The Washington Post, New York Times, and Los Angeles Times leads report that one or more massive explosions, likely the work of terrorists, wrecked a housing complex filled with mainly foreign Arab families in the Saudi capital of Riyadh.
Details of exactly what happened in Riyadh are still sketchy—no one is yet sure how many explosions there were, what kind of bomb it was, how many Westerners and Americans lived in the targeted compound, or how close the blasts were to the American embassy. There were either at least four killed (LAT, NYT) or two (WP) and scores injured. Many of the injured are thought to be children because adults were out shopping and feasting as is the custom after sundown during Ramadan. Reports say one American was injured and another is missing, according to an American diplomat. Of the papers, the WP appears the most certain that it knows what happened. It depends on Saudi officials and sources to report that suicide car bombers, disguised as security forces, shot through the compound’s defenses, aided by gunmen who shot at guards from a nearby ridge. The WP floats Saudi officials’ suggestion that al-Qaida was responsible; perhaps, an official said, the bombers thought the housing complex was home to more Westerners and Americans. The papers remind that just a couple of days ago, the U.S. closed its Saudi embassy due to fear of such terrorist attacks.
The papers speculate, the NYT and WP on their fronts, that Howard Dean’s decision to not participate in the public campaign finance system—announced in the papers today—and the endorsement of the Dean campaign by two of the most powerful labor unions in the country will up-end the Democratic presidential competition. The WP suggests that Dean now has an opening to win Iowa and New Hampshire and then use his cash to keep anyone from challenging him from there on out.
The WP front says that the U.S. is thinking through alternatives to the Iraqi Governing Council. The Americans are displeased because members of the council are more interested in their own political and economic futures than the future of their country, and hence are not focusing on their assignments, the most important of which is to appoint a committee to write a constitution. The U.S. is considering a previously rejected French proposal to hold a national conference, like the Afghan loyajirga, to create a provisional government. In addition, instead of maintaining its stance that a constitution must come before sovereignty, Washington is now thinking a provisional government with what the Post calls “effective sovereignty” could become the way to go if the council doesn’t perform better.
The LAT off-leads an evaluation of the non-Iraqi contingent battling American forces in Iraq. Iraqi and American sources tell the paper that perhaps 2,000 Muslim fighters from eight countries have responded to Osama Bin Laden’s call to open a front in his holy war in Iraq. Some operate in independent cells while others work with Saddam loyalists who supply money and logistical support in return for suicide bombers and experience in guerrilla fighting.
Inside the papers is word that the International Committee of the Red Cross has closed its offices in Baghdad and Basra due to the ongoing violence.
The NYT goes above the fold with the decision of New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut, joined by several environmental groups to sue to force power companies to spend billions to reduce pollution. The states are pursuing the suits after the EPA decided this past week to not investigate several possible power plant violations of the Clean Air Act.
On the front of the NYT and inside the LAT is word that the CIA believes North Korea is able to turn nuclear fuel into weapons and the North Koreans don’t have to prove the weapons work by testing them to convince the Agency. Previously, the CIA had suggested that without such tests, they couldn’t be totally sure that North Korea had developed the ability to detonate nuclear weapons. The NYT story says why the CIA no longer doubts the North Koreans’ nuclear weapons capability is a mystery.
In the Middle East, the papers report inside, Yasser Arafat and his prime minister resolved their dispute over how to divide up responsibility for Palestinian security forces and over who should be interior minister, and, the NYT says, they appear ready to form a new government. In the West Bank and Gaza Strip, Israeli forces killed four Palestinians on Saturday.
A report on the NYT front says that the wealthiest colleges, some with multibillion dollar endowments, receive more federal money per student for financial aid programs than the schools with less money and a greater percentage of low-income students. In 2000-2001, Stanford received $211.80 in federal money per low-income student while the median for American colleges was $14.38. This system was set up a few decades ago, and funding was allocated based on how well each college made a case for itself. The savviest and best-connected schools ended up with most of the money.
Back to the Democratic presidential race: According to the WP, candidate Dennis Kucinich suggested during a recent debate that Fox sponsor a show to help him find a first lady.