Today's Papers

The Dong Show

The Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal’s world-wide newsbox, and New York Timesall lead with North Korea ignoring international warnings and test-firing at least six missiles including its much-feared intercontinental Taepodong-2, which blew up less than a minute into flight. Little is really known about the Taepodong-2 but it’s thought to have the potential of eventually reaching Alaska—that is, if it ever works. USA Todayfronts North Korea but goes across-the-top with the U.S.’s ever-growing population. We’re adding citizens at a faster clip than any other industrialized nation, thanks largely to immigration. Projections put the U.S. at 300 million residents sometime in October. 

“The Taepodong obviously was a failure— that tells you something about [North Korea’s] capabilities,” National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley “told reporters.” (The Journal apparently misheard the ground rules. It runs the same quote, complete with bracketed insert, and attributes it to a “U.S. official.”) China, which has continued to give North Korea aid and has serious leverage over the Dear Leader, had tried to convince Pyongyang not to go ahead. “Our hope is that the Chinese are going to be furious,” said one “senior American official.”

The LAT notices how North Korea’s state media deftly spun the last big failure a few years ago when a satellite didn’t make it into orbit: “To this day, they claim the satellite, which they call ‘Kwangmyongsong’ or ‘Bright Star,’ is broadcasting from space the sayings of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il.”

Everybody gives some front-page play to the shuttle Discovery making it into orbit without any sign of a hitch. The astronauts will now get to spend their first day in space doing what they have long trained for: checking for nicked heat tiles.

The NYT fronts the White House suggesting—but Bush not publicly saying—that the president just might be open to a so-called enforcement-first immigration bill. The notion of meeting benchmarks for sealing the border before allowing illegal workers a path to citizenship is something the president thinks “we should take a close look at,” said the White House’s congressional lobbyist. Bush has previously said he’s behind an all-at-once plan like the Senate has. House Republicans have been pushing the enforcement angle and, as it happens, today is the kickoff of their “listening tour” on the topic.

The papers all mention Hamas militants in Gaza firing a rocket about six miles into Israel and hitting an empty high school. With the rocket traveling farther than previous attacks and hitting the center of Ashkelon, a major town, Israel’s prime minister said it was “an escalation of unprecedented gravity.”

The WP mentions the rocket attack but focuses on Israeli aircraft destroying the Palestinian Interior Ministry in Gaza and wounding seven people, including four children, in nearby homes.

The LAT and Journal front Mexico’s presidential elections still in flux as conservative candidate Felipe Calderón’s lead narrowed to about 200,000 and election officials clarified that about a million votes are still uncounted. Leftist candidate Andres Manuel López Obrador is demanding a full recount. “I think he’ll fight to the bitter end, but he’s losing momentum even as we speak,” one analyst told the Journal. As the NYT points out, foreign election observers say the vote was “transparent and largely free of problems.”

The WP fronts the increasing evidence that the increase in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere—which has given us the gift of global warming—is also causing the oceans to become more acidic, which in turn “could decimate coral reefs and creatures that underpin the sea’s food web.” As one researcher put it, “CO2 levels are going up extremely rapidly, and it’s overwhelming our marine systems.”

The NYT’s Sabrina Tavernise, who’s been doing some fine features from Baghdad, has a piece inside the paper saying Baghdad’s central morgue received 1,595 bodies last month, 16 percent more than in May and about double last June’s tally. That of course comes after the death of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and, though the Times doesn’t mention it, in the face of the capital’s much-vaunted security crackdown. “In terms of the level of violence,” the U.S. ambassador to Iraq told the BBC yesterday, Zarqawi’s death “has not had any impact at this point.”

The Times’ Dexter Filkins again writes from the mostly insurgent-controlled town of Ramadi where he’s holed up with Marines, who’ve come up with a new plan: “They are planning to bulldoze about three blocks in the middle of the city, part of which has been reduced to ruins by the fighting, and convert them into a Green Zone.” Explained one Marine commander, “We’ll turn it into a park.”