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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 from Oct. 2 to Oct. 8

Issue: "GOP: No room for error," Oct. 19, 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.

1

getting the "w"

260 | It didn't take a full week, but after leading Democrats broke with Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle and agreed to support the president on Iraq, Sen. Daschle all but raised the white flag. As Congress debated the president's war resolution in spirited terms, even liberal critics like Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman Joseph Biden came the president's way. That left Sen. Daschle mustering for reporters a tepid, "I am inclined to support it." His South Dakota colleague, Sen. Tim Johnson, signed up as a co-sponsor of the Bush plan after suffering a TV-ad pounding from GOP challenger John Thune linking Mr. Johnson to weakness on national missile defense. As debate wrapped up, Sen. Daschle had concluded it was time for "America to speak with one voice." But the Senate leader found himself embroiled in a controversy over a left-wing anti-war group (see Flash Traffic, page 10) that made it seem he was speaking with two. Only two Senate Republicans dissented: Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania and Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island. Sen. Chafee told CNN the White House "agreed not to beat me up on this one" because the pro-war-resolution side was so "overwhelming." Asked by network personality Jonathan Karl whether the Iraq vote along with Sen. Chafee's opposition to the Bush tax cut make him a likely candidate to switch parties should Republicans eke out a 50-50 majority after Election Day, the Rhode Island liberal wouldn't rule it out. "Cross that bridge if we get to it. Have some discussions with the White House," Sen. Chafee told CNN. "We can't-we can't be intimidating moderates out of the party."

2

small-scale terror

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160 | A sniper terrorized the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area with a series of single-shot street killings of bystanders in D.C., Maryland, and Virginia. Investigators say the sniper fired from a distance with a high-powered hunting or military-style rifle. Five people were killed within hours of each other on Oct. 2 and 3, and the story ratcheted up again after two more shootings. One, in northern Virginia of a man filling his car with gas, was fatal. Another was of a 13-year-old boy, shot and wounded on his way into Benjamin Tasker Middle School in the suburb of Bowie, Md. In a wooded area about 150 yards from the school entrance, police found a Tarot card with the message "Dear policemen, I am God." In Montgomery County, where five of the deaths occurred, police chief Charles Moose ripped the news media for reporting the Tarot-card discovery, leaked to a Washington television station by unnamed police sources: "I ask my community, do you want the police department to work the case or do you want Channel 9 to work the case? Let me know because there is no room, in my mind, for both of us." At the same time, the chief urged through the media that citizens call police tip-lines. The reward for information leading to the sniper's capture swelled to more than $237,000. Nearly 200 investigators are rummaging through 1,600 leads, culled from 8,000 tips.

3

fighting back

124 | Two Islamic extremists who fired on U.S. Marines on a training mission in Kuwait were connected to an al-Qaeda training camp, and authorities doubted that the two, whom the Marines killed in return fire, acted alone. The attack, on a largely uninhabited island 10 miles from Kuwait City, left one Marine dead and another wounded. Most of the action in the war on terror took place in the court system. Federal authorities charged six people from Portland, Ore., including a former U.S. Army reservist, with conspiring to join al-Qaeda's war on the United States. None of the six succeeded in entering Afghanistan. In Boston, "shoe bomber" Richard Reid pledged allegiance to Osama bin Laden and pleaded guilty to attempting to blow up an airplane. In Virginia, "American Taliban" John Walker Lindh was sentenced to 20 years in prison, and told the judge, "I have never supported terrorism in any form.... I made a mistake by joining the Taliban."

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