The Runnin' Man

The Runnin' Man

The Runnin' Man

A summary of what's in the major U.S. newspapers.
Dec. 19 2001 4:28 AM

The Runnin' Man

The Washington Postleads with the government's decision to offer anthrax vaccine—which the FDA has not yet approved—to 3,000 people who may have been exposed to the bacteria. Health officials have decided to offer the vaccine, which will be part of an experimental combo-treatment, because they're concerned that the previously suggested treatment for anthrax exposure (60 days of Cipro and call me in the morning), may not totally clear people of the bacteria. The Los Angeles Timesleads with the Senate's passage of an education overhaul bill that requires increased standardized testing and allocates significantly more federal money for education. The New York Timesand USA Todaylead with search for Osama Bin Laden. There's not much new on this front. He's still MIA, and he's not the only one. The NYT, citing U.S. and Pakistani officials, reports up high, "Hundreds of Al Qaeda and Taliban fighters have slipped across the Afghan border and evaded the Pakistani Army to disappear into remote tribal areas." LAT says that Afghan commanders believe that Osama himself has crossed the border into Pakistan. The Wall Street Journal's world-wide newsbox is topped with the arrival of some FBI guys in Afghanistan to question members of al-Qaida.

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The LAT, citing one U.S. intelligence official, says that last week's report of Bin Laden talking on short-wave radio is probably bunk. Nor was the official particularly optimistic other reports. "It's like Elvis sightings," he explained.

Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz warned, "Any country in the world that would knowingly harbor bin Laden would be out of their minds."

Not that everything is done in Afghanistan. According to Gen. Tommy Franks, commander of the American military operation,  "it's going to be a while" before Tora Bora is given the all clear.

The LAT says that 15 al-Qaida and Taliban prisoners—"who might have important information," said Wolfowitz—now have a new home: the Marine compound at Kandahar's airport. The Journal says that it's unlikely that most of these folks will be brought back to the U.S. for civilian trials, thus raising the possibility that they may be about to find out how military tribunals work.

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The NYT fronts a dispatch that reads like an excerpt from the script of an Indiana Jones sequel. The piece, written by Barry Bearak and Michael Gordon, points out that an Afghan commander "agreed to guide two reporters and a photographer into the remote landscape of Tora Bora. These past weeks, the press has been confined to a distant perch convenient only for gazing at plumes of smoke." So what they'd find out? Well, nothing really. But the piece, especially the second half, is still a great read.   

OK. Bearak and Gordon do note that two of the Afghan militias in Tora Bora nearly came to blows yesterday. "This is what Afghanistan is," explained their guide. "We kill each other."

The papers note that Yemen went after some tribes who had refused to hand over suspected members of al-Qaida. Twelve people, including some government soldiers, were hurt in the attacks.  

Britain announced that it will start sending peacekeeping troops into Kabul this Saturday. The NYT notes that the U.K. is sending in fewer troops than it once planned, "a victory for the Northern Alliance."

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The WSJ reports that although Saudi Arabia has called Saudi clerics who are named on the Bin Laden tape "deviants," they're actually "influential" (WSJ's word) and haven't been arrested.

Though the military has inoculated soldiers against anthrax for a number of years, the vaccine has never before been given to people who've already been exposed to the Big A. And health officials aren't exactly overflowing with confidence that the vaccines will do any good. "There is theoretical reason to believe this might—might—provide some benefit," said one top health official. The government's top bio-warfare expert added, "In medicine we're often faced with difficult decisions based on inadequate information; that's where we are here."

The WP goes above the fold with a 5,000+-word piece detailing the Clinton administration's response to Bin Laden: "Clinton's war was marked by caution against an enemy that the president and his advisers knew to be ruthless and bold." The paper says that Clinton's limitations were defined by his refusal to let significant number of troops go after Bin Laden, and the fact that he never backed up his tough talk to the Taliban with action against them.

"It's so easy to finger-point," says former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. "We tried everything we could, everything we could." USAT ran a similar piece about a month ago. 

The papers note that a federal judge overturned former Black Panther and journalist Mumia Abu Jamal's death sentence, but upheld his murder conviction.

NYT columnist Thomas Friedman issues a warning:

The shooting-fish-in-a-barrel part of this antiterrorism war is over. Unlike the Taliban, Saddam has real money to buy off adversaries. Unlike Afghanistan, his country is strategically critical to all its neighbors, most of whom fear any change to the status quo. And unlike bin Laden, Saddam may not make himself an easy, obvious target. That doesn't mean America can't, or shouldn't, look for ways to oust him, but it does mean we should start by planning to do it alone.

Farewell, Space Mountain: Today's Papers is not a large man. And he was an even smaller child. Which is why during his frequent visits to Disneyland he learned various strategies to get by the dreaded "minimum-height requirement" signs (the tippy-toe hop, the well-timed sneezing fit, etc.) Well apparently the Happiest Place on Earth has gotten savvy to such abhorrent behavior. According to the LAT, it's replacing the signs with an ultrasound beam that automatically measures a child's height.