The New York Times and the Los Angeles Times lead with the Bush administration’s travel advisory urging the 60,000 Americans now in India to leave immediately. Nonessential American diplomats were “authorized”—as opposed to required—to leave as well. The Washington Post fronts the India/Pakistan story, but leads with a D.C. federal appeals court decision overturning a ban on protesters around the Capitol.
“Do we think there’s an inevitability of conflict? No. But there’s a definite possibility,” an administration official says in the NYT of the tensions between India and Pakistan. The Bushies issued the advisory—Colin Powell made the decision on Thursday—while simultaneously downplaying its implications, according to the NYT. “We don’t want to sow fear in the region and panic either nation into war by seeming to think war is inevitable,” a military officer says in the Times. The travel advisory was not the result of any new developments or information, according to Pentagon officials. The current instability has, in fact, been rather consistent over the past several months.
Both the NYT and the LAT remind that a more severe travel advisory has been in effect for Pakistan since March 22, five days after the bombing of an Islamabad church in which two Americans were killed. In that case, all nonessentials were ordered out of the country.
This week, President Bush strongly urged Gen. Pervez Musharraf to reign in Muslim guerrillas in Kashmir, but a NYT news analysis suggests that the Pakistani president may not have much influence with the militants. “I personally don’t feel that Musharraf can control these groups,” says a professor in Islamabad. “There are groups that want to embarrass him; they have their own version of Islamization.” Bush was essentially endorsing the “long-held Indian view of the Kashmir conflict: that the insurgency in India’s only Muslim-majority state is not a homegrown uprising against Indian rule, but a guerrilla war orchestrated and controlled by the Pakistani government,” as the Times puts it.
Born in India, Musharraf left his home in Delhi during partition, the NYT reports. Fifty years later, in 1999, he led an incursion into Kargil on the Indian side of Kashmir, which nearly led to war.
The Post fronts the crisis under the oddly dismissive head “War Less a Worry Than Monsoon.” The piece strings together some man-on-the-street interviews with Delhi residents who think war—or at least nuclear war—unlikely. “We live each day as it goes by. We’re not going to worry about a nuclear bomb,” says a computer specialist eating lunch with his family at McDonalds.
A D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals yesterday struck down a 30-year-old ban preventing protesters from demonstrating on the sidewalk on the east side of the Capitol and handing out leaflets or holding signs, the Post reports in its lead. The court found that security concerns do not outweigh First Amendment rights at the “centerpiece of our democracy,” meaning the Capitol. The case was brought by the ACLU on behalf of a New York artist who was arrested in 1997 for handing out leaflets opposing restrictions on New York sidewalk artists.
The NYT off-leads a Philadelphia Circuit Court’s decision striking down a law that required libraries to filter material harmful to minors (i.e., porn) off the Internet. The three-judge panel referred to the filters as “blunt instruments” in that they often block out “legitimate” sites while letting some of the fun stuff pass through. If the Justice Dept decides to appeal, the case will go to the Supreme Court.
The LAT stuffs the kid in Burbank who’s responsible for “Star Wars: Episode 1.1 The Phantom Edit,” the hugely popular recutting of the so-so original, now making the rounds on the Internet. The struggling film editor claims to have “the storytelling sense that George Lucas once had and lost.” His version does away with some of the cute stuff and renders the objectionable Jar Jar Blinks virtually silent. “Now, big-time directors know that if they do a [bad] job, somebody may redo it and make them look like idiots,” the kid says. A spokeswoman at Lucasfilm says they have no plans to sue.
Finally, the WP fronts hundreds of “helicopter commuters” trying to circumvent the crime boom in São Paulo, Brazil. The story opens with an executive boarding his whirlybird after a hard day at the office. He’s dropped off within his walled city, protected by electrified fences—and a private army of 1,100. This, by some accounts, according to the Post, “is a vision of future urban life in the developing world.” São Paulo averages 60 murders per 100,000 residents, compared with 7.8 in New York; there have been 63 kidnappings this year, compared with 15 over the same period last year. The Post reports: “The surge in abductions has produced a cottage industry of plastic surgeons who specialize in treating wealthy victims who return from their ordeals with sliced ears, severed fingers and other missing body parts that were sent to family members as threats for ransom payment.”