Today's Papers

The Not So Friendly Skies

The Washington Post leads with comments from Iraq’s information minister that U.N. “inspections have finished in Iraq.” The minister explained that the inspectors aren’t needed since all their “work has been achieved.” The Post says it’s not really clear how much weight should be put into the comments, especially since Saddam has said, at least according to some sources quoted in the paper, that he will comply with the U.N.’s resolutions. The New York Times and USA Today both lead with follow-ups to US Airways’ announcement Sunday that it’s filing for bankruptcy. USAT emphasizes that a judge allowed the airline to access $75 million in loans it has lined up. That may keep US Airways flying through September. The NYT, meanwhile, focuses on the fact that airline stocks got slammed yesterday. Worst hit were shares of United, which were off about 27 percent. As everybody has pointed out, United is getting very close to declaring bankruptcy itself. The Los Angeles Times leads with word that Colombia’s newly inaugurated president, Alvaro Uribe, declared a state of emergency yesterday and used the new powers to enact taxes to pay for expanding the war against the country’s rebels. The LAT says that Uribe is also expected to announce other emergency measures, including restricting travel in the country and allowing detentions without warrants. The paper says that human-rights groups didn’t seem too bothered by Uribe’s moves. “He has the right to do this,” explained one analyst. The Wall Street Journal tops its world-wide newsbox with a piece saying that the federal government is doing a bad job of coordinating with states on domestic defense. Among the problems, says the Journal,is that while the feds have been urging states to upgrade their defenses, the Bush administration hasn’t released any of the $3.5 billion that Congress allocated as “emergency” funds for first responders. (A White House official said the money has always been scheduled to be released at the end of this year, after Congress agrees on the ‘03 budget.)

The WP’s off-lead says that with Dow in the doldrums, many Republican legislators have become less than enthusiastic about President Bush’s long-held plan to allow workers to invest part of their Social Security taxes in the stock market.

USAT, which has a package detailing how air traffic controllers cleared the skies on Sept. 11, goes inside with a remarkable story saying that U.S. fighter jets came close to shooting down a Korean airliner that day as it was traveling over Alaska. The Korean jet’s pilots had repeatedly, and mistakenly, signaled that they had been hijacked. Air Force jets scrambled to intercept the plane and at one point officials became so concerned that the governor of Alaska ordered the evacuation of parts of downtown Anchorage. According to a quickie Nexis search, only the Anchorage Daily News has reported this story before.

The NYT fronts word that immigration officials busted an illegal child-smuggling ring that, for a fee, reunited foreign children with their illegal immigrant parents in the U.S. The smugglers, which charged parents about $5,000 a shot, sneaked hundreds of kids into the U.S. An INS official called the operation a “mean-spirited criminal enterprise driven by greed.” The NYT’s coverage echoes that opinion, saying that the smugglers “preyed” on illegal immigrants. The LAT, which goes inside with the story, has a similar tone, saying that the smugglers “took advantage” of the immigrants. But isn’t there another possible interpretation: The smugglers could have been simply providing a service, albeit an illegal and unregulated one. Just because it’s illegal doesn’t necessarily make it immoral.

The NYT notes inside that while Yasser Arafat apparently pushed Palestinian militant groups to declare a stop to attacks inside Israel, the groups have instead put out an, at best, ambiguous joint statement, the key sentence of which reads: “We stress the legitimacy of our resistance against the aggression and the occupation, and the Israeli settlements.” Hamas as well as the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades said that they’ll continue sending suicide attackers into Israel proper.

Everybody mentions that an Israeli military court approved the expulsion from the West Bank to Gaza of three relatives of suspected Palestinian terrorists. Also yesterday, Israeli troops raided the home of an Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades militant and killed him. The man’s family said he was executed. Israeli authorities said he was shot while trying to escape.

Everybody briefly noted that an American soldier who was wounded by enemy fire two weeks ago in Afghanistan died on Wednesday. The Pentagon made the announcement yesterday.

As Today’s Papers has previously noted, NYT columnist Nicholas Kristof has written plenty about possible anthrax suspect Steven Hatfill, and always referred to him only as Mr. Z. “Over the weekend,” Kristof now says, “Mr. Z named himself: He is Steven J. Hatfill.” More importantly, Kristof continues to sleuth around on the case. The latest bit he’s uncovered (read: been leaked): “Hatfill has failed three successive polygraph examinations since January, and canceled plans for another polygraph exam two weeks ago.” Kristof says, suggestively, “Information has been presented to a grand jury.”

The WSJ reports on the latest wonder-drug that lowers your chance of heart disease: beer. According to various studies, beer can, among other good traits, increase your good cholesterol by up to 20 percent. The key is to drink the Duff stuff in moderation. That’s means two beers per day for guys and one per day for women.