Today's Papers

Mourning Again Bali

USA Todayleads with most governors saying that they’re not into the idea of having the military take charge of responding to supersized disasters. USAT polled all governors; 38 responded; only two outright supported the idea—Gov. Jeb Bush was not among them. Last week, he wrote an op-ed in the Washington Post saying that “federalizing emergency response to catastrophic events would be a disaster as bad as Hurricane Katrina.” The New York Times leads with 21 mostly senior citizens killed in upstate New York when their glass-enclosed tour boat capsized after apparently being hit by the wake of a much larger craft. The Los Angeles Timesleads with some post-Katrina bills in the House that propose to open up most of California’s coast, as well as the Eastern seaboard, to oil drilling. As the paper doesn’t say until the last paragraph, the bills’ chances in the Senate don’t appear to be good. The Washington Postleads with governments around the world feeling the heat from high fuel prices. The biggest protests have been in Indonesia, where the president recently announced cuts in fuel subsidies.

The NYT’s national edition and the Wall Street Journal’s world-wide newsbox lead withthe latest from Bali, where estimates of the death count still vary from 19 to 26. (The LAT says there appears to have been some double-counting.) Police also confirmed that the attackers were suicide bombers—the first time that technique has been used in Indonesia. Police displayed photos of the bombers’ severed heads, hoping somebody will ID the attackers.

As the Journal emphasizes, there had recently been talk to the effect that Southeast Asia’s top jihadist network, Jemaah Islamiyah, or JI, was no more. The papers are full of speculation that the attacks were carried out by some sort of splinter faction. In particular, suspicion is falling on two Malaysian bomb experts who travel in JI circles and have long managed to evade police.

USAT announces on Page One, “BALI ATTACKS LINKED TO AL-QAEDA.” Which for so few words is off in an impressive number of ways. For one thing, JI is not al-Qaida, at least not in the sense of a unified group. They both appear to be more movements than anything, and while AQ and JI certainly have overlap, they’re not one and the same. To reduce that all to simply “al-Qaida” does little but misinform readers. What is more, investigators didn’t “link” the bombings to anybody. The paper simply quotes one Indonesian official stating the obvious: that the two Malaysian bomb-makers are natural suspects. In fact, as the NYT puts it, Bali’s police chief says that so far there is “no evidence of Qaeda involvement in the bombings.” 


As the LAT, USAT, and WSJ flag—and the WP and NYT all but skip—the Kurdish president of Iraq suggested that Iraq’s prime minister, Shiite Ibrahim al-Jaafari, resign. The president said Shiite parties have been monopolizing power and ignoring Kurdish demands.

The Post goes inside with an Iraqi officer in western Iraq saying that the latest U.S.-Iraqi offensive there appears to have come up blank. “We think Zarqawi’s group escaped before the assault, because the U.S. forces were not engaged in heavy clashes,” said the captain. The U.S. military said about 10 insurgents were killed. Insurgents also said they’re holding two Marines; the military said there are “no indications” that that’s true.

A NYT piece teased on Page One says, “MONITORS FIND SIGNIFICANT FRAUD IN AFGHAN ELECTIONS.” Then get to the second paragraph, “Ballot boxes from 4 percent of the 26,000 polling places—about 1,000 stations—had been set aside for investigation on suspicion of fraud and other irregularities.” Is 4 percent “significant”? Eventually (the ninth paragraph), the Times quotes a top U.N. election observer putting it context, “I do not believe these irregularities in any way have affected the overall elections, but some of them have surely affected them locally.”

The Post’s off-lead argues that, regardless of what happens with Tom DeLay in court, DeLay-ism—putting party politics über alles—is here to stay. For one thing, top posts throughout the Hill are filled with DeLay’s people. And then, says the WP, Democrats are adopting some of DeLay’s party tricks, such as threatening to take away leadership posts from legislators who don’t toe the line. The Post says that’s what House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi did after the CAFTA vote.

The NYT fronts the latest segment on its series about prisoners sentenced to life, this time focused on minors. Here’s a snippet from the nut graph, “Juvenile criminals are serving life terms in at least 48 states, according to a survey by The New York Times, and their numbers have increased sharply over the past decade.” Then jump down to the 49th paragraph: “[T]he number of juveniles sentenced to life without parole peaked in 1996, at 152. It has dropped sharply since then, to 54 last year.” Whether juvenile offenders should be imprisoned for life is certainly an issue that deserves debate. But burying trends that complicate one’s thesis isn’t a particularly effective way to kick off the discussion.    

The LAT, NYT, and WP all front the death of Pulitzer Prize- and Tony-winning playwright August Wilson. He had 10 plays each set in a different decade of the 1900s chronicling bits of African-American life. “I once wrote a short story called ‘The Best Blues Singer in the World,’ ”  he recalled at one point. “It went like this: ‘The streets that Balboa walked were his own private ocean, and Balboa was drowning.’ End of story. That says it all. Nothing else to say. I’ve been rewriting that same story over and over again. All my plays are rewriting that same story. I’m not sure what it means, other than life is hard.” Wilson was 60.