Sins of Commissions

A summary of what's in the major U.S. newspapers.
June 14 2002 8:57 AM

Sins of Commissions

The Los Angeles Times and the New York Timeslead with the Dallas meeting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. The conference makes all of the other fronts, and most run big photos of Bishop Wilton Gregory, the head of the conference, who urged bishops to take responsibility for "what we have done… and what we have failed to do." The top nonlocal story at the Washington Post notes that Afghanistan's loya jirga chose interim Prime Minister Hamid Karzai to act as the country's transitional head of state for the next 18-24 months. The Wall Street Journal tops its world news box with a judge's ruling that accused terrorist Zacarias Moussaoui's decision to represent himself in his trial is "unwise but rational." USA Today leads with a report on American citizens who have attended radical Islamic schools (madrasahs) in Pakistan. All of the fronts save USAT note the EPA's announcement that it will ease clean-air enforcement rules.

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The papers note that the bishops will vote today on a policy for preventing abuse and dealing with errant priests. The WP says that a draft of the policy called for zero tolerance for sexual abuse of minors, with the "possibility of an exception for some priests guilty of only one case of abuse." The NYT adds that the bishops are also expected to pass a measure requiring church officials to report new cases of abuse to civil authorities. The bishops were denounced by four victims of sexual assault and urged by prominent Catholics to share more authority with laity in what the LAT calls the "strongest criticism of the elite body ever permitted at its national conference."

The LAT and the WP run supplemental pieces about the church under their main stories. The LAT runs a news analysis piece saying that the conference has "all the marks of a historic turning point," while the WP profiles a congregation in Kansas that it views as emblematic of "the Roman Catholic Church's future in America."

The EPA's proposal would allow old, coal-fired power plants and refineries to expand and increase emissions without adding pricey anti-pollution equipment now required by law. The WP calls the measure a "major accommodation to officials of refineries and utilities" who were chafing under stricter Clinton-era enforcement policies. New York's attorney general said that he plans to sue the administration over the new guidelines.

In its Moussaoui story, the WSJ notes that the alleged terrorist passed a literal "sniff test" for signs of incompetence: he "wasn't disheveled and didn't smell bad." Moussaoui's former attorney, a public defender Moussaoui claims is conspiring against him, was named as a "standby counsel" who will take over his defense should the need arise. Moussaoui also refused the service of a Muslim attorney offered by his mother, and claimed that he has "secret information that is exculpatory to me." 

The papers note that Karzai's election was a virtual lock after his only serious rivals withdrew their bids and endorsed him earlier in the week; many delegates complained that this high-level horse trading undermined the democratic process.

The USAT lead says that at least 27 American citizens have enrolled in Pakistani madrasahs since 1995, that "most" joined al-Qaida and/or the Taliban, and at least three were killed during the fighting in Afghanistan. It contends that the enrollments represent a "more extensive involvement" by American citizens than previously thought.

All of the fronts mention science news of, ahem, astronomical proportions: the discovery of a distant solar system fairly analogous to our own. The system has a planet similar in mass and orbit to Jupiter, whose planetary dynamics are "pivotal in setting up conditions conducive to life on Earth." (NYT) The WP calls the find "the first observational evidence Earth's solar system is not somehow unique."

The WP reports that police in Beijing assaulted South Korean diplomats in front of their consulate yesterday to prevent North Korean asylum-seekers from reaching the building. Chinese authorities banned foreign media from broadcasting images of the scuffle, and South Korea filed a complaint alleging that the assault was a violation of the Geneva Convention.

The authors of the McCain-Feingold soft money ban tell the NYT that they're afraid the Federal Election Commission will dilute their bill in the coming weeks by drafting rules that would allow big donors to filter money through state political parties.