Today's Papers

Linkin’ Tunnel

The New York Times leads with a federal appeals court’s decision to overturn the convictions of three former New York City police officers who were charged in the 1997 attack on Haitian immigrant Abner Louima. The court found that one officer, who was accused of holding Louima while another tortured him, did not receive a fair trial. He will be re-tried. The court also threw out obstruction-of-justice charges against that officer and two others, citing a lack of evidence. The prison sentence of a fourth former officer, Louima’s primary attacker, was not affected by the ruling. The Washington Post leads with a Commerce Department report that found that the American economy grew at an annual rate of 1.4 percent in the last quarter of 2001 instead of at the 0.2 percent rate that had been predicted. Strong consumer spending helped spur the economy, and if the estimates on future growth hold, last year’s downturn “would be the mildest U.S. recession ever, and the only one with just one quarter [the third quarter of last year] of economic contraction” measured as a decline in GDP. How exactly the paper concludes that the slump would properly be called a recession is a little confusing since Economics 101 would say that a recession is technically two successive quarters of a decline in GDP. The paper may be taking the word of the National Bureau of Economic Research, which, the story reports, measured non-GDP indicators to conclude that a recession “officially began last spring.”

USA Today’s lead says that an environmental group has accused the FDA of bowing to pressure from the seafood industry when it decided not to recommend certain limits on the amount of tuna pregnant women can eat without fear that the tuna’s mercury content will brain-damage their fetuses. The reporting is not very specific on the evidence the environmental group collected to support its claim that meetings with the seafood industry led to the FDA’s decision. Atop the Wall Street Journal’s world-wide newsbox is more detailed information on the administration’s interest in sending military aid to Yemen, plans first reported in the papersyesterday. Several hundred American troops will train and assist Yemeni forces in hunting terrorists, much like the United States is doing in the Philippines. The Los Angeles Times leads with a local story about how state limits on political donations do not keep special interest groups, like doctors, lawyers, and tobacco companies, from donating millions of dollars to state legislative campaigns. The paper’s top non-California story is news of Israeli raids on two Palestinian refugee camps, strongholds of Palestinian militants, which left at least 11 Palestinians and one Israeli soldier dead.

For the first time in years, Israeli troops entered the refugee camps to pursue the militants. The raids exposed thousands of Palestinian civilians to combat operations, and the State Department warned Israel against incurring civilian casualties. The Israeli government gave civilians three hours to leave the camps before their troops entered, but, the NYT says, few seemed to take up the offer. They feared, the paper says, becoming refugees. The papers don’t always succeed in sorting out the numbers of civilian deaths versus combatant deaths in their casualty tallies from such battles between Israelis and Palestinians, and the WP says that a dozen Palestinian “fighters and bystanders” were killed. The LAT simply puts the total of dead Palestinians at 13. Over 100 were wounded.

The NYT has discovered that 18 of the energy industry’s top 25 financial backers of the GOP last year, including, for example, Enron and BP, advised Vice President Cheney’s energy task force. Cheney has refused to say which executives he met with and is being sued over it. The reporting relied on unspecified “task force correspondence,” and on interviews with energy industry officials who said that the names of companies who advised the administration were not a secret. They told the paper to look at the biggest financial backers of Bush’s campaign to find out who helped create energy policy.

The WP reports that Cheney isn’t the only official President Bush has sent to his bunker regularly after Sept. 11. The paper has details on the “Continuity of Operations Plan,” whose existence was first reported last fall. The plan creates what the paper calls a shadow government, which would function in the event of a disabling attack on Washington (and officials say only a nuclear strike would qualify). One hundred senior civilian officials from every Cabinet department and some other agencies live and work underground in 90-day shifts in one of two secret locations along the East Coast.

The papers report that Hindu mobs ravaged the Muslim population of a city in western India, burning about 60 people to death in their residences and businesses. The coverage notes that the violence came in retaliation for an attack on a train by a Muslim mob on Wednesday in which 58 Hindus were killed.

The papers carry leading Senate Democrats’ criticism that Bush is expanding the war on terrorism without clearly stating his aims. According to the NYT,Sen. Robert Byrd, D-W.V., said that Defense should not expect “blank checks to be written” for expanding the war, and Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle warned against “expansion without at least a clear direction.”

The WP’s front reports that U.S.drug agents have busted a pig farm in California, a front for what DEA officials called one of the most lucrative drug smuggling operations ever found along the U.S.-Mexico border. Beneath a false floor in a closet on the farm, an elaborate tunnel, furnished with electricity and tracks for drug-ferrying carts, led 1,200 feet across the border to link up with a fireplace in a Mexican home. Billions of dollars worth of drugs are thought to have moved through the 2-year-old tunnel.