Today's Papers

Reversal of Fortunes

The New York Times, the Washington Post, and the Los Angeles Times all lead with news that the meeting between Yasser Arafat and Colin Powell is back on. The meeting will take place today in Ramallah. Powell’s decision follows as the LAT puts it, “a subtly choreographed sequence of events.” Arafat issued a statement Saturday condemning all terrorist attacks, including the suicide bombing on Friday, and then the U.S. State Department announced it saw a “number of interesting and positive elements” in Arafat’s statement, which would lead Powell to meet with Arafat.

Israeli officials are dismissing the statement. “We want deeds, not words,” said Danny Ayalon, a senior foreign policy adviser to Sharon.

All the papers report that the Palestinians wanted the U.S. to make a statement of their own, but only the LAT words it strongly enough to suggest there might have been some quid pro quo: “In exchange for their condemnation of the violence, moreover, the Palestinians wanted a statement from the United States acknowledging the impact of Israeli attacks on Palestinian civilians.”

Three hours before Arafat issued his statement, Powell contributed one of his own: “The United States is deeply concerned about the serious humanitarian situation of the Palestinian people …”

A NYT op-ed by former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak says that Israel should “leave open the door” for further negotiations, but that the country should also go for “unilateral disengagement” from the Palestinians, building a system of security fences. The fence, says Barak, would need to take in seven settlement areas.

All the papers front—the NYT and the WP rushing the very late breaking news onto the front of its late editions—the stunning turnabout in Venezuela. Less than 48 hours after a coup had caused Hugo Chávez out of power and business leader Pedro Carmona Estanga into the office of Presidency, the tables were reversed. Chávez, at one moment a prisoner readying himself to be exiled from the country, by the end of the day, had again assumed control. Chávez’s supporters, labor members and some of the military leaders who hadn’t sided with the coup, regained control of the state-led television station and then the presidential palace. Even more incredible is the fact that, at least until Chávez returns to the capital city, Venezuela’s Presidency is now in the hands of a third guy … Diosdado Cabello, Chávez’s vice president who was sworn in as “Temporary President” Saturday at 10 p.m.

Chávez’s rebound was so quick it left no time for the WP to retract or rewrite an editorial blasting his old rule and offering a prescription for Venezuela’s “next government.”

The paper’s fronts look particularly green this Sunday, each running different environmentally-sensitive topics. The WP writes that insufficient federal funds are causing the declining state of the U.S.’s 385 parks. The NYT covers “vineyard sprawl” in Napa, Calif., where environmentalists and community members are fighting the encroachment of industrial wineries. And with a story twice as long as the others, the LAT takes issue with the way new Bush administration policies are leading the way for Appalachian miners to do “mountaintop removal” and “valley filling,” all in the name of cheap coal, and at the expense of wildlife, clean drinking water, and the safety of residents.

The LAT has another fascinating exclusive, the tale of how the U.S. Defense Department is drawing up plans to allow private companies to do most of the work in the training of the new Afghan National Army. These firms are led by former U.S. generals, and as a “little-known but increasingly essential addition to the modern battlefield,” these firms have their hands in the military operations of the “world’s more ragtag armies,” which apparently include the armed forces of Saudi Arabia, Croatia, Bosnia, Macedonia, and Colombia.

Only the WP finds space on its front page for Al Gore. The former vice president came out swinging at a Florida Democratic gathering, seen as somewhat of a cattle call for 2004 presidential challengers. Gore called the Republican agenda “wrong for America,” that Republicans are “selling out America’s future,” that he and Clinton “did a damn good job.” It took the WP 26 paragraphs of a 33-paragraph story to get to the other candidates, but for those keeping score, Sen. John Edwards, D-N.C., emerges on top.

Penthouse editor and publisher Bob Guccione, on the NYT’s letter page, writes that, contrary to how he was quoted in a April 8th business story in the paper, he has no plans to end the run of Penthouse.

On the eve of the deadline to file taxes, both the LAT and WP take up this interesting hypothetical: What happens if you owe more money than you can pay? Both papers offer two options—the safe option and the one for those adventurous in heart. Both papers offer the same safe option—you can fill out a Form 9465 (downloadable here) and have the IRS agree to repayment on an “installment” basis. But why do that when you can live dangerously? The LAT notes that the IRS accepts Visa, MasterCard, American Express, and Discovery, and remarks that if you have a MasterCard from General Motors Corp., you’ll end up actually gaining (even with the fee) a $250 credit toward the purchase of a new car. The WP plan sounds even better: Make the IRS an “offer in compromise,” or tell them via a Form 656 what you can pay. Yeah, the IRS will have to agree, but then again, as the WP notes, they just might, “on the theory that getting something is better than nothing, and that resolving the issue is better for both you and the agency.”