Today's Papers

About a Memo

The Washington Post, the New York Times, and the Los Angeles Times all lead with President Bush’s defense against what he termed as “second-guessing” criticisms that he ignored Sept. 11th warning signs. “Had I known that the enemy was going to use airplanes to kill on that fateful morning,” Bush said, “I would have done everything in my power to protect the American people.”

Both the NYT and LAT play up White House spokesman Ari Fleischer’s direct criticism of Sen. Hilary Clinton, D-N.Y.  Both also include First Lady Laura Bush’s stand-by-your-man quote from Europe.

Although the WP, like the NYT and LAT, leads with escalating political rhetoric, the most revealing new detail about the unfolding controversy might be in the paper’s Bob Woodward co-written off-lead, a “shift in portrayals” potboiler. Taking a deeper look at what exactly was in that August warning memo – as well as its genesis – the paper reports that the top-secret document, under specific guidance from President Bush, focused on possible al Qaeda terrorism within the United States. According to one of the many unnamed, out-of-quotes sources in the story, the White House was disappointed with the unfocused analysis it asked for and got.

Whether or not this new information is tantamount to Bush not acting sufficiently to warnings and concerns at the time, an intriguing paragraph further into the story suggests that, maybe, the Administration is still not being truly forthcoming: 

“White House press secretary Ari Fleischer told reporters yesterday the headline on the document was, ‘Bin Laden Determined to Strike the United States.’ But sources who have read the memo said the headline ended with the phrase ‘in U.S.’”

The WP story also has intelligence sources confirming an ABC News report that two of the names listed on an undistributed July 2001 FBI memo from Phoenix were linked to al Qaeda by the CIA. The NYT reports that the FBI knew as far back as 1996 that bin Laden and associates were training pilots in the U.S. and around the world, dismissing the threat because it couldn’t finger specific al Qaeda pilots training in the U.S. The LAT is the only paper to front news on the CIA front, that the agency had commissioned in 1999 an analysis that warned that bin Laden’s loyalists might attempt to fly a plane into the White House or Pentagon.

The NYT and the WP front news that pharmaceutical corporation Schering-Plough will have to pay $500 million in fines to the federal government for failure to resolve quality-control problems at four of its plants, a record penalty for this type of infraction. The FDA had concluded that the drugmaker, producer of Claritin and some 200 other medicines, had factory violations (speculation has it that some products came with insufficient amounts of active drug ingredients) at 90 percent of the company’s products since 1998. Inexplicably, the stock price of Schering-Plough rose five percent yesterday.

The WP fronts and the NYT reefers word that Pakistani police were led to a grave holding the remains of what is believed to be slain Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl. The NYT offers rather gruesome details about the “body” that was recovered – cut into nine sections among other things – but misses what seems to be an essential bit of new information, reported by the WP. The NYT writes that three members of the militant Sunni Muslim organization Lashkar-e-Jhangvi led authorities to the site, and writes that police won’t identify the men as being suspects just yet. On the other hand, the WP says just one member of Lashkar-e-Jhangvi led investigators to the body, but more importantly, this man is claiming to be Pearl’s killer. Currently, four other men are being charged with Pearl’s murder.

Just two days after the papers had written eulogies for Napster, the papers today report that Bertelsmann has agreed in a “startling reversal” to acquire the file sharing service’s assets for $8 million.  The money will go to Napster’s creditors, while chief executive, Konrad Hilbers, and founder, Shawn Fanning, will rejoin the company’s board.

Two months after both the NYT and The New Yorker magazine published the story of Aaron Naparstek, the Brooklyn web artist who posted anti-honking “honku” verse on lampposts along a noisy Brooklyn street, the LAT not only runs with the story, but puts it at column one on its front page. For the record, Today’s Papers lives on that street, and sees no evidence that the postings are still even there. The honking continues needless to say.

Mr. Naparstek can always submit to the WP Style section’s weekly haiku contest, which this week is asking for entries summarizing the career of any politician, living or dead. First-place winner gets a “paperweight made from genuine South African elephant dung.” Entries can be e-mailed to