Today's Papers

Laying Down the Law?

USA Today leads with word that suspected Sept. 11 accomplice Zacarias Moussaoui has dismissed his lawyers and decided to represent himself. Appearing in court yesterday, Moussaoui also said he “prays for the destruction of the United States of America.” He added, “America, I am ready to fight.” USAT points out that Moussaoui still “plans to take advantage of his rights under U.S. law.” The Washington Post  (at least the early edition) also leads with Moussaoui, which is also the top non-local story in the Los Angeles Times. Both papers focus on his anti-U.S. screed. The New York Times leads with, and the Wall Street Journal tops its world-wide newsbox with, developments in the Mideast. The NYT emphasizes Israel’s blockade of West Bank towns and says that things have “settled into a tense stalemate.” The Journal, meanwhile, focuses on word that a U.S. envoy met with Yasser Arafat. No progress was made.

Everybody goes high with news that the pope will begin his meeting with U.S. cardinals today. The papers note that one of the top issues will be whether or not to can Boston Cardinal Bernard Law, who has been heavily criticized for covering up cases of pedophilia.

The papers all note that Israel killed an Al Aqsa Brigades leader in Hebron yesterday. Israeli helicopters launched missiles at a car carrying the commander and his bodyguard.

The WP off-leads comments by the chief of Palestinian Security, Jibril Rajoub, that cracking down on suicide bombings is “not my priority.” “It’s over,” Rajoub said. “Israel will never have security in the occupied territories.” Rajoub has (perhaps now, had) been a favorite of the U.S., who considered him a moderate.

The papers all report that gunmen in Ramallah shot three men who were suspected of collaborating with Israel. A crowd gathered after the shooting and watched the men writhing on the ground. One of them later died. 

Everybody notes that shooting broke out again yesterday at Bethlehem’s Church of the Nativity. Nobody appears to have been injured.

The papers report that Israel may be preparing to storm Arafat’s compound in an attempt to snatch the men wanted in the killing of Israel’s tourism minister. The NYT says that Israel says it has “not ruled out” such a raid. Meanwhile, a wire piece in the WSJ notes, “An Israeli bulldozer began building a rampart near one of the walls.”

The NYT reports, “On Sunday, 13 peace activists tried to jump the barbed wire and dash through the Israeli lines to Mr. Arafat’s office.” As Slate noted a few weeks ago, it’s probably more accurate to ID these folks as Palestinian-supporters or some such.

The NYT goes inside with word from an Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades leader that the group will no longer target civilians inside Israel (that is, Israeli civilians inside the Occupied Territories are still considered fair game). He explained, “What was happening is that we were delivering the wrong message to the world.”

The NYT wisely points out, “The influence of [the commander’s] remarks cannot be immediately determined. Al Aqsa is decentralized, operating in cells—some perhaps independent.”

This is at least the second interview a brigades commander has given a U.S. paper in as many days. Has the group started some sort of PR campaign? After all, these leaders are in hiding. How did the reporters end up meeting with them?

The NYT notes that a preliminary report by Amnesty International says that “serious breaches of international human rights and humanitarian law were committed” by Israel in Jenin, “including war crimes.” The group explained that it has found “credible evidence” that Israel used human-shields and blocked relief assistance.

The Times adds, “The Israeli Army denies committing any atrocities during what it describes as fierce fighting in the Jenin refugee camp.” Does that mean the spokesman denies that Israel soldiers used human-shields? It would have been better if the paper quoted the spokesman responding to the specific charges.

Everybody prominently notes that Microsoft founder Bill Gates testified yesterday in the antitrust case against his company (which happens to run the Web site you’re reading). Gates said that, if implemented, the proposed antitrust sanctions against the company “would turn back the clock on Windows development by about 10 years.” Prosecutors said he was full of it.

The Post fronts word that on this Earth Day President Bush argued that his environmental initiatives would reduce power plant emissions more than those of any previous administration. Regarding a key proposal, which the White House dubbed the “Clear Skies” initiative, former Vice President Al Gore retorted, “It ought to be called the ‘dirty skies’ initiative.”

The Post’s piece (headlined, at least online: “ON EARTH DAY, BUSH V. GORE”) focuses on the squabble and leaves out most of the substantive details about Bush’s proposals and critics’ problems with them. For example, the “Clear Skies” initiative is described as meant “to set air pollution limits from power plants.” By what means?

The NYT stuffs word that “Russia and NATO are on the lip of an agreement to give the Kremlin a real, if limited, say in the policies of its old Atlantic enemy.” The paper says negotiators were still working on the “fine print,” but said a deal could be formally inked in about a month.

A wire story in the WSJ reports that South Carolina’s governor has threatened to “do whatever it takes” to stop the federal government from shipping weapons-grade plutonium through the state. Yesterday, state troopers practiced trying to stop trucks from crossing state lines. According to the article, the governor “has threatened to lie down in the road if necessary to block the shipments.”

USAT’s “Life” section reports on the opening of a new play in Iraq, Zabibah and the King. The drama, based on a romance novel by noted author, and dictator, Saddam Hussein, is “receiving rave reviews from the Iraqi press.”