The New York Timesleads with the hundreds of new foreign fighters detained in recent raids in Iraq—prisoners the Bush administration says will not be protected by the Geneva Conventions. According to a Pentagon official, more than 325 non-Iraqi fighters are being held there, up from 140 on Nov. 7, before the U.S. invaded Fallujah. The Washington Post leads with the $337 million U.S. charities have raised for tsunami relief so far—a figure expected to swell well past the $350 million pledged by the U.S. government. In its top non-local story, the Los Angeles Times reports on the mass burials that have become necessary in parts of Indonesia—there are too few people available to bury the tens of thousands of bodies individually. In most cases, authorities do not have the resources to identify the bodies before they are buried, meaning it will be nearly impossible for families to know where their lost relatives are located.
Like the prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, the new Iraq detainees are suspected by the Bush administration of having ties to al-Qaida or other terrorist groups, and have been deemed “unlawful combatants,” meaning they can be “transferred out of the country for indefinite detention elsewhere,” including to secret CIA detention centers. The article notes that indefinite detention has become an increasingly prickly legal problem, since no one in the administration can say when the war on terror might end. Most of the 550 prisoners at Guantanamo “are no longer seen as worthy of regular interrogation,” according to one senior official, but they will not be released because the Defense Department believes they “continue to pose a threat to the United States.”
With so much money flowing into charities (largely through the Internet, as Slate’sDavid Wallace-Wells explained last week), worries about tsunami fund-raising are growing. Some organizers are concerned that the tsunami will siphon funds from important domestic causes or that it will distract donors from less spectacular disasters like famine and war. Watchdog groups, meanwhile, are making sure that charities are actually spending their donation money on tsunami relief and not using it to buy new computers and stuff. As the LAT explains inside, a few charities, like Doctors Without Borders, have stayed honest by declared that they’ve got all they need for their tsunami effort, and that future donations will be used where most needed.
The WP also fronts the devastation and mass burials in Meulaboh, Indonesia (strangely, the article opens with the exact same image as the LAT piece).
And the NYT fronts the stories of several American families who still haven’t heard from their relatives. According to the article, about 20 Americans are still missing or presumed dead from the disaster.
All three papers front the Bush administration’s controversial $240,000 contract with conservative TV personality Armstrong Williams, who agreed to promote Bush’s education policies on the air and to other black media figures. Williams has a syndicated TV show and newspaper column and appears frequently on CNN, NBC, and elsewhere. When the story became public, he called his failure to disclose the paid arrangement “an error in judgment.” Congressional Democrats have begun to complain about what they see as a Bush pattern of “bribing journalists to bias their news in favor of government policies.” The LAT notes: “In two cases last year, the Government Accountability Office, Congress’ nonpartisan investigative arm, declared that departments under Bush had engaged in illegal “covert propaganda.”
The NYT and LAT front, and the WP stuffs, the indictment of 79-year-old Mississippi Klansman Edgar Ray Killen for the murders of three civil rights workers in 1964, 41 years ago. Activists have long rallied for the arrest of Killen and the other men allegedly involved in the murders, eight of whom are still living, but Killen was the only one indicted. At a hearing on Friday, he pleaded not guilty to all three charges.
The WP is the only paper to front the U.S. economy’s addition of 2.2 million jobs in 2004, the first annual payroll gain since the recession began in 2001. The unemployment rate also dropped to 5.4 percent from 5.7 percent in December 2003, though unemployment among factory workers has risen in the same period, as has the jobless rate among blacks.
The NYT fronts a look at the apparent weakening of the once-powerful Palestinian group Hamas. In the wake of Yasser Arafat’s death, popular sentiment among Palestinians has cooled to Hamas’ violent approach—including the necessary destruction of Israel—and warmed to a more mainstream path to peace and mutual statehood. Hamas is boycotting Sunday’s presidential election in Palestine, hoping a low turnout will rob the winner of legitimacy and prove the group still has a strong following.
Supernova!: After seven years as the highest profile couple in Hollywood, Jennifer Aniston and Brad Pitt officially separated Friday, calling their impending divorce “the result of much thoughtful consideration,” but pledging continued mutual “love and admiration.” Thankfully, the couple’s his-and-her thrones may not stay empty long: People Magazine isreporting that Cameron Diaz, girlfriend of pop singer Justin Timberlake, was recently spotted wearing a “sparkling diamond on her ring finger.”