Today's Papers

Breathing Normally

The Los Angeles Times and the New York Times lead with the shooting of an interim council member in Baghdad. Aqila Hashimi was critically wounded as she was being driven to work by her driver and three bodyguards. The Washington Postfronts the incident, but leads with Hurricane Isabel’s continuing fallout, including the ongoing disruption of power to parts of greater Washington, D.C.

Nine gunmen descended upon Aqila Hashimi’s Toyota Land Cruiser, hitting the Iraqi council member twice in the abdomen and once in the leg, according to the LAT. The paper has the most detailed account, thanks to an interview with the victim’s brother, who said Hashimi was conscious and “breathing normally.” (The NYT’s version, in both the early and late editions, has Hashimi—or al-Hashemi, as they have it—shot only once, but still unconscious.)

Neighbors in the residential neighborhood where the shooting took place had to pry Hashimi out of the SUV with a shovel, according to the NYT. They then flagged down a car to get her to the hospital. She had planned to come to New York next week as “part of a delegation to try to claim Iraq’s seat at the United Nations,” as the NYT puts it.

The shooting, on the heels of the August car bombings that killed more than 100 people, compounds concerns about postwar security in Iraq. The NYT runs an off-lead on the new, slow-to-form Iraqi army. The U.S. hopes to have a trained Iraqi force of about 20,000 in place a year from now—almost triple the initial estimate. The Times cogent analysis: “Whether the Americans simply underestimated Iraqi resistance or whether the United States wanted Iraq to depend on America for security—as some Iraqis contend—the delay has fueled Iraqis’ distrust of Washington’s intentions and placed a heavy burden on American troops.”

And then, to complete the theme, the NYT boxes a Reuters story about a U.S. soldier killing a tiger in the now-ramshackle Baghdad zoo. The incident occurred during some unauthorized, on-site beer drinking by American G.I.s, one of whom, in the face of conventional wisdom, tried to feed the animal through the cage bars. He surrendered a finger, prompting his colleague to open fire.

The LAT notes that President Bush will be visiting the U.N. on Thursday, this time “seeking a resolution that implicitly acknowledges that Washington needs the world.” As the LAT puts it, “solidifying postwar peace and then getting out of Iraq is proving difficult without the U.N. imprimatur.”

Four of the WP’s six front-page stories, including two light pieces, deal with some aspect of Isabel’s aftermath. The death toll is 25, according to the paper’s lead, now including several who have been asphyxiated by generator fumes. “Thousands Still Without Power” is the WP’s lead headline—odd only because the NYT reports that 5 million have no juice. Full restoration is not expected until Friday. “For many people, the coming week promises to be difficult,” the Post summarizes.

The mocking tone adopted in one of the WP’s lighter pieces might have been read better under less lethal circumstances. “One of the nation’s most prosperous counties was coping yesterday with the second day of an elemental and humbling privation: no reliable drinking water.” Fairfax County residents have been told to boil their drinking water. “This is Fairfax County. Things like that don’t happen here,” the reporter got someone to say. “I was a little bit surprised.” Tips for purifying water follow—”a rolling boil for at least one minute is the safest method.”

The NYT’s “City” section leads with “Latte on the Hudson,” a 2,300-word love letter to Starbucks by novelist Patricia Volk. “The question is,” she writes plaintively, “will Starbucks last?” Is that the question? The original NYC branch closed—apparently putting a scare into the writer—but 162 remain.

The section does have a couple of sharp, brief pieces, including one on the illegal cigarette trade in New York. “I’d rather do cigarettes because it’s safer,” says a kid who used to deal marijuana and now sells Marlboros and Newports on the street for $5 a pack. “You can make about the same amount of money,” says another curbside tobacconist, “and you don’t get locked away as long.”

Finally, on the back page of the “Week in Review,” the NYT reprints selections from a 1938 article in Homes and Gardens, a British magazine, showcasing Hitler’s mountain retreat in the Bavarian Alps. “The article appeared after Hitler’s annexation of Austria and the Sudetenland were faits accomplis and Britain’s appeasement of Nazi Germany was in full swing,” reads the caption below the clippings. The story is ostensibly about copyright infringement—the article is appearing on the Web without the magazine’s permission—but it’s the lush excerpts that are compelling. “The color scheme throughout this bright, airy chalet is a light, jade green. … Here Hitler will read the home and foreign papers which his own air-pilot, Hansel Baur, brings him every day from Berlin before lunch.” The article appeared in November 1938, the same month as Kristallnacht.  

The NYT admits that it, too, was taken with the place, calling it, on Sept. 18, 1938, “simple in its appointments,” with “a magnificent highland panorama.”