Today's Papers

Sweet 16th

The Los Angeles Timesleads with Iraq, where the new president, Jalal Talabani, said 50 Iraqis had been found, slaughtered, in the Tigris River south of Baghdad. Nineteen Iraqi soldiers were also found executed at a soccer stadium, and there were at least four car bombs in Baghdad—including an assassination attempt against Iyad Allawi that killed two policemen.The New York Times, the only other paper fronting the Iraq events,leads with Pope Benedict XVI making nice and pledging at his first Mass to work toward the “full and visible unity of all Christ’s followers.” He added, “Theological dialogue is necessary.” He spoke in Latin, as everybody notes. But has that been an ongoing tradition, or is it a return to it? USA Todayleads with and NYT fronts the New York Stock Exchange’s announcement that it’s going for-profit, public, and will merge with all-electronic rival Archipelago. The new focus on e-trading will probably mean lower costs and shorter trading times. But it doesn’t bode well for actual NYSE traders. “It is the end of the floor, in spite of what [the NYSE chief] says,” one finance professional told the NYT. “It’s a life preserver.”The Washington Postleads with Republican Sen. Sam Brownback warning D.C.’s mayor not to recognize gay marriages. Brownback chairs the appropriations subcommittee for the district, home to D.C.’s budget.

Talabani, a Kurdish former rebel leader, connected the bodies found in the Tigris to what had seemed like bogus reports of Shiite hostages earlier this week. “It is not true to say there were no hostages,” he said. “There were. They were killed.” The NYT is skeptical, noting that Talabani offered “no documentation, like a list of victims, photographs of the bodies or the names of witnesses.” But the LAT—watching Al Arabiya—quotes relatives who arrived at the local police station to ID “snapshots of the dead.” (Blogger-prof Juan Cole has a more detailed rundown of yesterday’s events.)

The Journal goes inside with an internal Army report that concludes insurgent attacks aren’t necessarily on the wane; they’re just increasingly focused on Iraqis themselves. One “U.S. military official in Iraq” sniffed that the report “appears a bit dated.”

In a front-page piece, Post reporter Ann Scott Tyson recounts traveling with GIs Sunday in the “Triangle of Death” just south of Baghdad when their convoy was attacked. A Humvee was blown up; Tyson had been in that same vehicle 10 minutes before. One of the GIs inside died.

Vatican vows of secrecy notwithstanding, the NYT, LAT, and particularly the Post get a bit of the backstory on the conclave. Benedict gathered lots of early backing, including from a few key Opus Dei men. And liberal cardinals, who were apparently divided, quickly retreated in the face of Benedict’s initial strong showing. Then there was the expectations game. “The newspapers were telling us that Cardinal Ratzinger was a favorite,” said one cardinal. “The Holy Spirit may even speak through the newspapers.”

After everything was settled, the partying began. The NYT: “Later Tuesday night, the cardinals joined the new pope for a dinner of soup, veal cordon bleu, and ice cream for dessert. They toasted the new pope with glasses of Asti spumante.”

As the Wall Street Journal says up high, the White House launched a counteroffensive on the John Bolton front, calling the charges against him “trumped up.” Meanwhile, fence-sitting Sen. Chafee, a Republican, appears to be jumping ship. Asked by the NYT if he’s now less inclined to support Bolton, Chafee said, “That would be accurate.”

A Journal editorial rises to Bolton’s defense, decrying the “smear campaign.”

The Post fronts the government planning to require foreign airliners that are just crossing U.S. airspace to hand over passenger lists so they can be cross-checked with the government’s (crackerjack)no-fly list.

Everybody goes inside with House Republicans offering to open an ethics committee probe on Majority Leader Tom DeLay. But Democrats rejected the pitch, arguing that a real investigation won’t happen unless the House first repeals recent rules that disempowered the committee, particularly a regulation stating that cases be automatically dismissed after 45 days unless a majority of the committee (i.e., at least one of the Republicans) votes to keep it alive. A Post editorial sides with the Dems, saying the “offer isn’t good enough.”

USAT and the NYT front the nation’s largest teachers’ union and eight school districts suing the administration, charging that districts have been, illegally, stuck with the bill to fulfill many of the requirements of the No Child Left Behind Act. The Times quotes a handful of law professors saying the complainants have a solid case.

Everybody mentions that a judge decided that Zacarias Moussaoui is not, at least legally speaking, nuts. That means Moussaoui, the only person charged in the 9/11 plot, will have his wish and enter a guilty plea today—assuming he doesn’t flip out and change his mind as he did a few years ago.

The papers all go inside with Ecuador’s president acceding to protesters and stepping down (or more precisely, fleeing the presidential compound). The president couldn’t hang on anymore after the head of the Army threw his support behind the protesters, who were ticked off by his abuses of power. Congress asked the vice president to take over. It’s the third time since 1997 that protesters have brought down Ecuador’s leader.

An Op-Ed in the NYT by a Marine colonel says we should stop pretending the state of the insurgency in Iraq is something that can be tallied on a daily or even weekly scorecard:

The only way a counterinsurgency can truly be successful is to establish effective, fair government that is accepted by the people—and that takes time.Thus the real measure of progress is the success of the Iraqis themselves in establishing a government and repairing the roads, schools, hospitals and oil facilities that will help get the country back on its feet. Obviously, the critical step of that process will be providing security for Iraqi citizens, in particular those who serve or openly support the government. Any decision on the drawing down of American forces should be tied not to the number of attacks against Americans but to the level of the security enjoyed by the Iraqis.