Today's Papers

War on Cancer & Iraq

The New York Times leads with late-breaking news that a suicide bomber blew up a bus in Jerusalem, killing at least 10 people, including some children who were on their way to school. USA Today leads with scientists’ announcement that they’ve successfully tested a vaccine against the virus that causes most cases of cervical cancer. There are 450,000 cases of cervical cancer worldwide annually, 85 percent of which are thought to be caused by the virus. The vaccine could be ready within five years. Pap smears have already reduced the number of cervical cancer deaths in the U.S., but in most developing countries the test is expensive and rarely used. The Los Angeles Times and Washington Post lead with what really barely qualifies as a news story: President Bush arrived at the NATO summit and had some tough words for Saddam Hussein. “Should [Saddam] again deny that his arsenal exists,” said Bush, “he will have entered his final stage with a lie.” That denial could come Dec. 8, when Saddam is required to make a complete disclosure of his chemical and biological arsenal. The president also said NATO members should help out in any invasion of Iraq, though as the NYT notices, he didn’t call for NATO itself to participate.

While most of the papers focus on Bush’s call for Saddam to drop his weapons, the NYT decides to skip that part and instead portrays it as a mano-a-mano type thing: “IN BLUNT WORDS, BUSH THREATENS HUSSEIN AGAIN.”

A piece inside the WP says Iraqi officials worry that the U.N. inspections will be riddled with spies. That kind of fretting isn’t news, and the story is only interesting because of what it misses: According to an old report in the WP, the CIA did use the inspections as cover for unrelated spying. (And yes, TP has gone on this hobby-horse before.)

The NYT’s off-lead says that top officials at the FBI think that many of the bureau’s field offices still haven’t turned their attention to preventing terrorism. According to one memo the NYT nabbed, the FBI’s second-ranking official wrote that he was “amazed and astounded” by the subpar counter-terror performance of some field offices. The Times misses a bit of context: Earlier this year, field agents—most prominently Minnesota whistleblower Coleen Rowley—were claiming that responsibility for the screw-ups lay with HQ. Anyway, regardless of who at the FBI is to blame, as the WP pointed out last week there’s a near consensus that the bureau’s counter-terror operations aren’t up to snuff.

USAT mentions inside that authorities are worried that they might not have enough evidence to prove that Zacarias Moussaoui was involved in the 9/11 plot, despite the revelation in yesterday’s WP that Moussaoui met with the alleged 9/11 mastermind, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed. The Post said the meeting was evidence that Moussaoui was “linked to the plot.” But as yesterday’s TP argued—and as prosecutors in USAT reiterate—that’s misleading, or just wrong: Mohammed apparently didn’t trust Moussaoui and kept him out of the loop. Or as USAT puts it, “Investigators do not believe that Moussaoui had specific knowledge of the Sept. 11 plan.” The Post messed up.

The WP says in a front-page piece that scientists will announce today that they are planning to create essentially a new form of life. The idea is to create a single-celled organism with the least possible number of genes. If it works, the experiment could help scientists develop all sorts of useful organisms, such as ones that break down greenhouse gases, or, say, form the basis for new biological weapons. That’s why the scientists are considering keeping the details of their study under wraps.

The NYT goes inside with a profile of Tawfik Foqara, the Arab-Israeli man who rushed the cockpit of an El Al flight earlier this week. The Times says that people who know Foqara say he’s an anxious guy who has moderate views and health problems. (He faints when he gets nervous.) More importantly, Israeli officials said they don’t believe he was tied to any militant groups. In other words, as Monday’s TP suggested, Foqara appears to have been an amateur—and amateurs aren’t a real threat to planes from El Al, the Brinks of the airline world.

A front-page piece in the NYT reminds readers that the pharmaceutical industry was one of the biggest donors to Republicans during the election campaign and is now working on ways to cash in. The Times says executives from major drug companies met last week (at the Westfield International Conference Center) and talked about, among other things, how to block proposals that promote the use of cheaper, generic drugs. Or as an industry lobbyist put it, “We had deep philosophical conversations about our message for 2003.”