Today's Papers

Mexican Mayhem

The Washington Post leads with failed Mexican presidential candidate Andrés Manuel López Obrador firing up supporters with allegations that the election held on July 2 was rigged. In front of an estimated 200,000 people in Mexico City’s main square, López Obrador called for a vote-by-vote recount and said it was “morally impossible” for his opponent, Felipe Calderón, to win. The New York Times leads with a surprising jump in tax revenues that could shrink the budget deficit. But, as the Times points out, the new numbers aren’t as rosy as they appear. The Los Angeles Times leads with the not-so-surprising findings of rampant brutality and endemic corruption in Iraq’s police forces. Police officials take part in insurgent attacks, release terrorism suspects in exchange for bribes, and beat prisoners senseless, according to Iraqi government documents.

The Mexican standoff looks unlikely to end anytime soon. López Obrador is attacking the vote from all sides and spent Saturday stoking the anger of his supporters. In his speech he accused Calderón’s backers of fraud and vote-buying, claimed to be a victim of a government smear campaign, and alleged that the electoral commission rigged its computers so he would lose. On the positive side, the LAT reports that “he stopped short of calling for civil disobedience, eliciting groans from demonstrators when he asked them not to block highways.”

López Obrador will now take his case to Mexico’s special elections court, which has until Sept. 6 to certify the result. In a bit of a twist though, he said he would also challenge the vote before the Supreme Court. Calderón, meanwhile, has already accepted congratulatory calls from President Bush and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

Republicans are already using the tax data to justify their supply-side tax cuts. But the NYT throws cold water on that party, explaining that “one reason the run-up in taxes looks good is because the past five years looked so bad.” Despite a booming economy, tax revenues still haven’t reached their 2000 levels. One might also remember that the government budget surplus reached $236 billion that year. The jump in this year’s tax revenues should help lower the 2006 deficit to $300 billion.

After the discovery last year of a secret Interior Ministry prison that doubled as a torture chamber, U.S. officials declared 2006 the “Year of the Police” in Iraq. But the LAT says not much has changed. On top of the myriad abuses outlined in Iraqi government reports, the police officials responsible for operating that particular prison have not been brought to justice. In fact, they work on the seventh floor of the Interior Ministry headquarters. (American police trainers work four floors above them.) Nevertheless, the State Department says the police force is on track to take over civil security duties by the end of the year.

Also from Iraq, the AP reports that a Marine recruiter featured in “Fahrenheit 9/11” was killed by a roadside bomb in late June. In the film Staff Sgt. Raymond Plouhar was portrayed as cynically targeting poor kids for recruitment. Plouhar’s father said his son cried when he found out what the movie was about.

The Palestinian prime minister, Ismail Haniya, has called for a ceasefire with Israel and a return to talks aimed at brokering the release of an abducted Israeli soldier. In a sign that Israel might also be ready for such a move, Israeli forces withdrew from northern Gaza on Saturday. The WP headlines the (partial) withdrawal, while the NYT goes with Haniya’s call for a ceasefire. Both papers deftly describe the battered Palestinian neighborhoods that the Israeli army left in its wake.

In a separate article, the NYT wonders why Palestinians continue to fire rockets into Israel “when there is virtual certainty that the damage they inflict will be far less than the punishment they will suffer?” The illogical answer: The rockets create a “balance of fear” with Israel.

The NYT fronts Republican Rep. Peter Hoekstra sending President Bush a strongly worded letter back in May complaining about the White House’s habit of not disclosing secret intelligence programs to Congress. Apparently Hoekstra was referring to programs not yet dug up by the media. (In some quick work, the WP takes the Times’ scoop—posted early on its Web site—and produces its own report that appears on page A6.)

In a nice bit of investigative journalism, the LAT has acquired the confidential records from an arbitration case involving Lance Armstrong earlier this year. (Armstrong and his attorneys aren’t too happy about this.) In the case, Armstrong was once again accused of using performance-enhancing drugs, this time by a promotional firm that didn’t want to pay him a bonus. Most of the interesting bits of the case, which was settled, have been reported already, but the LAT has the details and does a great job of explaining the technical aspects of the doping allegations. As for Armstrong: “I’ll go to my grave knowing that when I urinated in the bottle, it was clean,” he testified.

In more positive drug news, the NYT reports that “the first complete treatment for AIDS that is taken once a day as a single pill is expected to be available soon.”

Back to the LAT piece on corruption in the Iraqi police force. The report notes that documents from Iraq’s Interior Ministry portray a detention system “in which officers run hidden jails and torture is common.” Where on earth do the Iraqis learn this stuff?