Today's Papers


Everyone leads with hurricane Isabel’s lunchtime landfall in North Carolina yesterday and her progression up the East Coast. According to the New York Times, at least eight people have been killed in hurricane-related mishaps, four in traffic accidents on wet roads, two by falling trees, one by the surf, and one electric company employee was electrocuted while working on power lines. Over 2 million people lost power, most of them in Virginia, after trees took out power lines. The airlines cancelled over 2,000 flights to the East Coast, and Amtrak stopped running trains south of Washington. Isabel is big, at the size of Colorado, USA Todaynotes, but not that strong: It hit land as a Category 2 hurricane, with winds at 105 mph, but last night was downgraded to a tropical storm with sustained winds under 74 mph.

According to the Washington Post’s coverage (by far the most extensive of the papers’: full banner headline, five out of six front-page stories, plus others inside), in Washington, the storm shut down public transportation, bridges, schools, airports, and the federal government. The Potomac has flooded the Washington area, the WP notes, and thousands have had to evacuate. Property damage has been less than with previous hurricanes partly because, the Post says, the storm landed in a largely undeveloped area of islands.

The papers say that the federal government will remain shut down today. Utility companies warn people to expect multiday power outages as the continuing storm makes it too dangerous for crews to get to work fixing things.

Everyone reports that guerrillas * killed three American soldiers near Tikrit with small-arms fire. Two others were wounded. Two additional U.S. soldiers were hurt when remote-controlled bombs blew up as their convoy traveled a highway in Khaldiya.

The NYT fronts word that a handful of Iraqi leaders have proposed a security plan for Iraq that would have most American troops retreat to their bases and allow for Iraqi militia forces to manage everyday police work under the supervision of a new interior ministry and the U.S. military. The plan hasn’t been cleared by the Iraqi Governing Council or the U.S.

President Bush said yesterday that his peace plan for the Middle East had stalled, a remark that the papers describe as the president’s first public admission that his road map for peace was faltering. Bush blamed Arafat for undermining failed Palestinian Prime Minister Abbas. He offered nothing on how he might reinvigorate peace talks.

The NYT reports that Israeli troops killed a Hamas militant in the largest raid into the Gaza Strip since June. In Gaza City, Palestinian security forces also fought Hamas gunmen after Hamas captured a Palestinian security official, the Palestinian interior ministry said.

The papers go inside with Attorney General Ashcroft’s decision to declassify data that shows the government has never used the provision in the Patriot Act that allows terrorism investigators to get records from libraries and businesses without notifying individuals first. Ashcroft acted in an attempt to quiet the protests of opponents of the provision.

The Los Angeles Times checks out the status of a congressionally funded push to replace the troublesome punch-card voting machines, which have confused a presidential election and now stalled the California recall vote. The paper finds that with the next presidential election on the horizon, more than half the states still use the machines that produce the pregnant chads, and most of those have hardly begun to upgrade their voting technology. The problem is that the $3.9 billion Congress promised the upgrade effort hasn’t materialized yet because there have been delays in creating the commission that will disburse it.

The LAT fronts and the WP goes inside with word that leading candidates for the California governorship are threatening to boycott next week’s debate, the only one Arnold Schwarzenegger has agreed to attend, unless the format is changed so that candidates will not get the questions in advance. The other candidates don’t think it’s fair that Arnold has only responded to the invitation to debate when the debate is set up so that he gets the questions ahead of time.

A front-page NYT piece reports that the RIAA lawsuits against music file swappers don’t seem to have discouraged file-sharing too much. KaZaA had only 5 percent fewer users last week, when the lawsuits were filed, than it did the week before. And iMesh, a smaller service, actually had more users last week than before.

The papers note, USAT on its front, that scientists have found—finally—the largest rodent that ever lived. Researchers discovered the fossils of a 9-foot long, 1,545-pound (buffalo-sized) guinea piglike creature that lived over 8 million years ago in Venezuela.

Hurricane quotes:

“I’m just watching the morons drive through this.”
—Kill Devil Hills, N.C., Fire Chief Doug Penland, on observing people coming to check out the beachfront Highway 12, in the NYT.

“Honey, I think I just shut down Washington.”
—National Weather Service meteorologist Jim Travers to his wife, after he told officials in D.C. that the storm would arrive earlier than anticipated, in the WP.

Correction, Sept. 19, 2003: This article originally reported that Iraqi fighters killed three American soldiers with small-arms fire. In fact, only one of the major newspapers identified the fighters as Iraqis; most papers did not report their nationality definitively. (Return to corrected sentence.)