Today's Papers

Stemming Cells

The Washington Post leads with more sniper news: A ballistics match confirms that the same gunman who executed six people along the Maryland-D.C. border was responsible for the bullet that seriously wounded a Virginia woman on Friday. The Los Angeles Times leads word that the Bush administration is already preparing a war crimes indictment against Saddam Hussein. At the New York Times, the lead story reports that Israel is set to deploy a spanking new missile defense system it hopes will provide better protection from Iraqi scud missiles than it got from the Patriot system. The Arrow, a $2 billion Israeli effort based on research from Reagan’s Star Wars program, is the first system designed exclusively to intercept missiles.

The LAT lead reports that the charges against Hussein and a “dirty dozen” of his top officials include genocide, rape, ethnic cleansing, and crimes against humanity. Of the twelve advisors who share top billing on the indictment, six are members of Hussein’s family.  Why go public with this now? To underscore the administration’s resolve and showcase its dedication to a just outcome for the Iraqi people, the story explains.

The WP lead reports that police rushed a man into custody who just happens to be the owner of a rifle with .223-caliber bullets, the same type used in the sniper shootings. Police tell the paper they are looking forward to questioning the guy, but backed away from an initial bulletin that labeled him a murder suspect. “We’ve seen situations in recent history where people have had their lives altered, reputations damaged beyond repair. We don’t want that to happen here,” the Montgomery County police chief explained.

The NYT front heads to Indiana to see what people there and at other stops along I-80 think about the war effort. As it turns out, ordinary Americans hold views not unlike those of some editors who work on 43rd street. They “hunger” for a coherent justification of the war, “speculate” that Bush is partially motivated by a desire for personal vengeance, and “nearly all agree” that election-year politics have accelerated the administration’s war plans. It’s an unscientific sample, the article concedes in its ninth paragraph: Of the half-dozen figures most prominently quoted, one is a Muslim, one is a Jewish activist, and one edits a college newspaper. Indiana has spoken.

According to the WP off-lead, intelligence experts predict that Saddam Hussein may well face a coup from his inner circle in the event of a U.S. invasion. The story, attributed mainly to unnamed sources, comes at a time when the Bush administration is searching for a clear mandate – from Congress, the United Nations, and the public – to threaten Iraq with force. It follows comments made last week by Ari Fleischer, who reminded the press corps that the Iraqi people could spare themselves (and us) the hardship of war “with a single bullet.”

Getting at Saddam may not be that simple. The NYT “Week in Review” runs a piece on Hussein’s adroit use of body doubles. By examining stock photos, a German forensic pathologist was able to discern that at least three different men have been assuming the role of Iraqi leader at public gatherings. Amid all the talk of assassination, the number of Hussein imposters is bound to increase.  What’s one way to know whether you’re dealing with the genuine article? Talk to him. Clones have apparently been told to keep their traps shut because Hussein’s speech impediment is tricky to imitate.

Following yesterday’s arrests in Oregon and Detroit, the NYT frontsnews that the FBI is “trying” to make the lives of hundreds of young Muslim men into an open book, part of its crackdown on domestic al-Qaida cells. The story devotes a full paragraph to explaining what this means – 24-hour monitoring of the suspects’ telephone calls, e-mail messages, Internet use and so on – before hauling in experts concerned about civil liberties. That is certainly an issue worth raising, but the piece heads straight for the liberties angle without answering some pretty basic procedural questions. Is the bureau obtaining warrants or some other form of judicial approval? How many of the hundreds are U.S. citizens?  And how are suspects selected?

The WP observes Sept. 11 has given several leading Democrats a new streak of belligerence. Back in 1991, the paper reminds, Dick Gephardt and other prominent members of the party opposed the Gulf war as part of a broader philosophy that resisted the use of force. Today, invocations of pacifism are all but absent from Congressional debates, making it difficult for those in the anti-war camp to find an ideological footing. The story predicts that whether or not Bush gets the specific authorization he seeks from Congress next week, he will have ample Democratic support for an eventual military campaign in Iraq.

Is Britney Spears washed up? Sales for her third album are way down, and industry insiders see a Britney backlash movement in full swing. The NYT Sunday “Arts” section checks in with the 21-year-old pop star, who has taken a leave of absence from the music business and gone in search of a more age-appropriate look. Britney is currently in Milan, appearing as a model and guest of Donatella Versace.

First the tobacco companies, now the Yankees… The LAT and NYT front the early postseason exit of the New York Yankees. The Anaheim Angels needed only four games to dethrone the defending AL champs and win a playoff series for the first time in franchise history. The media, Fox in particular, milked the confrontation as a David vs. Goliath affair.  What will become of this storyline when the Angels, a subsidiary of Disney, do battle in the next round with whoever wins the contest between small markets Minnesota and Oakland?