Today’s Papers

Today’s Papers

Bully" for Him
By Eric Umansky
Posted Wednesday, April 13, 2005, at 12:43 AM PT

The Los Angeles Times‘ top nonlocal spot goes to the State Dept.’s former intel chief telling senators that U.N.-ambassador nominee John Bolton is a "serial abuser" of underlings and did indeed try to get one analyst fired who had challenged Bolton’s ill-supported allegations against Cuba. USA Today leads with, and others stuff, the indictment of three British nationals for allegedly casing financial buildings on the East Coast four years ago for a potential terrorist strike. The men are currently being held in the U.K., where they’re suspected of trying to target Heathrow. The Wall Street Journal‘s world-wide newsbox goes high with an FDA advisory panel, citing insufficient safety data, voting 5-4 to keep tight restrictions on the sale of silicone breast implants.

The Washington Post leads with federal prosecutors indicting 15 current and former traders at the NYSE for allegedly ripping off their clients by saving the best prices for themselves. The numbers seem piddling—"at least $32 million" in trades—but the Post says what’s unusual is the criminal charges themselves. Citing hidden "senior American and Israeli officials," the New York Times leads with Israeli Prime Minister Sharon at the ranch Monday showing President Bush some intel on Iran’s nuclear program and trying to convince the president to turn up the pressure on Tehran. Paraphrasing a U.S. official, the Times dubs the intel "neither startling nor new." And it’s the lead story because …?

Bolton is a "bully" and "a quintessential kiss-up, kick-down sort of guy," said the former intel chief, who described himself as a Republican and an "enthusiastic supporter" of President Bush. Swing voter Sen. Lincoln Chafee said he’s still leaning toward giving Bolton a thumbs up. Presumably influenced by the solid likelihood of Bolton’s confirmation, the Post blows off the fireworks, putting the testimony on A4.

The clearest explanation of Bolton’s outburst comes not in the news pages but from an NYT editorial:

Mr. Bolton wanted to give a speech saying that "the United States believes that Cuba has a developmental offensive biological warfare program and is providing assistance to other rogue state programs." That sounds scary but it was not true. Cuba was not doing those things and U.S. intelligence agencies did not think it was. But according to numerous accounts, Mr. Bolton became enraged when an analyst from the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research pointed out the error, and he tried to have the analyst removed from his post.

The indictment of the three Britons is based on the computer files found last August that included photos of the buildings. But as the Post puts it, the indictments leave "many questions unanswered," including whether the plot had been abandoned after 9/11. The charges did make reference to al-Qaida—even though according to the 9/11 commission, Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohamed sent one of the men to the U.S. "to case potential economic and ‘Jewish’ targets in New York City."

The WP off-leads, and nobody else fronts, health officials freaking after a particularly virulent strain of the flu virus was mistakenly sent to labs around the world. They’re now racing to destroy it. "This virus could cause a pandemic," said the World Health Organization’s top flu expert. "We are talking about a fully transmissible human influenza virus to which the majority of the population has no immunity." The nonhysterical angle: The risks of infection at a lab are pretty low.

Everybody mentions four Iraqis were killed and another seven wounded by a suicide car bomb in Mosul. Military officials also announced the capture of a former Saddam-era official whom they said has been a key insurgent money man.

USAT fronts info-broker Lexis-Nexis’ announcement that hackers had access to data on 300,000 people, 10 times what the company had said before. The info included names, Social Security digits, and drivers-license numbers. The company said the lucky individuals affected will be offered free credit reports for a year.

The Post‘s Al Kamen notices that while Bolton’s hearings have been contentious, at least Democratic Sen. Joe Biden struck a conciliatory tone. He apologized for what had been a few days’ delay, explaining, "The reason it was initially postponed was that many of us were in Rome at the president’s funeral—excuse me, Freudian slip, I beg your pardon—at the pope’s funeral that the president attended."

Eric Umansky writes "Today’s Papers" for Slate. He can be reached at todayspapers@slate.com.

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