The Washington Postand the Los Angeles Times lead with President George Bush's comments on North Korea's purported nuclear test at a press conference yesterday. Bush stressed the importance of further negotiations with the North Koreans, while simultaneously ruling out one-on-one talks with Kim Jong-il's regime. Though the president sounded a calm note overall, the Wall Street Journalreports atop its world-wide newsbox that he also vowed to protect America's Asian allies, saying he "reserves all options" to deal with the crisis. USA Today leads with a sharp increase in violence in Baghdad, mostly because of killings by sectarian death squads. The New York Timesgoes huge—four columns—with the crash of a small plane into an Upper East Side apartment building yesterday afternoon, an accident that claimed the life of New York Yankees pitcher Cory Lidle and his flying instructor.
Bush "appeared to go out of his way to avoid inflammatory language" when asked about North Korea, the LAT says, noting that the president used the words "diplomacy" or "diplomatically" 18 times in the course of an hourlong question-and-answer session. The U.S. is continuing to push for U.N. sanctions against the rogue state, but the WSJ says it could be months before all the details are sorted out, a conclusion Bush seemed to support when he called for patience. "It's a difficult process because everybody's interests aren't exactly the same," he said. "It takes awhile to get people on the same page, and it takes a while for people to get used to consequences."
Adding to the somewhat bizarro-world atmosphere, outgoing U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan yesterday urged Bush to enter into one-on-one talks with Kim Jong-il, while the president argued for sticking with a more multilateral approach. Bush's rhetoric notwithstanding, the WP makes it clear in an inside piece that the U.S. has in the past been willing to negotiate with North Korea directly. But it seems that Bush is resisting direct talks now, as he has for years, because they are exactly the outcome Kim wants (as the NYT points out in this news analysis), and so initiating them would be tantamount to rewarding North Korea for its nuclear test.
North Korea continued to ratchet up its rhetoric yesterday, saying it would consider any U.S. effort to impose sanctions "a declaration of war." Analysts discounted the possibility that the North might launch an attack now or in the future. "It's not going to commit suicide by attacking South Korea or Japan with nuclear bombs. It knows it will lose," an expert tells the NYT.
Meanwhile, back in Iraq, a military spokesman tells USAT that violence in Baghdad has reached an "all-time high," even though the U.S. military has moved more troops to the city to combat the unrest. The story's numbers are sobering and worth quoting in full: "Death squads killed 1,450 people in September, up from 450 in February, according to U.S. military statistics. In the first 10 days of October, death squads have killed about 770 Iraqis."
At his press conference, reporters asked Bush about recent comments by Republican elders like Sen. John Warner of Virginia and James Baker, his father's former Secretary of State, that suggest that the war in Iraq is not going so well. Bush defended his administration's "stay the course" strategy, but said his methods for fighting the war are flexible. "My attitude is, 'Don't do what you're doing if it's not working; change,'" Bush said, according to the WP. The president also disputed a controversial new epidemiological study that suggests more than 600,000 Iraqis have lost their lives to war-related violence, saying, "I don't consider it a credible report."
Yesterday's events at the White House were considerably overshadowed by the plane crash in Manhattan, which merits extensive coverage all around. The incident sent a shudder through the city yesterday, as New Yorkers initially "worried that they had witnessed another terrorist attack," the NYT says. Within a very short period of time, however, it became clear that the crash was just a freakish accident. A relatively inexperienced flyer, Lidle took off from a New Jersey airport in his small private plane, never flying higher than 800 feet. His flight path took him up the East River, a "treacherous, narrow corridor" near LaGuardia Airport that even skilled private pilots try to avoid. There are many conflicting reports about the plane's movements before it collided with a 42-story luxury apartment building. It is possible that the flight instructor was at the controls at the time. In all, Lidle's final flight lasted 12 minutes.
Lidle's name had been in the New York newspapers a great deal already this week. He gave up three crucial runs in the Yankees' final playoff game, and then gave an interview in which he criticized his teammates for their lack of playoff preparation. A scrappy, outspoken player—he publicly attacked Barry Bonds for his alleged steroid use—Lidle was also unpopular with some of his teammates because he crossed a picket line to play as a replacement player during the 1995 baseball strike. He loved to talk about flying in his airplane, a NYT profile says. The WP's Thomas Boswell files a fine column from Shea Stadium, where, he writes, "the sadness of a pointless tragedy competed with what seemed like an endless stream of tasteless jokes about the Yankees upstaging the Mets again."
The LAT fronts, and everyone else stuffs, news of the United States' first treason indictment in more than 50 years. Adam Yahiye Gadahn, aka "Azzam the American," has appeared in several al-Qaida propaganda videos over the past few years, vowing that American "streets will run red with blood" and so forth. He's thought to be hiding in Pakistan.
The WSJ has a great piece on a Chinese entrepreneur, the country's richest man by one estimate, who must be the world's first solar-energy billionaire.
The NYT and USAT both front news that a study has concluded that several medications primary intended to treat schizophrenia have little or no positive effect on patients suffering from delusions caused by Alzheimer's. It's been a bad few weeks for these expensive new antipsychotic medications: Another study found recently that many of them also don't fight schizophrenia any better than older, inexpensive drugs.
The NYT off-leads a story on the foundering re-election campaign of Ohio Rep. Deborah Pryce's, the fourth-ranking Republican in the House. Pryce's opponent has been attacking her for referring to disgraced ex-Rep. Mark Foley as a "friend." Pryce, in an unusual turnabout, is accusing the Democrat of homophobia.
The LAT has a feature on t hat most thankless of campaign positions, the "tracker." The tracker's job description involves going to an opponent's public appearances with a video camera and waiting for him to slip up and say something stupid. The one the LAT profiles is following around Montana Republican Sen. Conrad Burns, so there's lots of material to work with.
Finally, the NYT has a profile of a Stanford graduate student who made a fortune off an early stake in PayPal, went back to school, and became one of the founders of YouTube, which sold to Google this week for $1.65 billion in stock. Now even more unfathomably rich, he says he's going to stick it out in school. He is 27.