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The Top 5 news stories as measured by coverage in The Washington Post, USA Today, and NBC Nightly News from Nov. 13 to 19

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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.



218 Points | The American Civil Liberties Union didn't like it, but Attorney General John Ashcroft warmly welcomed an appeals court ruling that the government can employ sweeping new surveillance powers approved under the USA Patriot Act. The Justice Department insisted the increase in secret wiretaps and searches would not be "staggering." Meanwhile, Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward's new book Bush at War charges that Fox News boss Roger Ailes sent a private message to the Bush White House to stand firm in the face of the Sept. 11 attacks. Mr. Ailes denied offering the president policy advice, but liberal critics of Fox attacked the move, saying it sullied the slogan "we report, you decide." Conservatives countered that the note was no match for the activity of former CNN president Rick Kaplan, who golfed with President Clinton, stayed in the Lincoln Bedroom, and offered advice on how to handle interviews about the Gennifer Flowers affair.


The Iraq Files

156 Points | United Nations inspectors arrived in Iraq to assess the Iraqi government's response to new demands for disarmament. Saddam Hussein's spokesman Amir al-Saddi told reporters that Iraq will meet a Dec. 8 deadline for declaring whether it still holds any weapons of mass destruction: "Within 30 days, as the resolution says, a report from Iraq will be submitted on all the files, nuclear, chemical, biological and missile files." With the new UN resolution under the microscope, TeamBush was quick to note that the Iraqi regime was already breaking the rules by firing on allied warplanes in the "no-fly zones" created after the Gulf War in the country's northern and southern ends.


Orville, Wilbur, Norm

78 Points | The White House's post-election political momentum continued as the House and the Senate passed legislation to create a massive new Department of Homeland Security. Among Republicans, only Sen. John McCain wandered off the reservation and voted with the Democrats to strip provisions from the House bill, saying it carried "egregious special interest riders." Three Democrats voted with the GOP. The Senate didn't relish sending an altered bill back to the House, which signaled it was finished for the year. Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta touted that important goals were met in federalizing airport security personnel under the Transportation Security Agency, soon to be part of the new Homeland Security Department. He even compared the hiring and training of 44,000 TSA employees this year to Orville and Wilbur Wright's flight at Kitty Hawk. But TSA chief James Loy rained on the parade by admitting that they will not meet a Dec. 31 deadline for subjecting all airport luggage to security screening.


Joined at the Left

61 Points | Former Vice President Al Gore made the rounds of television and print interviews ostensibly surrounding his new book, Joined at the Heart, with wife Tipper, but the topic quickly turned to 2000 and 2004 (see p. 10). So far, pundits have been most surprised at his dramatic moves to the left, including a new embrace of a government-dominated single-payer health-care program like Canada's. The contenders in Louisiana's Dec. 7 runoff for the U.S. Senate faced off in debate on NBC's Meet the Press. Democrat Sen. Mary Landrieu presented herself as a moderate, despite her career American Conservative Union rating of only 14 percent. GOP candidate Suzanne Terrell denied she had once been pro-choice and said she would support a Human Life Amendment to the Constitution banning abortion.


Tolerance Test

42 Points | Gathering in Washington, America's Roman Catholic bishops voted 246 to 7 for revisions in the sexual-abuse policy just agreed on in Dallas in June ("On second thought," Nov. 23). The Vatican insisted that the Dallas "zero tolerance" policy to remove priests who had been accused of wrongdoing violated the due process rights of priests, and insisted only church tribunals can impose permanent penalties. The bishops maintained that by spelling out the procedures, the new policy is actually tighter than the Dallas plan. But victim advocacy groups called the new rules a retreat toward more secrecy and less control from the laity. As they gathered, the bishops also decried spousal abuse as a sin, and insisted victims "are not expected to stay in an abusive marriage." They also issued a three-page statement opposing war in Iraq.

Tim Graham Tim is a former WORLD reporter.


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