Port Authority

Port Authority

Port Authority

A summary of what's in the major U.S. newspapers.
Oct. 9 2002 4:46 AM

Port Authority

The New York Times and Los Angeles Times (with a near banner headline) lead with word that President Bush sought, and got, a court order requiring ports to end their lockout of dockworkers. The Washington Post leads with word that the D.C. sniper appears to have left a note outside the school where he shot his latest victim. The message, which was left on a Tarot "Death" card, read, "Dear policeman, I am God." USA Today, meanwhile, leads with that other breaking news of the day: Americans are fat. According to a federal study, 65 percent of adults in the U.S. are now overweight. Everybody else stuffs this, or in the case of the NYT, simply covers it with wire copy.

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Bush opened the ports by invoking the 1947 Taft Hartley Act, which allows presidents to ask courts to impose a cooling off period if they think a strike will "imperil the national safety or health." (Here's a backgrounder on the act.) The act was last invoked in the 1970s, by former President Carter. Bush invoked it after the ports' association refused a deal to extend the dockworkers' contract by 30 days. Everybody says that the move will tick off labor, maybe enough to get them to make an extra effort to take down Republicans in the coming elections. But, as the NYT emphasizes, even some labor advocates thought that Bush's move was prudent.

The fat figures that USAT cites are kind of interesting: Less than 10 years ago, only 56 percent of Americans were overweight. But the top story? Everybody already knows we're in the midst of a chuba-demic. In fact, these numbers aren't dramatically different from ones in previous studies.

Everybody goes high with yesterday's attack by Kuwaiti gunmen who killed one Marine and injured another. The gunmen shot at two groups of Marines, one of which was taking part in a live-fire exercise, and shot back, killing the attackers. The Kuwaiti government said the two men were linked to al-Qaida. But the U.S. says it isn't sure about that yet. 

The LAT, WP, and NYT all front a federal appeals court's ruling that the Bush administration is allowed to hold secret deportation hearings for those detained in post-9/11 sweeps. Another appeals court came to the opposite conclusion a few months ago, so this is heading to the Supremes.

The NYT and WP front, and the  Wall Street Journal tops its world-wide newsbox (online) with, a letter CIA Director George Tenet sent the Senate saying that he thinks Saddam "for now appears to be drawing a line short of conducting terrorist attacks with conventional or C.B.W. [chemical or biological weapons] against the United States." In addition, the letter declassified some Senate testimony in which a "senior intelligence witness" said, "The probability of [Saddam] initiating an attack—let me put a time frame on it—in the foreseeable future, given the conditions we understand now, the likelihood I think would be low." Tenet also said that if Saddam thinks an invasion is inevitable, he might decide to hand over some chemical or biological weapons to terrorists.

The WP goes inside with a check-in on Sunday's oil tanker explosion off the coast of Yemen. The Post says that seven crewmen swear they saw a small ship pull up alongside right before the explosion. (The piece also says that French investigators told the sailors to clam up and stop talking to the press.) The article, meanwhile, waits until deep into the story to cite perhaps the most convincing evidence yet that this was a terrorist attack: The metal around the hole caused by the blast is buckled inward, meaning the explosion likely came from outside. (Two years ago, Scott Shuger made a similar observation after the Cole was attacked.)

The NYT reefers another admission  by the Pentagon that during the Cold War it tested chemical weapons on American soldiers, who were wearing protective suits. The tests occurred between 1962 and 1971, and unlike previously disclosed tests, some of these were carried out on U.S. soil, namely in Alaska, Hawaii, and Maryland. The Pentagon says it isn't sure whether the soldiers who took part knew what they were involved in.

The LAT fronts a government report concluding that (surprise) lie detectors don't work. Though polygraphs aren't admissible in most courts, various national-security-type federal agencies still rely heavily on them. The report concluded that the things are so unreliable that they can actually represent a "danger to national security." BFD, says the CIA. According an agency spokesman, "The polygraph has been, and continues to be, one of a number of useful tools in the applicant screening process."

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