Dispatches > The Buzz

Top News

The five top news stories as measured by coverage in The Washington Post, USA Today, and NBC Nightly News over a one-week period from March 20-26

Issue: "The $10 billion gamble," April 6, 2002
Scoring system:5 points for news stories appearing on the front page of The Washington Post, 3 for stories on the next two pages of the "A" section, and 1 thereafter. Same formula for USA Today, except the values are doubled to account for its national circulation. Stories carried on NBC Nightly News receive 10 points if they run before the first ad break, 6 between the first and second break, and 2 thereafter. Anchor-read stories earn 2 points early, 1 point late.
1
Mideast strife (140 points)
In between Palestinian suicide-bomber attacks, Vice President Cheney suggested an openness to meet with PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat if he and his followers would renounce violence, but continued bombings overtook the peace talk. TeamBush also pressed Ariel Sharon's government to allow Mr. Arafat to leave his captivity in the West Bank city of Ramallah to travel to the Arab League summit in Beirut. (When Mr. Sharon asked Washington for the right to refuse re-entry, Mr. Arafat decided not to attend.) It wasn't all conciliation from Washington. The State Department labeled the Palestinian al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades a terrorist group and ordered its assets frozen, marking the first time the Bush administration has taken such action against an organization linked to Mr. Arafat.
2
The war on terror (114 points)
CIA Director George Tenet told Congress that the threat from al-Qaeda forces remains strong. Despite the ouster of the Taliban from Afghanistan last year, the return of warmer weather this spring will increase the likelihood of guerilla attacks against U.S. personnel. In the broader war on terrorism, TeamBush continues to forecast al-Qaeda will continue planning attacks. Although there have been 1,300 arrests in 70 countries of "extremists believed to be associated with al-Qaeda," Mr. Tenet warned the network "has not been destroyed." Meanwhile, defense specialists are finding the war to be an invaluable laboratory to test new military technologies, like the thermobaric bomb, which causes great shock waves, causing caves holding the enemy to collapse.
3
Catholics in crisis (93 points)
In a statement on the erupting American scandal over child sexual abuse by priests, Pope John Paul II lamented priests "who have betrayed the grace of ordination" with inappropriate sexual activity. "Grave scandal is caused, with the result that a dark shadow of suspicion is cast over all the other fine priests who perform their ministry with honesty and integrity and often with heroic self-sacrifice." Activists inside and outside the church are using the controversy to press for an end to celibacy for priests and opening the priesthood to women. Bishop Wilton D. Gregory, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, is scheduled to discuss the issue at the Vatican next month. The bishops' conference also has placed the issue on the agenda for its next full meeting in June.
4
Homeland security (82 points)
Screeners at 32 U.S. airports failed to detect hundreds of knives, guns, and simulated explosives as they passed through security checkpoints in tests by the inspector general's office at the Department of Transportation. One congressman complained that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission does not know how many foreign nationals are employed at nuclear reactors and does not require adequate background checks of potential employees. Some issues were more political. The White House resisted congressional demands that Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge offer sworn public testimony. The White House insists Mr. Ridge attended more than 35 meetings on Capitol Hill since joining TeamBush in October, but Sen. Robert Byrd wants Mr. Ridge to justify $38 billion for homeland security spending.
5
Military tribunals (35 points)
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld unveiled a complicated set of military tribunal regulations that are more advantageous to al-Qaeda and Taliban defendants than guidelines President Bush issued last November. The new rules would give defendants the right to see evidence against them, unless it is classified, and they will be provided military counsel. Some officials insist there may be little use for the offshore tribunals since the vast majority of prisoners being held at the U.S. naval base in Guantanamo are low-ranking foot soldiers, not more culpable senior officials. Human-rights activists continued to protest the possibility of unlimited detention without trial for some detainees, but the new guidelines were praised by congressional leaders of both political parties as an improvement.

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