Friday, October 07, 2005


Slate-Papers: Ten Plotz - Oct. 7

By Eric Umansky - Posted Friday, Oct. 7, 2005, at 3:15 AM CT

The New York Times leads with and others reefer New York Mayor Bloomberg (seen below left, speaking to another subway rider), disclosing the government has what he termed "specific" -- but uncorroborated -- intel of plans for a series of bombings in the city's subways. Bloomberg has Bloomberg, left, speaking to another subway ridersent hundreds of extra cops to patrol, but as everybody mentions, the Department of Homeland Security -- which gave New York word of the threat --played it down. A DHS spokesman called the intel -- which was somehow picked up on a raid of a jihadi hideout near Baghdad -- "of doubtful credibility." As the NYT notices, while an FBI official stood with Bloomberg as he announced the threat, no official from DHS was there. The Los Angeles Times, Wall Street Journal world-wide newsbox, and Washington Post all lead with President Bush's speech yesterday on the fight against jihadism. The Post, interestingly, headlines the president's claim that the U.S. has disrupted 10 al-Qaida plots since 9/11. That includes, aides later said, two separate plans to hijack airliners in the U.S. One plot was purportedly scheduled for 2002 and the other for 2003. USA Today leads with and the LAT fronts a study concluding that an experimental vaccine against cervical cancer was incredibly effective. None of the roughly 6,000 women who received the vaccine showed precancerous growths; 21 of the women who received placebo injections did. The vaccine could hit the market next year.

The NYT has a good backgrounder on the government's response the subway threat: New York City officials were first briefed Monday but the feds only gave them clearance to go public yesterday after, says the Times, two suspects connected to the intel were rolled up in Iraq.

The White House didn't offer many details on the ten disrupted terrorist "plots." In fact, at first it didn't offer any. The Post: "After scrambling all day and debating how much could be disclosed in response to media inquiries, the White House produced a list last night." The LAT cites "senior law enforcement officials" who "said authorities have not disrupted any operational terrorist plot within the United States" since 9/11. The Post, which has the least rigorous take on the president's count, says the speech had originally been planned for the fourth anniversary of 9/11 but was delayed by Katrina.

The Journal has a Page One feature on increasing evidence that jihadists in Iraq are beginning to "bleed out into the neighboring region." Remember the recent rocket attack that narrowly missed two U.S. Navy ships in Jordan? The men who reportedly fired the rockets were basically on weekend pass from Iraq. Everybody mentions that 17 Iraqis were killed in assorted attacks around Baghdad and one GI was killed by a roadside bomb.

The LAT and NYT front the prosecutor in the CIA leak case calling in presidential right-hand man Karl Rove (below right) to testify again just as the grand jury's term is drawing to a close. Which means ... nobody is sure what except that it's nothing good for Rove. To wit: The prosecutor, said Rove's lawyer, had "made no decision on whether to charge Karl."

Karl RoveThe NYT adds that the prosecutor also "indicated" he wants to chat again with the Times' Judy Miller about her talks with the vice president's chief of staff, Scooter Libby. Meanwhile the Journal mentions that Libby's lawyer, who was a chatty-Kathy last week, "said he wasn't accepting calls from reporters this week."

As for why the NYT has yet to publish a piece digging into Miller's involvement, the Times offer this:

Bill Keller, the executive editor of The Times, said Ms. Miller had been cautioned by her lawyers not to discuss the substance of her grand jury testimony until Mr. Fitzgerald finished questioning her...."This development may slow things down a little, but we owe our readers as full a story as we can tell, as soon as we can tell it," said Keller.

Everybody mentions that FEMA's decision rushed contracts signed right after Katrina will be reopened. "All of those no-bid contracts, we are going to go back and rebid," said the agency's acting director. The papers value the contracts variously at $1.5 billion and $400 million. The uncertainty about the total isn't surprising, since as the Post explains up high, the rebid announcement wasn't really one. Instead, FEMA's director made the comment in response to a question during congressional hearings and an FEMA spokesman then scrambled to add meat to it. A related context question: How much did FEMA award in total to Katrina no-bid contracts?

The Post's FEMA piece focuses on the bipartisan grilling administration officials faced in Katrina hearings. Buried inside it is a mention that the "administration has blocked legislation that would temporarily expand Medicaid eligibility rules". One Republican senator advised Treasury Secretary Snow, "Tell the White House to back off our bill. There are people hurting down there, and we want to get them help."

The NYT piece on the rebidding mentions what seems like it should be news in its own right: The House approved the Department of Homeland Security's budget, which includes a cut to FEMA's baseline budget.

USAT fronts an in-house analysis showing that most nursing homes have been cited for some form of fire code violations but with weak federal and state regulations only a tiny fraction of homes are ever fined. Moreover, Congress has declined to mandate that all nursing homes have fire sprinklers. The nursing industry argues that installing them would cost too much. The industry has also donated $11 million to congressional campaigns since 1999.

The NYT goes above-the-fold with a key Republican senator waxing less than enthusiastic about the nomination of Harriet Miers. Senator Sam Brownback (below left, with Miers), who's on the judiciary committee, met with Miers yesterday. "No promises were made either way," said Brownback. Asked whether he Brownback, left, with Mierswas impressed, Brownback responded, "
She's a very decent lady." The Post's Charles Krauthammer has a slightly blunter take: "WITHDRAW THIS NOMINEE."

Eric Umansky (www.ericumansky.com) writes "Today's Papers" for Slate. He can be reached at todayspapers@slate.com. Source: Slate Magazine.

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