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 Aug. 14 to 20

Issue: "When liberals seize a state," Aug. 31, 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.


a lingering memory (95 points)

The anniversary coverage of Sept. 11 promises to last for several weeks. In reviewing the chaos following the terrorist attack, New York City officials are admitting to reporters that poor training and communications equipment marred the emergency response. Reports prepared at the city's request by the management consultant McKinsey and Company suggest that a century-old rivalry between the police and fire departments may have been responsible for lost lives. Anticipating another attack, the Bush administration has approved a plan designed to evacuate all federal workers within 15 minutes of a threat of an impending biological, chemical, or radiological assault. The plan would empower the directors of three federal agencies-the Office of Personnel Management, the General Services Administration, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency-to release up to 350,000 government workers in the Washington area and 1.8 million nationwide once a threat is confirmed.


air despair (78 points)

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The financial picture for the airline industry worsened as a whole as the 9/11 anniversary approached. The nation's two largest airlines-American and United-announced they would shrink their flight capacity by 9 percent this fall, and American CEO Donald Carty worried out loud about following US Airways into bankruptcy court. The airline industry is expecting to run up about $1.5 billion in operating losses this quarter; summer travel season is usually one of its most profitable. The airline security picture isn't much rosier. USA Today reported that after the rush to hire thousands of new air marshals to keep flights safe, at least 80 marshals have quit, and other marshals said they are considering a class-action lawsuit to improve working conditions they say could put travelers at risk. Grumbling marshals complained that lowered hiring standards have led to dropping requirements like a difficult marksmanship course, and some regional offices have had trouble providing ammunition for target practice.


weather exodus (77 points)

TV news directors played up disaster footage from Europe after more than a week of torrential rains across eastern and central Europe resulted in dramatic flooding. In Prague, the capital of the Czech Republic, officials evacuated about 70,000 people from their homes (the total topped 200,000 nationwide), in what officials called the largest mass movement of people there since World War II. As the Vltava river receded, Czechs cleared layers of mud from the streets of Prague's Kampa Island, where historic palaces had flooded up to their rooftops. European governments counted 90 deaths from the floods, including 58 tourists in the Black Sea region of Russia. The high waters of Prague later troubled the German city of Dresden, where the Elbe River crested at 31.5 feet. In the city's Zwinger Palace museum, thousands of master artworks were stacked on the upper floors. "It's quite incredible that we saved everything," said Dresden museum director Martin Roth. "Next week everybody will probably collapse."


louder war drums (74 points)

In an interview taped for a BBC special on the Sept. 11 attacks, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice declared that a war on Iraq is imminent. "There is a very powerful moral case for regime change," she said. "We certainly do not have the luxury of doing nothing." While President Bush has routinely insisted he has no war plan on his desk, TeamBush is taking steps toward a post-Saddam Iraq, including attempts to organize, unite, and fund Iraqi opposition groups through the London-based Iraqi National Congress. In addition, U.S. oil companies have slashed imports of Iraqi oil in the past five months, sparking a stark decline in Baghdad's oil export funds. Industry analysts said the drop isn't spurred by U.S. government requests, but by Baghdad's request for kickbacks and cumbersome purchasing procedures of the United National oil company. But oil companies are also planning ahead and looking at alternative producers for the time when talk of war turns to action.


a tender truce (46 points)

Israeli and Palestinian officials reached an agreement that spurred Israeli troops to withdraw from enforcing rigid curfews in Bethlehem and some positions in the Gaza strip. In return, Palestinian security services vowed to do more to prevent attacks on Israeli civilians. But three terrorist groups-Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-vowed to keep fighting. In the past, Palestinian police have refused to arrest militants, or detained them only briefly. Infamous Palestinian terrorist Abu Nidal, 65, was reported dead in Baghdad from multiple gunshot wounds. Palestinian officials said he shot himself after suffering from cancer and growing addicted to painkillers, but didn't explain how he could shoot himself more than once. During the 1970s and 1980s, Abu Nidal's radical Fatah Revolutionary Council was blamed for the deaths of 900 people in 20 countries. The State Department once branded him as its most-wanted terrorist, although he hadn't been an active threat for years.


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