Today's Papers

Return of the Bombers

Everybody leads with the suicide bombing yesterday of a pool hall near Tel Aviv that killed at least 15 people, and Prime Minister Sharon’s subsequent decision to immediately return home from Washington. The Islamic group Hamas claimed responsibility for the blast, which happened at the same time that President Bush was meeting with Sharon in the White House.

The Palestinian Authority condemned the attack and said it “will not be light-handed in punishing those who have caused great harm to our cause.”

Meanwhile, before Sharon left, he said at a press conference, “He who rises up to kill us, we will pre-empt him and kill him first.”

The papers emphasize that Bush and Sharon voiced differing visions for peace. While Sharon said that any talk of a Palestinian state would be “premature,” Bush reiterated that he supports the creation of a Palestinian state, though he didn’t mention a specific timeframe.

The New York Times mentions that Sharon “told William Safire of the New York Times and Jim Hoagland and Jackson Diehl of the Washington Post  that Mr. Arafat’s role should be diminished within the Palestinian Authority to one of ‘symbolic leader,’ with real power turned over to a prime minister.”

The papers all report that the deal to end the standoff at Bethlehem’s Church of the Nativity stalled after, as the NYT puts it, “Italy said no one had asked its consent to send a group of Palestinian militants into exile there.”

The NYT has a great detail: It says that since Arafat is sensitive to the appearance of Palestinians being “exiled,” the two sides agreed that the militants being sent abroad will be issued “study visas, and then be kept for three to five years under supervision and academic instruction.”

The papers all mention that the White House reiterated that CIA Director George Tenet will soon travel to Israel to assess how best to reconstitute Palestinian security forces.

Everybody reports late-breaking news that a bomb ripped apart a bus yesterday in Pakistan, killing at least 10. Most of them, it seems, were French. So far, no group has claimed responsibility.

Everybody goes high with the arrest yesterday of Luke John Helder, the 21-year-old suspected of being behind the pipe-bombs that have been planted across the Midwest. Helder led police on a 100-mile-per-hour car chase before he gave up. Just eight hours earlier, the FBI had put out an all-points-bulletin (that’s an APB) for Helder. “It is him,” said an FBI spokeswoman.

The papers all report that in a briefing to the Supreme Court, the Justice Department stated that it’s “the current position of the United States that the Second Amendment protects the rights of individuals to possess and bear their own firearms.” According to the papers, previous administrations held that the Second Amendment does not apply to individuals.

Everybody reports that a Chinese airliner crashed into the sea off the coast of China, apparently killing all 112 onboard.  The papers also note that an EgyptAir 737 crashed in Tunisia; 18 of 62 passengers died.

The papers report that after Monday’s assassination of Pim Fortuyn, one of the Netherlands’ most prominent politicians, the country still decided to go ahead with its elections next week.

The WP off-leads news that the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council approved a resolution to adjust sanctions against Iraq in order to make it harder for the country to import weapons while at the same time making it easier to import civilian stuff. The papers say that the full Security Council will likely pass the resolution within a week. Everybody notes that the vote is a big win for the White House.

The Wall Street Journal reports that that the Bush administration is considering hiring Russian companies to help develop the U.S.’s missile-defense shield. The paper explains that though Russia says it opposes the shield, “an offer of contracts for its economically distressed defense industry could help quiet criticism.”

The papers report that the White House expressed support yesterday for Army Secretary Thomas White who has been under fire for expressing his own support for an artillery system that Defense Secretary Rumsfeld wants to kill. When asked if he wanted White to skedaddle, Rumsfeld replied, “No. My goodness, no. You don’t believe everything you read in the newspaper, do you?” (The lead story in yesterday’s USA Today reported that White was “likely to be forced out of his post.”)

The papers all mention that President Bush will name former President Clinton to lead a delegation to East Timor later this month to celebrate that country’s impending independence. USAT had the scoop on this yesterday.

Quibble: The papers say that Clinton, as the Los Angeles Times puts it, “played an important role in East Timor’s road to freedom.” As the WP explains, after the 1999 vote for independence, “Clinton sent peacekeepers to East Timor amid the violence that followed.” That’s all a bit misleading. As the NYT reported at the time, “The U.S. declined to play a central role” in peacekeeping efforts. It eventually provided logistical support, but not any troops. (As it happens, Today’s Papers was a U.N. election observer in East Timor during that vote.)

The WP’s business section notes that Consumer Reports, the venerable magazine dedicated to protecting shoppers everywhere, came upon a great idea: In return for subscribing to the magazine, new readers were sent free auto-safety kits that included flashlights and tire-pressure-gauges. There was only one problem, actually two: The pressure-gauges are prone to inaccurate readings, and the flashlights tend to overheat (a couple of people complained of burns). CR has recalled both items.