Today's Papers

Political Poling

The New York Times, LA Times, and Washington Post all lead with a deadly attack upon Iraq’s new American-trained police force that left at least seven dead and injured as many as 70. The attack occurred when a utility pole packed with explosives detonated during the graduation ceremony for the first class of new recruits. It came just one day after the release of an audio message linked to Saddam Hussein urged Iraqis to punish anyone cooperating with American and British forces.

Both the NYT and WP offer the impression that the tactic of targeting Iraqi civilians sympathetic to the American occupation is a relatively new development in post-war Iraq. Yet the LAT reports that a string of civilian attacks began 10 days ago when Al Jazeera broadcast a videotape in which a terrorist group threatened to kill any Iraqi citizen caught assisting American forces. The NYT is alone in reporting that the day before the deadly explosion Iraqis in the area had warned journalists that a large attack was in the works for the weekend.

The WP off-leads, the NYT reefers, and the LAT stuffs a double suicide bombing outside a Moscow rock festival that killed at least 16 people, including two female bombers. It was the first major terrorist strike in Moscow since Chechen rebels stormed a theater last fall taking 900 people hostage. While no group has accepted responsibility for the bombings, Chechen rebels are suspected, as the incident comes only one day after President Putin announced his intention to hold a presidential election in Chechnya next fall. All papers eerily mention that the concert continued for hours after the explosions in an attempt to keep the crowd from panicking.

The NYT’s goes above the fold with a piece describing the unprecedented sense of cooperation between the White House and the State Department in pursuing the administration’s Middle East policy, as well as a new willingness to get tough with Israel by actively scrutinizing the details of peace negotiations. One State Department official likened the new strategy to a WWF-style tag team. The article suggests that the real tests of the administration’s willingness to prod Israel will come when the parties begin negotiating such contentious issues as the withdrawal of more Israeli forces from the West Bank and the dismantling of additional Israeli settlements.

The NYT reports inside that American forces detained 11 Turkish soldiers after storming a compound in northern Iraq. While the facts remain sketchy, according to a leading Turkish newspaper the soldiers had been plotting to assassinate a Kurdish governor when they were apprehended. With few confirmed details the NYT focuses upon the more aggressive role that Turkey appears intent upon playing in the region.

On the eve of President Bush’s historic swing through Africa the WP and NYT both offer previews of the his six-day, five-nation tour. Focusing upon the plight of Ugandan textile workers and farmers, the Post makes a case for decreasing American agricultural subsidies and increasing loans and educational programs. In a more skeptical take the NYT fronts a summary of challenges Bush faces, quotes an African NGO official who claims the U.S. only helps oil rich nations, regardless of their human rights records, and accuses the president of avoiding “the continent’s worst trouble spots.”

Adding yet one more angle to the ongoing Medicare debate the LAT off-leads with a report that rural lawmakers may finally have the political momentum to close the gap in Medicare payments between urban and rural communities. While the redistribution would relieve major healthcare deficiencies in the heartland, it would likely leave Medicare programs in cities like New York and Los Angeles strapped for cash.

Eyeing the legislative strategy of the Republicans going into the 2004 election the NYT reports above-the-fold that the GOP will bring a medical malpractice bill to the Senate floor next week even though its chance of passage are all but nil. The GOP tactic, according to Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., is to create political ammunition for the next election cycle by getting Democrats on record as against tort reform.

Last, the WP fronts and the NYT reefers up top (with a large photo), Serena and Venus Williams’ dramatic championship match in the women’s Wimbledon final. While Serena walked away with her sixth Grand Slam title and her second consecutive Wimbledon championship, the story of the day was Venus, who ignored the pleas of her mother and others who urged her not to play with a painful stomach injury. Countering persistent rumors and criticisms of her play, Venus endured three sets of visible pain in a match described by the WP as a “theatre of the absurd, the melodramatic, and the stomach churning … rolled into one.”