The New York Times and the Washington Post papers lead with the surrender of the Taliban’s foreign minister, although the WP notes that this has been in the works for some time. The Los Angeles Times leads with skyrocketing drug seizures along the U.S.-Mexican border in recent months, following a sharp decline in the weeks after Sept. 11.
Wakil Ahmad Muttawakil, who turned himself over to Afghan authorities yesterday, is the highest ranking Taliban official currently in U.S. custody, and the WP story goes high with sources saying that he may be able to provide information on the whereabouts of Mullah Omar and Osama Bin Laden. But the NYT notes that the more moderate Muttawakil broke with Omar after the latter refused to expel Osama Bin Laden from Afghanistan in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks. Muttawakil’s surrender may also encourage other Taliban members to turn themselves in, according to WP sources.
Tucked into the papers’ stories on the minister’s capture is news that troops yesterday investigated the site of a missile strike by an armed drone against an al-Qaida campsite. Three men, possibly al-Qaida members, were believed dead, but Defense Secretary Rumsfeld said yesterday that “we just simply have no idea” who they were.
Customs officials tell the LAT that the increased drug seizures—marijuana seizures since Sept. 11 have jumped 19 percent compared with the previous year, and heroin seizures have more than doubled—are the inevitable result of tighter border security combined with smugglers’ inescapable need to move their product. Arrests of undocumented workers have declined, meanwhile, because many Mexican migrants, wary of the increased scrutiny of immigrants post 9/11, are reluctant to attempt a border crossing.
The NYT fronts news that the Securities and Exchange Commission is now investigating Global Crossing, a large telecom company that declared bankruptcy in late January, on suspicion that the company may have fudged its revenue reports. The story notes in the second graf that the company also confirmed reports that it was under FBI investigation, but waits until graf 10 to note the source of these “reports”: yesterday’s USA Today. The SEC was alerted to possible problems by a former executive, who sent a letter of complaint to the company several months ago. The company’s accounting firm, Arthur Andersen, say that they only recently became aware of the letter.
All three papers run front-page stories, with pictures, on the opening of the Winter Olympics in Utah. The $37 million spectacle wins unanimous raves for its tasteful nationalism: the NYT says the show “delicately touched on American patriotism and the international hope for unity,” the LAT calls the opening “a heartfelt display of patriotism” and the WP snipes at last week’s symbolic display of American might: “A week after a Super Bowl in which American pride seemed to come by design, extracted through a choreographed, detailed program, patriotism simply burst forth here.”
The NYT and the LAT close late enough to report on who actually lit the Olympic “cauldron”: the members of the “Miracle on Ice” U.S. hockey team, who beat the USSR and won the gold in 1980.
The WP goes below the fold with the suggestion from Pakistan’s president Musharraf that Indian intelligence agencies may have helped kidnap Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl. Lower-level officials made similar statements based on “indirect indications” earlier in the week, and although Musharraf has no new information to support his claims, the article fears that his comments will set off a “new round of recriminations” between the two nations.
The NYT and the LAT reefer signs that former Enron CEO Kenneth Lay will testify, under subpoena, before a Senate subcommittee on Tuesday. Witnesses customarily inform the committee if they plan to plead the Fifth, and the investigators said yesterday that they’ve had no such indication from Lay. Lay’s spokesman noted that he was still “weighing his options.”
Speaking of options, a story inside the NYT notes that another legal tactic is gaining popularity as the Enron investigation continues: the “I know nothing” defense, popularized by Sgt. Schultz from the 1960s sitcom Hogan’s Heroes. The phrase—shorthand for looking the other way in the face of blatant misconduct—was used by a congressman to describe former Enron chief Jeffrey Skilling’s testimony earlier this week. It was also used last year by Brit Hume to describe Hillary Clinton’s behavior during Pardongate, and will, hopefully, spark a vogue for sitcom catchphrases in political spin wars. How would Today’s Papers feel about a world where Vice President Cheney tells environmentalists to “kiss my grits,” and Supreme Court Justices advise rejected supplicants to “sit on it?” Dy-no-MITE!
Chronic pains: The NYT health section has a great story about a doctor in Oregon who has authorized nearly half of the state’s medical marijuana users—1,718 patients, including some he’s never examined, since 1999. There’s also an amazing picture (online, at least) of one of his patients taking his medicine from a bong shaped like a grinning skull. The 78-year-old semiretired osteopath says he’s careful to weed out phony requests, including one from a patient who wanted pot for a fractured finger. But the state’s board of medical examiners feels it’s high time he changed his behavior—they’re filing a formal complaint this week. Bummer.