The Washington Post, the New York Times, and the Los Angeles Times all lead with continuing coverage of Hurricane Charley’s devastation in Florida. The Post notes that the storm’s blow to central Gulf Coast communities has sparked anger toward the scientists who predicted that Charley would come ashore farther north. Governor Jeb Bush defended the scientists, saying, “This is God’s way of telling us that he’s almighty and we’re mortal.” The NYT has the more complete story and alarmingly notes that hundreds remain missing. The paper reports that the Federal Emergency Management Agency has dispatched two 60-person search teams already and is calling in five more. The deployment is FEMA’s largest since the attacks of Sept. 11. The LAT notes that one town, Punta Gorda, effectively no longer exists.
The Post and the NYT both complement their main stories on the hurricane with additional above-the-fold pieces that try to capture the feeling on the ground in the areas hit hardest. The Post’s article has good accounts of the storm from those who survived it, although the author overreaches in his search for vivid prose. The NYT tries to explain why mobile homes, especially vulnerable to hurricanes, remain popular with many Floridians.
The breakdown in negotiations between Muqtada Sadr and the interim Iraqi government over peace in Najaf is the NYT’s off-lead; the LAT and the Post front the story. The NYT reports that the talks collapsed over the demand that Sadr withdraw from the holy city and disarm his troops. Sadr wanted mutual withdrawal along with several other concessions. The decision to end the talks came from Prime Minister Iyad Allawi himself, the NYT reports. The LAT’s article has more details on the end of the talks. According to the paper, an aide to Sadr accused the government of negotiating in bad faith, but the government asserts that Sadr’s unwillingness to meet face-to-face made failure inevitable. The Post’s story emphasizes Allawi’s last-minute decision to call off a new American offensive and instead prepare an all-Iraqi assault. American commanders welcomed the move as a politically savvy one.
The LAT’s off-lead explores al-Qaida’s use of the Internet in planning attacks and communicating with its members. The article adds little new information, however. Details about online strategizing for the Madrid bombings first appeared in TheNew Yorker several weeks ago.
The big news from the first full day of competition in Athens was the gold medal won by U.S. swimmer Michael Phelps. The Post, for whom the 19-year-old Baltimore County native is almost a hometown hero, fronts an above-the-fold article on the swimming superstar. Phelps, who is chasing eight gold medals (the most in history), won his gold in the 400 IM after finishing the race in 4 minutes 8.26 seconds, thus breaking his own world record. The NYT and the LAT front pictures of Phelps with reefers below.
The Post’s story on the “business-friendly” agenda OSHA has adopted under President Bush is the first in a three-part series examining the administration’s approach to regulation. The article reveals that the administration has trimmed OSHA’s budget and staff, killed dozens of rules under consideration held over from the Clinton years, and built new alliances with industry groups that exclude union representatives. The piece moves quickly despite its unglamorous topic; the authors explain policy detail without getting tangled in bureaucratic minutiae.
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who faces a recall referendum today, gets front-page treatment only from the LAT. The paper won an exclusive interview with the controversial leader, who offered especially harsh words about President Bush.
The LAT also previews a domestic challenge to Bush’s leadership. Gay and pro-choice Republicans are joining forces and pushing Bush to adopt a “unity” plank in the GOP platform that acknowledges their views. They hope for a “Sister Souljah moment” from a leader they view as beholden to the religious right.
The NYT’s exhaustive review of the weeks leading up to New Jersey Gov. James McGreevy’s resignation fleshes out the story of his downfall with new details. Apparently the most serious charge leveled against McGreevy by the man accusing him of sexual harassment is that the governor “forcibly” performed oral sex on the man against his will. The accuser and his lawyer were so aggressive that at one point McGreevy’s advisers thought the governor was the target of a sting. The article also reveals that the signature line of McGreevy’s resignation address, “I am a gay American,” was a poll-tested phrase developed with a gay rights organization.
The NYT checks in on the swing state of Wisconsin (not yet covered by Slate) and finds that predicting which presidential candidate will win is impossible. The state went to Al Gore by just 5,708 votes in 2000. The paper reaches the predictable conclusion that unfolding events in Iraq will dictate the outcome in the Badger State.
University of Michigan professor Juan Cole, whose blog has become a must-read for those interested in the Middle East, has a crisp article in the Post’s “Outlook” section examining the ayatollahs’ power in Iraq. The NYT “Week in Review” explains how Democrats’ use of private jets has made them vulnerable to charges of being “Gulfstream liberals.”