Today's Papers

Heading to Hebron

The New York Times, Washington Post, and the  Wall Street Journal world-wide newsbox all lead with Israel’s incursion yesterday into Hebron, the West Bank’s largest city. The NYT says, “The Israelis seemed to be carrying out a small number of targeted raids and not engaging in the aggressive tactics and large-scale property destruction that marked other attacks.” Still, at least eight Palestinians were killed, most of them when a helicopter fired missiles at a suspected militant’s house. The papers say that unlike in other recent operations, this time the Israeli Army gave Palestinian police a heads-up, and the police officers did not to resist. USA Today leads with word that two House transportation committee leaders want to take away the Department of Transportation’s authority to decide whether airline pilots can be armed. Instead, the congressmen, Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, and Rep. John Mica, R-Fla., are introducing a bill that would let Congress decide the issue. The Bush administration has opposed arming pilots. The Los Angeles Times leads with President Bush’s statement yesterday that mental illnesses should be covered by insurance as much as physical illnesses are. “Our health insurance system must treat mental illness like any other disease,” Bush said. Last week’s Post reported that Bush was likely to take this stand.

As the LAT emphasizes, Bush didn’t actually endorse specific legislation. And in what could be a big caveat, Bush added that any such legislation should “not significantly run up the cost of health care.”  HMOs contend that health-care costs will skyrocket if mental health problems are given the same coverage as physical illnesses.

“Today, Arafat can go where he chooses,” said the Israeli defense minister. Still, Israeli forces haven’t yet withdrawn from around Arafat’s compound. And Palestinian officials said that Arafat won’t leave until they do. The Israelis said they’ll move out in a few days when the six men wanted by Israel are transferred to an American- and British-supervised jail.

Secretary of State Colin Powell said that “all the elements are in place” for a settlement of the standoff at Bethlehem’s Church of the Nativity. But the NYT goes inside with a piece emphasizing that Palestinian negotiators have said that no progress can be made until Israel allows food into the compound.

In what could become another stand-off, the WP mentions Israeli claims that 15 militants are hiding in a Hebron hospital.

The WP fronts word that Britain “has decided to treat al-Qaida and Taliban fighters captured by its forces in Afghanistan as prisoners of war and turn them over to the interim Afghan government.” The paper emphasizes the difference between that policy and the United States’ decision to hold detainees indefinitely and classify them as “unlawful combatants.”

Meanwhile, the article’s 19th paragraph says, “[L]ike the United States, Britain had decided not to accord captives POW status but only treat them as POWs.” As one British official explained it, “We believe it is not clear whether they are legal or illegal combatants, whereas the U.S. has taken the view that they are illegal combatants.”

Everybody mentions that yesterday Turkey formally agreed to lead the peacekeeping mission in Afghanistan.

Everybody has followups to the destruction caused Sunday by a series of tornados and storms across the eastern U.S. that killed six people. Southern Maryland was hit hardest. It had a tornado that meteorologists categorized as an F5, meaning there were winds of about 300 miles per hour. Three people were killed there, and according to the WP there is about $100 million in damage.

The papers go inside with the Supreme Court’s 5-4 ruling that the Americans with Disability Act should not generally trump companies’ seniority systems.

The LAT fronts word that the head of a congressional investigation of 9/11-related intelligence failures has resigned after being pressured to do so. The paper says congressmen were concerned that L. Britt Snider, a former CIA inspector general, was hesitant to criticize his former colleagues in the intel community.

USAT fronts, and the LAT reefers, word that two lawsuits were filed against Los Angeles Cardinal Roger Mahoney, charging him with covering up cases of pedophilia. The papers note that Mahoney, who was hospitalized yesterday with a blood clot, has recently been a supporter of a zero-tolerance policy for sexual abuse.

The papers go inside with news that the U.S. has been invited back onto the U.N. Human Rights Commission a year after being voted off for what members perceived as the United States’ unpleasant unilateralist behavior.

Everybody notes that Pakistan is set to have its one-candidate election today. The papers say that the only unknown about the vote is whether President General Pervez Musharraf will meet his stated goal of a 30 percent turnout. Opposition groups urged supporters to boycott the election.

Nobody thinks that the vote will be a paragon of democracy. Exhibit 1, the referendum’s question itself (cited in the WSJ): “For the survival of the local government system, establishment of democracy, continuity of reforms, end to sectarianism and extremism, would you like to elect President General Pervez Musharraf as president for five years?”