Today's Papers

Sniper Hunt

The Los Angeles Times leads with yesterday’s bombing of a popular nightclub on the Indonesian island of Bali that killed at least 180 people and injured hundreds more, mostly foreigners. The Washington Post leads with the release of a composite image of the delivery truck that police believe might be the serial sniper’s getaway vehicle. The New York Times, meanwhile, leads with news that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has ordered a major re-write of the nation’s war plans in advance of possible action against Iraq. According to the paper, Rumsfeld wants the ability to deploy troops more quickly. Investigators tell the LAT that it was a car bomb that exploded outside the Bali nightclub last night. Witnesses reported hearing a small explosion at first, followed seconds later by a blast that leveled the Sari Club, a bar popular with young Western tourists, and set aflame 27 adjacent buildings. Another bomb erupted almost simultaneously outside a U.S. consular office a few miles away, the WP notes, but no injuries were reported. Indonesian authorities called the bombings the worst acts of terrorism in their country’s history. While numbers remain unclear, Americans were confirmed to be among the casualties, according to the NYT, which offers the best coverage of the attacks. Unnamed U.S. officials tell the paper that although there were no specific threats, the blasts appear to have been directed at Americans. So far, no group has taken responsibility for the attacks, but everybody notes that Jemaah Islamiyah, a radical Islamic group based in Indonesia, might be involved. The group, which has ties to Al Qaeda, has been linked to other bombings in the region. The WP reports that police for the first time yesterday confirmed that a white box truck spotted leaving the scene of one of the sniper shootings had, in fact, been seen near at least one of the other crime scenes. The fact that the case’s first wanted poster features a vehicle, and not a person, reflects how elusive the sniper has been, the paper notes. All three papers front features on the killing spree today. Following up on a similar story from yesterday, the NYT checks on how the case has affected the daily routines of those living in the nation’s capital, from joggers to shoppers at the local Target. The WP and LAT, meanwhile, profile the sniper’s victims, including the Philadelphia father of six who was killed Friday. In its Week in Review section, the NYT weighs in what has become the sick entertainment value of the story, noting that even in spite of the wall-to-wall coverage and non-stop babble from T.V.’s talking heads, there is still nobody who can claim that they understand the killer. The NYT goes above the fold with news that senior government officials believe Al Qaeda has regrouped and is likely behind the attack last week of U.S. soldiers in Kuwait and the bombing of a French oil tanker in Yemen. Audiotaped messages from the group’s leaders, including one that purportedly includes the voice of Osama Bin Laden, has only increased concerns. What’s really new here is at the bottom of the story: The coordinated timing of last week’s attacks with the release of new audiotapes is similar to how Al Qaeda operated in the days before one of its first major attacks, the bombing of two American embassies in East Africa in 1998. Everybody stuffs news that Iraq yesterday sought to play down reports that it had rejected terms for U.N. weapons inspections, including access to Saddam Hussein’s presidential palaces. A senior Iraqi official told reporters that Baghdad will cooperate fully with inspectors, though he offered no specifics. Meanwhile, the WP goes inside with news of a war protest in France. About 6,000 people rallied in Paris—a small crowd, the WP says—as the country weighs how to handle the demands of its own citizens compared to those of the Bush administration. The NYT fronts its Business section with an interesting piece on private military contractors, or, as they are better known, mercenaries. A highly secretive, very lucrative industry, for-profit soldiers are increasingly becoming stand-ins for American troops, all with little to no oversight. Critics note that unlike regular soldiers, private contractors don’t have to take orders from military officers or adhere to codes of conduct. Why is this scary? The story notes that private contractors from the U.S. trained the Croatian army on military tactics just before it launched ethnic cleansing in the Balkans. Finally, the LAT weighs in on the much-anticipated film debut of rapper Eminem. He stars in 8 Mile, the story of a Detroit rapper that transcends a troubled home life to make it big. (Sound familiar?) The film has been called everything from potential Oscar bait to a glorified Purple Rain. What does the LAT think? “(The film) should make Eminem a culture force of newfound potency and, just maybe, put him in a place where he won’t have to explain himself anymore.”