Tragic Twisters

Tragic Twisters

Tragic Twisters

A summary of what's in the major U.S. newspapers.
Nov. 12 2002 4:41 AM

Tragic Twisters

The New York Times and USA Today lead with the dozens of tornadoes that sliced through eight states late Sunday, killing at least 36 people. In Tennessee, where two small towns were basically destroyed, at least a dozen people are still missing, though USAT quotes an official saying that he believes most of those people are still alive and just out of contact because of downed phone lines. The tornadoes are also the Washington Post's top non-local story. The Wall Street Journal tops its world-wide newsbox with the Iraqi Parliament's denunciation of the U.N.'s new resolution. The Parliament, made up of Saddam's stooges that simply follow his orders, is going to vote on the resolution tomorrow, and most of the papers expect that despite the tough talk it won't reject the resolution. The Los Angeles Times' lead says that the U.S. recently has become tighter friends with the Kurds in northern Iraq. Kurdish officials told the paper that the U.S. has informally agreed to protect the Kurds should Saddam dabble in a little pre-emption and move troops into the Kurd's enclave.

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The NYT off-leads unnamed "senior Bush administration officials" saying that Iraq is trying to buy large amounts of antidotes against nerve gas. One of the two drugs, atropine, is also used to treat heart attacks, but the large doses that the Iraqis ordered are only good for use as an antidote. Given that the U.S. has renounced chemical weapons, there only seems be one reason why Iraq would order the stuff: Saddam is preparing to use chemical weapons.

In an interview with the Journal,beaten-down accounting oversight board chairman William Webster all but announced that he's quitting. "I am terribly concerned about my value to the board at this point," said Webster. Asked if that means he's going to step down, Webster replied, "I think that's about right." 

The WP goes below-the-fold with various critics complaining that the FBI still hasn't turned itself into an effective anti-terror organization. "You get the sense they don't really have a clue" about terrorists in the U.S., said one unnamed government official. Meanwhile, the Post adds that any invasion of Iraq might serve to whip terrorists into action. 

A piece inside the WP says that despite the White House's best efforts, Iraqi opposition groups are still fighting amongst themselves. The bickering has caused the U.S. to repeatedly delay a pan-opposition conference that had originally been scheduled for September. It's now slated for Nov. 22, but the Iraqi National Congress, a favorite of White House hawks, has threatened to boycott it because, the INC says, it's not being given a prominent enough role.

The NYT fronts a bench-clearing brawl between the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms. The Times got hold of an unsportsmanlike FBI memo that rips the ATF as a provincial outfit full of bumbling investigators. While FBI officials tried to distance themselves from the report, saying it was just a draft, the NYT says the memo is evidence that the FBI is angling to make it sure it comes out as the top-dog agency in the domestic security reshuffling.

The NYT has double-barreled coverage of the war in Chechnya. A front-page dispatch tries to give a sense of what the war there is like now. The story says that until recently Russia had stopped most of its incriminate sweep operations, in which young Chechen men have been summarily executed. But there's a bit of evidence that after the hostage crisis, Russian troops have gone back to their old habits: Five young Chechen men in one village were killed the other week by masked Russians.

Meanwhile, the Times notices an interesting proposal made by Russian President Vladimir Putin at an EU meeting yesterday. After being asked a pointed question by a French journalist about Chechnya, Putin responded, "If you want to become a complete Islamic radical, and are ready to undergo circumcision, then I invite you to Moscow. We're a multidenominational country. We have specialists in this question as well. I will recommend that he carry out the operation in such a way that after it nothing else will grow."

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