Powell's Pow-Wow

Powell's Pow-Wow

Powell's Pow-Wow

A summary of what's in the major U.S. newspapers.
Dec. 30 2002 4:33 AM

Powell's Pow-Wow

The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Wall Street Journal's world-wide newsbox, and Washington Post all lead with North Korea: Appearing on all five Sunday news shows, Secretary of State Colin Powell tried to play down the developing nuclear crisis. "Let's take this patiently," he said. "Let's take it with deliberation. Let's work with our friends and allies." The NYTand Postboth say that Powell said the administration has backed off from the Clinton-era policy of promising to attack Pyongyang if it actually resumes making nukes. USA Today's lead, playing catch-up, checks in on last Friday's claim by a cult that they've cloned a human. The paper says that some senators are planning to reintroduce a bill next week that would completely ban cloning.

The Journal says the U.S. is going to try to turn up the pressure on North Korea and emphasizes that the hard part will be convincing China, Japan, and South Korea to cut off their neighbor.

The WP's North Korea lead has a different emphasis than the other papers: "U.S. OPEN TO INFORMAL TALKS WITH N. KOREA." That's not based on any exclusive reporting, rather—unlike the other papers—the Post's plays up Powell's TV comments that the U.S. is "looking for ways to communicate with the North Koreans." The other papers probably don't headline that because Powell kept it fuzzy, saying there aren't going to be any face-to-face meetings or negotiations immediately. But they might happen eventually: The NYT notices that Powell also said the U.S. will not "enter into a negotiation right away." [Emphasis added.]

Given the questions about whether to negotiate with North Korea, an Oct. 21 Post piece has renewed relevance: The article concluded that North Korea believes, "with some merit," that it was the U.S. that first failed to fulfill the 1994 nuke agreement. The U.S., according to this line, hadn't moved to normalize relations or sign a non-aggression pact. If that's accurate, it's worth some attention.

USAT and the LAT catch late-breaking news that a gunman in Yemen shot and killed three American doctors.

Everybody fronts word that opposition leader Mwai Kibaki won Kenya's presidential elections yesterday. That means the 24-year rule of authoritarian President Daniel arap Moi is kaput.

A front-page piece in the Post says that the White House is preparing tough new rules to cut emissions from off-road diesel-powered vehicles, such as bulldozers and tractors. While the administration has often chosen industry over environmental concerns, it has consistently supported tight diesel standards, this being only the latest example.

An above-the-fold piece in the Post reminds that the U.S. helped arm Saddam during the 1980s. Much of the info in the story has already been covered (by the NYT, for example), but the Post does add a few twists: The U.S. didn't only provide intel to the Iraqis during the mid-eighties, it also provided them with billions of dollars worth of credit to buy arms. The U.S. also didn't try to stop American companies that were selling Iraq chemical weapons ingredients, even though at the time Iraq was, as one State Department official wrote in a memo, using chemical weapons on an "almost daily basis." The Post particularly nails Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, who visited Iraq during that time. The paper notes that while Rumsfeld said in a CNN interview last September that he "cautioned" Saddam against using chemical weapons, declassified minutes of the minutes don't show any record of that.  

A quibble with the Post's story: In explaining what's changed since the 1980s, the paper says that as a result of Sept. 11 the administration has taken a "more alarmist" view of the threat posed by the proliferation of "weapons of mass destruction." American HeritageDictionary defines " alarmist" as somebody who "needlessly alarms." Is that necessarily the case here?

A front-page NYT piece looks at what happened to the $21 billion that Washington promised New York City after Sept. 11. The article has the feel of a homerun swing—it's 4,112 words long and has a four-person byline—that resulted in a dribbler past first base: Up high, the story says people are peeved that "less than a quarter of the federal government's promise of financial assistance has been realized" and millions of dollars allocated have gone unclaimed. But ultimately, as the piece later acknowledges, while there are some problems, they're relatively small. Indeed, most of the money hasn't been "realized" because it's going to be spent on longer-term stuff, such as tax-breaks to encourage economic redevelopment. (Slate's Chatterboxmade this point a few months ago.) By the way: Apart from the elephantine length, the Times does a good job of playing down the story, particularly the no-news-here headline, "AFTER 9/11, A TORRENT OF MONEY, AND ANGER."

The LAT, alone among the papers, fronts the FBI's announcement that it's looking for five men who entered the U.S. illegally on Christmas Eve. The LAT doesn't have much more detail than what's in the FBI's press release, which says that the agency has "no specific information that these individuals are connected to any potential terrorist activities."

The LAT ferrets out the most segregated city in America: Milwaukee.

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