Thursday, July 14, 2005


Slate-Papers: Number Five Alive? - July 14

By Eric Umansky - Posted Thursday, at 4:08 AM CT

Relying on an "American official," the New York Times says police have ID'd a possible "ringleader" in the London bombings. The reportedly non-Anglo, non-Pakistani British citizen was caught on video with the four attackers as they boarded a commuter train to London. Newsday has a similar report: "They know who No. 5 is," a "U.S. official" told the paper. But Newsday cautions, "British authorities do not believe he was the mastermind of the plot." The Times (of London) has perhaps the most details, saying the man is in fact a Pakistani-Brit. Los Angeles Times leads with SEC filings showing that two Schwarzeneggerdays before Gov. Schwarzenegger (right) was sworn in, he signed onto a nebulous $8 million consulting gig with a publisher of bodybuilding magazines, the kind that carry copious ads for nutritional supplements. Last year, Schwarzenegger--or "Mr. S" as the contract refers to him--vetoed legislation that would have regulated such supplements.

USA Today leads with the government about to start testing an anti-missile defense for civilian airliners. The laser system--which would divert the missiles not shoot them down--is only being tried on three out-of-service planes. It would take years before most airliners could be equipped and some experts aren't convinced it'd be worth the multi-billion cost. The Washington Post leads with the White House's already sneak-peeked announcement that this fiscal year's budget deficit is nearly $100 billion less than projected. "Don't be deceived," said the U.S.'s comptroller. "We face large and growing structural deficits in the long term that are getting worse every day."

The WSJ goes high with an in-house poll showing President Bush's approval rating down to 46 percent. And for the first time a plurality gave the president a thumbs down on "being honest and straightforward"--and that was before the Rove uproar. (See question 13.) A solid majority--57 percent--said the U.S. should stick around in Iraq until things there get better.

The LAT seems to have the most morsels on the London investigation. The paper says a few of the bombers traveled widely, from Saudi Arabia (on a Hajj) to Pakistan and perhaps Afghanistan. The Times also says investigators believe one of the bombers had "links" to some al Qaeda-connected British-Pakistani jihadists who were reportedly caught last year building a big bomb meant for London. (A source told the British Independent that the connection between the 7/7 bomber and the thwarted jihadists was "very detached.")

Citing "several American law enforcement officials," NYT names the suspected fourth bomber: a Jamaican-born British resident named Lindsey Germaine.

The NYT and WSJ profile the attackers, who grew up in a poor part of Leeds but weren't exactly pictures of the oppressed. One of them was particularly popular; his father had recently bought him a used Mercedes.

The Post notices on Page One that abuses meted out to one Gitmo prisoner, and detailed by a newly released investigation, bear a certain resemblance to what was recorded by the Abu Ghraib photos. Remember the women's underwear and the leash? He faced both treatments, among others. SecDef Rumsfeld approved the techniques for that one detainee, who was alleged to be the "20th hijacker." The then commander of Gitmo, Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller, later oversaw operations at Abu Ghraib. Rumsfeld, below left, is shown with Gen. Miller in a Baghdad file photo of May 13, 2004.

Rumsfeld with MillerThe other papers cover the above investigation but nobody else makes the connection. The NYT's bizarro take: "REPORT DISCREDITS F.B.I. CLAIMS OF ABUSE AT GUANTÁNAMO BAY." (TP would be happy to hear from a Times editor explaining how the report outright discredits the F.B.I. claims.)

The LAT and NYT front yesterday's suicide car bombing in Baghdad that killed 27, mostly children. One GI was also killed and 50 people were wounded. GIs had been handing out candy to kids--in a largely Shiite neighborhood--when the bomber plowed into the crowd. "I swear to God," said one mother, "if my son dies, I will drink from Zarqawi's blood."

Meanwhile, the papers mention that another dozen Sunni Muslim men were found dead after being arrested by Iraqi police over the weekend. The NYT mentions the usual signs of torture. "Now, when anyone is arrested, his family expects him dead within a few days," one moderate Sunni leader told the Post.

The NYT fronts Iraq's Interior Ministry telling the paper that 8,175 civilians have been killed in insurgent attacks between August and May. As the story acknowledges, the number is less-than rock-solid. It's not broken down by month nor would the ministry give any other details behind it. As the Times notes, last month the interior minister guesstimated that insurgents have killed 12,000 civilians in total. The NYT takes two figures, does some GIGO-style math, and headlines: "DATA SHOWS FASTER-RISING DEATH TOLL AMONG IRAQI CIVILIANS." The "data" don't "show" that--the paper is making an educated guess. It may the right one but that doesn't make the headline accurate.

Everybody at least teases on Page One NASA scrubbing yesterday's launch of the Shuttle Discovery due to a malfunctioning fuel sensor. Officials said they won't try again until Saturday, at the earliest.

EbbersThe papers all front WorldCom founder Bernie Ebbers (right, with wife Kristie) being sentenced to 25 years for being what the judge described as "the instigator" in the $11 billion fraud that brought down the company. Ebbers is appealing the verdict and hoping to stay free in the meantime. He is 63 and currently scheduled to head downriver in October.

Good Point; why didn't it hit the news pages? ... A NYT editorial begins:

This was a sad week for the war on terror. The Senate voted, disgracefully, to shift homeland security money from high-risk areas to low-risk ones--a step that is likely to mean less money to defend New York and California against terrorism and more for states like Wyoming. Before the vote, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff made a powerful appeal to the senators to distribute the money based on risk.


But the Senate, led by Susan Collins, a Maine Republican, left, and other small-state representatives, put political pork ahead of national security. It now falls to the House to fight for a financing formula that will keep the nation safe.

Eric Umansky writes "Today's Papers" for Slate. He can be reached at todayspapers@slate.com.

Source: Slate magazine's Today's Papers column.

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