Airplane!

A summary of what's in the major U.S. newspapers.
Jan. 1 2004 6:52 AM

Airplane!

The New York Times leads with the feds' crackdown on international flights, including the midair refusal of an incoming plane from Mexico. The Washington Post and Los Angeles Times lead with a Baghdad restaurant car bombing, which killed five Iraqis and injured 30, including eight LAT staff.

Besides refusing the Mexican plane, the NYT says, authorities have recently done post-landing security checks on five or six planes arriving at LAX, and one at Dulles last night. The LAT and WP report that two Air France flights to LAX in the last week were escorted by American F-16s. The LAT adds that one New Year's Eve flight from Mexico was canceled outright. When all the passengers were allowed to take other flights to LAX, the Mexican government criticized the Department of Homeland Security for its arbitrariness and secrecy. The Post reefers a detailed piece on the Dulles flight.

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All the papers front the extraordinary security precautions put in place for New Year's Eve celebrations. The government banned private flights over New York, Las Vegas, and Chicago, and cops in Times Square screened all 750,000 revelers and removed all garbage cans, mailboxes, and vending machines. In Las Vegas, 300,000 partiers on the Strip were monitored by 2,000 cops, 600 jail guards (the LAT says 6,000), 5,000 hotel security guards, and 115 FBI agents. All celebrations went off without a hitch, despite a Republican congressman's comment that he wouldn't go to Times Square "for anything." (TP, snug in his Seattle apartment, heard the intermittent buzz of helicopters.)

Two pieces inside the Post bring more news from the security front: About 80 percent of U.S. ports and ferry terminals, and 5,000 ships, failed to meet yesterday's government deadline for submitting terrorism safeguard plans. And at JFK Airport, for the second time in a week, a dead stowaway was found in the wheel well of a recently landed passenger jet. 

The 400 richest Americans, who own one percent of the country's wealth, gave seven percent of its charitable contributions in 2000, the NYT reports in its business section. The data, taken from a non-profit study, also demonstrate that, while the incomes of the top 400 grew by 80 percent from 1997 to 2000, their giving more than quadrupled. On its Web site, the non-profit estimates that the 400 could have given three to five times the amount they did without sacrificing lifestyle. The IRS wouldn't release stats on individuals, but the top givers—such as Bill Gates, Ted Turner, and George Soros—almost certainly gave more than they were allowed to deduct in taxes. The study reveals the top 400's average gift in 2000 (15 percent of income) but not the median; that last figure might have indicated whether the average is skewed by a handful of Scrooges or, alternatively, a handful of bighearts. (For the most recent list of the "Slate 60" largest charitable contributions, click here.)

During the 1973 oil embargo, the United States seriously considered using airborne troops to seize oil fields in three Arab countries, the Post reports on its front page. The story, taken from a British document declassified yesterday by a sunshine law, reveals that U.S. contingency planners expected to have to hold the fields (in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Abu Dhabi) for 10 years. They did not expect the Soviets to intervene. The intelligence document also quotes then-Defense Secretary James Schlesinger as saying that America would not tolerate threats from "under-developed, under-populated" countries, and it portrays the British prime minister as livid at President Nixon after learning about a U.S. nuclear alert from news reports.

Thousands of ephedra junkies across the nation made an eleventh-hour run on the recently banned herbal supplement, says the LAT front page. About 10 million to 12 million consumers bought the substance in 2002, despite its widely reported links to heart attack and stroke.

In a NYT Op-Ed, Secretary of State Colin Powell gives a laundry list of the Bush admistration's 2003 foreign policy achievements: A new constitution in Afghanistan, an Iraq that is no longer "an incubator for weapons of mass murder that could have fallen into terrorists' hands," diplomatic efforts to bring democracy to the Middle East and elsewhere, money for AIDS, the combating of slavery and child labor, diplomatic pressure on Iran and North Korea, and improved relations with Russia, China, and India. (Powell should read the LAT, which has a dispatch from Kabul on Afghanistan's highly contentious—and, ahem, ongoing—constitutional convention.)

Nobody Here But Us Chickens Dept.: The NYT reports inside that within six months Brazil will begin exporting enriched uranium, ostensibly to fuel nuclear reactors. The government has announced that, because it should be above suspicion, it won't accept international inspections. But no need to worry. As the minister of science and technology reassures, "All we've got are a couple of itty-bitty reactors."

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.

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