Today's Papers

Back on the Buses

Everybody leads with the violence yesterday in the Mideast: A suicide bomber disguised as an Ultra-Orthodox Jew attacked a bus in Jerusalem, killing at least 16 and wounding about 100. An hour later, Israel launched a helicopter attack in Gaza, killing two Hamas militants and five bystanders. Later in the day, Israel launched another attack that killed two more militants. Hamas claimed responsibility for the bombing, which came a day after Israel tried to assassinate a Hamas leader, which in turn had been launched after militants killed five Israeli soldiers over the weekend.

USA Today alone among the papers doesn’t distinguish between the terror attack and the subsequent Israeli strikes: “25 KILLED AS MIDEAST ERUPTS.”

The attack obviously means more trouble for Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas, who has been trying to convince Hamas to stop attacks but doesn’t have the power disarm them. “I think [Abbas] is having second thoughts about this whole thing,” one of his aides told the Wall Street Journal. “He didn’t come to this in order to be undermined by the Israelis.” (Here’s a new Slate profile of Abbas.) The Los Angeles Times  says that the White House is trying, unsuccessfully, to push Israeli Prime Minister Sharon to agree to refrain from any attacks unless faced with imminent danger. The paper says that the administration thought Sharon had already agreed to that at last week’s summit. Both Abbas and Yasser Arafat condemned the bus bombing. (The Israeli paper Ha’aretz notices that for the first time in years, Arafat referred to a suicide bombing as a “terrorist attack.”)

The New York Times and Washington Post front a sweep by 4,000 U.S. troops to pick up Saddam loyalists north of Baghdad. Three or four Iraqis were killed and as many as 10 GIs were injured in what was described as the biggest military operation in Iraq since that statue came down. About 375 Iraqis were detained. Some residents complained of rough treatment, saying that women and children were handcuffed. And not all the people nabbed were necessarily bad guys; the Post says a few were 13-years old. The WP also emphasizes that the sweep is part of a new strategy to go after guerrilla hideouts. “There are going to be more of these operations,” said one officer.

The NYT mentions that the Pentagon has “declined a request this week to produce figures totaling the number of attacks on Americans forces over the last six weeks.”

A feature piece inside the Post briefly mentions that things are finally getting better in Baghdad: There’s electricity in most parts of the city for 20 hours a day, lines for gas have all but disappeared, and some merchants are even beginning to open at night. Perhaps it’s not ripe enough yet, but given the attention the postwar chaos has received, shouldn’t significant signs of improvement get Page One coverage?

The Post off-leads the latest on how a bit of bunk info—that Iraq was supposedly seeking uranium from Niger—made it into President Bush’s State of the Union address. As the WP notes, last month NYT columnist Nicholas Kristof said that a CIA envoy went to Niger in 2002 and concluded that the uranium allegations were bogus. Kristof said the administration knew about that. But today’s Post, citing “senior administration officials and a former government official,” says that the CIA somehow dropped the envoy’s conclusions by the wayside and never sent them on to the White House.

Everybody mentions inside that congressional Republicans agreed to hold hearings into intel issues on the missing Iraqi WMDs, but they also quashed a bid by Democrats to launch a full-bore investigation. The WP emphasizes the GOP-led kibosh, “HILL GOP REJECTS WIDER IRAQ INTELLIGENCE PROBE,”while the Journal (online) gives the opposite impression: “SENATE, HOUSE PLAN WEAPONS PROBE.” The LAT emphasizes that the hearings will held behind closed doors.

The papers all report inside that while looting of artifacts in Baghdad was much-smaller scale than was originally reported, a survey team of international scientists has concluded that it was worse than expected at sites away from the capital.

An editor’s note in the NYT says that the paper has found 10 additional articles that Times-wrecker Jayson Blair fudged in one way or another. The paper says the list of corrections, which includes a few instances of plagiarism and created quotes, will “remain accessible for the next week.” Why not just keep them up there?