Damascusgate

Damascusgate

Damascusgate

A summary of what's in the major U.S. newspapers.
Oct. 22 2005 5:27 AM

Damascusgate

The Washington Post and the New York Times lead with, and the Wall Street Journal tops its world-wide newsbox with the mounting pressure on Syria. The Los Angeles Times leads with news that investigators have determined that levees in New Orleans failed due to flaws in their design, construction, and maintenance.

When the U.N. issued a report implicating high-ranking Syrian officials in the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri, it provoked what the WP called "a reaction seldom seen in the Middle East." The entire report was read on al-Jazeera, and Lebanese protestors called for their pro-Syrian president to step down, chanting, "There is no god but God, and Syria is the enemy of God." Syrian officials condemned the report, calling it "mere talk." But President Bush found it "deeply disturbing" and said the world should "respond accordingly." He and Condoleezza Rice called for a response from the U.N. Security Council, but the NYT reports that they were "careful not to recommend any specific possible actions." The WSJ suggests the possibility of "a drive for international sanctions."

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Investigators have found that the New Orleans levees had "flaws at almost every level in the conception, design, construction and maintenance," which caused them to fail during Hurricane Katrina, reports the LAT. Among the factors contributing to the breaches: weak soil conditions; lax maintenance practices, which may have allowed the levees to be weakened by burrowing rodents and falling trees; and aboveground drainage canals that investigators say "are inviting the enemy into the city's backyard." Investigators said the levees were "weak and unsafe" partly because of inadequate safety margins in their construction. Whereas most public-safety structures are designed to last 10,000 years, the levees were designed to last 50 or 100.

The WP reports that Americans are stockpiling the prescription antiviral medicine Tamiflu in preparation for the possibility of an influenza pandemic. Physicians are worried that home stockpiling could undermine international efforts to avert a pandemic, since it would mean less Tamiflu available when it is needed. As one doctor put it, "If there is an outbreak, we're going to have to rely on the CDC and state governments to put those drugs where we need them. And I don't want them in people's bathrooms." Research suggests that some strains of H5N1, the virus most likely to cause a pandemic, may be resistant to conventional doses anyway.

The LAT fronts news that legal experts are saying that Harriet Miers is guilty of a "terrible" and "shocking" misuse of terms in her answers to a Senate questionnaire about constitutional issues she had worked on. In one response, she said that the Dallas City Council had to "comply with the proportional representation requirement of the Equal Protection clause." But Miers misunderstands "equal protection," say the experts, since, "There is no proportional representation requirement under the Equal Protection clause." The White House says she was referring to the "one person, one vote" rule, in which case, the scholars say, she misused the phrase "proportional representation." Either way, they are surprised the White House didn't fact-check Miers' work before forwarding it to the Senate.

Both the WP and the NYT report on a memo from NYT Executive Editor Bill Keller to his staff. The WP runs the headline, "A Split Between The Times & Miller" and emphasizes that Bill Keller accused Judith Miller of misleading the newspaper's Washington bureau chief. In covering itself, the NYT runs the headline "Times Editor Expresses Regrets Over Handling of Leak Case," noting that Keller wished he had "sat her down for a thorough debriefing." Miller misled the Times, Keller said, in her response when she was asked if she was one of the Washington journalists told that Valerie Plame worked for the CIA. The WP calls the memo "the first public split between Miller and the management."

The NYT fronts a report on the execution-style murder of a defense attorney in Saddam Hussein's trial. The man was seized and shot in Baghdad after live TV coverage showed him presenting arguments in favor of a Hussein associate. The death raises doubts about whether a fair trial is possible. American and Iraqi officials scrambled to plan how to protect other lawyers and judges in the case.

There is crying in baseball … The WSJ fronts a report on "Vintage Base Ball." Aficionados play the sport as it was before such corrupting influences as catchers' masks, helmets, and padded mitts. It's not pretty: Fingers get "permanently crooked," players can't fit their wedding rings back on, and the game is punctuated by "the audible smack of a baseball on human flesh." But enthusiasts say it's worth it to play baseball the way it was originally meant to be played, back when players got so battered that shaking their hands was like "grabbing a bag of peanuts."