Top News

This Week | The Top 5 news stories as measured by coverage in The Washington Post, USA Today, and NBC Nightly News from Oct. 30 to Nov. 5

Issue: "The Bush mandate," Nov. 16, 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.


bush blowout

383 Points | CBS's Dan Rather began the night promising a set of races "tighter than a Botox smile." As the Bush mandate swept Democrats out of power in Washington, liberal smiles turned to scowls. Turns out that pundits underplayed the achievement of Senate Republicans making gains when they had to defend 20 seats, to the Democrats' 14. In the next two cycles-'04 and '06-Democrats will have to defend 16 seats, Republicans only 14 and 15 respectively. Now that 99-year-old Sen. Strom Thurmond (R-S.C.) will give way to fellow Republican Lindsey Graham (almost 53 years his junior), Sen. Ernest Hollings also loses a distinction: junior senator. Sen. Hollings, who turns 81 on New Year's Day, is the longest serving junior senator in history-36 years. The mantle of oldest senator now belongs to West Virginia Democrat Robert Byrd, who will be 85 on Nov. 20. Sen. Byrd joined the House in 1952, four years before Sen. Thurmond came to Washington.


swift and sure

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133 Points | Attorney General John Ashcroft reviewed the potential evidence in various jurisdictions against Washington-area serial-sniper suspects John Allen Muhammad and John Lee Malvo. So far, the suspects have been charged in Prince William, Spotsylvania, and Hanover counties in Virginia; Montgomery and Prince George's counties in Maryland; in U.S. District Court in Maryland; in Alabama; and in Louisiana. While D.C.-area officials want the first crack at the case, federal authorities suggested tough-on-crime Alabama, where a liquor store clerk was killed and a co-worker was wounded on Sept. 21, should perhaps go first. While Maryland prosecutors note most of the killings occurred in their state, George Mason University law professor Daniel Polsby said many have concerns that the state's more liberal approach on crime could prevent the harshest penalty: "The death penalty is on the books in Maryland, but not carried out with alacrity. Given the seriousness of the crime, many feel the death penalty is appropriate here."


time running out

48 Points | With the elections behind them, TeamBush pushed the United Nations hard to install a new weapons-inspection regime in Iraq. Secretary of State Colin Powell canceled a visit to South Korea in hopes of convincing Security Council powers Russia and France to approve a compromise resolution. A new U.S. draft offered Saddam "a final opportunity" to comply with UN inspectors, held out the possibility of lifting sanctions against Iraq, and added a reaffirmation of Iraq's sovereignty. But it still allows U.S. military action without a new UN resolution. With the administration's blessing, former Secretary of State George Shultz and former U.S. Sen. Bob Kerrey helped launch a new group called the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq to combat the fading public support for war. The Pew Research Center found that 55 percent of Americans support an attack on Iraq, down from 64 percent in August.



46 Points | Nothing much happened to al-Qaeda forces after the bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998, or the attack on the U.S.S. Cole just before the 2000 election. But the current war on terror is making up for lost opportunities. Inside Yemen, a CIA-controlled Predator drone fired a missile on a vehicle carrying six suspected al-Qaeda terrorists, including Abu Ali al-Harithi, believed to be an architect of the Cole attack, which killed 17 Americans. On Yemen's national television, the government of President Ali Abdallah Salih called on "our countrymen who have been entangled in membership of the al-Qaeda organization to repent ... and renounce all means of violence." The Financial Times reported on its website that the Iranian government had captured one of Osama bin Laden's sons, Saad, 22, and banished him to Pakistan. But government officials would not confirm the story, saying they could not verify the identities of dozens of infiltrators deported from the eastern border areas, since their identification papers are often fakes.


tragedy in italy

44 Points | National television in Italy broadcast a funeral from the tiny mountain town of San Giuliano di Puglia, where an earthquake felled buildings and killed 26 elementary-school children and three adults. The pastel-yellow Francesco Jovine school was the most devastated building in town. It collapsed while the children were celebrating Halloween. Two dozen students were rescued, some with crushed limbs. When classes resume, the school will have no first grade; all nine first-graders perished. Prosecutors have announced their plan to probe the "anomalous" collapse. The search focused on an addition built atop the original 49-year-old structure. Residents said the added classrooms were constructed with heavy cement instead of a lighter material that would have been more costly. A study of seismic zones completed in 1998 declared much of Italy at risk from earthquakes, but neither the previous center-left government nor the present right-wing government of Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi ordered construction upgrades for old or new buildings.

Timothy Lamer
Timothy Lamer

Tim is editor of WORLD Magazine.


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