Word of Mouse

Word of Mouse

Word of Mouse

A summary of what's in the major U.S. newspapers.
March 14 2005 7:10 AM

Word of Mouse

The Los Angeles Times leads with Disney's announcement that Robert Iger will succeed Michael Eisner as chief executive. The Washington Post leads with news that China has authorized the use of force to stop Taiwan from moving toward independence. The New York Times and USA Today both lead with aviation stories, the NYT that noncommercial planes are potential terrorist targets, and USAT reporting that airports are pushing for $5 billion to improve luggage screening. The Wall Street Journal tops its world-wide news box with word that Hezbollah may fill a leadership void left by Syria in Lebanon.

Everyone fronts Disney's announcement that its No. 2, Robert Iger, has been named CEO and will succeed Michael Eisner. Iger has been president and COO since 2000 and rose up through the ranks of Disney's network TV business as a studio supervisor and weatherman. Michael Eisner will step down in September, a year earlier than planned. The NYT reports that Disney's board wasn't planning to announce its decision so soon, but called a meeting after eBay CEO Meg Whitman, the only serious outside candidate, bowed out. But the WSJ says that Whitman withdrew only because she felt the board was already set on Iger. The NYT reports that Iger was given credit for Desperate Housewives and Lost, hits that helped reverse ABC's fortunes. But as the WP reports, James B. Stewart's book DisneyWar portrays Iger as opposing those two shows.

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The WP reports that China has passed legislation authorizing the use of force to prevent Taiwanese secession, formalizing its longstanding threat to attack if Taiwan moves toward independence. Taiwanese leaders called the antisecession law a "blank check" to invade and may use the law to rally anti-Beijing sentiment. One of the law's "dangerous ambiguities" is that it fails to define formal independence. After all, Taiwan has governed itself, held elections, and conducted diplomacy with foreign countries for the past 50 years.

The NYT obtains and summarizes an internal report by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Department of Homeland Security that concludes that noncommercial planes and helicopters are vulnerable to terrorist hijacking. A majority of domestic security spending since 9/11 has gone to upgrading aviation security, but noncommercial planes are often stored at small airports with little or no security. Planes are "tempting" targets for terrorism because they lend themselves to "spectacular" attacks; terrorists like helicopters because of their "nonthreatening appearance," even when skimming over cities. The planes could be used for "suicide attacks on landmarks" or to "spray toxins."

The WSJ reports that if Syrian troops withdraw from Lebanon as promised, Hezbollah could become a political focus  (subscription required). Taking great care not to imply that Syria actually will withdraw, the paper reports that Hezbollah has become popular in Lebanon by providing social services and attacking Israel. The group recently flexed its political muscle by staging a pro-Syria, anti-U.S. rally, and may play a more central role as Lebanon determines how much influence Syria will have in its politics.

USAT leads with news that airports are asking the federal government for $5 billion for a new bag-screening system to better detect bombs and speed up passenger lines. The new system would save billions by using conveyer belts, rather than people, to carry bags to bomb detectors. The Bush administration agrees that the new system is cheaper, more reliable, and more effective, but says airports should pay for it themselves.

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The LAT highlights a disturbing trend among U.S. soldiers in Iraq: making music videos using amateur war footage. American soldiers are creating "fast-paced, MTV-style music videos" using footage of firefights and killings. Some videos are meant to be funny or patriotic, but most are gory. "This isn't some jolly freakin' peacekeeping mission," explained one soldier.

USAT fronts the results of a study that shows that pollution from other countries is canceling out efforts to improve U.S. air quality. The U.S. is cutting emissions, but China and other countries are increasing theirs, resulting in an unwelcome import. "Mercury from China, dust from Africa, smog from Mexico"—all find their way into the U.S., oblivious to political boundaries.

In yet another front about Tom DeLay's ethics, the WP reports that Republicans are starting to worry. Although they don't agree with the charges about his overseas travel and ties to lobbyists, Republicans are losing hope that DeLay can survive politically. "The situation is negatively fluid," said one consultant. "If death comes from a thousand cuts, Tom DeLay is into a couple hundred."

The WP fronts news that the battle over teaching evolution is intensifying, propelled by "a polished strategy crafted by activists on America's political right." Emboldened by President Bush, who has said he believes the jury is still out on evolution, policymakers in 19 states are weighing proposals that question evolution. Most of the proposals don't explicitly mention the Bible, but they do propose teaching "intelligent design," which states that life on earth is so complex that it could only have been designed by an intelligent agent.

Tigers playing poker … The NYT reports "a gambling revolution on the nation's college campuses." Fired up from ESPN, students are playing poker on campus, in casinos, and online. One Princeton student is rolling so high that he's not bothering to study for exams or apply for jobs. "My parents said I should do something useful, and I made $10,000," he said. "I thought that was pretty useful."