Today's Papers

Is the Khost Clear?

The Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, and New York Times   lead with the Senate’s passage of a bill overhauling campaign finance laws. The bill, a version of which was passed by the House of Representatives earlier this year, bans the unregulated donations known as “soft money.” President Bush called the bill, which passed by a 60-40 margin, “flawed in some areas,” but said he’ll sign it. USA Today runs a line across the top reefering the vote, but leads with the results of a poll concluding, “One in 11 American Catholics say they have ‘personal knowledge’ of child sexual abuse by a priest.” The Wall Street Journal tops its world-wide newsbox with a car bomb explosion outside the U.S. Embassy in Lima, Peru, which killed at least six people and injured more than 30. According to a State Department spokesman, no Americans were injured, and the embassy itself, which is set back from the street, wasn’t damaged. Bush is scheduled to visit Lima on Saturday. Nobody has claimed responsibility for the attack.

A number of legislators who opposed the reform bill insisted that it violates the Constitution, and they said they’ll sue to sink it. “Today is not the end,” explained Sen. Mitch McConnell, R- Ky. “There is litigation ahead.”

Everybody notes that U.S. forces in the eastern Afghan town of Khost fought off an attack by unknown assailants. (The LAT briefly covered this yesterday.) One American soldier was injured and 10 attackers were killed.

The WSJ highlights a wire story reporting that Maj. Gen. Franklin L. Hagenbeck, commander of the recent Operation Anaconda, warned that al-Qaida forces are going to “great lengths to try to regroup or regenerate,” in the Paktia province, where Khost is located. The general added, “They are also spending a lot of money to regroup.” He declined to give details.

The NYT fronts Hagenbeck’s comments that the U.S. is negotiating with Pakistan to make some sort of joint effort to pursue al-Qaida fighters who’ve slipped over the border into that country.

The papers stuff the independent counsel’s office’s release of its final report on Whitewater, which concluded that though President Clinton and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton both made “factually inaccurate” statements, there’s not enough evidence to convict them.

Everybody reports yesterday’s suicide bombing of a bus in Israel, which killed seven, including four soldiers. Twenty-seven people were injured, including many Arab-Israelis.

A LAT story about the administration’s Mideast peace efforts has this sentence, “About 45 percent of [Jordan’s] population is Palestinian, its king says.” The paper has to rely on royalty for that fact?

Everybody says that the Islamic Jihad claimed credit for the attack. (Idea: It’s worth noting that the bombing wasn’t the work of the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, which is reportedly linked to Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, and which claimed responsibility for terror attack after terror attack earlier this month. The brigade has been relatively quiet this week. What’s changed? Might Arafat, for example, have ordered them to shut down while he negotiates with the U.S. and Israel?)

The Palestinian Authority condemned the bombing. But, as the WP notes, the “Authority’s statement focused on the fact that the attack took place inside Israel, suggesting that it considers attacks on Jewish soldiers and settlers in the West Bank and Gaza Strip as legitimate resistance.” The NYT calls the statement “more tactical advice than an expression of remorse.”

Everybody goes high with the Bush administration’s decision to give additional rights to defendants facing military tribunals, including the right of appeal, and the option to hire a private lawyer. 

The NYT’s Bill Safire says the changes are a step in the right direction, but he adds that there are still problems: 1) “No civilian review”; 2) “Indefinite detention”; 3) “No participation by Congress in the making of what is undoubtedly law.”

The WP’s piece on the tribunals mentions that the “great majority of the 300 prisoners being held at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, are low-ranking foot soldiers, sources said.”

The NYT stuffs the Bush administration’s decision not to support an expansion of the peacekeeping force in Afghanistan. In the same article, the paper highlights a “confidential” review by the U.S. Army that concluded that it will take at least six months to train even a tiny Afghan national army. Given those two developments, the Times concludes that it’s now “unclear just how Washington and its allies propose to deal with Afghanistan’s security vacuum.”

The NYT stuffs the following revealing headline: MAN IS CONNECTED TO TERRORISTS. (He’s a student in Illinois; and he denies it.)

The papers note that a judge said that the obstruction of justice case against Arthur Andersen will go to trial on May 6. The WSJ emphasizes that Andersen won an early trial date. USAT, meanwhile, emphasizes that the “firm launched a public relations blitz designed to portray government prosecutors as overzealous and heartless.”

If you’re wondering, as Today’s Papers was, how it is that the government can bring criminal charges against an entire company, the WSJ has a pretty good answer: “Except in cases where employees were acting entirely out of self-interest, employers are generally held responsible for crimes committed on the job by employees.”

The NYT runs a stand-up correction: “A front-page article yesterday about a Bush administration proposal to consolidate some agencies that control border activity omitted a reference to the news organization that disclosed the scheduling of a meeting on the subject. It was the Washington Post.”

A small, non-bylined item on the front page of USAT’s “Life” section reads kind of like a press release. It begins: “Barnum’s Animals Crackers, a favorite snack for generations of children and a few anonymous adults, is marking its 100th anniversary this year.” The piece ends with a small footnote, “Source: Nabisco.”

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