Today's Papers

Dirty Tissues

The New York Times leads with word that the FDA halted all soft-tissue shipments from the country’s largest tissue donor company, CryoLife Corp. The FDA said that 27 people have developed serious infections from the company’s tissue, which typically consist of things like tendons and ligaments to repair worn-out joints. CryoLife said only two of the infections came as a result of tissue from the company. The NYT says that the government is investigating CryoLife’s heart-valve shipments as well. The company currently processes 70 percent of the nation’s heart valves. The Los Angeles Times’ lead, and the Washington Post’s top non-local story, check in on the results of yesterday’s deadline for the CEOs of major companies to certify that their books haven’t been cooked. The LAT emphasizes that most companies made the deadline. The Post highlights the fact that a few companies said they’re going to have to restate earnings. The most prominent one to do that: AOL, which said it had misbooked $49 million in ad revenue.  USA Today leads with a harsh critique of the government’s air marshal program, which was vastly expanded after 9/11.

Among the problems that USAT documents: There’s not enough training, nor in some cases enough bullets (according to an e-mail the paper has). Some marshals are put on the job without background checks. And some marshals are being forced to fly more than 10 hours per day while others have been waiting around for assignments. “In May, for 3 1/2 weeks, they forgot about me and 15 guys in the office,” said one marshal. “We sat [around] watching kung fu movies.” A government spokesman called the charges “totally erroneous.”

The WP fronts a piece saying that the Bush administration, in a “notable” shift in policy, will oppose “any additional foreign aid” to Egypt in protest of that country’s crackdown of its pro-democracy organizations. The Post waits until the past the jump to clarify that the policy “will have primarily symbolic value for Egypt, which will continue to receive its annual allocation of nearly $2 billion in U.S. assistance.”

Everybody notes that massive flooding in Central Europe continues. Floodwaters in Prague have begun to level off. But now other cities are being hit, particularly Dresden. The Wall Street Journal says flooding in Germany killed five people yesterday. The NYT downplays the casualty count and goes with a weirdly cheeky lead: “Floods that have caused billions of dollars of damage across Central Europe and have shut down the Czech Republic’s biggest tourist attractions also did something almost unheard of today—they stopped the production of the Czechs’ two most famous beers, Pilsner and the original Budweiser.”

The papers go high with the announcement from United Airlines that unless the company can wrangle concessions from unions and suppliers, it’ll have to file for bankruptcy by November.

A WSJ piece notes inside that the Bush administration, which had opposed the idea of arming pilots, now seems to be “softening its opposition.”

A piece inside the NYT says that themost powerful Kurdish leader in northern Iraq recently dissed the White House and turned down its invitation to travel to the U.S. and meet with administration officials. As has been widely reported, some Kurdish leaders, who in effect already have a mini-state in northern Iraq, aren’t thrilled by the possibility of a U.S. invasion. The piece also notes that Kurdish officials say Turkey has been quietly fighting with the Bush administration about how to deal with Iraq.

Everybody notes that Palestinian leader Marwan Barghouti was brought before an Israeli civilian court yesterday and charged with masterminding dozens of terror attacks. Barghouti, whose popularity among Palestinians is considered second only to Arafat, repeatedly tried to make speeches during the hearing. At one point he said, in Hebrew, “Marwan Barghouti is fighting for peace. Peace will be achieved by the end of the occupation. No peace, no security, with the occupation.” As everybody notes, Barghouti was a key moderate during the Oslo peace process. He says he still supports a two-state solution, though he has condoned attacks in the territories.

According to the indictment: “The accused, a Ramallah resident, heads the West Bank terror organization. The accused was subordinate to Yasir Arafat, who heads the terrorist organization.” 

Also yesterday, Israeli troops tried to arrest and eventually killed a West Bank leader of Hamas. A detail the papers seem to miss: Also killed during the incident was a 19-year-old Palestinian who was shot by the militant after Israeli soldiers forced the teenager to accompany them to the suspect’s house.

The WP stuffs a piece that appears to deflate some of the speculation about scientist Steven Hatfill. Among the points that the Post makes: The unpublished bio-terror novel the feds found on Hatfill’s computer was actually co-written, and according to a friend of Hatfill’s, it wasn’t his original idea. It also was not about anthrax. The Post alsopokes some holes in the story, detailed in “some media reports,”  that Hatfill had access to a remote cabin where he could have produced anthrax and that he told visitors there to take Cipro. The WP quotes the guy who owns the apparent house in question. He said he simply occasionally invited Hatfill and a group of other friends to stay for a weekend. Nobody, so far as he knew, installed an anthrax lab in their guest bedroom. He also says that the only time Cipro was mentioned was during the anthrax attacks, when some the guests asked Hatfill (who is a medical doctor) whether they should be taking it. Hatfill apparently responded that they didn’t need to. The WP keeps it collegial and doesn’t say which news organization or journalist first spread the seemingly bogus info. But it’s not hard to figure out. The answer: NYT columnist Nicholas Kristof. (See his July 2 column.)

Journalism lesson No. 254: Never bite the hand that leaks to you …Whenever there have been articles about Hatfill’s contention that the FBI is leaking stuff about him, the papers, including today’sUSAT, have all feigned ignorance and skipped over an obvious point: Hatfill is right. The FBI is leaking. After all, who do you think might have tipped off the press that Hatfill’s house was being searched, that bloodhounds had picked up a scent, or, as a “senior U.S. law enforcement official confirmed,” that Hatfill’s photo is being now being shown in Jersey by the feds?