegged as high risk—as Reid was—get the extra scrutiny they deserve, which ultimately Reid didn’t. “It’s not a loophole in technology or regulation” that was as fault, said the expert. “It was a laxity.”

The WP fronts some people’s complaints that anthrax letter hoaxes, when meant as practical jokes, shouldn’t be prosecuted as a serious crime. The Post says the issue has “ignited a serious debate.” Really? Without getting into the dubious logic of why such crimes shouldn’t be prosecuted, Today’s Papers would just like to point out that out of the six folks quoted in the article who say that such hoaxes aren’t a big deal, five are defense lawyers for anthrax pranksters.

The WP says that the U.S. “reported no bombing, no troop movements and no other significant action” in Afghanistan yesterday. 

The WP fronts word that Afghanistan’s president, Ahmed Karzai, had appointed a warlord from northern Afghanistan, Abdurrashid Dostum, to be his deputy defense minister. Dostum is a nasty fellow. He has a lengthy history of human-rights abuses and a penchant for switching sides. But he also controls a few thousand troops. The WP calls Dostum’s new position, “a key post.” The NYT, though,saysthere are rumors that he wanted a bigger position. Until yesterday, Dostum had been bad-mouthing Afghanistan’s new government. 

The papers all mention that one of the armed Arab patients at the Kandahar hospital was arrested yesterday. There are conflicting reports about exactly what happened, and what role U.S. troops played. But the Post does say that “witnesses described it as a botched snatch operation”: Apparently, Afghan authorities tried to lure the man out by telling him he was getting surgery. But then he saw a bunch of Americans waiting for him and he alerted his compadres. A firefight ensued between the armed patients and anti-Taliban fighters. Afterward, the patients settled back into bed.

The Post mentions reports that U.S. helicopters swooped into a town northwest of Kabul and nabbed the deputy chief of the Taliban’s (former) intelligence department. A U.S. military spokesman said he couldn’t confirm the arrest. 

Another military spokesman, meanwhile, continued to insist that the convoy bombed near Khost on Friday “was indeed a legitimate target.” Local leaders continued to insist that the vehicles were full of supporters of Afghanistan’s new president.

The WP stuffs word that drug enforcement authorities anticipate that opium production will “increase dramatically” next year. That’s because in the past year the Taliban had cracked down on poppies, cutting production by about 90 percent.

The LAT fronts news that Palestinian Authority leader Yasser Arafat, true to Israel’s words, was not allowed to travel to Bethlehem for Christmas services. 

The NYT’s C.J. Chivers appears to have had a pleasant Christmas Eve. He spent it in the recently reopened U.S. embassy in Kabul, which he says contained a stacked bar of “finely aged booze.” Chivers writes that the Marines now guarding the building weren’t allowed to enjoy the libations, but “they were generous with their tiny cadre of guests.” Chivers then went on to convince a Marine sergeant to show off a few hidden relics left over from when the place was abandoned in ‘89, specifically centerfolds of Playboy’s Miss May and Miss September.