The top story in the Los Angeles Times, USA Today, the Wall Street Journal's world-wide newsbox, and the top non-local story in the Washington Post is word from Germany's chief prosecutor that the Sept. 11 terrorists' plan to kill a lot of Americans had been formulated by October 1999, just before some of them left to train in Afghanistan. The following spring, one of the hijackers let it slip to a local librarian that the World Trade Center was the target. "There will be thousands of dead. You will all think of me," Marwan al-Shehhi said. The librarian came forward to tell what she knew, the papers say, but according to the WP,the Germans wouldn't say when she did so. The prosecutor spoke at a news conference announcing the charges against a member of the Hamburg cell who managed the cell's finances and other administrative activities, and, as the LAT notes, most of what he said merely confirmed previously reported details.
The New York Times lead announces that Pentagon officials who have been opposed to expanding Afghanistan's peacekeeping force outside of Kabul now think such a move may not be a bad idea. It may allow American troops to go home earlier, the thinking now goes, according to senior administration officials. The WP's lead says that Maryland is $1 billion in the red after tax revenues couldn't keep pace with ambitious state spending.
According to the NYT lead, a senior administration official characterized the shift in Pentagon opinion on Afghan peacekeeping as a "mid-course correction," necessitated by ongoing problems establishing law and order in the country. Several plans are under consideration, such as creating a mobile force that could be shipped off to troubled areas. None involves American troops, only American logistical and intelligence support. The WP, meanwhile, says Pentagon officials told their reporter that recent pro-peacekeeping-expansion remarks by Deputy Defense Secretary Wolfowitz do not represent a shift at the Pentagon toward wanting to take the mandate outside Kabul.
Cheney spoke again yesterday in favor of attacking Iraq, and of all the papers, the NYT makes the most of his comments. Its off-lead— "Administration Seeking to Build Support in Congress on Iraq Issue"—is based on Cheney's comment that the president will "consult widely with our Congress, with our friends and allies around the world before deciding on a course of action," and his assertion that President Bush has told his subordinates to cooperate in the upcoming Congressional hearings on Iraq.
The administration called "incomplete," a U.N. report that finds U.S. efforts to freeze al-Qaida assets lagging, the NYT says, crediting yesterday's WP for first reporting the U.N. findings. According to the U.S., the U.N.'s calculations fail to include money seized in American law enforcement raids (the paper says one raid was worth $16 million but doesn't have any grand totals on how much loot these raids have captured). Experts the NYT consulted also questioned the report, wondering how the U.N. could be privy to the sort of national government intel that would enable U.N. staffers to speculate on how much money al-Qaida has.
Three Supreme Court justices argued that the court should reconsider allowing juveniles to receive a death sentence, the papers report, the NYT and LAT on their fronts. The suggestion to review juvenile capital punishment, which came following an appeal to stay the execution of a man who was 17 when he murdered, follows the court's June decision to end executions of the mentally retarded.
The papers report that the White House has ruled out a Pentagon plan to keep foreign airlines from flying into, out of, or over New York, Washington, or Shanksville, Penn., on Sept. 11, 2002, after the administration determined doing so would violate international agreements. The WP piece says that the Pentagon was concerned about foreign airlines because the U.S. government knows less about them than it does about domestic airlines. Defense planners are worried about Shanksville, NYC, and D.C., because those places will attract both large crowds and the president of the United States for commemorative events.
Israel apologized for what it called the mistaken killing of a Palestinian family in Gaza on Wednesday, the papers say. The defense minister ordered an investigation of the incident.
The papers go inside with news that during a U.N. development summit, the United States announced several multimillion-dollar projects to help poor countries protect their natural resources and alleviate poverty. The American approach calls for partnerships with businesses and international groups. The LAT says the United States was vigorously criticized for focusing its plan on just on a few pilot projects and not making a "global commitment."
With the possibility of a strike looming, most of the papers air baseball players' and owners' grievances, but the WSJ goes with how miserable team mascots are these days. They don't get much money or respect; their costumes are hot and their hours long; and fans harass them and sometimes drunkenly dislocate their shoulders. And, team owners don't give them much freedom to perform: The Cincinnati Reds mascot is not allowed in the stands because he has a big baseball on his head and would block the view of the game.