Today's Papers

What the Shadow Knows

The New York Times leads with a third day of Hindu-Muslim violence in western India. The death toll has now passed 200.  The Los Angeles Times has coverage of the California governor’s race, with the primary scheduled for Tuesday. The paper’s top national story is about the possibility of pilots packing stun guns in flight—a battle plan the Transportation Department is likely to approve. The Washington Post goes with the elaborate shadow government the Bush administration set up after Sept 11; the thing is that no one bothered to tell Congress.

The current troubles in India started on Wednesday but they have a long pedigree, according to the NYT lead. Ten years ago a mosque was razed in Ayodhya, and now Hindus want to build a temple on the site. A train carrying Hindus there on Wednesday was attacked by Muslims and 58 Hindus died in the resulting fire. Hindu mobs took to the streets the next day, killing Muslims in Ahmedabad. “The government left them free to do whatever they wanted,” says one of the Muslim survivors. The Times takes a more charitable view, reporting that “police officers appear to have been too terrified or outnumbered to stop outraged Hindu mobs seeking vengeance.” It’s not clear how they settled on this interpretation. The police in Ahmedabad are now under orders to shoot Hindu vigilantes on sight. Five went down yesterday.

Pilots—80 percent of whom would like to be able to “respond to aggressors with lethal force”—will probably soon be armed with stun guns, according to the LAT lead. Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta would rather they not have actual guns and says that once the good cockpit doors get installed they’ll be no real need for stun guns either. But he will likely approve them anyway. The flight attendants’ union wants stun guns for its members as well, but Mineta says no way.

The WP lead reports that Congress knew nothing about the extensive shadow government set up by the White House in the wake of Sept. 11. About 100 officials from the various executive branch departments have been rotating in and out of two fortified East Coast locations, adhering to a plan developed in the 1950s during the Cold War. But what about the rest of the government? Apparently it’s every branch for itself in times of crisis, according to the Post. As a representative from Massachusetts says, “I would hope the speaker and the minority leader would at least pose the question, ‘What about us?’ “

Congress is also feeling slighted with regard to the war effort, according to a NYT fronter. As George W.’s anti-terrorism brigade goes worldwide, Senate Democrats want to be kept up to speed. Yesterday Bush agreed to send 100 U.S. troops to Yemen to train the military there. A similar mentoring program is up and running in the Phillipines (where there are 600 American troops) and another is being considered for Georgia (currently 1 American soldier, but he may be joined by 200 others).

Congress probably also wasn’t told about the David Letterman-ABC negotiations, but then neither was David Westin, president of ABC News, who called the news a “tremendous blow,” according to the NYT. Letterman at ABC would likely be the kiss of death for Nightline, which doesn’t attract the kind of viewers advertisers like best—the 18 to 34s. Politically Incorrect would also bite the dust. ABC is in third place and has lost more than 20 percent of its ratings from last year. Disney’s stock went up $1 after the announcement.

Under the headline “They Give, but They Also Take,” the NYT off-leads the budget migraines brought on by voter initiatives in several states. It’s not unusual for voters to limit spending and even cut taxes and then, as happened in Washington, also demand and, in effect, legislate a dramatic increase in school spending with no money to pay for it. “I wouldn’t say voters are stupid,” says a former Washington Supreme Court judge and legislator. “But the same voter who wants unlimited services also does not want to pay for it. There’s a disconnect.” Lawmaking by ballot, as the Times calls it, is permitted in 24 states.  

The NYT fronts the smartest little boy in the world and the mother who cooked up his test scores. He got 298-plus on the IQ (the best ever), plus an 800 on the math SAT—at age 6. Mom says she falsified the records to open up opportunities for her bright son. Then she admitted the deception in an effort to get him back—he’s been removed from her care and placed in a psychiatric facility. He told a social worker he does not want to live anymore. “Exactly how smart Justin is remains unclear,” the Times duly notes.

Finally, the LAT fronts life on Mars, which may not be pretty but it probably exists, or did, and may still. Astronauts aboard the Odyssey found vast fields of ice on the planet’s surface, suggesting water enough to sustain life. (Editor’s note: “Astronauts aboard the Odyssey” did not find the ice fields, because the Odyssey is unmanned. Instead, the ice was detected by the Odyssey’s gamma ray spectrometer, which is directed by Earth-bound scientists at the University of Arizona. The instrument can pick up the chemical constituents on the planet’s surface.)