Top News

This Week | The Top 5 news stories as measured by coverage in The Washington Post, USA Today, and NBC Nightly News from April 16 to 23

Issue: "The trouble with Tommy," May 4, 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.
War on terror
152 points | The Qatar-based news network Al-Jazeera aired another videotape of Osama bin Laden and his deputy, Ayman al-Zawahri, kneeling side by side. Only Mr. al-Zawahri spoke, calling the terrorist attacks on America "a great victory." In another segment, one of the 9/11 hijackers is shown saying in Arabic: "It's time to kill Americans in their heartland." The FBI, after its interrogation of Abu Zubeyda, a top aide to Osama bin Laden captured in Pakistan, warned more than 7,000 banks, credit unions, and brokerage houses in the mid-Atlantic and New England states to be alert for terrorist attacks. FBI officials issued the warning out of "an abundance of caution." Mr. Zubeyda also told federal questioners that al-Qaeda operatives were working to develop a radiation bomb. Such a bomb would not create a nuclear explosion, but it could spread radioactive materials-and panic-over a wide area.
Battles & bombings
133 points | As the military tensions lightened in Israel, the propaganda battles grew hotter, with Israelis insisting that Palestinian talk of large massacres and mass graves at the Palestinian refugee camp in Jenin were false. Palestinians protested that Israeli forces shot up and bulldozed scores of buildings. Israelis insisted that the Palestinians had rigged many buildings with booby traps and bombs. Israel agreed to allow the United Nations to send a fact-finding mission. Israeli tanks departed Ramallah and Nablus, which they entered at the end of March as Prime Minister Ariel Sharon pledged to uproot the "terrorist infrastructure" after a wave of suicide bombings. As armored personnel carriers lumbered out of the cities, Palestinian businessmen claimed Israeli soldiers had stolen from or vandalized their properties. An upcoming donors conference in Oslo will raise money for Palestinian aid and reconstruction.
Mideast mediation
84 points | Secretary of State Colin Powell flew to the Middle East with low expectations of building a new peace in the region, and he came home unsurprised. President Bush pronounced the Powell mission a success, and praised Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon as "a man of peace" after prodding by White House reporters. In the nation's capital, planned protests of an International Monetary Fund meeting mushroomed into a pro-Palestinian rally that drew an estimated 75,000 protesters. While the march drew left-wing Bush critics of all stripes, from the New Black Panthers to Greenpeace, and causes from Third World debt reduction to ending U.S. military aid to Colombia, the main thrust was opposition to American policy in the Middle East. Protesters chanted into megaphones slogans such as "Stop the U.S.-Israeli war," "Death to Israel," and "Sharon and Hitler are the same, the only difference is their name."
Catholics in crisis
53 points | American cardinals headed to the Vatican to meet with Pope John Paul II with the hope of creating a formal national policy to deal with reports of sexual abuse by priests. Before the meeting, the pope told a delegation of Nigerian bishops that "the value of celibacy as a complete gift of self to the Lord and His church must be carefully safeguarded." Cardinal Theodore McCarrick of Washington said he hoped some general guidelines could be adopted immediately for America's 194 dioceses before the U.S. bishops conference meets in June. He said the main five principles should be outreach to victims, immediate reports of allegations to civil authorities, immediate suspension of priests during investigations, psychological evaluation for accused priests, and diocesan review boards of lay people and clergy to screen policies and personnel in each diocese.
Amtrak derailment
49 points | In northern Florida, an Amtrak Auto Train headed for Washington with 452 passengers and crew members derailed in a wooded area, killing four elderly passengers and injuring more than 160 others. The National Transportation Safety Board found "nothing remarkable" when investigating Amtrak's locomotives, passenger cars, and auto-carrying cars. NTSB agents are focused on the tracks, which experienced chronic problems with water drainage in the sandy Florida soil. They're also looking into whether a coal train that passed over the same track six minutes before the wreck might have helped push at least one rail out of alignment. The crash site became a sightseeing attraction as workers using heavy equipment moved the toppled silver cars. The relatively low death toll was credited to the heavy-steel construction of the double-deck Superliner cars, which remained intact despite a massive pounding.

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