Today's Papers

Blix Nix

The Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times lead with the D.C.-area sniper and his or her eighth victim, a man pumping gas at a station near Fredericksburg, VA. A Virginia state trooper was about 50 yards away from the shooting, working the scene of a traffic accident, but the sniper again eluded police. The New York Times leads with Iraq’s sudden (but perhaps anticipated) backing away from inspection agreements made last week in Vienna. 

Eyewitnesses say the sniper fled yesterday’s shooting in Virginia in a white van, possibly a Chevy Astro, the LAT reports. In response, police pulled over and searched hundreds of white vans between Fredericksburg and D.C., without luck. The victim, a father of six, was driving to Philadelphia on a business trip. He was shot once in the upper torso, according to the LAT.

The NYT fronts a piece describing the fear that has gripped the D.C. area since the first shooting 10 days ago. Gas stations have become especially fraught with tension. Three of the killings occurred at gas stations near major highways, prompting customers now to wait in their cars or inside while their cars fill with gas—or else avoid self-service stations altogether. One station reports selling one thousand fewer gallons of gas per day.

Meanwhile, the WP runs an editorial on the subject, as if there was anything much to say. “The Washington region is mobilized against this menace. Steady, aggressive and painstaking interagency police work, coupled with citizen support and cooperation, will bring this madness to an end.”

The leader of the U.N. weapons inspection team, Hans Blix, was merely asking Iraq for confirmation of last week’s inspection agreements, according to the NYT lead. Instead, the letter he received, from an aide to Saddam Hussein, puts some logistical matters back on the table. Presidential palaces again appear to be off-limits, for example. Iraq’s dithering—which “irritated” Russia and France—may provide “unexpected help to Washington’s campaign for a new resolution to force Iraq to allow aggressive inspections,” the Times reports.

The NYT off-leads the Pentagon’s plans to vaccinate half a million troops against smallpox as soon as the FDA licenses the vaccine in mid-November. “If you’re talking about potentially sending troops to areas where they could be exposed to smallpox,” a military official says in the Times, “aren’t you negligent if you don’t give them every possible protection?” Most of those vaccinated might eventually be deployed in the Middle East, although there’s no evidence that Iraq has the virus. There’s a risk involved: life-threatening complications for 15 people of every one million who are being vaccinated for the first time.

The NYT fronts new evidence in the 1989 Central Park jogger case, which will likely lead to the release of the five Harlem teenagers who were convicted for the crime. Matias Reyes, a convicted murderer and rapist, told a prison guard last January that he wanted to talk about the Central Park case. His DNA matches semen collected from the victim’s body, while other DNA tests exonerate the teens. “If only we had DNA 13 years ago,” says the Manhattan D.A.

Everybody fronts this year’s grinning Nobel Peace Prize winner, Jimmy Carter. The 39th president was cited for the 1978 Camp David accords, his commitment to human rights, and his work promoting world health. The Nobel committee chairman said the award should also be seen as a rebuke to President Bush’s aggressive stance on Iraq. It “should be interpreted as a criticism of the line that the current administration has taken,” the chairman says in the NYT.

A high-school teacher sounds off on the LAT op-ed page about junk food and obese, lethargic students. “My district, like so many others, has negotiated long-term contracts with the soda and chips and candy companies.” The schools get money for music and sports and the kids get the sugar rush. “Despite recent findings of clogged arteries and high cholesterol levels in 15-year-olds and despite studies linking the early onset of diabetes, heart disease and osteoporosis with teen diets that consist mainly of sugar, salt and fat, the deals are struck. The money is too good to pass up.”  

Finally, the Mountain Meadows massacre of 1857 is revisited in the always compelling “Arts & Ideas” section of the NYT. “The massacre lasted less than five minutes, but when it was over, 120 men, women and children had been clubbed, stabbed or shot at point-blank range,” the Times reports in its lead graph. The caravan, bound for California and the promise of open land and gentle climes, was attacked by Indians … or perhaps a rogue Mormon church official—so says the Mormon church. But two new books pin the crime on none other than Brigham Young himself, the Mormon leader and husband to 20 wives, father to 50-something children. “He did it,” says one of the authors. “The evidence is unambiguous.”