The top story at the Washington Post, USA Today, and Los Angeles Times (online at least) is the discovery that Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl has been killed by his kidnappers. Someone claiming to be a journalist delivered a videotape of Pearl’s murder to Pakistani police, and U.S. officials verified the tape’s authenticity. The tape gives no indication of when or where Pearl was killed, and his body has not been found. The top story in the WSJ’s world-wide newsbox devotes a lot of space to eulogizing the paper’s reporter. The New York Times leads with new federal recommendations on mammograms: They should be done every one or two years in women ages 40-69, a change from the previous federal recommendation that women begin regular breast cancer screening at age 50. The new guidelines come on the heels of a study by a group of American cancer experts which concluded a few weeks ago that the benefits of mammography may not outweigh risks it creates, including surgery for tumors that show up on mammograms but are unlikely to become life-threatening. But the federal experts decided that since women who have routine mammograms are 23 percent less likely to die from breast cancer, the tests are worth doing. (Here’s Slate’s take on the confusion over the value of mammography.)
The WP has the most detailed account of what the videotape of Pearl’s execution contains. It shows Pearl talking to someone, “almost as if he were conducting an interview,” the WP speculates, when suddenly an attacker slits his throat. If Pearl had been interviewing someone, the timing of the execution seems especially cruel: It could appear that the kidnappers were mocking the requests of the WSJ and Pearl’s wife, who, in the hopes of securing his safe treatment, had begged Pearl’s captors to use the reporter’s journalistic skills to make their views heard. President Bush and Pakistani President Musharraf both labeled Pearl’s kidnappers terrorists. U.S. officials have been negotiating to bring these “agents of terror” (Bush’s words), four of whom are in Pakistani custody, to the United States to possibly face the death penalty, the NYT says.
A WP online headline neatly sums up advice Bush gave to China during a speech at Tsinghua University: BUSH TO CHINA: BE FREE. The NYT’s headline emphasizes that Bush was talking about religious freedom, but the papers note he also recommended political freedom to the Chinese. “Life in America shows that liberty, paired with law, is not to be feared,” the president said. The papers read Bush’s remarks as a subtle challenge to Chinese President Jiang Zemin, who believes that China isn’t made for Western-style democratic governance.
The papers announce that Defense Secretary Rumsfeld has confirmed, as was suspected by many, that the 16 Afghans who Special Forces killed in a Jan. 24 raid were neither Taliban nor al-Qaida. But, he said, the villagers were killed only after first opening fire on U.S. troops. Afghan accounts of the raid, reported on Feb. 11, were not clear on how the firing started. The troops also captured 27 villagers who, according to the Feb. 11 accounts, they kicked and beat. Rumsfeld “defiantly rejected” (WP) those reports. He didn’t say much about the sort of intelligence that had led troops to carry out the raid.
A U.S. Army helicopter is down in the Philippines, and about 10 troops are believed dead, the papers say. There was no evidence of hostile fire.
The papers report that Israeli Prime Minister Sharon announced he would create buffer zones for “security separation” from the Palestinians. Sharon was vague on how the buffer zones would work and what would happen to the Israeli settlers in the West Bank and Gaza. The NYT gets a little more detail out of a Sharon adviser, who said the zones might be more than a half-mile wide and include fences and patrols. Only the NYT stops to contemplate a somewhat startling declaration by Sharon that “the state of Israel is not collapsing.” The paper attributes the remark to Sharon’s concern that the Israeli public is worried about the future of the country. Also yesterday, the Palestinians announced they had arrested suspects in the murder of the Israeli tourism minister last fall.
The WP fronts word that hours after Colombia’s government ended peace talks with FARC rebels, it got down to business attacking them. Colombian air force jets bombed rebels’ camps, airstrips, and cocaine-processing plants. Bogotá abandoned the shaky 3-year-old talks after FARC hijacked a plane to kidnap a senator.
In a fit of pique over the judging at the Olympics, the Russian team has threatened to pull out of the Salt Lake Games. The decision on whether to leave will be made by President Putin himself. The NYT calls the Russians’ announcement “extraordinary.” The Russians might add ladies figure skating to the list of sports in which they are unhappy with Olympic officiating (the others: pairs skating, cross-country skiing, and hockey). Their leading contender took second to American Sarah Hughes in a close finish. Favorite Michelle Kwan was third.