Total Recall

Total Recall

Total Recall

A summary of what's in the major U.S. newspapers.
July 4 2003 7:15 AM

Total Recall

The Washington Post leads with the six suspected al-Qaida terrorists chosen by President Bush for trial before a U.S. military tribunal. The New York Times leads with disappointing job numbers for June: Unemployment rose to 6.4 percent, the highest rate in nine years. The economy has lost 236,000 jobs this year. The Los Angeles Times fronts the tribunal and the jobless rate, but leads with a local story, a poll showing that Gov. Gray Davis might be recalled in California. His opponents are closing in on the number of signatures they need (900,000) to force a special election.

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The fate of the six detainees picked out by Bush will now be determined by Paul Wolfowitz, according to the Post lead. He'll decide what they'll be charged with, and he'll also appoint the members of the tribunal itself. "Things will start to move rather quickly now," a senior military officer says in the NYT. According to rules set up by the U.S. last spring, there will be three to seven judges. "A defendant may be found guilty by a vote of two-thirds of the panel, but a death sentence requires a unanimous seven-member panel," the Times explains. The detainees are believed to be relatively low level al-Qaida operatives, a sort of warm-up round or "shake-down cruise," as the NYT puts it, before the tribunal gets to the major players. It will be the first U.S. tribunal since just after W.W. II.

The NYT joblessness lead is littered with dismal figures on all fronts. More people are looking for work and not finding it, blacks are having a harder time of it than whites, people are looking for work too soon after seeing hints of a revival. Democrats say the Bush tax cuts aren't working, and the White House says they just haven't taken effect yet. The WP says companies are finding ways to increase productivity without hiring new workers. And it goes on and on like that.

The LAT lead also contains a lot of numbers, most of them spelling doom for Gray Davis, California's beleaguered governor, who may be removed from office in a recall election as early as this fall. The LAT poll shows that 51 percent would vote to unseat Davis, but their favorite to replace him, Dianne Feinstein, has said she will not run. Republicans would like the job—Riordan, Schwarzenegger, et al.—but they didn't fare so well in the poll. Davis' approval rating is down to a measly 22 percent.

The WP fronts the possibility of U.S. military intervention in Liberia. Bush met with African reporters at the White House on Thursday and told them that President Charles Taylor would have to leave Liberia before U.S. troops—a force of about 2,000, according to the Post—would intervene in the civil war there. Liberia was founded in 1822 as a homeland for freed American slaves, and Taylor is the descendant of a freed slave. An international war crimes tribunal has indicted him for crimes against humanity.

Everybody fronts two items from Iraq: the $25 million reward offered for Saddam Hussein and the ongoing violence that killed one American soldier and wounded 20 others yesterday. "We're still at war," an Army general declares in the NYT, two months after Bush said that major combat was finished. The Times neatly advances a possible explanation for the violence. "The multiple attacks came a day after Mr. Bush seemingly invited confrontation with militant Iraqis, saying, 'Bring 'em on.' The American-led alliance, he said, has adequate force to deal with the security situation. Thursday's attacks seemed to defy that assertion."

The capture—or death—of Saddam may not quell the attacks, according to the Times. Yesterday's incidents occurred in diverse areas, carried out by some who supported the former government and some who did not. The $25 million matches the price on the head of Osama Bin Laden. Another $15 million has been offered for each of Saddam's sons, Uday and Qusay. "They may or may not still be alive," Paul Bremer said in his weekly broadcast to the Iraqi people, as quoted in the LAT. "Until we know for sure, their names will continue to cast a shadow of fear over this country."

The NYT's quote of the day is from a woman whose husband in serving in Iraq. "I want my husband home. ... When they first left, I thought yeah, this will be bad, but war is what they trained for. But they are not fighting a war. They are not doing what they trained for. They have become police, in a place they're not welcome."

Finally, the Post fronts "Freedom Paradise," a new resort 70 miles south of Cancún, Mexico. Freedom from what, you ask? Freedom from ridicule, embarrassment, and self-consciousness, apparently. "Paradise" welcomes plus-size guests, catering to the 64 percent of Americans who are overweight. (Thirty percent are obese.) The offerings? Double-wide chairs, entrees heavy on cream and sauces, and a shower equipped with a wooden bench and removable shower head, among other things. "It is insane that most businesses don't cater to people of size, from an economic point of view," says the editor of a Web magazine called Abundance. "We have a lot of money. We are not a niche market anymore; we're very much mainstream."

Bill O'Brien is a freelance writer living in Manhattan.