Today's Papers

Missing Bullets

The New York Times, USA Today, and the Wall Street Journal’s world-wide news box lead with the United State’s developing position on Iraq. On Capitol Hill yesterday, a House subcommittee voted 31 to 11 to send President Bush’s preferred resolution—granting him wide authority to use force against Iraq—to the House floor for vote, while the Senate voted 95 to 1 in favor of opening up discussions on the issue. Meanwhile, the WSJ reports exclusively (and unsourced) that the Bush administration is mulling over a variation of France’s “two-stage” plan for a U.N. resolution, a plan that would impose new, stricter weapons-inspections rules on Baghdad now and would require another U.N. resolution authorizing force later. The Los Angeles Times, for the second day in a row, leads with new LAPD chief William Bratton, who made his first formal remarks yesterday, pledging to speed hiring, comply with a federal consent degree, and restore the department’s image. The Washington Post leads with news that the Montgomery, Md., sniper, who killed one man Wednesday evening, shot four more people Thursday. All the shootings occurred in a 2-and-a-half-mile radius.

Police in Maryland haven’t identified the assailant, or even concluded whether the sniper—who killed his victims with single-shot fire in open, public places—is working with an accomplice. Police haven’t identified any similarities in the victims and haven’t found any eyewitnesses, and pathologists haven’t recovered any bullets from the victims. (The paper doesn’t explain what happened to the bullets.) Needless to say, police aren’t voicing any suspicion on possible motives, but the WP still guesses that the killer “indiscriminately” killed “random” and “arbitrary” victims. Schools in the region are on “lock down” status, as students are banned from outdoor activities.

The LAT and WP front Iraq-related news, stressing word that despite the fact that weapons inspectors reached an agreement with Iraq earlier this week to resume inspections, the weapons inspection team will postpone doing so. Both papers handle the story slightly differently, with the WP saying the decision was that of U.N. weapons inspection chief Hans Blix, who decided to “delay” amid diplomatic uncertainty. The LAT goes stronger, saying that members of the U.N. Security Council, “displaying uncharacteristic unity,” have formed a consensus that weapons inspectors shouldn’t go into Iraq until there is a definitive U.N. resolution.

The NYT gives the most room to the senator who was the lone vote against opening debate in the Senate on the Iraq issue. Sen. Robert C. Byrd, D-W.V., gave an angry speech on the Senate floor, saying, “The newly bellicose mood that permeates this White House is unfortunate all the more so because it is clearly motivated by campaign politics.”

Despite official word from Russia yesterday that they are against a new weapons regime, the WP, inside its paper and for the second day in a row, says that Moscow’s stance isn’t as resolute as it may seem.  Carrying a theme the LAT ran with yesterday, the paper says Russia has its price. Only it just may not be money owed to the country by Iraq, as the LAT suggested yesterday, but repeal of U.S. trade restrictions on Russia in the Jackson-Vanik amendment.

As Republicans go to the U.S. Supreme Court in their appeal of the New Jersey Supreme Court’s decision to allow the Democratic Party’s replacement of Robert Torricelli with Frank Lautenberg on the November New Jersey election ballot for Senate, the papers note the appeal is based in large part on the court’s 2000 Bush v. Gore decision. (The G.O.P. petition is in PDF form.) The NYT and WP thus psychoanalyze the court, both bringing up the point that although the court would be understandably reluctant to weigh in on a state election matter now, that is what was said the first time.

The WSJ reports on its front, and the other papers run wire reports inside, that Israel has begun practicing an exercise that puts Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat into a helicopter and escorts him into exile. While Israeli security and U.S. administration officials are holding back Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon from doing this, commandos are said to be ready to carry out the plan on short notice.

The WSJ brings up a good point about the ImClone scandal: Amid all the hullabaloo about how Martha Stewart and others have profited from alleged insider trading knowledge, what has been lost is how Erbitux, the promising cancer fighter from ImClone, had derailed in the drug approval process. Last December, the Food and Drug Administration refused to review Imclone’s Erbitux application, thus setting off ImClone’s collapsing stock price and later legal scandals, but many cancer patients still profess faith in the drug, and some say it could eventually come to market.

The LAT reports from Tuvalu, the tiny South Pacific island nation increasingly attracting attention due to the fact that it is becoming a symbol for the ill effects of global warming. With terrain not extending beyond 16 feet above sea level, the 350-mile nation appears headed to be submerged in water.

Hurricane Lili defied expectations. Hyped yesterday by the papers as the next big thing to rock the Louisiana coast, Lili swept onto the shore forcefully but faded quickly, and in the end the storm caused only limited property damage.

The U.S.-Iraq conflict got a touch of irony yesterday, not only because U.S. airplanes dropping leaflets reading, “No tracking or firing on these aircrafts will be tolerated,” were fired upon, but also due to news, which only the WP runs in an Associated Press report, that Iraqi Vice President Taha Yassin Ramadan suggested a duel to settle the conflict. “A president against a president and vice president against a vice president and a duel takes place, if they are serious, and in this way we are saving the American and the Iraqi people,” Ramadan said.  To which AP replies: “Iraq has two vice presidents, and Ramadan did not say whether he or Taha Mohieddin Marouf would take on Dick Cheney.”