Today's Papers

Buh-bye, Basayev

The Los Angeles Times, Wall Street Journal’s world-wide newsbox, and New York Timesalllead with the death of Chechen separatist Shamil Basayev, who had claimed responsibility for horrific attacks against civilians, including the raid at a school two years ago in which about 300 people, mostly children, died. The Washington Post’s lead goes local, and the paper off-leads a wrap-up of the assorted pushbacks the White House’s counterterrorism programs have faced recently—from the Supreme Court, European allies, and kinda, sorta, in Congress. USA Todayleads with the spiraling cost of cancer drugs. Prices increased 16 percent last year—that’s versus 3 percent for noncancer drugs.  A month-long treatment now costs on average $1,600.

The Post’s off-lead, the piece about the administration’s counterterrorism efforts getting dissed,announces: “Rethinking Embattled Tactics in Terror War.” The story itself has few details on the exact results of that “rethinking.” But as it happens, today’s Financial Times does have one: The Pentagon—acceding to the Supreme Court’s recent ruling—has decided to change course and give all detainees in its custody the minimum level of protection set by the Geneva Conventions. No word on whether the CIA plans on signing up for that “rethinking,” too.

Russian officials said the military killed Basayev in a “special operation.” Chechen separatists confirmed that he died, but, as the LAT emphasizes, said it was just a little bitty accident involving a truck filled with explosives. The NYT may have the inside scoop, and it points to the former scenario: A local cop told the paper that by the time police arrived at the scene, federal forces had already been there a good while.

An analysis inside the NYT says Basayev’s death was only “the latest of almost two years of setbacks” for Chechen separatists. Of course, as the piece acknowledges, it could turn out to be a blessing: Having a mass murderer like Basayev on your team doesn’t tend to generate much support for your cause.

The WP alone fronts the continuing sectarian bloodletting in Baghdad. A day after Shiite gunmen rampaged through a Sunni neighborhood murdering roughly 40 people, two car bombs outside a Shiite mosque killed about a dozen people. Then gunmen in a Sunni neighborhood murdered seven people, pulling them from a minibus. The Post notes, “Iraqi army soldiers near the scene failed to intervene.” (Here’s a more complete rundown of yesterday’s killings.)

In other ominous signs of the day, we get this from the WP: “In some Sunni neighborhoods of Baghdad, religious leaders went door to door seeking volunteers to join self-defense groups and promised to distribute AK-47 assault rifles to those who didn’t have them.”

We’re moving along in a positive direction in many, many areas,” said the U.S military’s top spokesman in Baghdad. Or, as Iraq’s national security adviser put it to Al-Jazeera, “We are at the gates of civil war.” 

The military said it charged another four soldiers in connection with the alleged rape and murder of a young Iraqi woman along with the killing of her family. Military prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.

Everybody mentions a federal judge’s ruling that—contrary to congressional kvetching—the FBI had every darn right to grab documents from the office of scandal-ridden Rep. William Jefferson. 

The WP has an op-ed from Palestinian Prime Minister (and Hamas man) Ismail Haniyeh:

Ihope that Americans will give careful and well-informed thought to root causes and historical realities, in which case I think they will question why a supposedly “legitimate” state such as Israel has had to conduct decades of war against a subject refugee population without ever achieving its goals. … If Israel is prepared to negotiate seriously and fairly, and resolve the core 1948 issues, rather than the secondary ones from 1967, a fair and permanent peace is possible.

The NYT offers two frontpage pieces on the blast that destroyed a townhouse on the Upper East Side and injured about 15 people, including 10 firefighters. The place was owned by a man going through a divorce, and he really didn’t want to give it up. Yesterday morning he e-mailed his soon-to-be-former wife, “When you read this lines your life will change forever. You deserve it. You will be transformed from gold digger to ash and rubbish digger.” Twenty-one minutes later, the local utility got a call from next door about the smell of gas.

Trippy! The Journal goes high with a study in which 36 volunteers were given very special mushrooms. The results should be familiar to those who conducted similar research in high school: Most had a fabulous time, indeed they rated it among the most meaningful experiences of their life. The remaining roughly dozen dosers said they got really paranoid and freaked out. According to the WSJ, two said it was like “being in a war.”