Top News

This Week | The Top 5 news stories as measured by coverage in The Washington Post, USA Today, and NBC Nightly News from May 7 to 14

Issue: "Mounting a defense," May 25, 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.

Mideast battles

214 points | As Israel loosened its military pressure on Palestinian militants, a suicide bomber blew up a crowded pool hall with a satchel explosive near Tel Aviv, killing 15 people and wounding more than 50. Despite plans of a broad retaliatory assault toward Palestinian targets in the Gaza Strip, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon postponed any attack. It wasn't an easy political week for Mr. Sharon, as his own Likud Party resolved it would never accept a Palestinian state. Former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu led the campaign to push a harder line. On his first trip out of his Ramallah compound in six months, embattled Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat met with families of those exiled as part of a deal to end the five-week siege at Bethlehem's Church of the Nativity. In addition to Bethlehem and Nablus, Mr. Arafat also traveled to Jenin, but avoided the controversial refugee camp for "security reasons."


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War on terror

73 points | The possibility of a second terrorist attack on American soil is a big concern in the White House and Congress. U.S. intelligence sources say Islamic terrorists are planning an attack against a U.S. nuclear power plant in the Northeast to coincide with July 4th celebrations. The threat, which government officials say they take seriously although it may not be wholly reliable, coincides with other reports indicating two al-Qaeda terrorists are planning an attack inside the United States using radioactive material in a conventional bomb. In Afghanistan, U.S. troops killed five enemy fighters and captured 32 during a raid on a suspected al-Qaeda or Taliban compound about 50 miles west of Kandahar. The captives will be interrogated to see what they know. No Americans were killed or injured. In a separate troop operation, American troops who swept through the hills of eastern Afghanistan searching for the fighters behind rocket attacks on U.S. positions came back empty-handed.


Carter in Cuba

61 points | Former president Jimmy Carter became the first U.S. chief executive since Calvin Coolidge to set foot in Cuba. In a five-day trip, Mr. Carter's itinerary included dining with Cuban dictator Fidel Castro, visiting religious and human-rights groups fighting the communist government's tight grip on civil liberties, and speaking in a televised address to the Cuban people. White House officials say Mr. Carter's visit is an undeserved public-relations coup for Mr. Castro. Mr. Carter toured a biotechnology center and praised Cuba for helping "tens of millions of people around the world" with their research. He also complained about remarks by Undersecretary of State John Bolton at Washington's Heritage Foundation that alleged that Cuba has at least a limited biological warfare program and that it shares technology with "other rogue states" for weapons manufacturing. The former president said in pre-travel briefings with diplomats and intelligence officials that "there were absolutely no such allegations made or questions raised."


Midwest bombs

55 points | Friends and family members expressed shock when 21-year-old college student Luke Helder was arrested in connection with a rash of 18 pipe bombs planted in rural mailboxes in five states. (His father notified the FBI after reading death threats and anti-government comments in recent letters.) The U.S. attorney in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, charged the young man with using an explosive to maliciously destroy property affecting interstate commerce, as well as using a destructive device to commit a crime of violence, charges that could send him to prison for life. Luke Helder told one Nevada officer that he was trying to create a smiley face with his bomb placements, with the two eyes being the first bombs planted in Illinois and Iowa, and the smile swerving from Colorado to Texas, where his last bombs were located before his arrest. Copycat incidents were reported in eastern Indiana, Charlottesville, Va., and Spokane, Wash.


Catholics in crisis

53 points | Boston Cardinal Bernard Law testified over three days in a civil lawsuit filed by 85 alleged victims of priest John Geoghan. Cardinal Law declared under oath that he did not recall seeing letters warning him about the suspected pedophile priest, and said he was sure he would have relied on the advice of doctors and subordinates in assigning him to a new parish. No transcripts of the testimony were released, since the cardinal has been given 30 days to review them before they can become public. The Washington Post reported that in a 1997 videotape New York Cardinal Edward Egan-then in charge of the Bridgeport, Conn., diocese-testified that diocesan priests were "self-employed" and not the bishop's responsibility. He also said he would not summarily suspend a priest suspected of abusing his post. Cardinal Egan has recently written several pastoral letters adopting a zero-tolerance policy toward priests accused of sexual abuse.


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