Trading Places

Trading Places

Trading Places

A summary of what's in the major U.S. newspapers.
March 10 2002 5:33 AM

Trading Places

The Washington Post  leads (and the others front) with two new Palestinian attacks in Israel. The Los Angeles Times leads with the capture of a Mexican drug cartel leader, while the New York Times  plays catch-up in its lead, reporting what the LAT did yesterday: that the Pentagon has secretly been developing blueprints for a new nuclear bomb arsenal better suited to strike targets in Iran, Iraq, North Korea, Syria, and Libya.

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Working in reverse chronological order to detail Saturday's Israeli-Palestinian continued tensions, the papers recount the 10:30 p.m. suicide bombing at a popular Jerusalem cafe, the two-gunman attack on a Netanya (north of Tel Aviv) hotel two hours earlier, and much less prominently, the Israeli bombing of Yasser Arafat's compound sometime in the morning. At least 12 (LAT), 13 (WP), or 14 (NYT) Israelis were killed, including, according to the NYT's first paragraph and the WP's last, a baby.

The Islamic group Hamas took responsibility for the Jerusalem bombing, which took place across the street from Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's residence, and the WP gives details on the bomber as being a Palestinian student named Fuad Ismail Hourani. The Netanya episode, meanwhile, where two gunman—one dressed in an Israeli uniform—threw a grenade into a hotel lobby and opened fire with automatic rifles, is being attributed to the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade. At the hotel, one of the three Israeli casualties, according to an intriguing NYT note, was a Israeli-Arab man, "initially thought to be a third gunman." The paper doesn't indicate whether this thought was the impetus behind the man's death or just a thought that took place in the affair's investigation stage.

NYT columnist Thomas Friedman (profiled by Slate here) starts off his column with the unsurprising assertion that the Arab world feels, with combined resources, that Israeli can be defeated. What's surprising, maybe, is that Friedman agrees, ending his column:

Because there are so many more Muslims than Jews to be killed, and weapons of mass destruction are becoming so much smaller and so much cheaper, it won't be long before the student in my Egyptian friend's story gets one of his eight bombs and wipes Israel off the map. Is that real enough for you?

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Beaten to the punch in reporting the Pentagon report known as the "Nuclear Posture Review," the NYT offers grudging acknowledgment to the LAT for reporting "elements" of it first. (The WP doesn't give, stuffing the story on the 27th page.) Perhaps the biggest discrepancy between the LAT original account and today's NYT read is the latter's gentle rendering of Russia and China as potential targets. Whereas the LAT writes in its second paragraph, "The secret report ... says the Pentagon needs to be prepared to use nuclear weapons against China, Russia, Iraq, North Korea, Iran, Libya and Syria," the NYT, in contrast, takes the first two off the list, only referring to them way down in the column in a sort of implausible-but-still-in-the-report way.

The LAT leads (the WP fronts and the NYT reefers) the arrest of Benjamin Arellano Felix, who Mexican authorities say they apprehended Saturday while also confirming the slaying of Benjamin's brother, Ramon, in a shootout last month. The two were the leaders of a Tijuana drug cartel responsible, it is thought, for a quarter of all cocaine entering the United States. Mexican authorities are calling the cartel "dismantled," but the LAT doesn't seem as sure, speculating on who will be assuming the reins, the contenders being, it seems, a "crusading Tijuana journalist" and a "48-year-old doctor."

The WP fronts, or gathers the chorus to sing, the opening bar to Network Evening News' requiem.  "When Brokaw, Jennings and Rather retire," Northwestern University professor Ken Bode tells the paper, "It is a perfect time for these corporations to decide their newscasts are no longer worth it." The CBS, NBC, and ABC newscasts still attain a nightly average of 23 million viewers, but as the article points out, most of them aren't under the age of 50. "Many journalists and media analysts believe that the newscasts are in danger of fading away," says the WP, in what it should be pointed out was also said 26 years ago in the film Network.

The LAT and the NYT are trading geographical concerns for a day. The LAT writes about "lovable, shleppy" Upper West Siders in Manhattan fighting the arrival of a Kentucky Fried Chicken store in a spot where Sambas Deli now sits. "It's the kind of place Manhattanites depend on—a cluttered, grab-bag of a store where you can buy formula for a howling infant at 1 a.m. and hot coffee six hours later." The NYT unknowingly (we assume) returns fire: "Look up the word sprawl in the dictionary, the joke goes, and there is the City of Angels and the dirty halo of dispiriting words it contributed to the urban lexicon: smog, suburban wasteland, Blade Runner." Now though, says the NYT, the city is building "up and in" from what's its already got, finding it easier to transform the downtown "unlivable" than to solve the transportation mess.

Under Further Review: A small bit of good news for those thinking about moving to Israel, the West Bank, or the Gaza Strip, and having kids. A note in the NYT's correction section notes that, no, 6 children in 100 don't die in Israel before the age of 5 and, no, 25 children in 100 don't die in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip before the age of 5. Last week's NYT chart was wrong. It's 6 in 1000 and 25 in 1000, respectively.