Today's Papers

Thru Thin and Thicket

The Washington Post leads with inside information that Israel will let Arafat travel to Beirut to attend the Arab Summit this week. USA Today leads with day-old news that the U.S. is pressuring Israel to do so. Both the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal give what’s likely to happen at the Arab Summit top billing. The Los Angeles Times leads with Cardinal Mahony’s first comments since the Catholic Church sexual abuse scandal broke.

The WP’s headline reads: SHARON IS READY TO LET ARAFAT VISIT BEIRUT. The evidence for this conclusion seems a bit more shaky than the headline writers let on. One unnamed Israeli official, in the lead quote, describes the gesture as the “least worst option the prime minister faces given the need to maintain the unity of his government and not to make a rift with the Americans based on an issue that is not really serious,” a sentiment that seems far from proof positive that Sharon is indeed ready at all. Elsewhere in the article, the WP slips into more of a subjective mood:  If Israel lets Arafat attend the Arab summit, it would represent a shift in Sharon’s position. If Israel lets Arafat attend, it increases the likelihood that Arab leaders would embrace a peace formula unacceptable to the Israelis. And perhaps most intriguingly, 10th paragraph down, “if Arafat does attend the summit, the decision on permitting him to return would depend on his ‘good behavior.’”

USAT’s slant on the story pretty much follows yesterday’s NYT lead. In the story’s last paragraph, however, the paper reveals a new poll it conducted over the weekend. Fifty-eight percent of respondents believe a peaceful solution is “very important,” up from 34 percent less than two years ago. Also, 40 percent say Palestinians deserve the blame and 26 percent blame the Israelis. Although the paper makes no mention of it, the 26 number would represent an enormous jump from archived poll figures around the Internet that indicate Israel’s blame rate as traditionally ranging from 4 to 12 percent.

The NYT downgrades what the Bush administration is doing in regards to Israel/Arafat from Page one to Page 14, and instead rather sensibly focuses on what the individual participants at the Arab summit want.  All told, 44 separate resolutions will be introduced. Delagates will vote on the Saudi initiate for peace. Kuwait, though, will reject one denouncing any attack on Iraq. 

The NYT also takes a headcount of those not participating at the summit: Saddam Hussein, the two ailing sheiks who rule Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates, Sultan Qaboos bin Said of Oman, and Col. Muammar Qaddafi.

The WSJ tops its world-wide newsbox similarly to the NYT, but besides tackling the political dimensions, the paper also addresses the economic concerns of those in the Mideast. The economies in the region are fragmented. Intra-trade comprises just 10 percent of total trade, and the total is down 36 percent between 1980 and 1998. Economic growth trails population growth.

Cardinal Roger M. Mahony, archbishop of the archdiocese that includes Los Angeles, Ventura, and Santa Barbara counties, held an extraordinary “Mass of Reparations” Monday night, according to the LAT, and then echoed his new position at a press conference afterwards. Mahony says that sexual-abuse victims who wish to break “confidentiality agreements” and talk, may do so. The LAT takes for granted that its readers know the context where these confidentiality agreements arise—settled lawsuits—offering no explanation. Mahony also says he’s open to discussion on the issue of marriage in the priesthood.

The WP and the WSJ front, the LAT reefers, and the NYT ignores news that the U.S. Department of Energy has released 11,000 documents relating to the creation of the Bush administration’s energy policy, which in the WSJ’s 1st paragraph and the WP’s 16th paragraph, Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham says, proves the policy was derived from “all viewpoints.” The reason for the WP’s low placement may stem from its disbelief:  “Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham met with 36 representatives of business interests and many campaign contributors while developing President Bush’s energy policy, and he held no meetings with conservation or consumer groups, documents released last night show.” [Editor’s note: In fact, the New York Times covered the story with an article on page A 20. Click here to read it.]

News outlets were a bit too quick on Monday to pronounce this year’s Oscars ratings better than last year’s. The papers now report that the telecast had its worst ratings performance ever.

The fact that acid can corrode steel doesn’t necessarily seem surprising, but that’s the adjective the NYT uses to describe officials at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and others, upon learning that a 25-year-old nuclear reactor plant in Ohio is in serious trouble due to corrosion. The reactor’s once six-inch-thick lid, now less than a half-inch, holds “thousands of gallons of slightly radioactive and extremely hot water,” under more than 2,200 pounds of pressure per square inch. What would have happened had workers not mistakenly stumbled upon the problem? Well, the m-word, meltdown, is mentioned as a possibility.

Meanwhile, the LAT fronts a story focusing on a new, nicely timed warning report by Rep. Edward J. Markey, D-Mass., that the nation’s 103 nuclear power reactors are in danger of terrorist attacks, including ones like the airplane-into-structure attack that leveled the World Trade Center. “If hijackers rammed even a relatively small plane into a nuclear reactor, it could cause a full-scale meltdown and widespread radiation contamination,” Markey says. Especially, if the reactor’s lid is only a half-inch thick, one supposes.