Today's Papers

Senate Just Says No

The New York Times and Los Angeles Times lead with, and the Wall Street Journal tops its world-wide newsbox with, yesterday’s bombing at a university cafeteria in Jerusalem that killed seven people, including three—maybe four—Americans, and injured more than 80. USA Today puts a picture from the attack front and center, but reefers the actual story and instead leads with news that a Democrat-sponsored compromise bill to give drug benefits to some seniors died yesterday in the Senate. Five Democrats, along with 44 Republicans and one Independent voted against the bill. Everybody notes that both parties plan to use the failed effort as ammo against their opposites in the coming elections. Some of the Democrats who voted against the bill explained it wouldn’t have given enough coverage. Some Republicans said they voted against it because it was too expensive. The Washington Post leads with the Justice Department’s leak that it launched a criminal investigation into AOL’s potentially shady accounting practices. As the Post notes, the investigation appears to be based on reports that first appeared in the WP. The Post also tips its hat to yesterday’s USAT for breaking news of the investigation.

Everybody notes that unlike almost all recent bombings in Israel, this one wasn’t a suicide attack. Somebody, who hasn’t been caught yet, hid the device in a bag and left it in the cafeteria.

The LAT says that 20 percent of the students at Hebrew University, where the bombing happened, are Arab students; some of them were injured. “We were an oasis of coexistence,” said the university’s rector. “The terrorists broke all the rules.”

Hamas claimed responsibility for the attack and said it was in retaliation for Israel’s airstrike last week that killed a top Hamas militant as well as 14 others. After the bombing, supporters of Hamas went into the streets of Gaza and celebrated.

Everybody notes that a Palestinian Authority statement condemned the bombing “absolutely” but added that Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon was ultimately “responsible for this cycle of terror.” Meanwhile, Israel’s security Cabinet moved to deport family members of Palestinians who’ve been involved in terror attacks.

The LAT details how Hebrew U.’s student paper ran a story back in April called “Chronicle of an Attack Foretold.” It reported that security on the campus was lax and focused on one spot in particular: the cafeteria.

The NYTimes adds, in a rare bit of limp news-writing, “Israeli officials said the attack fits a Palestinian strategy of killing civilians.”

Everybody’s drug-benefits story also mentions that the Senate passed a bill designed to give Americans more access to generic drugs, which are chemically identical but cheaper than name-brand pills.

An above-the-fold piece in the NYT looks into whether Vice President Dick Cheney messed up a business deal back when he was CEO of Halliburton. As the Times explains, Cheney oversaw Halliburton’s purchase of a company that later turned out to have big asbestos liabilities. That’s all been reported elsewhere. The Times wonders whether Cheney might not have properly vetted the company before he negotiated to buy it. So, what did the paper find? Not much. Despite the article’s suggestive headline, “CHENEY’S ROLE IN ACQUISITION UNDER SCRUTINY,” it doesn’t quote anybody questioning the deal, nor does it say that anybody is scrutinizing it. In fact, it doesn’t offer any significant evidence that Cheney messed up.

Also, the Times doesn’t clarify the scope of Cheney’s theoretical boo-boo: Though the paper mentions it in the same breath as the SEC’s investigation of Halliburton’s sketchy accounting practices, this issue seems pretty different. After all, suppose Cheney didn’t carefully vet the deal. Doesn’t that just suggest that he’s a bad businessman, not a corrupt one?  

Overall, the Cheney story seems like a worthy fishing expedition that happened to come up empty—and yet still got Page One play.

The papers all go high with a new government report showing that the economy only grew at a 1.1 percent annual rate this spring. That’s less than half of what was expected. The report also concludes that last year’s recession lasted much longer than previously thought. The economy contracted for three quarters, not one. Don’t worry, says USAT. Citing analysts, the paper says, “The economy is on track and will not slip back into recession.” The other papers are more freaked. As the LAT puts it, the numbers “paint a decidedly dark picture.”

Everybody goes in different directions with the Senate’s hearings yesterday on the potential takedown of Saddam Hussein. The LAT says that Iraq’s former top nuke scientist (who defected in ‘94) said the country is pretty close to getting the bomb. The WSJ notes up high that the former chief U.N. weapons inspector testified that he didn’t think Hussein would share weapons of mass destruction with terrorists. And the NYT, which has had a fair share of vaguely anti-invasion stories lately, headlines, “EXPERTS WARN OF HIGH RISK FOR AMERICAN INVASION OF IRAQ.”

The LAT fronts word that the“largest [study] ever to examine the potential benefits of mammography” has concluded that regular mammograms reduce the chance of death from breast cancer by about 40 percent. Over the past year, there’s been a lot of questioning about the efficacy of mammograms (especially by the Times’ Gina Kolata). The LAT says that this new study “may finally lay some of those doubts to rest.”

The papers front a new development in last winter’s Olympic ice-skating scandal: An alleged Russian mobster was arrested in Italy and faces U.S. charges that he arranged for the French ice-dancing team to win a gold medal. His goal? Apparently he wanted to build goodwill with France and eventually get a visa to live there.