Shot in the Dark

Shot in the Dark

Shot in the Dark

A summary of what's in the major U.S. newspapers.
Oct. 20 2002 7:03 AM

Shot in the Dark

The Washington Post leads with word of another shooting possibly linked to the D.C. area sniper. This time, a 37-year-old man was shot once in the stomach outside a steakhouse located off Interstate 95 about 80 miles from Washington. The New York Times leads with news that the U.S. will withdraw from an arms control treaty with North Korea that provided Western aid in exchange for the country to halt development of nuclear weapons. The Los Angeles Times leads with the Defense Department's decision to quietly scale back its war on drugs in favor of focusing more on terrorism. The latest shooting victim was a traveler who had pulled off the highway for food and gas, the WP reports. Police said he was shot—but not killed—as he and his wife were leaving a Ponderosa steakhouse. Witnesses said they heard the shot come from a wooded area adjacent to the restaurant. As with the other attacks, authorities immediately closed highways in the Washington region and issued a lookout for the now-infamous white van spotted at other crime scenes, although nobody reported seeing a suspect or a vehicle.

The LAT, which fronts the attack,
says if the latest shooting is connected to the sniper, it would represent a change of pace for the killer. It would mark the first time the gunman has shot on a weekend, and it would also mark the longest lull in between attacks. The sniper last struck on Monday.

Meanwhile, the WP, in an apparent scoop,
reports that police believe the shell casing found in a rented box truck seized by Virginia authorities on Friday is not linked to the killings. It is of a larger caliber than the ammunition used in the sniper's previous attacks.

While the WPand LAT both note that North Korea's nukes have effectively rendered the 1994 arms pact dead, only the NYT definitively
reports that the Bush administration plans to cut off aid to the country. The most immediate impact will be a halt in fuel deliveries to North Korea, but as the WP says, that's no big deal. The U.S. provides less than 1 percent of the country's energy needs, while China provides about 90 percent.

Everybody cites fears that nullifying the pact could send North Korea on a weapons-building binge, one that could lead to even bigger nuclear threats. But administration officials contend the treaty wasn't working anyway. The NYT
says abandoning the agreement is mostly symbolic: "It signifies the start of an effort by the U.S. to pose a stark choice for North Korea, between abandoning all of its nuclear weapons programs and facing near-total economic isolation." Enforcing an embargo would require the support of China, Russia, Japan, Europe, and South Korea—which is already resisting the effort.

The LAT's
scoop on the drug war is a big one—and might just serve to screw up the Pentagon's plans. According to the story, military officials have kept efforts to scale back its drug trafficking investigations on the hush-hush. That includes telling very few members of Congress, who ordered the Pentagon to fight drugs in the first place. While no one is sure how the program will be cut back, the Pentagon wants to investigate drug trafficking only as it relates to the war on terrorism. Efforts in Colombia would be the exception, as enforcement there would actually increase. According to the story, the Bush administration has already signaled its support.

The LAT
off-leads with the results of a poll the paper conducted, which found that two-thirds of the nation's Roman Catholic priests disagree with how U.S. bishops have handled the church's sex abuse scandal. A majority of respondents said the church, while protective of children, has been unfair to accused clerics by rejecting their rights to due process. Meanwhile, 15 percent of those polled described themselves as "gay." The paper calls the survey the most extensive poll of American priests since 1994.

Everybody stuffs post-mortems on the 107th Congress, which adjourned Friday until after Election Day. The WP
sums up the last two years best, noting that lawmakers "lurched from high drama to dreary deadlock, from notable achievements to embarrassing failures." Close margins in the House and Senate made it difficult to get anything done, the paper notes, and in the end, lawmakers went home without having approved homeland security legislation, health care reform, and dozens of other major bills.

But, according to the LAT, what may be more remarkable—and easily obscured by the mountain of stalled bills—is how much the divided Congress did get done, almost in spite of itself. Significant changes were made in campaign-finance laws, corporate accounting standards and trade policy—all against a backdrop of unpredictable events like 9/11. "The result has been a Congress that has shown flexibility in responding to extraordinary circumstances but little creativity in dealing with more enduring long-term quandaries," the paper notes.

The WP
reports the White House has billed the federal Office of Family Assistance $210,000 to help pay for five trips in which President Bush mixed official business with fund-raising events for GOP candidates. Democrats are crying foul over the bill, even though President Clinton also made use of the financial loophole during his years in office.

Finally, the NYT's "Style" section
profiles the latest status symbol in Hollywood: Being rude. Cutbacks in the entertainment industry have ushered in a level of unparalleled hostility in recent years, and everyone from actors and actresses to hairdressers now believe major attitude is the secret to success. "From showing up late to business meetings or not at all for social engagements, to not returning calls, Hollywood etiquette is all about reminding others that you are more important than they are," the article says.