Foreigners Give the Finger

Foreigners Give the Finger

Foreigners Give the Finger

A summary of what's in the major U.S. newspapers.
Jan. 6 2004 4:12 AM

Foreigners Give the Finger

The Washington Post leads with yesterday's formal unveiling of a digital system to fingerprint and photograph many foreign visitors on their arrival to the U.S. Some countries aren't happy with the new procedure; following a judge's order, Brazil is retaliating by fingerprinting arriving Americans. The Los Angeles Times leads with a sneak preview of the White House's plan to expand guest worker programs and allow some illegal residents to eventually get green cards. There aren't many details on the still-unannounced plan, but the paper says it may mirror a bill sponsored by some Republicans in Congress last year that envisioned using the Internet to match foreign workers with domestic employers. The New York Times' top non-local story has American and European intel officials asserting that Libya's nuclear technology came from Pakistan. "It has all the hallmarks of a Pakistani system," said an unnamed administration official. "These guys are now three for three as supplier to the biggest proliferation problems we have," referring also to the help Pakistani scientists appear to have given Iran and North Korea. The officials told the Times that the Pakistani government might not have known about the transfer. USA Today leads with the Army's plan to overhaul basic training in an effort to better prepare GIs for Iraq. Among other changes, soldiers will be drilled in urban combat.

About 100 airports along with a few seaports have begun using the fingerprint and photo system, which cross-references passengers' names with counter-terrorism and criminal-watch lists. Visitors from 27 countries, including most European countries, are largely exempt. Travelers interviewed by the papers said that the checks took just a few seconds.

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As a WP editorial emphasizes, the government doesn't yet a have similar system in place for land border crossings or for people leaving the country.

"When soldiers arrive in Baghdad and get off the planes and into Humvees, they are immediately thrust into combat operations," said one training officer, summarizing the point of the revised basic training. "They have to go in with a mind-set that they will engage and kill the enemy on their first day in country." In a Page One feature, the Wall Street Journal notices that the Marines are taking a different approach, training Iraq-bound troops to "ask questions first and shoot later." Or as one sergeant put it recently to some grunts, "What are you taught in boot camp? Kick ass and kill. That aggressiveness is not going to win in Iraq."

Citing "rights advocates, opposition politicians and analysts" the WP reports on Page One that Egypt's human rights record stinks. For those who haven't noticed, Egypt features an authoritarian government with a "powerful state security apparatus that operates under far-reaching emergency laws and often deals brutally with opponents." The Post adds that despite President Bush's recent speech urging on democratic reform in the Arab world and Egypt specifically, critics complain that the nearly $2 billion in U.S. aid to Egypt "props up authoritarian rule" (as the article's subhead puts it). American help slated to go to pro-democracy groups first has to be cleared with the Egyptian government, which often rejects the funding.

The NYT and WP both mention inside that, with the administration softening various environmental rules, three top EPA enforcement officials have quit in the past two weeks. "The rug was pulled out from under us," one of the recently departed figures told the Times. "You look around and say, 'What contribution can I continue to make here?' and it was limited." The Post's piece lacks any spicy quotes, instead emphasizing that the latest EPA official to leave said he's only quitting because he was offered "a great job opportunity."

A NYT investigation concludes that agricultural giant Monsanto may have conspired with another company to fix the price of genetically altered seeds. Monsanto denies the charges but some Monsanto rivals said the company also tried to get them in on the apparent fixing. The Times says its "unclear" whether the Justice Department is investigating.

The papers front Pete Rose's admission that, contrary to his previous denials, he did gamble on Reds games in which he was the manager, though he says he never bet against the team. Rose made the acknowledgment in an autobiography he's hawking and as part of a bid to be allowed back in baseball. Good luck: "I'm sure that I'm supposed to act all sorry or sad or guilty now that I've accepted that I've done something wrong," Rose writes. "But you see, I'm just not built that way. So let's leave it this like this: I'm sorry it happened and I'm sorry for all the people, fans and family it hurt. Let's move on."

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