Today's Papers

Gunning for Gaza?

Everybody leads with the Mideast, though the papers emphasize different developments. USA Today focuses on news that the Israeli Cabinet approved military operations against “terrorist targets.” The papers all say that the army is likely to go into the Gaza Strip. The Los Angeles Times notes that in a televised speech yesterday Yasser Arafat ordered his security forces “to confront and prevent any terrorist operation directed against Israeli civilians from any Palestinian side whatsoever.” The top story in the Wall Street Journal’s world-wide newsbox emphasizes that President Bush called Arafat’s statement, “an incredibly positive sign.” The New York Times and Washington Post say that the siege in Bethlehem is ending. (According to early-morning reports, the agreement has hit another road bump and most Palestinians have remained in the church.)

The papers say that one Israeli Cabinet minister raised the idea of exiling Arafat, but the proposal didn’t even make it to a vote.

The papers report that a Palestinian suicide bomber botched his operation yesterday when his explosives went off prematurely. Nobody was killed, but he was severely injured. A number of the papers run photos of the injured attacker being dragged by a robot that Israel used after it feared that the man was still wired.

The Post and LAT notice that in Arafat’s speech yesterday he also told his security services to “confront any aggression against Palestinian civilians by the Israeli army and settlers, which we all completely condemn.”

The LAT stuffs a first-person dispatch from one of its photographers who snuck into the Church of the Nativity last week: “Occasionally, there is a meal—four macaroni noodles one day, a dozen spoonfuls of soup the next.”  (The audio dispatch accompanying the piece is actually the most compelling part of the package.)

(On a wholly unrelated note, here’s a story idea: It’s been a couple of weeks since Hezbollah last attacked Israel’s northern border. What’s going on there now, and what’s caused them to hold off?)

Everybody notes that Defense Secretary Rumsfeld formally scrapped the Army’s $11 billion Crusader, a next-generation artillery system. Rumsfeld said that the military should instead spend its cash on more nimble and accurate weapons. Congress can, and very well might, overturn Rumsfeld’s decision.

The papers all report that 21-year-old Lucas J. Helder confessed yesterday to planting the pipe-bombs across the Midwest that injured six people. Police were tipped-off to Helder by his father, who called authorities after finding a note his son had written that resembled one that was found with some of the pipe-bombs.

The papers report that yesterday the U.S. tried to kill a radical Afghan warlord named Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. A Predator drone launched a missile at Hekmatyar’s convoy but missed him. Hekmatyar has threatened to attack American troops as well as the Afghan central government.

Everybody notes that the commander of British forces in Afghanistan declared that the war against al-Qaida in that country is “all but won.” Still, he said that coalition forces have some work left to do in eastern Afghanistan.

The papers report that French and Pakistani intelligence services both suspect that al-Qaida may be responsible for yesterday’s suicide bombing in Pakistan that killed 14 people, most of them French.

According to early-morning wire-reports, 20 people were killed in southern Russia today when a land-mine blew up a bus.

The papers all report that Boston Cardinal Bernard Law testified yesterday that he let his aides decide how to handle charges that one of his priests sexually molested children. In this case, that meant letting another parish have the priest, who’s since been convicted of molestation. The papers also say that as a cardinal, Law has dual-citizenship and thus might eventually be able to wrangle diplomatic immunity.

Everybody notes that the Bush administration proposed yesterday to support and encourage single-sex education in public schools. Administrations for the past three decades have held that single-sex education is essentially discriminatory. But the White House pointed out that there’s growing evidence that it creates a better learning environment.

The papers all report that the Senate passed a bill yesterday authorizing about $20 billion worth of farm aid annually over the next 10 years.

Everybody notes that the Dow soared 300 points yesterday, helped along on by surprisingly strong profits by technological bellwether Cisco Systems.

The WSJ reports, “The Bush administration is seeking to relax rules dictating that hospitals accepting Medicare provide emergency care to patients even at non-emergency facilities.” The article quotes administration officials and industry lobbyists, all of whom support the proposed changes. It would have been good if the paper had also cited sources who might have been more critical-minded about the change.

The LAT fronts word that a federal judge overturned the Bush administration’s new regulations that allow mining operations to dump debris in rivers. The judge wrote that the regulations are an attempt “to legalize a long-standing illegal regulatory practice [and] must fail.”

The LAT retells the story of Richard Ankrom, a Los Angeles-based artist who repeatedly got lost trying to merge from the Pasadena Freeway to the I-5. Ankrom blamed poor signage and eventually, and surreptitiously, added a bit of copy to one of the signs. (It now says, “I-5” with an arrow pointing to the left-hand lane.) The guerrilla art is such a perfect forgery, and so useful, that the California Department of Transportation says they’re going to keep it. As a state spokeswoman put it, “Mr. Ankrom did a fantastic job.”