For the second straight day, all the majors lead with the Middle East turmoil. Today, the focus is on the announcement yesterday by Israel’s Ehud Barak that he would delay for a few days the stronger military crackdown he had threatened to implement last night if Yasser Arafat did not restrain Palestinian rioters. This is apparently not so much a reaction to the situation in the streets of Gaza, the West Bank, or northern Israel, which the coverage portrays as still deadly, but rather to increased diplomatic efforts, which include President Clinton’s attempts to orchestrate a summit meeting in Egypt and the separate arrivals in the region of UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan and the Russian foreign minister. The Washington Post says that now, however, there are deepening doubts on all sides about whether Arafat can any longer call off the Palestinian revolt “even if he wanted to.” USA Today makes the same point high up.
The WP says that expectations are mounting that Barak will now form a new emergency government coalition with hawk Ariel Sharon, a move, the paper explains, Barak has previously resisted because he’s convinced it would end chances for peace.
The diplomatic and political machinations dominate the WP lead, which describes the fighting as taking the same form as in previous days: stone-throwing Arabs confronting Israeli police and soldiers. (Question for the Post: What exactly are “unarmed crowds of stone-throwing protesters”?) But USAT, the New York Times and Los Angeles Times report a change: Jewish civilians are now rioting too, attacking Arabs. The LAT front breaks out a separate story about this, which states, “The mobs are out on both sides now.” The piece reports that yesterday, a mob of 500 Jews surrounded a Tel Aviv restaurant where they believed Arabs were working and set the building on fire, along with a store and three apartments where Palestinians slept.
But despite this, one difference about mobs does emerge, in both the NYT and LAT: Barak has called on all citizens to avoid violence. Arafat has said nothing similar.
Another sign of increased intensity is evident on the NYT front: a photo of a several Arabs roaming the streets in Nazareth that includes a masked woman.
The NYT fronts a piece by Lowell Bergman (the real-life model for the producer character in “The Insider”) explaining a new wrinkle in the Justice Department’s attempts to combat the laundering of drug money. It seems that the DOJ is not happy with the large amounts of the filthy lucre ending up in the accounts of the major American corporations. The story says a recent meeting at Justice where Janet Reno expressed her concern was attended by execs from Hewlett-Packard, Ford, and Whirlpool. Most of the money is coming from Colombia–it is first sold to brokers at a discount and they then dispatch people to the U.S. to make numerous sub-$10,000 bank deposits (just below, that is, the amount that banks must report to the government), which are then used to buy $5 billion a year in hard goods and services from U.S. companies. Business has been so good that it has largely eliminated the U.S. trade deficit with Colombia. So good in fact, the story suggests most companies have been dragging their feet in assisting Justice in shutting it down. Typically, companies protest they have no idea that they’re doing anybody’s laundry. In the Times account, only General Electric comes across as what one customs official calls a “good citizen.”
The WP reports that in a civil suit deposition taken yesterday, the CEO of Firestone, Masatoshi Ono, explained that when in his testimony before Congress last month, he said, “I also come to accept full and personal responsibility on behalf of Bridgestone/Firestone for the events that led to this hearing,” he was not admitting any fault. The Wall Street Journal tops its front-page business news box with word that Ono is about to be replaced, by an American.
Only the LAT fronts news that two Americans and a Swede won the Nobel Prize for physiology or medicine, for research that laid the foundation for the most widely used medication against Parkinson’s Disease and for Prozac.
The WP reports inside that Dick Cheney’s statement in the debate last week of tolerance for gay unions has won praise from an important gay rights organization and continues to provoke increasing criticism from conservative Republicans. The NYT, which recently carried an op-ed piece from Christian conservative Gary Bauer condemning Cheney’s remarks, also reports today that the conservative criticism is spreading a bit, but it additionally has Cheney saying that while his position is unchanged, when it comes to policy on the matter, he would defer to George W. Bush, who flatly opposes same-sex marriage. The Post, by the way, makes it clear that some have thought that Cheney’s position has been influenced by having a gay daughter, while the Times tries to write this one in code, referring only to her job at Coors “as a liaison to the gay and lesbian market.” Also, both Michael Kinsley’s column in the WP (and in Slate) and a letter to that paper point out a problem with Cheney’s debate claim to Joe Lieberman that “the government had absolutely nothing to do with” his recent financial success–namely that Halliburton, the company that made Cheney rich might have been more impressed with the training and connections he picked up as Secretary of Defense etc. than say, with those of the next guy from Wyoming who bombed out of Yale.