Today's Papers

Reno Redux

The Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times lead with the arrest of Ramzi Binalshibh, a key al-Qaida operative and Sept. 11 conspirator. He was apprehended after a shootout with Pakistani police in Karachi on Wednesday, the one-year anniversary of the attacks. The New York Times off-leads Binalshibh (spelling his name bin al-Shibh), going instead with President Bush’s doubts about Iraq’s willingness to admit weapons inspectors. He wants the U.N. to authorize the use of force if Iraq fails to comply.

The Post and the NYT call Binalshibh one of the few people still alive who was in on the Sept. 11 plot. U.S. officials say his capture is a significant counterterrorism success. The theory, according to the Times, is that Binalshibh would have been the 20th hijacker had he not been repeatedly denied a visa to enter the U.S. Zacarias Moussaoui took his place, but was arrested in August 2001 after an employee at a flight school got suspicious and notified the FBI.

Binalshibh was taken after a shootout in Karachi, providing further evidence that al-Qaida operatives made their way into Pakistani cities after the defeat of the Taliban last winter, the NYT reports. Now investigators will try to find out what he knows. “If he flips,” says an al-Qaida expert in the LAT, “he could provide information on cells here, and in Europe, and could help with the prosecution of Moussaoui, which isn’t going well.”

President Bush is back in Washington, but Colin Powell was left behind at the U.N. to lobby for action against Iraq, according to the NYT lead. The paper says he’s made progress, convincing the Russians to warn Iraq of “consequences” should it reject inspectors. Of the five Security Council nations, only China has remained close-mouthed on Iraq. Bush wants fast action from the U.N.—and from Congress. “I can’t imagine an elected member of the United States Senate or House of Representatives saying, ‘I think I’m going to wait for the United Nations to make a decision,’ ” he says in the Post.

The two U.S. F-16 pilots who dropped bombs on Canadian soldiers near Kandahar in April will face involuntary manslaughter and assault charges, according to the WP. The Canadians were engaged in training exercises; four were killed and eight wounded. The pilots are the first to be charged in any of the several “friendly fire” incidents that occurred in Afghanistan. They acted with “reckless disregard,” investigators determined. The bombs were dropped less than two minutes after the “hold fire” order had been given.

The WP profiles Arab-Americans—and Arab-American look-alikes—killed in hate crimes since the terrorist attacks. It’s really the story of their families, left behind and largely forgotten by, among others, the 9/11 charities, who won’t give them a red cent for their troubles. The chartities’ spokespeople offer up some flimsy excuses, including this one from the Red Cross: “It’s a bit of a stretch to say that [the murders] wouldn’t have happened without September 11.”  Human Rights Watch says there’s a been a dramatic increase in hate crimes since the attacks. In Chicago, for example, four hate crimes were reported against Arabs and Muslims in all of 2000, compared with 51 in the three months following Sept 11.

The WP fronts Janet Reno’s ongoing Florida frustrations. Her request for a manual recount of Tuesday’s primary votes has been rejected by a state commission, but she has yet to concede defeat. When all the votes come in from Miami-Dade next week, she hopes to be close enough to Bill McBride (within .5 percent) to trigger a machine recount. She would then sue the elections-canvassing committee if they fail to reconsider her request for a manual recount. “Then they have to decide how much heat they’re willing to take,” says her campaign’s general counsel. The NYT, in contrast, reports that Reno will not appeal the committee’s ruling. It wouldn’t make any difference anyway, the paper claims, except perhaps to cause further heartache for Gov Jeb Bush, who’s now presided over two consecutive years of botched balloting.

The LAT runs a Reuters story about Jeb’s daughter’s postponed court hearing. On Monday, Noelle Bush was at the Center for Drug Free Living when a rock of crack cocaine was allegedly found in her shoe.

Finally, the LAT fronts “aging bambini”: adult men and women in Italy who live with their parents well into adulthood. It’s a trend in Italy, apparently, where 59 percent of 20-35-year-olds remain at home and, in the papers words, “find nothing embarrassing about it.” The practice even has legal endorsement: Italy’s highest appeals court ruled in favor of an adult son who sued his estranged father for financial support. The trend coincides with Italy’s plummeting birthrate (1.2 per woman), which is due in part to marrying later in life.