Today's Papers

Italian (Inside) Job

The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Wall Street Journal’s world-wide newsbox, and USA Todaylead with the fallout, or lack of it so far, from North Korea’s big, failed missile test: Russia and, more important, China have suggested they’re not interested in sanctions, which the U.S. and Japan are pushing for. The New York Timesfronts a solid analysis on North Korea—the U.S. has long refused one-on-one negotiations and now has darn few options. Instead the NYT leads with the death of Ken Lay, who had been awaiting sentencing after his Enron-related convictions. What also likely expired yesterday: The case against Lay and much chance of collecting money from his estate. As the Post puts it, the government doesn’t like to label somebody guilty “if they have not had a chance to appeal, and it is loath to punish dead people or their estates.” Lay, 64, died of a heart attack. And yes, they’re doing a toxicology study just to check.

Russia and China have so far suggested they’re less interested in threats of Security Council sanctions than “a blander, nonbinding ‘presidential statement,’ with no threat of punishment.”

The Post buries China’s refusal to play along and mails in its the headline: “U.S., ALLIES SEEK PUNITIVE ACTION AGAINST N. KOREA.”

By contrast, USAT peels back the façade: “ATTEMPT TO PUNISH N. KOREA HITS SNAG.”

Slate’s Fred Kaplan says the Dear Leader’s busted gamble, unfortunately, is going to make the White House even less interested in one-on-one negotiations: “Why should Bush make any concessions to Kim Jong-il when, as it turns out, Kim has nothing up his sleeve to trade back?”

A front-page Post analysis takes a wider angle noting that President Bush sure finds himself in a lot of sandtraps these days. “I am hard-pressed to think of any other moment in modern times where there have been so many challenges facing this country simultaneously,” said Richard Haass, a former senior Bush administration official. “The danger is that Mr. Bush will hand over a White House to a successor that will face a far messier world, with far fewer resources left to cope with it.”

Only the NYT fronts an Italian prosecutor arresting two top Italian intel officials for apparently helping the CIA kidnap a radical cleric off the streets of Milan in 2003 and then “rendering” him to Egypt. Former Prime Minister Berlusconi’s government seemed to have helped in the operation, but now there’s a new government in town. Prosecutors also sought warrants for four Americans—that’s on top of the APBs already out for 22 other Americans suspected of involvement.

In early morning news, a suicide bomber just south of Baghdad killed about a dozen people outside a Shiite shrine.

The WP goes inside with three bombs exploding in Kabul, wounding about 50 and killing just one. In the past few weeks, the rising Taliban insurgency has made a move into “major cities and provincial capitals.” One British soldier was killed in another attack.

Everybody notes that Israel has moved some troops and tanks into the tip of northern Gaza as a second Palestinian rocket hit the city of Ashkelon. There were no serious injuries.

The LAT fronts Mexico’s leftist presidential candidate Andrés Manuel López Obrador unexpectedly and perhaps just temporarily taking the lead. The government is still finishing its formal count. Meanwhile, Obrador is demanding a full, manual recount, which Mexico has never done before.

The NYT goes Page One with the president turning the “Big 6-0.” The Times went out all out, getting deep insight from such surprise sources as … historian Doris Kearns Goodwin. “You don’t see a drawn look,” wisely noted Goodwin. “It’s as if somehow he has psychologically not allowed the burdens to fully get to him. Maybe it’s the exercise, maybe it’s his sureness about his own decisions.” And maybe you’re BSing.