Going for Gold

Going for Gold

Going for Gold

A summary of what's in the major U.S. newspapers.
Sept. 3 2002 4:58 AM

Going for Gold

The Wall Street Journal tops its world-wide newsbox (online) with news that the U.S. teamed up with OPEC countries to successfully oppose a proposal at the world summit in South Africa that would have set timetables for countries to adopt renewable energy targets. The European Union's environment minister, who had been pushing the deal, called the opposition an "unholy alliance." The Los Angeles Times also leads with the summit but has a sunnier dispatch, saying that negotiators agreed on a wide-ranging plan to lower poverty and help the environment. The New York Times leads with grumbling from special operations commanders that they think that Osama is dead and thus special ops troops shouldn't have to spend so much time searching for him. (The Post pointed out a few days ago that military officials are worried that if the U.S. invades Iraq, special ops troops may end up overburdened.) The Washington Post  leads with word that an influential Pentagon advisory board has concluded that the country's current approach to developing missile defense is too scattershot and that the U.S. needs to focus on just one or at most two anti-missile designs. USA Today leads with a minute-by-minute playback of what happened in the WTC towers after the two planes hit.

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According to the LAT's subhead on the summit deal, "The plan fails to please many activists. But an assistant secretary of State describes it as 'a real breakthrough.' " That's helpful, but it's also a bit "he said, she said." It would have been better if the subhead had offered a key detail on deal itself: As the story's seventh paragraph puts it, the measures are "strictly voluntary."

The NYT's lead on Bin Laden quotes one U.S. military officer as saying, "There are a lot of people—though it's not an official position—who think he's gone, way gone." Last week, the NYT reported in a lead story that Osama might still be alive. But there's no real contradiction between last week's story and today's piece. Both articles are caveat-filled, and both point out that nobody in the military really knows what OBL's status is. And neither piece headlines the dead/alive contention. (By the way, while the NYT has done a good job of emphasizing the uncertainty factor, whereas the wire stories that followed last week's piece didn't.)

USAT's reconstruction story, which is based on interviews with "more than 300 survivors," is compelling. But it basically reiterates what's already been covered, especially by the NYT, which ran a similar piece a few months ago. Meanwhile, according to a note inside the paper, "On Sept. 11, ABC News will collaborate with USA TODAY on a televised exploration of what happened in the World Trade Center."

The WP's off-lead says that according to "European, Pakistani and U.S. investigators," al-Qaida has been moving lots of gold from Pakistan to the Sudan. Officials say al-Qaida got the gold by selling opium. The paper notes up high that Iranian intelligence guys, probably not with their government's total support, appeared to have helped with the shipments. The end of the article has a great tidbit: According to some European officials, an arms dealer named Victor Bout owned some of the planes used to transfer the gold. The Post points out, "Despite an international warrant issued in February for his arrest, Bout lives undisturbed in Moscow." (For those with a Bout of curiosity, the LAT has a good bunch of articles about the guy.)

A front-page Post piece says the new security agreement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority is "falling apart." Implementation of the deal, which called for Israeli troops to gradually pull back from Palestinian land in return for security guarantees, "has effectively stopped" because of Israel's killing of 14 Palestinian civilians over the past week and because Palestinian police haven't cracked down on militants as promised. The head of Palestinian security in Gaza explained, "If Israel stops the aggression and withdraws from our areas, we're ready to perform our security duties." Until then, he said, "We will not do anything."

USAT notes below the fold that Iraq's Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz said yesterday that Iraq is prepared to have weapons inspectors return. "Let's solve the problem comprehensively," he said. As the paper notes, Aziz said a few days ago that Iraq wasn't ready to accept unfettered inspections. White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said, "Iraq changes positions on inspections more often than Saddam changes bunkers."

The WP fronts a piece looking at how the nearly year-old Transportation Security Administration hasn't delivered yet on its mandate to overhaul airport security. The article's headline and subhead essentially blame structural problems: "TWIN MISSIONS OVERWHELMED TSA; Agency Strives to Create Self, Stop Terror." The article itself, though, focuses on the failings of one guy: former TSA Director John Magaw, who was recently given the boot. Magaw apparently had a habit of ticking off people he worked with and was, according to his many critics, too focused on setting up the accoutrements of bureaucracy (such as the TSA's new logo), while dilly-dallying on efforts to actually tighten security.

The WP goes inside with a government entitlement for which support is slipping: the First Amendment. According to a newly released poll (by, admittedly, a freedom-of-the-press-type group), 49 percent of Americans agreed that "the First Amendment goes too far in the rights that it guarantees." Last year, before 9/11, 39 percent of respondents agreed with that statement.

Eric Umansky, previously the "Today's Papers" columnist for Slate, is currently a Gordon Grey Fellow at Columbia University's School of Journalism.