The New York Times, Washington Post, and Wall Street Journal's world-wide newsbox all lead with anthrax news summaries. The Post focuses on the Post Office’s announcement that it will immediately begin deploying anti-anthrax technology. The Times emphasizes that health officials now acknowledge that they underestimated the threat anthrax threat to postal workers. “We were wrong,” said the surgeon general. The Journal’s lead highlights the belief by unnamed investigators that the anthrax sent to Florida, New York, and Washington “appeared to be progressively smaller and more potent.” (WSJ’s words.) The paper says that while the strains themselves were “indistinguishable,” the spores in the Florida case were relatively large (and thus difficult to inhale) while the spores sent to Sen. Daschle were the smallest. The Los Angeles Timesleads with a top Pentagon’s official’s realization that the Taliban will not go quietly. “We’re a bit surprised at how doggedly [Taliban forces] are hanging on to their power,” he said. Continuing the “this is tougher than we thought” theme, USA Todayleads with Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld’s comments that the U.S. may never be able to nab Osama Bin Laden. “It's a big world,” Rumsfeld said during an interview with the paper. “He's got a lot of money, he's got a lot of people who support him, and I just don't know whether we'll be successful.”
The papers report that investigators found traces of anthrax in a freight elevator on Capitol Hill. It’s not known how it got there. Meanwhile, health officials announced that a member of the media in D.C. likely has inhalation anthrax. The papers also report that another worker at the New York Post has likely contracted skin-based anthrax.
“We’re still at war,” said President Bush. So what should people do when they get the mail? According to the country’s top postal official, “they should wash their hands.” The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is expected to issue more formal recommendations today.
The NYT notes that health officials are now recommending Cipro for workers at 120 institutions that received bulk mail from the infected Brentwood postal building. (Question the papers should ask: Given that Brentwood is the central mail-sorting facility for all mail in Washington, D.C, what’s the scientific basis for singling out recipients of bulk mail?)
The Post reports that investigators (unnamed, as in the WSJ) now believe that the anthrax sent to Sen. Daschle contained an added chemical that made the spores more likely to float into the air. In other words, contrary to government officials’ statements earlier this week, the anthrax was weaponized. Experts believe only three countries have combined the chemical with anthrax: the Soviet Union, Iraq, and the United States. The paper cites one expert saying that an analysis of the spores suggests it didn’t come from the former Soviet Union or Iraq.
The NYT also emphasizes that the anthrax was tweaked. But it doesn’t mention chemicals. Instead, the Times quotes scientists saying that the spores had their electrostatic charges altered, thus making the anthrax less likely to clump together.
One anthrax-related story the papers haven’t followed-up on: Since Tuesday, the Associated Press has been reporting that “at least some White House personnel were given Cipro six weeks ago.”
The NYT reports that Britain’s top military commander, who the Times says is heavily involved of overall war effort, said that the U.S. and Britain might launch riskier commando raids than the ones conducted last week. The Times says it’s “likely” that some future ground operations could last for weeks. (Quibble: The Times seems to be extrapolating. The commander is only quoted as saying such lengthy raids are “conceivable.”)
USAT fronts a sobering dispatch from an area of Afghanistan controlled by the Northern Alliance. The reporter found a total lack of basic services: “no running water, no sewers, no electricity, and not nearly enough food.” The piece went on to opine, “The U.S. would like the Northern Alliance to topple the Taliban. But this area can’t support its people, never mind a sustained military campaign.” The LAT, meanwhile, characterizes the alliance as “a loose and sometimes fractious collection of regional and local commanders, often little more than warlords who jealously guard their turf.”
The LAT, in what’s becoming a habit, gets Northern Alliance leaders to admit a failure. In this case, top officers acknowledged that they had overestimated the effects of U.S. bombings and shouldn’t have launched an offensive to take the strategic city of Mazar-i Sharif. “Our war in Mazar-i-Sharif wasn't a real war,” said the alliance’s interior minister. “It was a mistake."
The papers mention concern that the Taliban have begun moving their troops into urban centers, thus making it more difficult for both air and ground forces to attack them.
The WP off-leads, and others front, the House’s passage of the anti-terrorism bill, which mandates increased surveillance and detention powers as well as strengthened money-laundering laws. The Senate is likely to pass the bill today. There might be one holdup: Oregon’s two senators threatened a filibuster, arguing that the bill contains a loophole that indirectly bars the FBI from conducting sting operations in their state.
USAT fronts word that the Iranian ambassador to the U.N. visited Washington last week and went out to dinner with some members of Congress. The State Department approved the meeting. Said one congressman, "No matters of diplomacy were resolved, but it was a very pleasant exchange."
The president said yesterday that he believed “there are some links” between the Sept. 11 hijackings and the anthrax attacks. The FBI had better hope not. According to the WSJ, federals agents say they have no plans to test either the hijackers’ cars or their apartments. One reason: The apartments and cars have already been thoroughly cleaned.