Today's Papers

A Friend, Gone

Editor’s note: We are deeply saddened to announce the loss of a member of the Slate family. Senior writer Scott Shuger, who founded the Today’s Papers column in 1997, died in a diving accident on Saturday, June 15 near his home in Los Angeles. Click here for a tribute to Scott by Michael Kinsley, Slate’s founding editor.

The Washington Post  leads with a Mideast wrap-up, emphasizing that Israel started work on a security fence that will eventually surround the West Bank. The paper points out that Palestinians oppose the fence because it will stop many of them from being able to travel to work. Many right-wing Israelis also oppose it, because they’re worried that it would be an acknowledgement that the West Bank isn’t going to be a part of Israel permanently. The Los Angeles Times leads with essentially a news-analysis suggesting that President Bush’s idea for the creation of an interim Palestinian state—which he may go public with later this week—faces plenty of obstacles, including potential opposition from both Israelis as well as Palestinians. The paper emphasizes that the concept of an interim state “is unique” in “historical and legal terms,” and could have “a far-reaching impact on other hot spots.” The weekday-only USA Today plays catch-up on the U.S. Catholic bishops’ new get-tough policy on abusive priests, which was covered in Saturday’s papers: USAT says that for all the hoopla about the new policy, “Most Catholics won’t see any changes soon, if at all.” That’s because many abusive priests have already been punished, and some parts of the new policy will require the pope’s approval, “which could take months—or years.” The Wall Street Journal tops its world-wide newsbox, at least online, with another topic that the other papers covered over the weekend: Officials are concerned about a “resurgent” al-Qaida, especially after Friday’s bombing of the U.S. consulate in Karachi. The New York Times’ lead says that President Bush is formalizing a new policy of taking pre-emptive action against states and terror groups trying to develop weapons of mass destruction. Last week’s WP suggested that this was going to happen.

The Times notes that the new policy “is already being set in motion against Iraq.” The paper points out that, as the WP reported yesterday, a recent presidential order “authorizes [U.S.] forces to kill [Saddam] Hussein if they are acting in self-defense.” (Today’s Papers is a bit confused: If the order really stands as it’s been written about, then what was the previous policy: Soldiers were not allowed to fire in self-defense?)

The NYT fronts Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s statements that he rejects the idea of an interim Palestinian state. [According to early-morning wire reports, a Palestinian suicide bomber blew himself up near the border between the West Bank and Israel proper. Nobody else was injured.]

The NYT’s Bill Safire says he opposes the idea too. Among his reasons: “Partial statehood would give Arafat control of an airport. A plane loaded with fuel or explosives could hit a major Tel Aviv building within three minutes, too quickly for Israeli jets to scramble.”

The WSJ goes high with word that things may be heating up again between Pakistan and India. According to an Associated Press story in the paper, 12 people were killed in fighting in the region. (Reuters says 21 people were killed.) But the paper also points to a sign of lessening tensions: For the first time in months, some Indian soldiers were allowed to go on leave.

The WP goes above the fold with news that as bad as security is at Russia’s nuke facilities, it’s worse at the country’s (former) bio-weapons labs. “It isn’t pretty,” said one American security expert. “At one plant we visited, security consisted of two fat guys in sweat pants. They say they patrol the plant. But we know they don’t.”

A WP fronter notes that conservative Christians have joined up with Islamic governments to, as the paper puts it, “halt the expansion of sexual and political protections and rights for gays, women and children at United Nations conferences.” Citing U.N. diplomats, the paper points out, somewhat breathlessly, “U.S. and Iranian officials even huddled during coffee breaks at the U.N. summit on children in New York last month.”

Everybody notes that two small bombs attached to tanker trucks blew up yesterday near an American military base in Kandahar, Afghanistan. Nobody was seriously injured. The trucks had been on their way to resupply the American compound.

The papers all note that in France’s final round of elections in this cycle, voters, who turned out in low-numbers, overwhelmingly supported President Jacques Chirac’s center-right coalition, giving it, says the NYT, as many as 405 of the 577 seats in Parliament. Jean-Marie Le Pen’s far-right party didn’t win any seats.

The Post goes inside with word that some administration officials feel that Attorney General John Ashcroft has been too “high-profile” (WP’s words). The paper explains that the White House had wanted Ashcroft to be the guy who delivers controversial decisions (and therefore gets the heat for them). But now the White House thinks that Ashcroft is playing the lightning-rod role too well, and they want him to tone it down.

The Post points out that the above grumblings come after the White House leaked (to USAT) that it was peeved that Ashcroft and the Justice Dept. over-hyped suspected al-Qaida groupie Jose Padilla’s plans. As one WH official put it, “The most common phrase around here was, ‘What were they thinking?’ “

The papers all report that a Forest Service technician was arrested yesterday for starting the huge fire that has been burning near Denver, Colo. The technician, Terry Lynn Barton, told investigators that she set fire to a letter from her estranged husband, then left the letter on the ground after she thought—incorrectly—that it had gone out.

Today’s Papers would like to take another moment to acknowledge the passing of Scott Shuger. He was a colleague, mentor, and friend to this writer, who will miss him dearly.