Today's Papers

Fritz Hauling

The Washington Post leads with the arrival of about 200 Nigerian peacekeepers in Liberia. Everybody fronts the same photo of a peacekeeper crowd-surfing into of a throng of celebrating Liberians. USA Today leads with word that Episcopalian leaders delayed a final vote on approving the denomination’s first openly gay bishop after last-minute allegations were raised about sexual misconduct. One man e-mailed the church and said that a few years ago (presumably when the man was an adult) the nominee “put his hands on me inappropriately every time I engaged him in conversation.” The New York Times leads with a local story, but one that may have national implications: New York City announced yesterday that it will systematically review biological evidence from hundreds of unsolved sex crime cases and then use DNA testing to, hopefully, indict attackers before the 10-year statute of limitations runs out. New York’s mayor said the project was the first of its kind. (The NYT doesn’t double-check that.) The Los Angeles Times leads with a recall wrap-up, focusing on word that major unions seem to be rallying around Gov. Gray Davis. In other recall news, porno king Larry Flynt entered the race. 

In late-breaking news that the LAT catches, there was an explosion at a hotel in Indonesia’s capital, killing at least eight people and injuring at least 70. Authorities said it “very likely” was carried out by a suicide bomber. The Jakarta hotel is popular with foreigners and located near several embassies.

The Nigerian peacekeepers didn’t go into Monrovia yesterday, though the WP says fighting died down in the center of the city. The LAT says battles continued.Meanwhile, a piece inside the Post details some of the human-rights violations that the Nigerians were responsible for last time they were in town, including mass executions. As everybody notes, there’s still no decision about whether to send U.S. Marines in, though the Post says the U.S. is leaning towards sending about 100 to lend logistical support.

Everybody notes inside that the White House and Secretary of State Powell denied yesterday’s Page One Post piece that Powell and his top deputy plan to resign after the next presidential election. “It’s nonsense,” said Powell. Responding to the Post’s assertion that he told national security adviser Condoleezza Rice of his plans to step aside, Powell said the conversation “did not take place.” The Post, which puts the denial on A2, takes some space to defend itself, noting that the paper had asked White House and State Dept. spokesmen to confirm or deny the supposed phone chat: “Both declined to answer.” The NYT adds that it’s “the nearlyuniversal expectation of those in the government” that Powell isn’t going to stick around.

The LAT fronts, the NYT (oddly) reefers, and WP (even weirder) devotes all of 133 words to news that the White House is, as the LAT puts it, “preparing to tell” the Israeli government that the U.S. “may” reduce the amount of loan guarantees to Israel to protest the security wall enclosing the West Bank. (Looks like they just told them.) Relying on a law that prohibits any aid from supporting settlements, the White House says its considering withholding aid in proportion to the cost of the area of the wall that encroaches into the West Bank, about $50 million, estimates the LAT. (That’s out of $9 billion in loan guarantees.) The LAT adds deep into its piece that the U.S. might also deduct money that Israel spends on settler-exclusive roads, which would significantly increase the withholdings.

One potential reason the NYT, and especially the WP, downplayed the development: They didn’t have the news for themselves: As the NYT notes, an Israeli paper, Ha’aretz, broke the story. Another potential reason: The papers are being (overly?) skeptical, not buying into what has the feel of a trial-balloon warning from the administration. No White House officials go on the record in any of the stories.

The WP and NYT note inside that the military is focusing its Saddam hunt on his hometown of Tikrit, where one tribal leader told the NYT, “Saddam is with us, and the Americans will not find him.” Another local said he wasn’t happy about that: “Saddam’s family murdered and brutalized people in Tikrit just as they did all over Iraq.” The Post’s piece very briefly mentions that residents in one Iraqi town “stormed and ransacked” a police station after some sort of “incident” that began with an ambush on a U.S. convoy.

The NYT notes inside that the Treasury Department has decided not to give the Senate a list of Saudi individuals and organizations suspected of funding al-Qaida and other terrorist groups. Last week, a Treasury official said the information wasn’t classified and would be given to the Senate within 48 hours. The department has now decided to classify the material. One unnamed Treasury official said that the official who made the promise last week “misspoke.” Republican Senator Arlen Specter wasn’t happy about the move: “I think these guys are losing it. We did get a commitment on this list, and even in Washington a commitment means something.”

The WP teases on Page One and others stuff Senator Ernest “Fritz” Hollings’ (D-S.C.) announcement that he’s not going to seek re-election next year. As everybody notes, Hollings’ retirement likely makes it more difficult for Democrats to gain or even hold even in the Senate. Hollings, 81, took a few minutes during his retirement talk yesterday to praise President Bush. “He’s a nice fellow,” Hollings said. “You can’t find a better fraternity brother.”