Today's Papers

Smack! Bam! Powell!

The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, and Washington Post (with a near banner headline) all lead with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s vow to continue operations in the West Bank despite U.S. demands that Israel pull out. “We should continue to fight until the mission is completed,” Sharon said. “I hope our great friend the United States understands that this is a war of survival for us. It is our right to defend our citizens, and there should be no pressure put on us not to do that.” The papers note that yesterday Israel’s security cabinet formally decided to continue the operation. Meanwhile, the LAT catches late-breaking news that Israel said it pulled out of about two-dozen small towns, but also invaded another one. The Wall Street Journal tops its world-wide newsbox with the Mideast, but emphasizes (at least in early editions) that after yesterday’s suicide bombing and Israel’s refusal to end its operations, Secretary of State Colin Powell said, “My mission is not in the least in jeopardy.” Powell is due to arrive in Israel today. USA Today’s lead reports, “Airport passenger screening is costing the government almost four times what airlines paid before Sept. 11.” Monday’s LAT fronted a similar story.

Everybody notes that Israel gained nearly complete control of Jenin and its refugee camp, scene of heavy fighting and where 13 Israeli soldiers were killed in an ambush a few days ago. According to the LAT, one witness said he “saw five bulldozers demolish several hundred of the camp’s 2,000 to 2,500 homes.”

The NYT quotes one soldier interviewed on Israeli TV describing the camp as, “Vietnam—something like that.” He added, “There’s nothing there now.” 

The NYT stuffs a report from Nablus suggesting that in order to avoid soldiers being trapped as they were in Jenin, the Israeli army relied on airstrikes there yesterday. “They bombed all the night,” said one shopkeeper. “There were many killed this morning.”

The WP off-leads word, based on “administration sources,” that Sharon is “losing support” in the White House. The 1,200 word article, headlined, DEFIANT SHARON LOSING SUPPORT IN WHITE HOUSE, contains one quote in support of that point: “Sharon is arguably doing what he thinks needs to be done,” a senior administration official said. “After he’s finished, what’s next? The fear is that he knows no other way than being tough.” (The online headline, by the way, is even more direct: U.S. LOSING FAITH IN SHARON.)

Meanwhile, the article’s 18th paragraph notes, “Some administration officials said Sharon has been more receptive to Bush’s request than is publicly apparent. ‘We’re being precipitous if we base what we say only on what we see,’ one official said but would not elaborate.”

Meanwhile, the NYT’s Bill Safire mentions, “Last weekend, the A.P. reported Bush aides saying on background that our president was ‘frustrated’ after his telephone call to Sharon. I asked another ‘senior administration official’ about that, and was firmly told ‘no such thing.’ Such staff doubletalk ill serves the president and the press.”

The NYT considers the damage across the West Bank, concluding, “The infrastructure of life itself and of any future Palestinian state—roads, schools, electricity pylons, water pipes, telephone lines—has been devastated.”

The Times’ piece quotes a World Bank official saying that before the recent operations, “The Palestinian administration was highly functional, and delivered good services.” That’s interesting, because conventional wisdom has it that the Palestinian Authority was corrupt and not committed to providing basic services.

The Post goes inside with word that Homeland Security head honcho Tom Ridge appeared before Congress yesterday, albeit behind closed doors. Democratic leaders said they still want Ridge to appear in public hearings.

The WSJ reports that oil exports out of Venezuela, the world’s 4th largest oil-exporter, have stalled because of worker strikes there.

The NYT off-leads word that Arthur Andersen has “reached the outlines of a settlement for both criminal and civil charges.” Under the proposed agreement, Andersen would admit to illegal shredding, while the government would agree to postpone any prosecution for several years, meaning Andersen would essentially get probation.

The WP notes that the secretary of defense plans to appoint a number of “relatively nonconformist officers” to top Pentagon positions. The paper says the move is meant to push the Pentagon to be more supportive of the administration’s “efforts to ‘transform’ the military to better address terrorism and other new challenges.”

The WSJ has a fascinating piece reporting that the utility of the Pentagon’s much-heralded drones has been limited by the lack of satellites to transmit their data. In the late 1990s, the Pentagon decided it would transmit drone data through privately owned communications satellites, which it thought was a market that was taking off. Instead, communication companies decided to develop cheaper fiber-optics, which are land-based and thus useless for the Pentagon’s wireless needs. Currently, satellites can provide only a fraction of the bandwidth needed by the drones and other military gizmos. One result of that is that while the Pentagon had eight drones assigned to Afghanistan, only three could be in the air simultaneously. The Journal concludes, “The problem will probably hamper the military at least through the next decade.”

Everybody notes researchers’ conclusion that sexual partners of circumcised men have significantly lower rates of cervical cancer than do the partners of uncircumcised men. Researchers said that was because circumcisions reduce the rate of the sexually transmitted virus that causes cervical cancer. Today’s Pap… ahhh, forget it.

For those readers despairing of the loss of Oprah’s Book Club, USAT’s Life section announces that the paper will be starting its own reading group: “The first selection is Richard Russo’s EmpireFalls, which won a Pulitzer Prize on Monday. … Welcome to the club!”