The Pakistani Connection

A summary of what's in the major U.S. newspapers.
Dec. 21 2003 6:56 AM

The Pakistani Connection

The Washington Post's lead reveals that much of Iran's nuclear equipment derives from Pakistani parts and designs. The New York Times leads with a poll showing that 55 percent of Americans support a constitutional amendment to prohibit gay marriage. The Los Angeles Times goes with a review of the Pentagon's recent security changes along the DMZ in South Korea. The U.S. is moving some troops away from the border and replacing them with high-tech weaponry—such as fast, mobile armored personnel carriers; smart bombs; and bunker-buster bombs. For its part, South Korea will introduce missiles capable of hitting Pyongyang. 

The Post uses anonymously leaked details from recent international inspections to get its behind-the-scenes look at Iran's nuclear program. (Iran, which maintains that its equipment is for civilian use only, began cooperating with the International Atomic Energy Agency early last month.) The evidence: 1) Iran possesses hundreds of gas centrifuges—which can be used to make both weapons-grade and power-plant-grade uranium—that are based on Pakistani designs and some Pakistani parts. Most of this information and equipment was acquired between the mid-1980s and late-1990s. Two weeks ago, Pakistan—possibly with U.S. assistance—interrogated several of its nuclear scientists, ostensibly in reaction to the IAEA's findings. 2) Inspectors have found traces of weapons-grade uranium in the centrifuges. 3) There are unspecified links to China and former Soviet countries. The Post reminds that the Pakistani centrifuge design itself was a modified version of a British-Dutch-German model, and that the rudiments of Iran's nuclear facilities were provided by the U.S. in the late '70s. (The Shah also hid a nuclear-weapons program from the U.S.)

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The NYT poll on homosexuality indicates that recent state and federal court decisions affirming gay relationships have fomented public opposition: In July, 54 percent of the public thought that "homosexual relations should be legal." This month, 41 percent do (including only half of all Democrats). Today's poll also shows that 61 percent of Americans (and 57 percent of Democrats) oppose gay marriage, and 54 percent oppose civil unions. Fifty-three percent view marriage as primarily religious, and of them 71 percent oppose gay marriage; thirty-three percent view marriage as primarily legal, and 55 percent of them approve of gay marriage. A constitutional law professor informs the Times that opponents of a marriage amendment would need the support of just one house of 13 state legislatures to block it. TP wonders why newspapers always feel compelled to attribute uncontested facts to experts. If you must attribute the obvious, why not cite a primary source in this case, like, er, the Constitution?

A wire dispatch inside the Post notes that an Ontario court ruled that the Canadian government discriminated against gays when it denied pension benefits to survivors whose partners died before 1998. The court granted retroactive payments, worth $75 million, to survivors whose partners died after 1985, when an equality provision was added to the Canadian Charter. A column in the Post's business section reminds that even if the Massachusetts courts legalize gay marriage, the federal Defense of Marriage Act will prohibit gay husbands and wives from filing joint tax returns—or taking advantage of any of the other 1,048 other federal laws in which marriage is a factor.

The LAT off-leads an investigation of the Justice Department's list of 280 criminal cases it says are terrorist-related. When the Times asked for supporting documents through the Freedom of Information Act, the government produced a redacted list of about half that number, many of which appear unrelated to the war on terror.

The NYT highlights two cottage industries that have sprung up around new technology. A front-page story chronicles how GPS devices in cell phones have enabled some zealous parents to track their children's movements 24/7—and raises the specter of zealous marketers and bureaucrats one day taking the parents' place. A business section piece reveals that busy citizens can now outsource their eBay-selling chores by dropping off their used knick-knacks with companies specializing in online marketing and shipping.

The NYT fronts a well-done perennial on how workers get killed when labor law goes unenforced. In this case the victim was Patrick Walters, a 22-year-old plumbers' apprentice killed in 2002 when the sides of a 10-foot mud trench he was working in collapsed. Just two weeks before the accident an Occupational Safety and Health Administration inspector had cited the company for failing to dig trenches with sloped sides or artificially braced walls. The same company had had a worker killed the same way in 1989, just three years after it settled similar OSHA citations with promises of safety improvements. Walters' family pushed OSHA to refer the case to the Justice Department for criminal prosecution. But ultimately OSHA settled for a $54,000 fine, spread over four years, and more promises of safety improvements.   

The NYT obit page lets it be known that "Harold von Braunhut, Seller of Sea Monkeys, Dies at 77." Mr. Von Braunhut, who held 195 patents, made his fortune in the mail order business, selling everything from X-Ray Specs to pet hermit crabs to tiny shrimp that come alive in water, a.k.a. Sea Monkeys. The chintzy shrimp—I mean, Monkeys ™—even had their own Saturday morning TV program, and 400 million of them provided companionship to John Glenn in space.   

Michael Brus, a former Slate assistant editor, is a psychiatrist in private practice in New York City. He is on the clinical faculty of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.