Today's Papers

No More Powelling Around

The Los Angeles Times and USA Today lead with Secretary of State Colin Powell’s departure from the Mideast yesterday without a cease-fire agreement. The LAT calls it “a serious setback to the Bush administration’s foreign policy.” Powell’s trip also tops the Wall Street Journal world-wide news box and is the top non-local story in the  New York Times. The Washington Post’s top non-local story reports that a federal judge ruled that the Bush administration was wrong to try to overturn an Oregon law permitting doctor-assisted suicide. The judge whapped the Justice Department for “manipulating” the law when the feds said they would prosecute doctors who, under Oregon law, prescribe lethal dosages of drugs.

The papers note that despite pressure from Powell, Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat wasn’t willing to commit to a cease-fire. Arafat “must decide, as the rest of the world has decided, that terrorism must end,” Powell said

Powell also had some tough words for Israel. He said Israel must “look beyond the destructive impact of the settlements and occupation, both of which must end.”

Everybody reports that an Israeli government spokesman said that Powell “goes away with a tangible Israeli timeline to withdraw forces.”

[According to early-morning wire reports, Israel announced that it will pull out of the West Bank by Sunday, except the areas immediately around Bethlehem’s Church of the Nativity and Arafat’s compound in Ramallah.]

The papers all note that Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak abruptly canceled his scheduled meeting with Powell yesterday, leaving Egypt’s foreign minister to fill in. The WSJ says that Egyptian officials explained that Mubarak “was feeling ill.” But everybody suggests that Mubarak wanted to show that he was peeved that Israel was still in the West Bank.

The papers say that the White House—perhaps spooked by memories of the failed summit at Camp David in 2000—is hedging a bit on the idea of a regional peace conference. “It’s an idea that [Powell] has to come back and discuss with the president,” one official told the NYT.

As Powell’s trip ends, the papers all chime in with insta-news-analyses. The NYT sums up the thinking, “George W. Bush has had a bad week.”

Everybody notes that officials say that Powell will probably head back to the region in a few weeks.

The papers all have wire stories on late-breaking news that a U.S. F-16 on a training mission in Afghanistan mistakenly bombed Canadian troops, killing four, and injuring at least eight, including some Afghans.  

The papers report that an unidentified gunman shot a U.S. soldier in the face yesterday in Kandahar. The soldier is expected to survive.

An Associated Press story in the NYT quotes a local shopkeeper praising the soldier’s colleagues for holding their fire after the attack, which occurred in an outdoor market crammed with shoppers. “If they had been Russians, maybe they would have started shooting,” he said. “We were surprised that the Americans were armed but didn’t shoot.”

President Bush warned yesterday, “As the spring thaw comes, we expect cells of trained killers to try to regroup to murder, create mayhem and try to undermine Afghanistan’s efforts to build a lasting peace.”

Meanwhile, the papers report that Afghanistan’s king is returning to his native country today.

The NYT goes above the fold with word that President Bush promised yesterday that the U.S. will take a lead role in rebuilding Afghanistan, comparing the commitment to the United States’ post-World War II Marshall Plan. The article’s prominent placement and its headline, “BUSH SETS ROLE  FOR U.S. IN AFGHAN REBUILDING,” both convey that the Times thinks this wasn’t just flowery talk. The article itself, though, is a bit skeptical. For example, it notes that Bush “did not say what kinds of resources the United States was prepared to devote to the task.”

Meanwhile, the article misses a bit of info that could have added context. According to an AP story, a U.N. official “said efforts to bring home [Afghan] refugees might be slowed because his agency was running low on money. [Though] the agency has budgeted $271 million for the repatriation program, only about half that amount has been received from donors.” How’s the U.S. doing on following through with its part of the pledge?

The other papers, by the way, don’t latch onto Bush’s Marshall Plan references. The WP, for example, stuffs a story about the same speech. It’s headlined, “BUSH RESUMES CASE AGAINST IRAQ.”

The papers report that the State Department issued a statement yesterday reiterating its position that the detainees in Guantanamo Bay have no right to lawyers and can be held indefinitely.

A wire story in the WSJ reports that a judge in Spain, Baltasar Garzón, is moving to interview former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger over his alleged involvement with crimes committed by Latin American military dictatorships in the 1970s. Garzon is the same judge who ordered the arrest of former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet a few years ago. (It would have been nice if the story had included a line or two explaining how it is that Spain at least believes it has jurisdiction over an alleged crime that took place in the Western Hemisphere and was committed, supposedly, by an American.)

Everybody notes that Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan suggested yesterday that he won’t raise interest rates any time soon. Speaking in front of Congress, Greenspan said that despite high oil prices, inflation is still in check.   

The WSJ’s new “Personal Journal” section reports that “monthly rent payment is the latest target” for credit card companies who are “stepping up their efforts to get people to say ‘charge it.’ ” A front-page story in the April 11 LAT began, “Having issued five credit cards for every man, woman and child in the United States, banks are coming up with a new use for that plastic: Charge the rent.”

The WSJ reports that there aren’t a great variety of last names in the Philippines. So to help keep their identities unique, many Filipinos have been given, well, distinctive first names. For example, there’s Hitler Manila, who explains, “It’s a memorable name, you know.” Plus, he adds, “Sometimes it helps with the ladies.”

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