Today's Papers

Who Knew?

The Washington Post leads with word that President Bush, as expected, yesterday reaffirmed his support for a continuing embargo against Cuba. While the speech unveiled what the White House labeled the “Initiative for a New Cuba,” the Post points out that “the president essentially restated policies that have persisted through several administrations.” The New York Times leads with the latest 9/11-related intel scoop: “Attorney General John Ashcroft and the FBI director, Robert S. Mueller III, were told a few days after the Sept. 11 attacks that the FBI had received a memo from its Phoenix office the previous July warning that Osama Bin Laden’s followers could be training at American flight schools, government officials said. But senior Bush administration officials said neither Mr. Ashcroft nor Mr. Mueller briefed President Bush and his national security staff [about it] until recently.” The Los Angeles Times and USA Today   leads with comments by Mueller that the U.S. will eventually face suicide bombings like those in Israel: “I think we will see that in the future—I think it’s inevitable.” The WP ran a piece a few weeks ago quoting experts making just this point.The Wall Street Journal tops its world-wide newsbox with the FBI director’s warning.

The LAT and WP both quote a “Justice Department official” saying that Mueller’s comments “are consistent with the patterns we’ve seen overseas and consistent with the information we’ve been seeing over the past few weeks.” The WP, which stuffs Mueller’s comments, points out that the Bush administration hasn’t changed the alert color on the nation’s five-hued terror warning system.

The papers all say that Mueller, who was speaking at a conference for district attorneys, apparently didn’t know that his warnings today would be made public. The NYT notes that the administration denies that the comments were part of an attempt “to deflect criticism over intelligence failures.”

The Phoenix memo about terrorists’ potential interest in flight-schools is still classified and hasn’t been made public, but the NYT has an interesting quote from “a senior official who has read it.” According to that official, the memo was based on “conjecture and assumptions,” not hard intel. “This was just a good investigator taking a look at something,” the official said. “It was a pure hunch.”

The papers say that Republicans leaders in the House announced that they support the White House in its opposition to any independent commission to investigate 9/11 intel failures—meaning the proposals to create such a commission will probably sleep with the fishes.

Everybody notes that Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon dismissed four members of his Cabinet yesterday after their ultra-Orthodox party refused to support an economic austerity package. The sackings don’t take effect for two days, so Sharon has a bit of time to work out a compromise. But if it goes forward, the ministers’ party (and another religious party as well) will pull out of Sharon’s governing coalition, leaving it on shaky ground. Meanwhile, the WSJ says that there are “rumblings” that the center-left Labor Party will also pull out. If that happens, Sharon’s government is kaput, and new elections will be held.

The WP fronts word that though it’s gone “unnoticed,” Nablus, and not Jenin, was “the hardest-hit of all the West Bank cities” in Israel’s recent offensive. (Ahem, TP  flagged this last week.)

In a stuffed piece about Palestinian disillusionment with Arafat, the NYT mentions a Palestinian pollster’s conclusion that “the current intifada is as much about dissatisfaction with Arafat as about Israel.”

Everybody reports that the son of a top Palestinian guerrilla was killed yesterday in a mysterious car bombing in Lebanon. Israel denied responsibility. (Bonus context: So far as Today’s Papers has noticed, when Israel carries out a “targeted killing,” it usually refuses to comment and doesn’t outright deny it. In other words, this denial carries weight.) The WP, meanwhile, suspects Syria did it. According to the paper, the dead man’s father’s “openly discussed” gun-running in the region and “spotlighted Syria’s role in supporting Palestinian radicalism.”

The papers all report that India and Pakistan exchanged artillery fire again yesterday while militants launched at least three attacks against Indian military targets in Kashmir, killing three soldiers. The NYT points out that tension in the region has long “ebbed and flowed.” But now, says the paper, “it is flowing fast.”

The WP fronts word that top Democrat and Republican lawmakers “have begun challenging” the White House over its refusal to expand the peacekeeping force in Afghanistan. The legislators, including Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., argue that lawlessness in Afghanistan is stunting development there. “There is a real concern that the administration is seizing defeat from the jaws of victory,” said one Democratic staffer.

Everybody notes that evolutionary theorist and noted author Stephen Jay Gould died yesterday. He was 60.

An article in the WSJ says that Fidel Castro is pushing his scientists to clone milking-cows, with the goal being to replicate a famously productive, and now deceased, Cuban bovine beast. Castro turned to that plan after his previous scheme to provide endless milk proved a touch unrealistic. The idea, according to the paper, was “to provide families with miniature milk-cows that they could keep in their apartments. The pint-sized beasts would graze on grass grown in drawers under fluorescent lights.”