Today's Papers

Party Games

The New York Times and the Washington Post lead with the International Olympic Committee’s decision to award the 2008 Summer Games to Beijing. The Chinese capital received more than twice as many votes as Toronto, its nearest rival. Both papers also go above-the-fold with separate stories on Beijing’s jubilation over the news. The celebration in Tiananmen Square reminded revelers of the pro-democracy protests in 1989 and the rallies that accompanied the Cultural Revolution. (Presumably last night’s party differed in that it was bloodless.) The Los Angeles Times leads with a local story on a rise in California’s unemployment rate, but it also goes above-the-fold with a story on Beijing’s win and a photo of the celebration.

The IOC has said repeatedly that yesterday’s vote would be about sports–not politics–but the papers are riddled with quotes from IOC delegates who claim that giving Beijing the Olympics will promote democracy and openness. In fact, the papers scarcely discuss the other reasons why Beijing’s bid was opposed. The NYT notes in the 23rd paragraph that Beijing has finished only 22 of the 37 stadiums that must be built for the Olympics. The NYT goes on to say that Beijing may be hit by the same problems that have beset Athens as it prepares to host the 2004 Summer Olympics. (There has been talk of taking the Olympics away from Athens because it is so far behind schedule.) The WP says only that Toronto’s strength was it has already built nearly 75 percent of its venues, and like the NYT, it says that after the jump.

Only the WP fronts the latest violence in the Middle East. Describing yesterday’s fighting as the worst since a cease-fire was reached a month ago, the Post says Israel used tanks, armored personnel carriers, and heavy machine guns to attack several Palestinian checkpoints in the West Bank. The attack came after a Palestinian sniper shot an Israeli settler. The WP says the fighting will only deepen the animosity. Several Palestinians whose homes were damaged had plenty of nasty things to tell the Post about the attack, while the Israeli defense minister said the attack will help erode the Palestinians’ will to fight.

The LAT off-leads with the story of Ivan Demjanjuk, a retired autoworker from Cleveland who faces deportation for Nazi war crimes. Two decades ago, Nazi hunters accused Demjanjuk of being a concentration camp guard known as “Ivan the Terrible.” Demjanjuk was put on trial for war crimes in the U.S. and Israel, and he was found guilty in both countries. Demjanjuk was sentenced to death in Israel, but then it turned out Demjanjuk wasn’t Ivan the Terrible after all. So Demjanjuk was released. But wait–maybe Demjanjuk really was a Nazi guard, the government says now. No, he wasn’t Ivan the Terrible, but Demjanjuk was a Soviet soldier who was pressed into serving at a concentration camp after being taken prisoner by the German army, the government says. And apparently even involuntarily serving as a Nazi guard is enough to get a person tried for war crimes, so Demjanjuk, 81, could face the whole process all over again.

The NYT off-leads with a piece on the interstate highway system. The article credits the interstate with ending the steady decline of rural populations. And as anyone who’s driven by a Waffle House or Flying J knows, the NYT says the interstate has come to serve as a center of commerce in many small towns. But the article also points out that the interstate spreads its largess unequally. Populations are exploding in counties that the interstate passes through, but they are falling in neighboring counties. The NYT adds that many small towns do not benefit from the interstate at all, and it says that mid-size cities, such as Little Rock, Ark., and Amarillo, Texas, tend to benefit most from the interstate.

The NYT also fronts the Bush administration’s opposition to a program that would end subsidies for fossil fuels and promote the cleaner energy sources. The plan is being developed by the conference of G-8 industrial nations, which includes the U.S. But Bush says, somewhat incongruously, that we should continue to let the marketplace decide our energy policy. That thinking explains why Bush opposes spending money to promote clean energy, but it does not explain why he would favor keeping oil subsidies, which disrupt the marketplace by their very nature. The NYT never quite resolves this contradiction.

The LAT fronts details of a daring prison escape involving Dr. Dolittle. Kevin Jerome Pullum recently walked out of a Los Angeles jail after making an identification card from a picture of the actor Eddie Murphy taken from the movie “Dr. Dolittle 2.” Pullum looks almost nothing like Murphy–at least, not in the pictures that the LAT runs–but apparently he was close enough to the picture to fool the guards. Several other security lapses, such as giving Pullum unimpeded access to office supplies and allowing him to walk unescorted from a front check-in center to the jail itself, made it easy for Pullum to escape. Los Angeles jails are not exactly Alcatraz, it appears.