Calling All Czars

Calling All Czars

Calling All Czars

A summary of what's in the major U.S. newspapers.
Sept. 7 2002 6:15 AM

Calling All Czars

The New York Times and the Los Angeles Times lead with President Bush on the phone with Russia, China, and France, trying to win support for his war on Iraq. The leaders of the three countries were not swayed. The Washington Post off-leads Bush, going instead with the arrest of a couple in Germany accused of plotting an attack on an America military base.

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The NYT expands on the foreign resistence to Bush's pleas. France's President Jacque Chirac, wants UN approval of any military action, and Vladimir Putin has "serious doubts that there are grounds for the use of force in connection with Iraq ..." White House officials warned against taking these statements too literally. Bush had said that even if the international community sits on the sidelines, the U.S. will do whatever is necessary to enforce the disarmament agreement Iraq signed after the Gulf War in 1991.

A Turkish man and his American fiancee were planning to bomb the city of Heidelberg and the U.S. army base there, according to the Post lead. The woman worked at the base supermarket. The couple had five pipe bombs and 300 pounds of explosive chemicals in their apartment, along with a picture of Osama Bin Laden on the wall. There's no evidence yet that they had any direct contact with the al-Qaida terrorist network.

The LAT off-leads Wa'el Hamza Julaidan, a "big fish" in al-Qaida, who has been "located" by Saudi authorities, meaning he may or may not be in custody, but is at least being watched closely. And his assets have been frozen—it was a Treasury official who called him a big fish. U.S. officials are claiming yet another in a string of victories in the global fight against terror, while others say al-Qaida is doing fine, with plenty of cash. A U.N. report due next week will argue that the financial crackdown on the terroritst faction has had little if any effect.

The Post and the LAT front Congress's commemorative joint session in New York—and both papers use the word "somber" in the headline. About 300 lawmakers rode Amtrak north to meet in New York City for the first time since 1790.

The NYT fronts China's newfound willingness to address its AIDS crisis. The government has raised its estimate of the number of infected to one million and announced that it will manufacture AIDS drugs generically if Western producers refuse to lower their prices. The new posture is a "striking reversal," according the Times, but what's equally surprising is the way in which many people in China became infected. Poor farmers in central China sold their blood for $5 a bag. Whatever was not used was pooled and "reinjected it into the sellers." The practice has been outlawed, but it's not clear why it was ever allowed—the paper says the "details are sketchy."

Our new American idol has a bit of a conscience, according to the NYT. Kelly Clarkson may not perform at the Lincoln Memorial on Sept. 11 because the whole thing is tainted with crass commercialism. The charity running the event had it all worked out beforehand with the producers of Idol: The show's winner would help commemorate the day. "I think maybe it's a bad idea," Clarkson says. 

The NYT stuffs the latest in the saga of Sammy the Bull Gravano, the man who ratted out 39 of his Mafia colleagues, John Gotti among them, in the early '90s. Once an accomplished hit man, Sammy did a mere five years for the 19 murders he confessed to—about three months for each, the Times figures. Dropping out of the witness-protection program and becoming an installer of pools, Gravano eventually found it hard to keep to the straight and narrow. Yesterday he was sentenced to 20 years for buying and selling Ecstasy—forming a big distribution ring, in fact, that included his wife and two kids. The judge said recidivism was "virtually a certainty" unless the Bull was "incapacitated by incarceration." Even is he's alive when he gets out—he'd be 77—he'll spend the rest of his days under supervised release.

Finally, the WP fronts the effort to legalize small (but not that small) amounts of marijuana for private use in Nevada. The state may "go to yet another live-and-let-live extreme," as the Post puts it, by voting yes on Question 9 in November. (To become law, the measure will have to be approved again in 2004.) Threes ounces—enough for about 100 joints—will be cool, dude, if the measure passes, and there's a decent chance that it will. "You have to throw out all the rules in Nevada when it comes to politics," says an aide to the governor, who's remaining neutral on the matter.

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