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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. 16 to Oct. 22

Issue: "The 2002 vote," Nov. 2, 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

sniper suspects

339 Points | The serial sniper continued to hold the Washington area in an oppressive grip of fear until news broke Thursday morning that police had arrested John Allen Muhammed, a former army machinist, and 17-year-old Jamaican Lee Malvo at a rest stop along Interstate 70 in Maryland. NBC's Pete Williams reported that their car, a 1990 Chevrolet Caprice, had been modified so that a person could shoot from the back of the automobile. Police found in the car a rifle scope, a tripod, and a rifle capable of firing a .223 caliber bullet. The Washington sniper had used such bullets in his attacks. In addition to the 10 murders in the Washington area, authorities linked the two suspects to a murder/robbery in Montgomery, Ala., in September. Investigators said Mr. Malvo's fingerprints were found at the scene of both the September shooting and at one of the sniper shootings. Witnesses said both men had spoken sympathetically about the 9/11 hijackers.

2

war maneuvers

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141 Points | As TeamBush pressed the United Nations to take action on Iraq, Saddam Hussein kept preparing for battle with domestic initiatives. He released thousands of prisoners, including political dissidents, to bolster domestic and international support. But dozens of anguished mothers and angry young men held a rare protest in the streets of Baghdad to demand that the government provide information about missing relatives jailed for political crimes. President Bush continued to prepare for war and authorized combat training for as many as 5,000 Iraqi exiles with Defense Department funds. Administration officials will brief Congress this week on plans to teach the Iraqis skills to serve as battlefield advisers, scouts, and interpreters with U.S. troops on the ground. In recent weeks, the Pentagon has stocked up supplies in Middle Eastern states, issued orders to move headquarters units into place, and made preparations to deploy tens of thousands of troops for a potential attack.

3

mcbride's billions

101 Points | Pundits felt the momentum shifting back toward Florida Gov. Jeb Bush after his Democratic opponent Bill McBride said he would favor government-wide spending cuts to pay for a controversial ballot initiative reducing class sizes in the state. The audience laughed when Mr. McBride, under questioning from NBC's Tim Russert, vaguely estimated the program would cost somewhere between $8 billion and $24 billion, and he would not specify where taxes should be raised to pay the bill. Network executives are also running scared on the way to Election Day, promising-in light of the 2000 election-night fiasco-to restrain themselves from competing to make the first predictions. ABC, CBS, CNN, Fox, and NBC are all trying to add troops to reduce reliance on the Voter News Service, the major-media consortium that caused so much trouble with early state calls for Al Gore, especially before polls closed in Florida's panhandle.

4

tomorrow's terror?

95 Points | CIA Director George Tenet emphasized the potential domestic threat from al-Qaeda forces. In testimony before the joint House-Senate panel on 9/11 intelligence failures, Mr. Tenet warned, "The threat environment we find ourselves in today is as bad as it was last summer. They are coming after us.... They are planning to strike the homeland again." But he offered no dates, times, or places likely to be targets in the future. While Asia and Australia still reeled from the terrorist bombing in Bali, the Philippines suffered a series of bombings blamed on the Islamic militant group Abu Sayyaf. Two bombs exploded in department stories in the largely Christian southern city of Zamboanga, killing seven and injuring more than 150 people. (An Oct. 2 bombing in that city killed four, including a U.S. Marine.) Then a bomb tore through a bus in a Manila suburb, killing three and injuring another 23. Philippine President Gloria Arroyo has been a staunch U.S. ally in the war on terror.

5

korean concerns

92 Points | Communist authorities in North Korea acknowledged to U.S. officials that they have been secretly developing nuclear weapons for years. The program is not only in violation of international nonproliferation agreements but also a 1994 deal with the Clinton administration in which North Korea offered to abandon nuclear development in exchange for food, fuel, and nuclear power plant construction. While conservatives (as well as former Secretary of State James Baker) scorned the failed Clinton deal, Democrats questioned why the Bush administration waited 12 days to release the information--after Congress approved a resolution for war in Iraq. Bush critics wondered out loud why the United States must go to war in Iraq to stop its potential nuclear weapon development, but merely use diplomacy with North Korea. While anti-war liberals object to American military power in either place, the conservative Project for the New American Century suggested that North Korea and Iraq are more similar than different--both aggressive dictatorships in need of strong American resistance.

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