Today's Papers

The Muddle East

The New York Times and USA Today lead with late-breaking news (caught by the other papers as well) that a suicide bomber blew up a bus this morning in the northern Israeli city of Haifa, killing at least eight and injuring 20. It was the first suicide bombing since Israel began its operations into the West Bank nearly two weeks ago. The Los Angeles Times  leads with, and the Wall Street Journal tops its world-wide newsbox with, word that 13 Israeli soldiers died yesterday in an ambush in Jenin. Palestinian gunmen trapped the Israeli soldiers by setting off a series of explosives (including one by a suicide bomber), and then opened up with sniper fire. The Washington Post  leads with Secretary of State Powell’s decision to meet with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. Sharon called the decision, “a tragic mistake.”

The Israeli army responded to the ambush by deploying helicopter gunships, as well as armored bulldozers, to clear the way for tanks. “We will continue until we make this camp submit,” said an army spokesman.

The Post says the ambush resulted in “the heaviest combat casualties the Israeli army has suffered since the invasion of Lebanon two decades ago.”

“The degree of violent resistance we faced [in Jenin] was beyond our expectations,” said an Israeli military spokesman. “We faced hundreds, maybe a thousand explosive charges, hundreds of hand grenades and in the beginning, we faced hundreds of gunmen.”

The LAT says that “hundreds of Palestinians were reported dead or wounded” in Jenin. But the paper adds that it is impossible to know exactly what’s going there since Israel has banned reporters from the town.

The Post also emphasizes the lack of access, but tries to give some details about conditions there. Citing human rights organizations, the paper says, “Residents fleeing the camps reported corpses collecting on the streets and water supplies running so short that some mothers were mixing baby formula with sewer water.”

The NYT stuffs an interview with a resident of Jenin whose house was demolished by Israeli soldiers. “The ceiling fell half a yard from us and we shouted to the soldiers that we were inside,” he said. “They told us to come out, and destroyed the house.” 

The NYT goes inside with a dispatch from reporter James Bennet, who recounts seeing a French cameraman shot yesterday. “I am going to die,” the cameraman said. He didn’t.

The Post emphasizes that Powell said that any cease-fire agreement would be “instantly linked” to political talks. Previously, the U.S. had said that political talks could only begin after a cease-fire was in place and being respected. “It is not helpful to try and sequence it,” Powell said, “because we’ll never get it sequenced properly.”

The papers report that Powell also said the U.S. would be willing to send civilian observers to monitor a cease-fire agreement.

Everybody notes that Powell now says he’ll arrive in Israel on Thursday, not Friday as originally planned. 

Everybody notes also that Hezbollah guerrillas in Lebanon fired into Israel again yesterday. The Post stuffs word that the U.S. is getting worried that the northern border could become a second front in the war, and has pressured Iran and Syria to rein in Hezbollah.

The WSJ goes high with news that workers in Venezuela went on strike yesterday, opposing what they say is President Hugo Chavez’s appointment of cronies to lead Venezuela’s national oil company. Though the WSJ doesn’t mention it (at least in the online version of the article), Venezuela is one of the U.S.’s largest suppliers of oil; if the strikes gain momentum, especially among oil-workers, it could spell trouble.

Everybody says that Arthur Andersen’s former top Enron auditor, David Duncan, pleaded guilty yesterday to obstruction of justice. The move comes as part of a plea-bargain deal Duncan made to cooperate with prosecutors.

The LAT fronts word that Bush is expected to give a speech tomorrow calling for a full ban on cloning. The House has already passed such a ban, but it’s unclear whether the Senate will pass it too.

Meanwhile, the WSJ reports that today 40 Nobel Prize-winning scientists plan to announce their opposition to a total ban; they think that cloning of human cells should be allowed for research purposes.

Everybody fronts word that the federal government charged a prominent defense lawyer with abusing attorney-client privilege in order to pass along terror-related messages. The lawyer, Lynne Stewart, represents Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman, the convicted mastermind of the first World Trade Center bombing. As a result of the charges, the government for the first time invoked post-Sept. 11 laws that allow officials to listen in on conversations between an attorney and his or her client.

Stewart said that she was “emphatically not guilty.”

A WSJ editorial says the indictment is a big I-Told-Ya-So: “Anti-Ashcroft hysteria, never below a slow simmer, boiled over” when Ashcroft announced that the U.S. might eavesdrop on some conversations between suspected terrorists and their lawyers. “Mark down one more case where Mr. Ashcroft has had a better understanding of the national interest than have his critics.”

The NYT goes inside with word that the FAA recently sent out a letter reminding one of the Sept. 11 highjackers that if he wants to keep his pilot license up-to-date, he’ll need to go to the doctor and get a check-up. The letter added, “Bless all Americans in our great time of need and for all those who fight to keep us safe.”