Today's Papers

Singapore, Guys, and Videotapes

The Washington Post leads with President Bush’s speech to Japan’s parliament in which he said that the United States “is more committed than ever to a forward presence in this region.” The paper also highlights Bush’s buddy-buddy talk with Japan. The two nations, he said, “share a vision for the future of the Asia-Pacific region as a fellowship of free Pacific nations.” The Wall Street Journal has a similar story atop its world-wide newsbox, but it emphasizes up higher that Japan’s Prime Minister, Junichiro Koizumi, offered some kind words in support of Bush’s “axis of evil” comments. Both papers note that, on the eve of his visit to Korea, the president kept his axis comments to himself. The New York Times leads with an exclusive: “The Pentagon is developing plans to provide news items, possibly even false ones, to foreign media organizations as part of a new effort to influence public sentiment and policy makers in both friendly and unfriendly countries.” The Los Angeles Times leads with growing protests about the execution scheduled for Wednesday in Georgia of Alexander E. Williams IV, who murdered a girl in 1997. The paper says that Williams is “so delusional that he believes actress Sigourney Weaver is God.” According to the Supreme Court, the death penalty can only be imposed if a prisoner is aware of his or her impending execution. So prison officials have had Williams forcibly medicated, and thus declared him sane enough to be executed. The court has yet to rule on whether that’s constitutional. USA Today’s lead crows that the paper got a peek at a videotape made in Singapore by al-Qaida operatives, who have been arrested since their free-lance filming days. The paper says the video, the existence of which has been previously reported, provides details of the men’s plans, including a plot to bomb the U.S. Embassy and hit a McDonald’s frequented by U.S. sailors.  

USAT says that the narrator in one segment of the tape can be heard saying, “This is a taxi stand (where) our bicycle (packed with explosives) can be parked. There will be many American military personnel going by. We know. We have watched them many times.” Then he added, “These pillars look strong. Hmm. It will take a lot to bring them down.” 

When the men were caught—a week before they planned to start their campaign—one of them was found to have purchased four tons of ammonium nitrate. Timothy McVeigh used one ton of the same stuff to destroy the federal building in Oklahoma.

The NYT says that the Pentagon’s propaganda plan, which would create the “Office of Strategic Influence,” hasn’t been given final approval by the White House. According to the Times, plenty of folks hope that it never will: “Several senior [Pentagon] officials have questioned whether [the plan] is too broad and possibly even illegal.” (Today’s Papers has a Miss Cleo-type feeling that the NYT is already  in the midst of penning an editorial agreeing with those officials. It’s not there today; wait until tomorrow.) 

The NYT off-leads one of its reporter’s conclusions that over the weekend the Pentagon, for the first time, dropped bombs, not on suspected al-Qaida troops, but on local militia fighting with Afghanistan’s fledgling central government. The paper emphasizes that the reports are murky; the United States has only confirmed that it bombed “enemy troops.”

The WP’s off-lead goes against conventional wisdomand reports, “Bush administration planners have yet to agree whether to oust Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and how to achieve this.”

Everybody notes that in Israel, two gun attacks and one suicide bombing by Palestinians killed a total of seven Israelis. In response, Israel launched a series of airstrikes and shellings, which killed at least five Palestinians.

A NYT news analysis says that the Israeli public is becoming frustrated with Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s inability to bring peace and security to the country.

The WP fronts a piece profiling the enormous security lapses at the U.S. military’s top bio-lab in the 1990s. “It blew me away,” said one microbiologist who worked at the lab in the 1980s and early 1990s. “I could have lifted vials of anything and they never would have been missed.” Another scientist, who worked with what the Post calls the “deadliest” substance on earth (botulinum toxin), commented, “7-Eleven keeps better inventory than they did.” The Post and Hartford Courant have both reported on the lapses before, but this article goes into far more detail.

NYT op-ed columnist Nicholas Kristof, who has been hanging out in the Philippines, continues to churn out some of the best reporting about the “war on terrorism” there. (Actually, he seems to be one of the very few doing any significant reporting about what’s going on there.) According to Kristof, “The American aim in the Philippines is a feel-good declaration of victory more than a defeat of terrorism.” As evidence, Kristof points out that, “We have no plans to mess with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, which has much stronger ties to terrorism and to al-Qaida, but which has thousands of fighters and is thus more formidable.”

The WP says that “the yen briefly dipped against the dollar” after the president suggested that Japan focus on “devaluation.”  The White House quickly noted that Bush meant  to say “deflation,” and the yen picked back up.