Today's Papers

Rumbling at Riyadh

The New York Times leads with news that in response to Sunday’s multiple terror attacks, Israel banned all Palestinian traffic in the northern West Bank. “Nobody enters, and nobody leaves,” said Israel’s defense minister. Also yesterday, Israeli helicopters launched missiles at a factory in Gaza that officials said was a weapons plant; four people were injured. USA Today leads with, and the NYT fronts, news that gunmen in Pakistan yesterday attacked a Christian school, killing six Pakistani workers there. Most of the school’s students are from Western countries, including 30 American children. No students were injured in the attack. The gunmen escaped. The Washington Post  leads with word that a new effort by the Social Security Administration to double-check employee’s S.S. numbers appears to be having the effect of outing illegal immigrants who have given their employers false numbers. The SSA says that the goal of the program is simply to clear up the agency’s paperwork by reducing the numbers that don’t match up with those given by employers. The Los Angeles Times leads with the California Supreme Court’s decision that a since-repealed state law that gave cigarette companies immunity from suits still applies to evidence created during the 10-year period during which the law was enforced. In other words, sick smokers will not be allowed to use evidence from the period during which the immunity law was on the books. The Wall Street Journal tops its world-wide newsbox witha tip from a “Pentagon official involved in war planning” that the Pentagon gave President Bush a briefing on the latest concept for invading Iraq: Send in about 60,000 troops combined with a whole lot of air power. Previously, the Pentagon had been saying that any invasion would need about 200,000 troops.

The NYT emphasizes that many Israelis feel like their country is running out of new ways to crack down on the terror. As the papers all mention, for the past six weeks Israel has had near 24-hour curfews in seven out of the eight Palestinian cities in the West Bank.

Also, as everybody mentions, Israel’s defense minister met with the Palestinian Authority’s interior minister yesterday to talk about ways to ease tensions, including possibly letting Palestinian police take over security in towns that have been quiet. The NYT says Israel is already loosening curfews in Bethlehem and Hebron, two towns that have remained pretty calm.

The papersnote that a U.S. government-aid agency report found that about 22 percent of Palestinian children now suffer from malnutrition. The Post, citing an American researcher who worked on the study, says those numbers are worse than those in Bangladesh or Somalia. An Israeli medical adviser to the military acknowledged, “There is a certain problem of availability of food.” (The NY Times gave a heads up about this study last week.) 

The NYT has great on-the-scene coverage of the shooting in Pakistan. The piece, by David Rohde, details how the gunmen repeatedly, and unsuccessfully, tried to kick in the door to a building where about 100 children were hiding. “We had it on a list to be replaced,” said an administrator. “We wanted something thicker.”

The LAT gives a bit of background about the law that gave cigarette companies immunity: It was part of a broader tort-reform bill passed in 1988, one that was eventually dubbed the “Napkin Deal.” The paper explains that legislators had “met with lobbyists from several industries at Frank Fat’s restaurant in Sacramento and scrawled details of the proposed law on a napkin.”

The NYT also mentions the Iraq-invasion briefing at the White House. But unlike its past invasion-plan coverage (and today’s WSJ), today’s Times plays it cool. It stuffs the briefing into the back half of an article about weapons inspectors (more on that in a sec) and, importantly, emphasizes that the briefing didn’t include a “war plan to be approved or rejected.”

As for the weapons inspectors, everybodynotes that the UN rejected an offer from Saddam to negotiate their return. Instead, the UN said that the inspectors should simply be let back in without any strings attached. Everyone also mentions that congressional leaders turned down Iraq’s offer to let legislators roam around Iraq looking for weapons.

The papers have brief wire dispatches noting that fighter jets from the U.S.-British coalition patrolling over southern Iraq bombed an Iraqi command center yesterday, apparently in response to coalition aircraft being threatened. Iraq said the bombs hit civilian targets. According to a wire report, coalition craft bombed Iraq six times last month.

The WP goes above-the-fold with a pretty explosive PowerPoint presentation given last month at a Pentagon advisory board meeting: The briefing, which was prepared by an outside analyst but presumably approved by the chair of the board, nailed Saudi Arabia, saying it “supports our enemies and attacks our allies.” The briefing added that the fundamentalist country is, “the kernel of evil, the prime mover, the most dangerous opponent.” The Post points out up high that that kind of talk isn’t the U.S’s official policy nor does it even represent the view of the whole advisory board. Still, as the WP argues, the briefing represents (perhaps the extreme end) of the emerging trend of conservatives who want the U.S. to end its support of Saudi Arabia.

A wire story highlighted by the Journal notes that Saudi Arabia has blacklisted about 200 foreign companies for importing Israeli-made products into the desert kingdom.

The LAT fronts, USAT reefers, and everybody else notes that legendary Lakers basketball announcer Chick Hearn died yesterday at age 85. Hearn, who Today’s Papers loved listening to, came up with most of the modern terms of basketball, including “air ball” and “slam dunk.” He also called 3,338 consecutive Lakers games. USAT offers an audio clip of some of Hearn’s  finer moments. The NYT’s obit simply quotes from one game Hearn broadcast, “Magic back and forth like a windshield wiper with the dribble drive. … He throws up a prayer: air ball! Rebound left side taken by McAdoo, he goes right back up—a frozen rope that time, no arch, but it melted right in the hole. … Lucas fakes and puts James Worthy deep into the popcorn machine. He’s covered with salt!”