Today's Papers

Bridging the Gap

The New York Times, Washington Post, and Los Angeles Times lead with yesterday’s terrorist attacks against Israelis. Two shoulder-launched missiles brushed past an Israeli jet flying out of Kenya; shortly thereafter, a bomb exploded at a Kenyan hotel frequented by Israeli tourists. Suggestions abound that the Kenya assaults were the handiwork of al-Qaida. Meanwhile, gunmen inside Israel killed six—and wounded dozens—who were on hand to vote in the Likud Party primary. The top story at USA Today says the FBI might close several of its field offices to free up personnel for the agency’s anti-terrorism efforts.

The NYT joins the other papers in labeling the two Kenya attacks, which occurred minutes apart, a coordinated assault. A missile launcher was recovered near the airport servicing Mombassa, where a green Jeep filled with explosives (and three passengers) crashed into an Israeli-owned hotel. Investigators identified the missiles as Russian-made SA-7 Strellas.

At least 10 Kenyans—mostly kids in a dance troupe—died in the hotel bombing, as did three Israelis. The LAT (online at least) decides to lump these victims and the three terrorists together in the headline “CAR BOMBING KILLS SIXTEEN.” Apparently, a man who shoots his wife before turning the gun on himself would prompt the story “GUN KILLS TWO.”

The jet was a charter flight taking Israeli tourists home from Mombassa. Despite minor damage to its tail, the plane was able to complete its journey to Tel Aviv. The flight crew waited until the plane landed to tell the 271 passengers about the incident, the WP reports.

Everyone recalls that al-Qaida has had operations in Kenya before, including the 1998 bombing of the American Embassy in Nairobi. The NYT notes that like Bali, Mombassa is a resort town better known for its tourists than its politics. And an expert tells the WP that we may be seeing a tactical shift toward “soft” targets, i.e., sites with less security than embassies and military installations.

Israeli and Kenyan officials tell the LAT that the attacks “bore the trademark of al-Qaida.” But Bush, in a brief statement, was hesitant to assign blame. A “news analysis” in the NYT argues that the Kenya attacks may make things harder for Bush: The president will find it tougher to rebuff Israel’s efforts to join the war on terror. The story predicts that after yesterday’s events, Israel can make a stronger argument that attacks inside its borders are linked to “terrorism with a global reach.”

The NYT states that if it turns out al-Qaida was behind the Kenya bombing, it would be the organization’s first targeting of Israelis since “the American antiterrorism effort began.” True, but a bit misleading. Back in April, al-Qaida claimed responsibility for bombing a synagogue—a popular tourist site—in Tunisia. No Israelis were killed, but it was, at the very least, a Jewish target.

The WP fronts word that the NYPD is seeking to reinstate the broad surveillance powers it gave up in the early 1980s. In 1985, the NYPD responded to pressure from the courts with a consent decree requiring its officers to get the approval of a three-member panel—two cops and a civilian—before infiltrating social and political organizations. The decree was supposed to put an end to what the paper calls the “long and ignoble history” of police surveillance. Police officials argue that increased flexibility is needed to fight terrorism. A federal trial court will review the agency’s request next month.

In the past 10 years, India has seen its economic fortunes fall behind those of neighboring China. So says a front-page piece in the NYT,which reports that many in India are dismayed by their country’s failure to capitalize on the global market: In 1990, India and China were neck-and-neck in GDP per capita; a decade later, China has almost double the GDP per head of its rival.

As expected, Ariel Sharon cruised past opponent Bibi Netanyahu in the Likud Party’s primary. The late-breaking LAT reports that Sharon won by a 3-to-2 margin, leaving him extremely well-positioned to win the general election in January.

The NYT notes that crime continues to decline in NYC in defiance of the nationwide trend. No one seems to have a definitive answer for why murder and auto theft, two of the best indicators of crime, were markedly down in New York last year but up in most other cities—Chicago, Boston, Las Vegas, and Phoenix, to name a few.

The NYT reports on an unusual effort to raise money for the cash-strapped Golden Gate Bridge. Beginning soon, the transit agency will set up contribution boxes on the bridge that ask people to give what they can to help close the massive budget gap. At least one member of the transit board thinks the plan is a weak response to a serous problem. “This is humiliating,” he explains.

Thirty-five years after the first black justice was put on the Supreme Court, another boundary was crossed yesterday. The NYT reports that Little Bill, the central character in a series of Bill Cosby’s children’s books, became the first black balloon character to appear as a float in the Thanksgiving Day Parade.