The Sharon Zone

The Sharon Zone

The Sharon Zone

A summary of what's in the major U.S. newspapers.
May 5 2002 7:00 AM

The Sharon Zone

The New York Times and the Washington Post lead with (and the Los Angeles Times fronts) Ariel Sharon's impending visit to Washington. Bush will urge the Israeli prime minister to negotiate with Yasser Arafat. The LAT leads with new attempts by health insurers in California to defray escalating costs by charging extra for certain hospitals.

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Sharon doesn't meet with Bush until Tuesday, but handlers on both sides are already in full spin mode, according to the NYT lead. Israel says that documents seized in raids on the West Bank and interrogations of 1,800 Palestinians prove that the Palestinian Authority "plans, finances and executes its own suicide bombings against civilians, and cooperates with militant Islamic groups." (NYT's words.) Ergo, the Israelis say—and Bush's policy on terrorism suggests—that Arafat, as leader of the Palestinian Authority, can no longer be the man to negotiate with. A Bush administration official says, however, that even if the seized documents are authentic and Arafat can indeed be considered a terrorist, his participation in the peace process remains vital.

The Post's lead makes no mention of the new evidence against Arafat, instead focusing on Bush's multinational Middle East peace plan. "The essence of the president's approach is that, given the failings of Arafat and others, a lot of players need to step up," says an administration official. "Players" here refers to European and U.N. officials and moderate Arab leaders.

California health insurers are the first in the U.S. to try charging extra for the more expensive—and, some would say, better—hospitals, the LAT reports in its lead. PacifiCare, an HMO, has a list of "preferred" hospitals that its members can use free of charge. For other hospitals, there's a co-payment of up to $400 a day. "I'm afraid it could exacerbate a system that puts the people with the biggest health problems and the poor in certain kinds of facilities," says the head of a D.C. consumer group.

Five more pipe bombs were found in Midwestern mailboxes on Saturday, this time in rural Nebraska, according to an LAT fronter. It's believed that the devices—"metallic pipes of roughly 1 inch by 6 inches long, in some cases with wires or a battery"—were not mailed but placed in the boxes. Officials are hoping the culprit will turn himself or herself in. "To whoever is involved, very definitely they do have our attention," says the Nebraska governor. "We have heard you." Eight bombs were found in Illinois and Iowa on Friday, so the total now is 13.

"More than 80 percent of U.S. counties have no abortion provider at all," according to a WP editorial on RU-486. The "abortion pill," approved by the FDA in September 2000, was expected to ease access to abortions, but it hasn't worked out that way. Only six percent of ob-gyns and one percent of family doctors prescribe the drug. It is expensive, time-consuming (it requires three visits to the doctor), and, if it doesn't work, a surgical abortion must be performed. So the "provider shortage" persists. The Post has high praise for New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who plans to require abortion training as part of ob-gyn residencies in the city's public hospitals.

The New York Times Magazine runs its "Medicine 2002" issue, featuring a doctor who delivered 3,000 babies over 25 years in the tiny town of Wellsville, in upstate New York. He would run through the photos of the graduating seniors when they appeared in the local newspaper and he'd circle the ones that were "his." It sounds too good to be true and, sure enough, it is. The subhead reads: "What happens when a beloved small-town M.D. makes a fatal mistake." The doctor's chronic drinking eventually led to a botched delivery and the death of a newborn.

The NYT fronts J.K. Rowling's struggle with the new Harry Potter book: She can't seem to finish it. Originally due in July—Amazon.com had started taking preorders—it has now been promised for June 2003. "Now that you mention it, I am getting impatient," says an 11-year-old in Vermont.

Finally, the NYT launches a three-part series on the trauma of college admissions, as suffered by three New York kids from different backgrounds. There's the white boy at an exclusive Manhattan prep school, a poor African-American boy at a Catholic high school in the Bronx, and the daughter of Albanian immigrants at a public school in Queens. The rich kid, with his "pit crew of parents and guidance counselors all focused on a single shining goal: Yale," seems the most beaten up by the process. ("You're an upper-middle-class generalist; I don't think you'll get in," a counselor tells him flatly.) The Bronx kid shows tons of initiative, compensating for his school's relative lack of resources, while the Queens girls tries to rebound from a sorry junior year. ("I hung out with the wrong people," she says.) We have to wait until part three of the series (on Tuesday) to see where they end up.

Bill O'Brien is a freelance writer living in Manhattan.