Everybody leads with the Labor Department’s announcement that employers added 248,000 jobs during May, causing the national unemployment rate to hold steady at 5.6 percent. It’s the third consecutive month of job expansion, and if hiring remains at this level, the 1.2-million job deficit will cease to exist by November. Stock prices rose after the report was released. While President Bush touted the numbers during his Rome visit, a John Kerry spokeswoman noted that the country is still in “the worst job recovery since the Great Depression.”
In an editorial, the New York Times predicts that the president will credit his tax cuts for the upturn. First called a gift to taxpayers, then a stimulus, the paper suggests that the administration “simply relabel them a handout to wealthy families at a time of war and deficits.”
The papers all mention Bush’s visit to the Vatican, where a weak Pope John Paul II told the president to move toward ending the “grave unrest” in Iraq. The Catholic leader, a harsh critic of the war, referenced the Abu Ghraib prison scandal and urged reconciliation among allies alienated by the U.S. invasion of Iraq. Without responding directly, the president awarded the pope with the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
The Washington Post fronts the deaths of five American soldiers Friday who were killed in an attack in Sadr City, Baghdad’s Shiite Muslim slum, where they were patrolling. The killings brought the total of American combat deaths to 601.
The Los Angeles Times’ front-page Iraq roundup focuses on the Iraqi interim prime minister’s first policy address. Prime Minister Iyad Allawi defended the presence of American troops—saying a premature exit would be a “disaster”—and denounced insurgent attacks.
The NYT, citing no named sources, reports that Vice President Dick Cheney has been interviewed by federal prosecutors about the Valerie Plame leak. According to “people officially informed about the case,” Cheney was not questioned under oath, nor was he asked to appear before the grand jury. The article reveals nothing about what the VP had to say about the CIA agent’s outing.
Everybody mentions that President Bush named former Missouri Sen. John Danforth as American ambassador to the United Nations. A number of insiders predict that the moderate Republican will be confirmed quickly. According to the NYT, Danforth is a possible candidate to replace Secretary of State Colin Powell if Bush wins re-election. (Powell is expected to leave his job at the end of this term.)
The NYT fronts Spanish law enforcement officials’ assertions that FBI officials refused to believe they had wrongfully arrested a Portland-area attorney in connection to the Madrid terrorist bombing, even in the face of evidence that the man had no link to the crime. A top Spanish police official tells the Times: “It seemed as though they had something against him … and they wanted to involve us.” FBI officials have reportedly blamed the Spanish for supplying shoddy evidence, mainly a copy of a copy of a fingerprint. But Spanish officials say they reported early on that the match was “conclusively negative” with a print from the FBI’s suspect, who has since been cleared of charges. Yet for five weeks the FBI continued insisting that the fingerprint belonged to the lawyer. An anonymous FBI source tells the Times that his agency was solely to blame for the misidentification. The article’s headline doesn’t suggest the strong story that follows: “Spain and U.S. at Odds on Mistaken Terror Arrest.”
In a nod to the medium that made the Abu Ghraib prison guard notorious, the Post compiles “snapshots” of Army Spec. Charles Graner’s tainted past. The WP reveals that Graner—who has been called the ringleader of the torture—was served three protection-from-abuse orders by his ex-wife, who accused him of dragging her by her hair and throwing her. The paper also talks to former co-workers at a Pennsylvania prison who admit that abuse of inmates there occurred regularly.
Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon fired two right-wing government officials Friday who have not supported his plans to pull out of the Gaza Strip. Though the move is expected to give him a majority in his Cabinet, it could also lead to the breakdown of his government.
According to the LAT, a California National Guard sergeant claims he knew soldiers were regularly beating Iraqi prisoners last summer in Samarra. When he reported the alleged abuse, he says he was rushed out of the country to military hospitals for mental evaluations, which he calls a “cover-up.” His commander claims he was suffering from “combat stress.”
The WP reports that an appeals court discarded a $959 million judgment yesterday for American prisoners of war who charged they were tortured by Iraqi military during the 1991 Gulf War. The panel concluded that Congress never approved suits against foreign governments.
Disputes put out to pasture … According to the LAT, in an interview with Paris Match magazine, Bush claimed that rifts over the Iraq war have healed and that he considers French President Jacques Chirac a friend. In response to a question about inviting the French leader to his Texas ranch, Bush said: “If he wants to come and see some cows, he’s welcome to come out there and see some cows.”