Notes from the Underground

Notes from the Underground

Notes from the Underground

A summary of what's in the major U.S. newspapers.
July 9 2005 6:05 AM

Notes from the Underground

The New York Times and Los Angeles Timeslead with new details in the investigation of the London bombings. The Washington Postfronts bombing details but leads with the results of the G8 summit.

Initial estimates put the London death toll at 37, but police have since revised the estimate to 49. Emergency crews struggled to get to the explosion site at King's Cross to extract the dead; they were impeded by a partly collapsed tunnel, heat, fumes, asbestos, and rats. One police officer told the Evening Standard, "I don't know what heaven looks like, but I have just seen hell."

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Everyone agrees that the bombs were evidently left on the floors of the trains, going off 100 to 150 yards down the tracks from the stations, triggered either by timers or cell phones. The NYT points out that the attacks were more amateurish than Madrid's train bombings, and the death toll might have been far higher had they been carried out by experts. The four bombs were "crude" devices, each containing less than 10 pounds of high explosive, an amount small enough to fit in a backpack. (By comparison, the Madrid bombs, which killed 191, were about 22 pounds each.) Previous speculation that the bus explosion was the work of a suicide bomber seems to have given way to the theory that the bomber was merely incompetent, detonating the device by accident en route to the intended target. Witnesses said they saw an agitated young man rifling through his bag just before the blast.

The NYT reports that the "most active theory" is that the bombings were planned and executed by a U.K.-based sleeper cell, rather than terrorists who came to Britain to carry out the bombings. Everyone reports that police hope to get images of the bombers from surveillance footage.

The NYT notes that British leaders, including the police commissioner and the queen, urged resolve, evoking "Britain's bulldog wartime spirit, when Londoners grew accustomed to German bombing and confronted it with gritty humor." People laid flowers near the bombing sites and placed missing posters outside subway stations. Hundreds of extra police officers patrolled the streets, flags flew at half-staff, and commuters hesitated to enter the subways.

British sentiment increasingly blames the attacks on Tony Blair's support for Bush, the Iraq war, and the war on terror. British Muslims pledged their help in identifying the terrorists, but there were sporadic hate-motivated attacks against Muslims, including the firebombing of a mosque in Leeds and—nobody ever said hate criminals were the sharpest tools in the shed—an attack on a Sikh temple. The LAT notes that police patrolled outside British mosques to prevent further incidents. 

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The WP leads with and the NYT fronts the conclusion of the G8 summit in Scotland, where leaders struck notes of optimism and defiance in the "shadow of terrorism." The meeting addressed poverty in Africa, global warming, and the Israel-Palestine conflict. The eight countries agreed to double their aid to Africa by 2010, but America's commitment merely involved a lumping together of moneys previously pledged. Still, the consensus is that the money will send a positive message to Africa. Meanwhile, President Bush blocked Blair's efforts to establish specific targets for reducing greenhouse gases.

The WP fronts and others stuff the news that Hurricane Dennis buffeted Cuba with 150 mph winds, killing 10 in Cuba and five in Haiti. The storm is now headed for Florida, where thousands of people have evacuated.

In a fun piece of meta-reporting, the NYT fronts news about an op-ed it ran itself two days prior in which a leading cardinal suggested that modern evolutionary theory is incompatible with Catholicism. The op-ed is significant because the Catholic Church has long been thought to have accepted evolution. But this cardinal thinks the Church's position has been "misrepresented" and implied that Pope Benedict was sympathetic to that view.

The WP fronts news that pro-business advocates are preparing for a lobbying offensive aimed at convincing the White House to select a business-friendly nominee for the Supreme Court. Sandra Day O'Connor was seen as a supporter of business interests, even though she was often liberal on social issues. The effort could split the Republican base, with business groups on one side and the religious right on the other.

The LAT fronts and the others stuff news that Roy E. Disney agreed to drop a lawsuit against the Walt Disney Company in exchange for being given the title of director emeritus.

Family Guy … The NYT reports on the upcoming Godfather video game, in which the player, controlling one of the minor characters from the movies, has to "join the family; earn respect; become the Godfather." The game revisits familiar scenes, such as the one in which a film mogul wakes up to discover an au jus horse's head as his bedfellow. The difference is that this time, it's from a henchman's perspective, and "maybe the player helps with the horse." Game developers emphasize that "killing opponents is only sometimes the path to maximizing respect," since, after all, "You can't extort a dead man."