Top News

This Week | The Top 5 news stories as measured by coverage in The Washington Post, USA Today, and NBC Nightly News over a one-week period from May 21 to 28

Issue: "The Marriage Amendment," June 8, 2002

1. September 11

120 points As Democrats began backing away from suggesting that President Bush deserved blame for failing to prevent the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, Washington began to focus on failures within the Federal Bureau of Investigation. In a controversial letter to FBI director Robert Mueller, the FBI's chief lawyer in Minneapolis, Coleen Rowley, argued that the bureau might have been able to stop some of the 9/11 hijackers if it had more aggressively pursued an investigation of alleged conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui, who was in custody more than three weeks before the attacks. The nation marked its first Memorial Day since the attacks with a celebration of the courage of fallen New York City policemen and firefighters, as well as soldiers lost in the war in Afghanistan. The PBS telecast of the National Symphony Orchestra's concert on the west lawn of the Capitol featured moving testimony to fallen heroes.

2. Pakistan and India

89 points Tensions between the two newest nuclear powers grew as Islamic militants from Pakistan filtered into the Indian-controlled sections of the province of Kashmir. Pakistan's president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, declared the incursions had stopped, but said India had used massive border deployments and military threats "to destabilize me, my government, and Pakistan." The two countries have stationed a million troops along their 1,800-mile border. Days later, Gen. Musharraf added that while Pakistan isn't allowing Islamic infiltration, he supports Kashmir's struggle against Indian control, and called those battling India "freedom fighters." Worries grew after Pakistan conducted weekend tests on a ballistic missile capable of carrying either a conventional or nuclear warhead. President Bush and other world leaders have used diplomatic pressure to try to defuse confrontation. Since both countries gained independence from Britain in 1947, India and Pakistan have fought three wars, two of them over Kashmir.

3. Chandra Levy

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84 points After months of pessimism on a cold missing-persons case, a man walking his dog in a wooded area of Washington's Rock Creek Park found a human skull. The D.C. medical examiner's office was able to identify that and other bones as the remains of 24-year-old missing intern Chandra Levy. They also determined that the death was a homicide. D.C. police admitted their standard searching patterns, to scour as far as 100 yards from public areas like paths and picnic areas, did not include the spot where the body was found. The missing intern's parents, Robert and Susan Levy, were recording an episode of the Oprah Winfrey show when the news began erupting. "It is news that I hoped I would never have to share," said Levy family lawyer Billy Martin. The new discoveries may change the way police approach Congressman Gary Condit, who was slow to tell police he and Ms. Levy were romantically involved.

4. Homeland Security

67 points John Magaw, director of the new Transportation Security Agency, rejected the demands of thousands of pilots who petitioned for the right to keep firearms in the cockpit. Members of Congress immediately vowed to fight the agency's decision. Mr. Magaw told the Senate it's more important for pilots to focus on flying the plane, and said he is still considering proposals to let pilots and crew members carry nonlethal weapons such as stun guns or collapsible metal batons. Based on recent information the FBI received about potential threats to national landmarks, the government installed a new surveillance system just before the Memorial Day weekend at the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. Using facial-recognition technology, the system takes pictures of visitors and compares them with a federal database of terror suspects. While tourists expressed support, the American Civil Liberties Union called it an "insult to the American people."

5. War on Terror

64 points Plans for the next anticipated stage of the war on terror, a war on Saddam Hussein's regime in Iraq, began to evaporate. The Joint Chiefs of Staff believe they persuaded the Pentagon's civilian leaders to delay an invasion until next year at the earliest and perhaps not do it at all. The head of the war's Central Command, Gen. Tommy Franks, told President Bush that invading Iraq and ousting Saddam would require at least 200,000 troops, far more than other experts have estimated. In Europe, President Bush said he told German Chancellor Gerhard Schroder, "I have no war plans on my desk." Coalition forces in Afghanistan raided a suspected Taliban leadership compound 50 miles west of Kandahar, killing one, wounding two, and taking 57 others into custody. The three casualties opened fire on coalition forces. Military officials had trouble determining the identities of their new captives, but confirmed that large amounts of money and weapons were seized in the raid.

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.


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