Today's Papers

Great Walls of Fire

The Los Angeles Times and Washington Post  lead with the wildfires in Arizona, two of which came together yesterday to form a massive 50-mile-long conflagration. The flames, which (depending on the paper you read) were 100 or 200 feet high, jumped fire lines and now threaten the town of Show Low, whose 8,000 residents have already been evacuated. “Nature’s in control,” one firefighter said. “She’s dealing the hand.” According to USA Today’s lead, “Republican and Democratic leaders in Congress are skeptical about the need for quick military action against Iraq and want President Bush to seek congressional approval first.” According to House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.), “Our focus should be Israel.” House Majority Whip Tom DeLay (R-Texas) added, “I don’t want to tie [the president’s] hands, but I think he would want to get congressional approval.” The Wall Street Journal tops its world-wide newsbox with word that some intel-connected lawmakers said on the Sunday news shows that al-Qaida seems to be gaining strength. “They appear to be more capable of attacking Americans than they were a month or two ago,” said Sen. Bob Graham (D-Fla.). The New York Times leads with news that Israeli troops have moved into Ramallah where they imposed a curfew and again encircled Yasser Arafat’s compound.

The Times emphasizes that in this Ramallah incursion, unlike during the one in April, there haven’t been any gun battles yet. The paper also notes that the move is the latest step in an operation that has left 600,000 Palestinians confined to their homes.

According to wire reports, Israeli helicopters in the Gaza Strip fired missiles at a car, killing six people. Israel said it was targeting a Hamas militant inside the vehicle.

The NYT says that President Bush is “tentatively planning” to give his long awaited speech today detailing the administration’s policy of, and conditions for, supporting a Palestinian state.

The LAT notices that Senator John Kerry (D-Mass.), who also appeared on a Sunday chat show, called the U.S.’s battle for Tora Bora “a failed military operation.” He says the U.S. should have relied more on American troops, who, he argues, might have nabbed Bin Laden.

USAT fronts a long dispatch from the tribal areas in Pakistan, where plenty of al-Qaida forces are believed to be happily hiding. That may be because folks in the neighborhood haven’t exactly been lending a helping hand, at least toward American soldiers. “Every chance I get, I lie,” said one sheepherder. “I see the American soldiers. They ask me, ‘Where is al-Qaida?’ and I lie. We are all doing our part.”

Everybody notes inside that British marines operating in eastern Afghanistan (across the border from the tribal areas) uncovered a massive weapons cache, including large mortars and rockets.

The papers follow up on news that the Post had yesterday: According to the FBI’s newly released crime stats, in the past year “serious crimes” (NYT’s words) increased in the U.S. for the first time in a decade.

The WSJ reports, “The Bush administration has stepped into a long-simmering legal dispute in the Dominican Republic, threatening to discourage investment there if the dispute isn’t resolved in favor of a significant Republican political contributor,” El Paso Corp. The article never says that the White House per se pressured the Dominican government. Instead, the Journal points out that the Dominican government received a letter about the dispute from OPIC, a government agency that provides loan guarantees for companies investing abroad, warning that the Dominican government should abide by the findings of an international arbitration board that ruled in favor of El Paso. “This is something we do for all our clients,” said an OPIC spokesman.

Bonus context: OPIC has been criticized in the past for supposedly being too buddy-buddy with some U.S. corporations. For example,  see the WP’s May 6 story titled, ENRON PIPELINE LEAVES SCAR ON SOUTH AMERICA; LOBBYING, U.S. LOANS PUT PROJECT ON DAMAGING PATH.

A story inside the NYT reports, according to the headline, MONEY FROM KIN ABROAD HELPS BENGALIS GET BY. Um, isn’t this a common practice in many, if not most, developing countries? In other words, Today’s Papers doesn’t see what the news is here.

The Post’s media reporter, Howard Kurtz, has an interesting column noticing the White House’s habit of announcing environmental changes late in the day, sometimes on Friday afternoons. The WH’s goal is to generate stories that stick to the environmental proposal itself, and to help keep journalists from, as spokesman Ari Fleischer put it, doing a “Bush versus the environmentalists” story.

The NYT’s business section notes that 18 months after Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton (and her hubby) left the White House, she is almost done with her memoir and is on schedule to publish it in 2003. Former President Clinton isn’t nearly as far along. He says part of the reason for that is because he’s writing the book on his own, and has literary ambitions for it, invoking Lillian Hellman’s autobiography as a something of a template. The Times says that Clinton might not want to hew too closely to Hellman’s book: “Many have questioned its veracity.”