Today's Papers

Big Foot

The Washington Post leads with election results from Northern Ireland, where hard-line political parties, both Catholic and Protestant, triumphed. “This is a train wreck, as far as the agreement is concerned,” says a Belfast professor, referring to the Good Friday agreement, the 1998 accord which guaranteed the Catholic minority a share in local government. The New York Times leads with fears that Iraqi insurgents are carefully tracking U.S. targets. Investigations into the attacks on the Rashid Hotel and U.N. headquarters suggest that anti-American forces are “using simple but effective means to monitor activities and coordinate attacks. … ” The Los Angeles Times goes with the arrest by Italian and German police of three North Africans who are allegedly members of a group that recruits Islamic extremists to train in Iraq.

The Protestant Democratic Unionist Party, led by the Rev. Ian Paisley, emerged as the dominant political force in Northern Ireland after Wednesday’s elections, according to the Post lead. Paisley wants to “scrap” (WP) or at least “renegotiate” (NYT) the Good Friday agreement and has said that he will not deal with Sinn Fein, the election victor on the Catholic side. He said so very forcefully, in fact, according to the WP, grabbing a reporter by the collar and shouting, “Do I need to repeat it? Do I need to take you by the neck and say no, I’m not, I’m not talking to Sinn Fein and my party’s not talking to Sinn Fein, and anybody that talks to Sinn Fein will be out of my party?”

“I don’t know of anything within the Christian philosophy which is not about dialogue, conversation and dealing with sinners,” said Gerry Adams, Sinn Fein’s leader, as quoted in the Post.

State institutions in Northern Ireland have been suspended since Oct 2002, the Times reminds, when Tony Blair imposed direct rule following the disclosure of an alleged IRA spy ring.

There’s talk of footprints in the NYT lead, as in “Given the size of our footprint, you can’t overestimate the amount of information you can gather just standing on a street corner and watching” (the words of an unnamed American official). Or, as another official puts it in the same story, “He travels with not a small footprint”—referring to Paul Wolfowitz, who was staying in the Rashid Hotel when it was attacked in late October. The idea is that American officials and soldiers are relatively easy prey in Iraq, vulnerable to the most basic surveillance techniques—watching and listening. The Rashid may have been penetrated by a Hussein loyalist, as the Pentagon claims, or Wolfowitz’s whereabouts might have been leaked in “coffee house gossip,” in the Times’ words. This helps explain why Bush’s visit was kept under such extraordinarily tight wraps.

The three suspects arrested in Europe were allegedly part of a network that shuttled Islamic extremists to Iraq, according to the LAT lead. The paper reports that least one of the men, an Algerian arrested in Hamburg, had connections to the Hamburg-based al-Qaida cell that plotted the Sept. 11 attacks. He will be charged in Italy with terrorist association, providing fraudulent documents, and involvement in illegal immigration. Italian prosecutors claim that members of the network have been responsible for suicide bombings in Iraq. 

The word “bargain” makes all the front pages, as shoppers flood the stores on the day after Thanksgiving. The LAT sees a “a tale of two economies,” with some spending more than last year, others less, but everyone sleuthing for sales. The NYT reports conservative spending, “blamed on everything from unseasonably warm November weather, which hurt sales of sweaters and winter jackets, to the uncertainty of United States involvement in Iraq, to, of course, yesterday’s rainstorms.” Still, according to trade group predictions, the average consumer will spend $671 this year, compared with $648 last year. 

The NYT fronts great deals on apartments in cities like Memphis and Cleveland (but not in New York or Los Angeles, which remain ridiculous). Low interest rates mean more home buyers and fewer renters, resulting in a 9.9 percent vacancy, the highest level since the Census Bureau began keeping statistics in 1956. Renters are getting some weird and wonderful freebies, like coffee, muffins, and dog walking. The trend is expected to reverse as interest rates climb.

And no word on the rent, but the newest Manhattan address is “Joey Ramone Place,” a little stretch of the Bowery at 2nd Street, near CBGB’s, according to the NYT. The man who sang “I wanna be sedated” and “Now I wanna sniff some glue” will have his official street sign unveiled by the city this afternoon.