Today's Papers

Strip Tease

The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, and Washington Postall lead with the Israel’s parliament narrowly approving Prime Minister Sharon’s Gaza pullout plan, the first time Israel has agreed to dismantle settlements there. USA Today leads with the perennial shortage of poll workers—this year, there are 500,000 fewer than the government recommends. And in another evergreen revelation, USAT reminds that those who’ve made the cut are not exactly crackerjacks. “The people we hire for the most part are elderly, undereducated, and frequently unemployed,” said one local director of elections. The Wall Street Journal tops its world-wide newsbox (at least online) with a campaign check-in highlighting President Bush’s call to change the tax code. Bush didn’t go into detail, but he’s previously tossed around the idea of a flat tax or a national sales tax.

Nearly half of Sharon’s own party voted against the plan, and four of his ministers have said they’ll resign unless Sharon holds a national referendum on the proposal. The plan only passed with support from center and left parties.

As the NYT emphasizes, Sharon’ victory doesn’t ensure a pullout; but if the parliament had given a thumbs-down the plan would have died. During the vote, thousands of settlers protested outside parliament. Still, polls show about two-thirds of Israelis support the pullout.

So far as TP sees, only the Post checks in on what Palestinians and Israeli-Arabs think—and they don’t seem to be cheering. “I cannot accept the evacuation of Gaza from the inside and the incarceration of Gaza from the outside,” said one Israeli-Arab member of parliament.

The NYT teases and others go inside with interim Prime Minister Allawi saying “major negligence by the multinational forces” contributed to last weekend’s massacre of 49 Iraqi soldiers. Occupation soldiers usually provide security for Iraqi soldiers who are on the move. And Polish troops oversee the region where the killings happened. Given that, and Allawi’s oblique reference, the NYT’s headline seems a stretch (aka wrong): “IRAQ’S PRIME MINISTER FAULTS U.S. MILITARY IN MASSACRE.” The Journal similarly fudges it. The Post gets it: “ALLAWI ACCUSES FOREIGN TROOPS OF NEGLIGENCE IN MASSACRE.”

One former occupation official—an Aussie—gave the Post his theory about why coalition soldiers weren’t around: The U.S. and allies don’t have enough troops in Iraq to protect to the mushrooming numbers of Iraqi trainees.

While mentioning the suspect loyalty of Iraqi security forces—one official estimated that five percent are insurgents—the NYT says: “Western reporters also frequently encounter Iraqi security officers who say they are ready to take up arms against the occupation forces.”

Everybody mentions that Al Jazeera aired a video of a Japanese hostage being held by gunmen claiming to be part of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi’s group. They warned that Japan has 48 hours to withdraw its troops. Another insurgent group posted a video of 11 captured Iraqi soldiers.

USAT fronts a report from Afghanistan, which is expected to enjoy a record opium crop. The crop is “financing terrorism. It’s financing warlordism,” said the U.S.’s top narc in the country. “And if it’s a threat to the government of Afghanistan, it’s direct threat to the national security interests of the United States.”

The LAT and WP tease the death of 78 Muslim protestors in Thailand who may have been suffocated after being arrested and stacked in trucks one on top of the other “They might have had something stuffed in their mouths or nostrils,” a justice ministry official told the Post. The protests were happening in the restive south, where Islamic extremism has an increasing presence. The LAT says the arrestees were cuffed then forced to slither across the ground to trucks. Thailand’s prime minister, long criticized for moving away from democracy, was quick to assess the police’s actions. “They have done a great job,” he said before the death toll was announced.