Today's Papers

Cover Boys

The Los Angeles Times leads with Bush’s Asia excursion.  The Washington Post top non-local story is an investigative look at how Taliban and al Queda leaders smuggled gold and dollars out of Afghanistan. The New York Times leads with news that the Bush administration is tightening the rules concerning scientific secrets.

The LAT goes back to the future in its lead, saying that Bush’s six-day trip this week through Japan, South Korea, and China “will finally get him back to the region—and issues—he initially intended to make a cornerstone of his administration’s foreign policy.” What neglected “issues” are these? Bush will urge Japan to incorporate aggressive economic reforms to shore up its troubled economy. He’ll also urge China to accept and work with a new FBI office to combat “terrorism and security issues.” Anything else? “The substance of the trip is reflected in the symbolism of the president’s stops,” the LAT tiptoes. Like? “On the Korean peninsula, Bush will travel to the demilitarized zone bordering North Korea, which he last month labeled one of three countries in an ‘axis of evil.’ ” Oh.

The NYT reefers and WP stuffs Bush’s trip to Asia, and both take a much more narrow approach. The NYT limits itself to Japan, saying that unlike a decade ago when Bush’s father was lectured by the Japanese, this time the Americans will be in the position to give the lectures to Japanese officials “now seen as the world’s slow- learning schoolboys.”  The WP covers the Japan angle on Page 30, and on Page 5 (separate article) takes on the tension that Bush has created and will face in the Korean region.

In the last month, according to the NYT, the Bush administration has quietly removed  6,600 germ and chemical weapon production documents from public circulation.  In addition, Tom Ridge’s homeland security office is preparing to draft new information security guidelines—apparently to be made public—that will result in the withdrawal of more scientifically sensitive public documents. The new guidelines will not only affect government works, but also academic papers traditionally published in scientific journals. The academics, cited in the article for reaction, have mixed feelings. “They’ve just removed information that would help the advancement of science,” says the dean at the University of Louisville.

Though the WP doesn’t say it, the paper offers news that may explain the Taliban’s unexpectedly quick retreat from its Afghanistan strongholds. “Just as the United States and its allies swept toward Afghanistan’s main cities last autumn, the ruling Taliban and Osama bin Laden’s al Qaeda network sent waves of couriers with bars of gold and bundles of dollars across the porous border into Pakistan.” The gold and money were taken from banks and national coffers, converted to gold bullion, and scattered around the world, including the United States. The “gold trail,” as the WP calls it, also offers fascinating details about what it’s like to be a gold merchant on the streets of  Dubai. “If you say you want 100 kilos [220 pounds] of gold,” one merchant tells the WP, “I can give you that wherever you want in 12 hours. What you do with it is your business.”

The NYT, in its off-lead, finds more trouble with Enron’s accounting.  The now-shamed corporation, which once more or less based its business plan on the word “hedge,” used the word’s plural on its balance sheet to also describe the loans it was getting from Wall Street. Instead of counting the $3.2 billion in loans as “debt” (in addition to the $8-10 billion in debt it hid in partnerships), Enron hid the money “in plain sight,” telling credit rating agencies, industry analysts, and investors that it was merely “hedging activity.” The WP meanwhile fronts a big Enron-related headline: “Moral Crisis in Capitalism?”

Now that the issues of whether the Canadian figure skating pair should receive gold (yes) and what the International Skating Union should do with the French judge (suspend her) have been settled, the NYT peeks at what’s ahead on the Russian front. Russian skaters Anton Sikharulidze and Yelena Berezhnaya, beneficiaries of great publicity, stand to make good money from already sold-out exhibitions, not to mention the $50,000 check given by the Russian government to all gold medal winners. Yesterday, this column counseled the Canadian duo to hold out for solo gold. Today’s Papers also wishes to tell the Russians that keeping the $50,000 is OK—just cash the check quickly—and to demand at least 10 percent gross from the inevitable Canadian-Russian rematch.

The LAT goes to bed late enough to front a large picture of the pile-up that occurred at the end of the Men’s 1,000 meter track speed skating event—a calamity that may cost American Apolo Anton Ohno four golds, evolve into the next Olympic-sized conspiracy theory, and raise the eyebrow of anyone who has ever thought about the SI cover jinx. (To see the cover, click here.)

The WP is a bit sensitive today, running an article by media reporter Howard Kurtz on increasingly negative war coverage, as well as a piece by ombudsman Michael Getler defending charges that the paper is bashing the military and being unpatriotic. According to Getler, the Post has recently received e-mails and phone calls of that nature. Interestingly, today is also the day that the WP fronts the first in an “occasional series” detailing Sept. 11 marines, those “inspired recruits” who took “up arms for the new fight.”

The NYT op-ed pages seem somewhat embarrassed that it was a cat that was cloned and not a dog. ”(Washington) is an alpha town that clearly favors dogs over cats,” writes Maureen Dowd. “The scientific team started out trying to clone a dog, but as far as is known, every attempt failed,” says an editorial. “…But dogs are considered better political assets by many pols …” continues Dowd. ”… But there is some hope that similar cloning techniques may help save endangered wild cats or replicate socially valuable animals like search-and-rescue dogs …” reads the editorial’s third-to-last sentence.