Today's Papers

Supremely Busy

USA Today’s lead reports that this week “President Bush will spell out his conditions for recognizing Palestinian independence, including a demand for a leadership overhaul.” The paper also that says Bush will probably announce that he’s sending Secretary of State Colin Powell back to the region to organize a peace conference. The paper also catches late-breaking news, as do the other papers, that a Palestinian suicide bomber hit a bus in Jerusalem yesterday, killing at least 18 passengers and injuring at least 50, many of them schoolchildren. No group immediately claimed responsibility. An Israeli government spokesman said Arafat was ultimately responsible. “The Palestinian Authority is drenched in terror,” said the spokesman. The New York Times’ top non-local story covers the Pakistani government’s announcement that it captured two Americans a month ago as they were trying to cross the border from Afghanistan. Pakistan is keeping mum on the details. The Wall Street Journal tops its world-wide newsbox with a summary of a raft of decisions announced by the Supreme Court yesterday. Among the cases: The court ruled that when police search buses and trains, they don’t have to inform passengers about their right to refuse to cooperate if the police don’t have a search warrant. In another case, the court struck down an Ohio town’s ordinance requiring door-to-door canvassers to get a permit. Also, the court upheld the IRS’s practice of estimating tips when assessing taxes in restaurants and bars. The Los Angeles Times leads with a leaked congressional watchdog report concluding that, as the paper puts it, “federal energy regulators failed to set up measures to protect consumers when they approved California’s deregulation scheme and are still outgunned by energy traders a year after the energy crisis.” The Washington Post  leads with word that the effort to cut off al-Qaida finances hasn’t worked.

The Post says there are two reasons for the failure: 1) Al-Qaida has put much of its wealth in “untraceable” commodities, like gold and diamonds. 2) The U.S. agencies charged with tracking down the green are “hobbled by bureaucratic infighting.” Said one official, “If we were trying to build a new police force in another country, we would have to tell them, ‘Look at us and don’t do what we do.’ ” He explained, “We compartmentalize, we don’t share intelligence among agencies, no one seems to have the authority to make that cooperation happen.”

According to the NYT’s lead, Pakistani officials “said privately” that they might have more American prisoners in custody. U.S. officials said they haven’t heard about any Americans in Pakistani custody, though the NYT says that’s basically b.s.: “There are strong indications that a number of American officials have known about the captives’ nationality for some time.” (Last week, USAT reported that “Pakistani authorities have handed over ‘several’ U.S. citizens to U.S. officials.” Today’s story doesn’t say anything about that.)

The Times adds, “Pakistani officials suggested that the process of verifying the prisoners’ claims of American nationality was slowed down, with American concurrence, to give the Pakistanis time to interrogate them.” A few paragraphs down, the article clarifies, suggesting that the issue isn’t  really about giving the Pakistanis time to interrogate; it’s more about giving them the freedom to use “harsh” interrogation methods—that is, essentially, torture.

A piece inside the WP notes that the Palestinian Authority offered U.S. officials a peace plan yesterday. The paper says that the plan is similar to the Saudis’$2 1967-borders for-peace offer. Crucially, the proposal does not demand a “right-of-return” for Palestinians. American officials said they were “encouraged.”

Citing administration sources (who seem to be leaking to the paper a lot these days), USAT says that Bush’s upcoming statement on a Palestinian state will not include a detailed plan for peace and will thus disappoint many Arab and European allies.

USAT and the NYT notice that yesterday Palestinian activists announced the creation of an independent group, the Palestinian National Initiative, to pressure Arafat and the Palestinian Authority to reform. “We don’t want to be left between the Authority and fundamentalism,” said one of the organizers. Today’s Papers thinks that one of the papers should, and probably will, profile this group.

The NYT reports that securities industry lobbyists are pushing Congress to pass a law that would, as the Times puts it, “prevent states from pursuing those who violate securities laws.” The paper notes that as early as today the legislation could be attached as an amendment to a proposed bill that’s meant to increase securities regulations.

The NYT goes inside with a report from administration officials that President Bush has “agreed in principle” to support expanding the current U.S. military mission in the Philippines against the Abu Sayyaf criminal gang. The paper explains that the apparent decision means that 1) some more U.S. troops may arrive in the country. 2) American soldiers might accompany Filipinos on patrol, rather than simply training them at bases, as they’re doing now. 3) the U.S. will almost certainly extend the operation’s official end date, currently July 31. The LAT must not be thrilled. Late last month, it headlined: “U.S. to Leave Philippines.”

Meanwhile, the papers note inside that in the Philippines yesterday unknown gunmen fired at U.S. soldiers, who fired back. Nobody was injured. 

The NYT and LATboth run obituaries on Scott Shuger, founder of Today’s Papers, who died over the weekend while scuba-diving off the coast in Los Angeles. Both papers refer to him as a “pioneer” who created one of the first journalistic features that really exploited the potential of the Internet. Scott’s column “became for many people indispensable in their lives,” said one journalism professor in the LAT. “His newsletter raised issues and problems in coverage that even experienced newspeople don’t automatically think of.”

This Today’s Papers agrees, and is, again, deeply saddened by Scott’s death.