Today's Papers

Not Over the Hill

USA Today and the Washington Post lead with the fourth straight day of intensifying and spreading violence between Palestinians (civilians and security forces) and Israelis (police and soldiers). The Los Angeles Times, which fronts the violence, goes instead with American and Russian and Indian concerns that the Taliban–which, the paper says, now controls over 95 percent of Afghanistan–will soon begin more aggressively exporting its severe Muslim ideology into Central and South Asia as it aids various Islamic rebel movements there. The New York Times off-leads Palestinian-Israeli violence, but its lead is an overview of the new Supreme Court term, which starts today. The story says the coming docket figures to be a pale imitation of last year’s, which had tests of Miranda, school prayer, and gay rights. But, cases to be decided touch on congressional powers vis à vis the states, federal powers of regulation, on whether medical urine tests or thermal detections of marijuana operations require a search warrant, on whether non-racial motives for an apparently race-based redistricting can make it constitutional, on whether restrictions keeping publicly financed lawyers from challenging welfare laws unlawfully infringe their right to free speech, and on whether journalists can be sued for disclosing the contents of illegal communications intercepts they receive anonymously.

The Israeli/Palestinian coverage reports that the fighting has spread from its West Bank origins into towns and cities in Israel, injuring hundreds and killing an estimated 30–with all but one of the fatalities Palestinians. USAT’s headline–“29 SLAIN DURING MIDEAST CLASHES”–focuses on the human toll. Besides giving a different number, the LAT’s has a bit more political edge: “ISRAELI MILITARY BEARS DOWN ON PALESTINIAN REVOLT; 12 DIE.” The death Saturday of a 12-year-old Palestinian boy, shot while cowering with his father behind some concrete, is not mentioned by the WP until the 16th paragraph. The NYT saves this until the 18th paragraph, the LAT waits until the 14th to mention a dead 16-year-old, and until the 16th to mention a dead 10-year-old. USAT puts the 12-year-old in the 15th paragraph, but also breaks out a separate story on his shooting inside.

The WP says Yasser Arafat, believed by the Israelis to able to call off the Palestinian fighters, has not commented publicly on the violence. But USAT has a comment from him, made to a Saudi paper: He is ready to use “any option” including war to face up to Israel.

Two pictures from the coverage will probably reverberate. The WP fronts a picture with inescapable Biblical resonance, of a Palestinian teen-ager with a slingshot confronting two Israeli vehicles. And USAT and the LAT front an Israeli police officer with his arm around a Palestinian boy’s throat. The shot epitomizes: It’s a mismatch, but the boy’s face is downright scary.

The LAT lead says that despite Afghan and Pakistani official denials, the Pakistanis have been increasing their aid to the Taliban. It also says that while meeting last Friday with U.S. diplomats in Washington, Taliban reps said that wanted terrorist Osama Bin Laden is under their “total control” and is “not allowed to initiate anything from Afghanistan.” They also suggested putting together a panel of Muslim scholars to decide what to do about Bin Laden.

A front-page Wall Street Journal primer on the first presidential campaign debate tomorrow night seems to buy into the campaigns’ assumption that until now, nobody has been paying any attention. The story takes space to explain, for instance, that if George W. Bush pledges to uphold the honor and the integrity of the office, that’s an attempt to saddle Al Gore with Bill Clinton, and that you can expect references from both candidates to God. Meanwhile, Sunday’s NYT “Week in Review” included debate advice to the candidates from the executive producer of Survivor. They should, he said, bare their true selves and not try to hoodwink the public, because, “What we learned from Survivor is how clever and cerebral the viewers are.”

Fill in the blank: Maureen Dowd’s column on Sunday was about ________. That’s right, once again it was about Hillary Clinton. A quick check reveals that in the past year, the Really Big Mo has focused on Hill in 16 columns, about a quarter of her output over that time. De trop?