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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 July 31 to Aug. 6

Issue: "9/11 remembered," Aug. 17, 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.


iraq attack?

104 points | Talk in Washington grew hotter about the prospects of a war to force Saddam Hussein out of Iraq. TeamBush rejected an Iraqi offer to allow members of Congress to tour suspected nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons sites. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld dismissed the idea: "I can't think of anything funnier than a handful of congressmen walking around. They'd have to be there walking around for the next 50 years trying to find something. It's a joke." With war talk in the air again, Democrats grew nervous about an "October Surprise," the possibility that American forces would go in just weeks before the midterm elections. But Sen. Joseph Biden (D-Del.) said the president's aides assured him that Congress would have time to debate military action before any was taken. The debate is possibly more divided within the administration. Hawks like Vice President Dick Cheney are growing increasingly frustrated with opposition to a new war within the Joint Chiefs of Staff.


bombs and talks

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101 points | After five American citizens were killed and four were wounded in the attack on Hebrew University in Jerusalem, several thousand supporters of Hamas, which took credit for the bombing, celebrated with a march through Gaza streets. They had more to cheer about when, early on Aug. 4, Hamas terrorists detonated a shrapnel-packed explosive on a bus in northern Israel, killing nine and injuring another 35. Several other Israelis were killed in isolated attacks. In response, Israeli officials said they would ban travel in the northern part of the West Bank and sent tanks to seal off refugee camps. "Nobody enters and nobody leaves," vowed Defense Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, but he also met with Palestinian interior minister Abdel Razak Yehiyeh to discuss a ceasefire that would spur the Israeli army to withdraw from Palestinian areas. Despite the violence, U.S. officials declared they would still meet with Palestinian leaders to discuss peace.


'common thieves'

89 points | NBC used dramatic words like epidemic to describe the persistent wave of news stories about corporate fraud. The Justice Department captured the attention of the major media when officials announced a criminal investigation into the accounting practices of AOL Time Warner, focusing intently on the Virginia-based online division. A recent series in The Washington Post revealing unconventional transactions by AOL in the last three years spurred the probe. AOL is also under investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission, and the company's stock price is reeling over the headlines (see p. 53). Two former WorldCom executives, former chief financial officer Scott Sullivan and ex-controller David Myers, surrendered to the FBI and were charged with securities fraud and lying to federal investigators. Attorney General John Ashcroft talked tough, saying cheating corporate executives are "no better than common thieves" when they lie to employees and investors.


turf war

57 points | Friction continues between local law-enforcement officials and the FBI over a program created to share intelligence reports on potential terrorist attacks. The Police Executive Research Forum says police officials are "infuriated" at the obstacles to intelligence-sharing, including background checks that take as long as six months before gaining access to FBI reports. Assistant FBI Director Louis Quijas admitted that "a lot of the information necessary to keep cities and communities safe does not require a top-secret clearance," and the FBI is working to create a lower-level clearance system. Tourists are discouraged to discover during the summer travel season that state capitols have heightened their security since 9/11. A survey by the National Conference of State Legislatures found that 26 state capitols have shut some doors to the public since Osama bin Laden struck, and 15 require visitors to pass through metal detectors and X-ray machines. .


congress on drugs

50 points | The Senate failed to agree on any of the four bills creating a new entitlement within Medicare that would subsidize seniors' prescription drugs, but Democrats pledged to make it a top issue when Congress returns before the fall elections. Republicans insist that the new benefits have a market mechanism, paying benefits to private insurers. Democrats want the program run through the Medicare bureaucrats of the Health Care Financing Administration. With the cheapest GOP plan estimated to cost more than $300 billion over the next 10 years, conservative budget experts were cheerleaders for gridlock. Senators did agree, by a vote of 78 to 21, to make it more difficult for brand-name drug manufacturers to hold off competition from lower-priced generic drug makers. The bill also allowed American-made drugs to be re-imported from Canada, which has rigid price controls. The House passed a prescription-drug subsidy plan in June, but hasn't yet passed either of these proposals.


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