On Time Arrival

On Time Arrival

On Time Arrival

A summary of what's in the major U.S. newspapers.
Nov. 18 2002 4:40 AM

On Time Arrival

The Los Angeles Times leads with, and USA Today fronts, word that that the relatively new Transportation Security Agency will meet its Tuesday deadline for having government workers take over the job of screening airplane passengers. The New York Times leads with a summary of the U.S.'s military and diplomatic preparations for an invasion of Iraq: There's not much new in the piece, but in one interesting bit the Times says, in response to Turkey's concerns that the Kurds in northern Iraq might create their own breakaway state, the Pentagon is preparing plans to put troops in the area (though it's not clear how that would stop a Kurdish declaration of independence). Also, the paper says that the administration is preparing a big aid package to Turkey, including forgiving that country's debts. USAT leads with complaints that the U.S. is taking too long to process visas. The paper says emergency medical visas that used to be issued in one day now are sometimes delayed for up to two months. The Washington Post leads with word that the number of FDA approvals for completely new drugs—that is, chemical concoctions never used before—fell dramatically over the past few years: There were 56 approvals in 1996 and only 11 so far this year. Among the explanations: The FDA has been taking longer to evaluate drugs, and the industry has been developing fewer of them. About two-thirds of the way through the article the Post has a third, more good-news kind of explanation: The pharmaceutical industry is shifting its focus to bioengineered drugs, a record 116 of which are now in the final stage of clinical testing.

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As the LAT's lead emphasizes, while the TSA met the deadline for checking passengers, the deadline to screen all luggage won't be met by some large airports. Meanwhile, most cargo shipments aren't screened, and there aren't any plans to change that.

USAT's story on the TSA emphasizes that only 15 percent of the federal screeners are holdovers from private firms. Accompanying its story, USAT has a chart headlined "Comparing the Workforce." What would you guess the chart would break down the workforce by? Answer: race. (The chart looks at the racial makeup of TSA's workforce compared with the overall U.S. population.) The paper doesn't explain how this is pertinent. In fact, the article itself doesn't mention anything about race.

The Wall Street Journal  tops its world-wide newsbox (online) with, and others reefer, word that an Arab-Israeli man armed with a small knife rushed the cockpit of an El Al flight yesterday. Two undercover air marshals overpowered the man. Everybody characterizes the incident as simply an attempted hijacking. But that doesn't necessarily give the best picture of what happened: As the Israeli paper Ha'aretz said, "It's unclear whether the man was simply an eccentric or if he did indeed intend to take over the plane." If it was the later, the man certainly didn't have a very good plan: It's well-known that armed sky marshals are on all El Al flights and that their cockpit doors are armored and virtually impenetrable.

The NYT off-leads, and everybody mentions, that in response to this past weekend's Palestinian ambush in Hebron that killed 12 Israelis, settlers built a new outpost in the town. Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said he supported the expansion. Nearly all Hebron's inhabitants are Palestinian, while a few hundred Israelis live there under heavy guard.

The NYT says that investigators now believe that the plotters of last month's Bali bombing have a plan to attack international schools in Jakarta. Most of the schools have been closed through at least Wednesday.

A piece inside the Post says that the administration is "nearly ready" to start military tribunals. It's not clear yet who is going to get the special treatment—President Bush will give his OK on a case-by-case basis.

A front-page thumb-sucker (that is, a story about something that hasn't happened yet) in the Post ponders what the Republican-controlled Senate means for environmental laws. No real surprises here: Under the subheading "Environmentalists Fear New Senate," the article essentially airs those fears, especially concern over the fact that pro-industry senators will be taking over the chairs of a few important committees. Meanwhile, the Post waits until relatively low to say that the changes probably won't be all that radical: According to the article's ninth paragraph, "With many moderate Republicans sympathetic to green causes, few expect a repeat of the assault on bedrock environmental laws waged by then-Speaker Newt Gingrich in 1995."

Ah! So, it's only $3.5 million per bedroom ... A NYT correction clarifies the details on Dustin Hoffman's apartment sale: "The price is $25 million (not $24 million); the apartment has 7 bedrooms and 10 bathrooms (not 4 and 6)."

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