Today's Papers

Dropping a Bomb

The New York Times leads with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat’s enthusiasm for the Saudi plan for peace in the Middle East. Arafat urged the United States to get behind the proposal—and push hard. “There must be a very important, and very strong, and very quick push from outside,” he explained. USA Today leads with signs that the United States is “stepping up its efforts to destabilize” Saddam Hussein’s regime. Among the evidence, the paper cites a former CIA official who says that his former employer is preparing “to arm Kurdish forces in northern Iraq and to train and arm Shiite Muslims in the south.” The Wall Street Journal tops its world-wide newsbox with the White House’s plan to “tell Congress that U.N. war-crimes tribunals should be reined in and put on a strict timetable due to allegations of mismanagement, and future prosecutions should be handled by individual nations. Allies disagree.” The Washington Post and Los Angeles Times leads with word that a federal court ordered the Energy Department to release thousands of documents related to Vice President Cheney’s energy task force. The Post says, “The decision would make public for the first time detailed information about the influence of industry executives and others over the administration’s energy policy.”

As the papers note, the ruling comes as a result of a suit brought by an environmental group and is unrelated to the one brought by Congress’ investigative arm, the General Accounting Office. Still, this decision means that the administration will have to hand over nearly all the documents that the GAO requested, which as the Post says will probably “defuse” the GAO v. White House battle.

The WP goes inside with word that the United States is close to announcing support for a “modest increase” in the size and scope of the peacekeeping force in Afghanistan.

The WP off-leads news of General Tommy Franks’ testimony before a congressional committee in which he said that the United States is in talks with Yemen about providing military aid to fight al-Qaida elements in that country. Franks said it was still undecided exactly what that aid might consist of. But a Yemeni diplomat told the Post what his country’s looking for: “You name it, we want it.”

The 11th paragraph of that WP article appears to break a bit of news: “Pentagon officials had expected to escalate the U.S. military efforts in Colombia, but the expansion of the counterterrorism war there was rejected, at least temporarily, in a White House meeting on Tuesday night, administration officials said.”

USAT goes below the fold with big news: Citing an unreleased federal study that the paper got a peek of, USAT says that fallout from aboveground nuclear tests “probably caused at least 15,000 cancer deaths in U.S. residents born after 1951.” (The paper explains that 1951 is when the aboveground tests began in Nevada. And it adds that although aboveground tests were banned in 1963, some of the radioactive elements released by them will “remain dangerous for hundreds of years.”)

According to the article, “The study shows that far more fallout than previously known reached the USA from nuclear tests in the former Soviet Union and on several Pacific islands used for U.S. and British exercises. It also finds that fallout from scores of U.S. trials at the Nevada Test Site spread substantial amounts of radioactivity across broad swaths of the country. When fallout from all tests, domestic and foreign, is taken together, no U.S. resident born after 1951 escaped exposure, the study says.”

The paper notes in the seventh paragraph, “The cancer figures are a general nationwide estimate—there is no way to link specific cases to fallout.” 

USAT reports that the study, which was conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and the National Cancer Institute, has been “finished for over a year” but hasn’t been released because it’s undergoing “internal review.” One frustrated scientist told the paper that he was asked to peer-review it, but still hasn’t received the study.

By the way, USAT has been leading the coverage on this story since 1997, when the government first acknowledged that the aboveground tests could have caused what was then thought to be a large number of relatively minor cancer cases.

The papers report that a female suicide bomber blew herself up in the West Bank yesterday, wounding two Israeli soldiers and killing two men who were in a car with the attacker. Also, Israeli soldiers killed three gunmen who were trying to secretly cross the border from Egypt. It was the first known such infiltration from Egypt in years. A wire story in the WSJ says, “The Egyptian government refused to comment, declaring a news blackout about the incident.”

According to a front-page piece in the WP, EXILED EXPERTS RETURN TO REBUILD AFGHANISTAN. Yesterday’s LAT reported, “Educated Afghan exiles are giving up their comfortable lives to help rebuild their homeland.”

The LAT goes inside with a bizarre piece: RUSSIAN NOT AN ARMS DEALER, CALLER SAYS. The paper explains that the phoner, “whose identity could not be confirmed,” claimed to be the brother of Victor Bout—a reputed arms trafficker extraordinaire who the LAT, among others, has been reporting on—and told the Times that his “brother” is just a “simple air carrier.” Eh, OK. But since when does a (potential) brother’s exclamation of his sibling’s innocence count as news?

USAT’s sports section notes that the Houston Astros paid Enron $2.1 million to get back the naming rights to their ballpark, Enron Field.

The WSJ announced that it has set up a trust fund for the unborn child of Daniel and Mariane Pearl. Contributions, which are not tax-deductible, can be sent to:

The Daniel Pearl Memorial Trust
c/o Robert J. Laughlin, Vice President
J.P. Morgan Trust Company of Delaware
500 Stanton Christiana Road - 2/CS
Newark, DE 19713