Today's Papers

Stop and…Go?

The New York Times, the Washington Post, and the Los Angeles Times all lead with the latest suicide bombing within Israel, a blast at a Jerusalem market that killed six people, wounded many others, and prompted Colin Powell to hold off on meeting with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.

All the papers report that the responsibility for the bombing is being claimed by the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, Arafat’s Fatah political faction, and everyone reports that the suicidal bomber was a young Palestinian woman. The WP and the LAT give her name as Nidal Daraghmeh, a resident of Jenin, the Northern West Bank town that is all over today’s papers. According to a second LAT story inside the paper (“A YOUNG WOMAN AND A BOMB ON A BEAUTIFUL SPRING DAY”), this was Suicide Attack No. 110 in the last 18 months.

The bombing took place less than a mile from a hotel where Powell had met with Israeli Defense Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, reports the WP. The bomb struck right as Powell was about to embark for the northern Israeli-Lebanese border, and he was able to survey the post-explosion mayhem from his Black Hawk helicopter. 

The NYT emphasizes that the White House “demanded” that Arafat denounce the latest incident. When that didn’t happen, the NYT spells out, a Saturday meeting between Powell and Arafat was canceled. No paper seems sure whether a Sunday meeting will take place.

The NYT and the WP front articles on Jenin, the site of the most intensive fighting between Israelis and Palestinians. Besides the actual combat, a public relations battle has seemingly broken out between the two camps. Palestinians claim hundreds of casualties—Israeli figures 100—and there’s also talk of the killing of prisoners and other atrocities in the area. Both papers pick up on a quote by an Israeli general saying that Palestinian gunmen killed in action will be buried in an “enemy cemetery site.” The two papers say the controversy remains heated because the Israeli army isn’t allowing outsider access to the area, the reason being, NYT reports Israel army officials saying, the area remains booby-trapped.

The three papers front news that Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, under pressure from an internal rebellion from an alliance of military and business leaders, has resigned. Pedro Carmona Estanga, the head of the country’s most important business association, has been installed as interim president, and officials are promising an election within a year. The new state of affairs is winning applause from Washington, but getting knocked by Latin American countries, particularly Cuba, Costa Rica, and Mexico. The LAT reports that the new government has already changed the name of the country—from the Boliviarian Republic of Venezuela, to simply, the Republic of Venezuela.

The Venezuelan news may help anyone who owns an automobile. The NYT’s business section reports that news of new leadership in this oil-rich nation sparked a six percent drop in the market’s oil prices, the sharpest decline in six months.

Cardinal Bernard F. Law says he isn’t going anywhere. The NYT and the WP front word that Law, the nation’s most senior prelate, in a two-page letter to Boston clergymen has decided to remain in his position. The WP reports that responses to Law’s letter were “wide ranging,” but the NYT isn’t nearly as generous, saying that Catholics in the Boston area were “stunned.” The paper quotes Law’s critics and not-so-subtly suggests that Law doesn’t get what this scandal is about. The NYT points to Law’s second paragraph (the whole letter is on page 13), which begins: “The case of Father Paul Shanley is particularly troubling for us. For me personally, it has brought home with painful clarity how inadequate our record-keeping has been …”

The NYT gets retribution for a story some had previously criticized the paper for reporting months ago. Back then, the Times reported that several faculty members at Harvard’s Afro-American studies department were upset at the university and specifically at school president Larry Summers. Denials at the time were, of course, issued.  Today, the paper fronts news that Afro-American studies star professor Cornel West is leaving Harvard for Princeton.

The WP and the LAT front a new published report that the IRS, dealing with $2.7 billion in false claims for a nonexistent tax credit, paid out $30 million in refunds they shouldn’t have in 2000 and 2001. Twelve current and former low-level IRS agents were among the claimers. How did all this happen? Apparently, some fraud artists, attempting to extract a handling fee from gullible African Americans, advertised a $43,209 slave reparation credit. That dollar figure, the WP says, comes from a 1993 Essence magazine article that estimated what 40 acres and a mule is worth today. Interestingly, perhaps, the WP and the LAT offer different histories of where “40 acres and a mule” comes from.

The WP writes 40 acres and a mule is what was given to freed slaves “under an order by a Union general during the civil war.”

The LAT begs to differ. The paper writes that 40 acres and a mule was a “Civil War-era reparation proposal that was vetoed by President Andrew Johnson.”