The Washington Post leads with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak’s formal suspension of the 7-year-old Middle East peace process, which, the paper notes, clears the way for a new Israeli government that would include right-wing opposition leader Ariel Sharon. The New York Times lead mentions the Barak move (and the paper dedicates an inside piece to it) but emphasizes instead what occasioned it: a statement signed by all 22 member-nations of the Arab League except Libya that suspends all Arab-Israeli trade and political exchanges, pledges $1 billion in aid to Palestinians, and accuses Israel of committing atrocities against Palestinians in the past three weeks. The Arab summit also tops the Wall Street Journal front-page world-wide news box. The Los Angeles Times fronts Barak/Arab League but leads with the tentative three-year agreement reached in the 6-month-old actors’ strike against the advertising industry. The paper says advertisers agreed to the fee-for-cable commercials that actors had been asking for when negotiations broke down and also agreed that Internet ads would henceforth employ only union actors, while actors gave up their demand that they receive cable ad residuals. USA Today also fronts Barak/Arab League but leads with the charges and countercharges coming out of its separate interviews with Al Gore and George W. Bush: Gore says Bush is “breath-takingly short-sighted” for proposing to withdraw U.S. troops from Bosnia peacekeeping duties; Bush says Gore agreed with him during the second debate that U.S. troops should leave Kosovo and Bosnia soon and hence that the vice president is “willing to say anything to become president.”
The WP lead communicates several developments that spell further Mideast trouble. It reports that fighting between Palestinians and Israelis is spreading and intensifying, even to the point of Israeli helicopter gunships firing missiles at Palestinian gunmen in a village a two-minute drive from Bethlehem. The paper also says that Sharon is said to be demanding enormous power for himself and his party in any new government, including a prime role in diplomatic and security policy. Also, the Post lead notes in its second paragraph that Yasser Arafat’s response to Barak was, “Let him go to hell.” That’s also where USAT puts the Arafat quote in its Mideast piece. The LAT puts it in the fourth paragraph. The NYT lead, although full of references to Arafat, doesn’t have the “hell” quote. The paper’s inside story on Barak’s timeout does have it in the ninth paragraph.
The NYT lead describes the Arab League as “eager to demonstrate a get-tough attitude toward Israel while keeping the door ajar to a resumption of peace talks” and calls its statement “strongly worded but carefully calibrated.” The WSJ story on the summit says it was a meeting where “moderation” held sway. The NYT runs statement excerpts inside, which include: “The summit salutes the uprising of the Palestinian people in the occupied Palestinian land,” a reference to “Israeli criminals of war,” and a request that all Israeli nuclear installations submit to international inspection because of the “importance of making the Middle East free of nuclear weapons and weapons of mass destruction.” The Times does not point out the oddity of Iraq signing that statement.
The USAT front runs a “cover story” filed by a reporter on patrol with an Israeli army unit when it got caught up in a major firefight with Palestinian snipers on the West Bank. The piece says the battle may have marked a turning point in the level of violence because it involved heavier Palestinian weapons, including artillery and rockets, and “well-planned and coordinated ambushes involving not only youths but Palestinian Authority policemen [and] civilian ambulance drivers.” The story also says Israeli soldiers, despite orders to aim their rubber bullets from the waist down, appear to be firing at Palestinians’ heads and upper bodies.
The WP off-lead reports that according to the latest polling, there are six states–Oregon, Washington, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Michigan, and Maine–that Ralph Nader could tip from Gore to Bush, making a crucial difference in the Electoral College vote. The paper says the Gore campaign is “alarmed” about this and reacting with a renewed effort to portray Nader as potentially swinging the vote to Bush, an effort that may employ such liberal Democrats as Ted Kennedy, Paul Wellstone, and Russell Feingold.
A big NYT front-pager details how respectable corporations are now reaping a big piece of the $10-billion-a-year pornography business through their cable and online properties. The paper stuns with its observations that General Motors, via its DirecTV subsidiary, now sells more graphic sex films every year than Larry Flynt and that EchoStar Communications, the No. 2 satellite provider whose chief financial backers include Rupert Murdoch, now makes more money from graphic adult films than Playboy. And there’s AT&T, which owns a company that sells sex videos to nearly a million hotel rooms. And the leading supplier of hotel pornos is controlled by John C. Malone, the cable and telecommunications magnate. The story reports that none of the honchos at these corporations would speak on the record to the Times about this aspect of their business.