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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 Nov. 27 to Dec. 3

Issue: "Dick Armey's parting words," Dec. 14, 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

little less conversation

149 Points | This week will be focused on whether the United Nations reacts seriously to Iraq's required report on whether it's hiding weapons of mass destruction. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld was blunt: "Any country on the face of the earth with an active intelligence program knows that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction." TeamBush is prepared to use Saddam Hussein's latest obfuscations as grounds for war, and grounds to persuade other countries to go along. Meanwhile, pacifists are taking the offensive: Anti-war activists are making loud complaints that the news media are ignoring them. Washington Post reporter Evelyn Nieves tried to answer the criticism with a front-page story claiming a wave of momentum for an "extraordinary array" of peace groups, including the National Council of Churches and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. But if these church leaders represent the views of millions of their church members, it hasn't shown up in national polls of public opinion.

2

terror takes no holiday

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107 Points | New attacks over the Thanksgiving holiday kept terrorism on the front pages and on the evening news, bolstering President Bush's sense of urgency about fighting the global war on terror. Readers and viewers--as if any reminder were needed--saw again the special hatred Islamic terrorists harbor for Israelis and the countries that support them. The Thanksgiving terror attack on a hotel frequented by Israelis in Mombasa, Kenya, killed 10 Kenyans and three Israelis; three of the bombers died in the assault. Minutes before the blast, terrorists fired two missiles at an Israeli airliner as it was taking off from Mombasa's airport. President Bush told reporters, "I believe that al-Qaeda was involved in the African bombings, in Kenya." After all, al-Qaeda first came to American attention by blowing up the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. Officials say the missile launcher used in Kenya came from the same lot as one used in a failed missile attack on a U.S. plane in Saudi Arabia.

3

'let's bash the saudis'

91 Points | Fresh news angles kept alive reports about a string of Saudi officials' donations that may have found their way to Sept. 11 hijackers. A Saudi public-relations official unleashed rhetoric designed to shut down the line of inquiry: "It's a feeding frenzy, it's 'let's bash the Saudis' time," Saudi spokesman Adel al-Jubeir complained at a news conference. It's "severe and outrageous criticism which borders on hate." Mr. al-Jubeir made the rounds of TV's soundbite factories insisting that we're "all in this together." And he netted a page 1 Style section piece in The Washington Post that referred to the smooth, American-educated official as the "sultan of spin." But the Saudi regime did not speak with one voice. The Middle East Media Research Institute reported that the Saudi interior minister, Prince Nayef Ibn Abd Al-Aziz, thinks mass media should focus on and condemn terrorism, but they're looking at the wrong culprit. He said Zionists "are behind these [9/11] events." It was "impossible that 19 youths, including 15 Saudis, carried out the operation of Sept. 11," said Mr. Al-Aziz. He said the "Zionist-controlled media" are fanning the flames of 9/11 to create an anti-Muslim backlash.

4

still campaigning

55 Points | Even before a federal appeals court heard arguments on the constitutionality of the McCain-Feingold campaign-regulation bill, U.S. District Judge Harry Kennedy put a dent in it. He ruled that Hawaii Right to Life should receive a temporary injunction from 60-day bans on nonprofit-group advertising that mentions candidates by name. Last Sunday, voters cast ballots in a special election to fill the remaining five weeks of deceased Rep. Patsy Mink's term; that interim congressman faces another special election for a new term on Jan. 4. In covering the closing days of Louisiana's runoff Senate election between Senator Mary Landrieu and Suzanne Haik Terrell, incumbent Sen. Landrieu insisted she was a moderate and reporters obliged. "A moderate Democrat, Landrieu often votes with the president," reported CBS's Mark Strassman, "and her courting of his supporters has been risky." But Sen. Landrieu's first term was rated as only 14 percent conservative by the American Conservative Union, compared to a much higher 47 percent rating by the state's other Democratic senator, John Breaux.

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