Today's Papers

Hugo, and Come Back

The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, and USA Today lead with Secretary of State Powell’s lack of progress yesterday in the Mideast. When Powell met with Yasser Arafat on Sunday, the Palestinian leader reportedly refused to push for a cease-fire until Israeli forces withdraw from the West Bank. Meanwhile, Israel said it wasn’t planning on withdrawing anytime soon. The Wall Street Journal tops its world-wide newsbox with news that Hugo Chavez, the once and now current president of Venezuela, returned to power yesterday, just two days after he was deposed in a coup. (The other papers mostly off-lead this development.) The papers say that the Venezuelan military dropped its support for the coup after the new government suspended the country’s legislature, supreme court, and constitution. The Post says that those maneuvers “reinforced fears that what had occurred was not a popular revolt but a coup by the business elite.”

Everybody notes that Israel called for a Middle East peace conference, without Arafat. A top Palestinian negotiator called the Arafat-less proposal, “a waste of time.”

The NYT notes that Arafat began the three-hour meeting with “an hour-long monologue in Arabic, outlining Palestinian concerns.” The paper adds, “Secretary Powell responded with a 45-minute brief of his own.”

Here’s how one “senior administration official,” quoted in the NYT, summed up Powell’s message to Arafat: “It’s showtime. You’re on a dangerous path and you need to make a change.”

USAT reports that before Powell’s visit to Arafat’s besieged compound, Israeli soldiers gussied things up a bit: “The Israelis brought fresh underwear for their captives and jury-rigged a water pipe to allow everyone inside to take a sponge bath.”

The NYT says that Powell is expected to meet Arafat again on Tuesday.

The papers note that Powell is scheduled to visit Lebanon and Syria today to push them to get Hezbollah to stop its continuing attacks against Israel’s northern border.  

Everybody reports that Israel now says that only “dozens” of Palestinians died during the fighting in Jenin’s refugee camp. Palestinians have said that up to 500 have been killed there. Meanwhile, Israeli troops escorted reporters into the camp on Sunday, but said it’s still not safe for them—or relief workers—to enter on their own. (Though it doesn’t put it in this context, the LAT adds credence to that by reporting that some “fighting flared anew” in the camp yesterday.)

The LAT says, “There is growing testimony that [Israel’s] victory at the Jenin refugee camp was marred by human rights violations.” The paper explains, “Israeli soldiers shot unarmed civilians, bulldozed people alive and blocked access to medical care, according to more than a dozen witnesses.”

The NYT also reports that Israeli soldiers acknowledged using Palestinian civilians as human shields. “Yes, because of the snipers,” one soldier explained. “If the sniper sees his friend there, he won’t shoot.”

Meanwhile, Israel’s Defense Minister issued a statement denying charges that the army is burying Palestinians en masse and trying to cover up a massacre: “We did not bury a single body, and certainly not in a mass grave.”

Everybody notes that while most countries condemned the coup of the democratically-elected Chavez, the U.S. seemed sanguine about the overthrow, and didn’t seem happy about the return of the “maverick leftist” (WP). As a White House statement put it: “The people of Venezuela have sent a clear message to President Chavez that they want both democracy and reform. The Chavez administration has an opportunity to respond to this message by correcting its course and governing in a fully democratic manner.”

That kind of talk led yesterday’s NYT Week in Review to conclude, “When is a coup not a coup? When the United States says so, it seems—especially if the fallen leader is no friend to American interests.”

Chavez said he wouldn’t seek revenge against the people who tried to overthrow him, and instead would push for “national reconciliation.” The WSJ notes that the former president (the one who had the job for less than two days) and his cabinet ministers have been jailed.

The LAT reefers late-breaking news that an Air China passenger jet crashed into a mountain in South Korea, killing 155 passengers. According to early-morning wire reports, at least 50 passengers survived.

A frontpage piece in the WP reports, “The Bush administration is poised to complete the biggest increase in government spending since the 1960s’ ‘Great Society.’” The article explains that there has been a 22 percent spending increase from “1999 to 2003.” The paper doesn’t explain why it’s chosen to examine a four-year span, especially one that includes two years of a prior administration.

Meanwhile, the article’s 13th paragraph, notes, “The White House says that if homeland security and Sept. 11 emergency spending are excluded, non-defense spending…is slated to decline by 0.4 percent in 2003.”

The WSJ says that the president’s proposal to drill in for oil inAlaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is unlikely to pass the Senate when it comes up for a vote this week since it doesn’t have enough support to override a Democratic filibuster.

The papers report that Spain has arrested a man believed to be a key al-Qaida finance guy.

Everybody reports that U.S. forces in Afghanistan were fired at in two incidents yesterday. No Americans were injured.

Also, the papers report that rockets were fired at the offices of an Afghan governor who’s friendly with the U.S. Three Afghans were killed.

The papers note that the attacks comes as Afghanistan’s former king plans to return this week to help organize a loya jirga, the grand council that will convene in June to choose a permanent national government. 

USAT’s Life section reports that the producer of the TV show The Simpsons apologized to the people to Rio de Janeiro after the city complained about a recent episode that made fun of the city’s poverty and crime rate. “We apologize to the lovely city and people of Rio de Janeiro,” executive producer James Brooks said. “And if that doesn’t settle the issue, Homer Simpson offers to take on the president of Brazil on Fox Celebrity Boxing.”