night. Mexican election officials announced the presidential race is too close to call and the country will have to wait until at least Wednesday for the official results. The Washington Post’s early edition led with the Mexican elections, but its final edition fronts the elections and instead chooses to lead with concerns by lawmakers that the brand-name drug industry is using “citizen petitions” to delay the release of generic drugs. The New York Timesleads with Israeli forces increasing their operations into Gaza on Monday morning. This move came after Israelis allowed some food, fuel, and medicine to enter Gaza and the prime minister said the military should “do everything” to obtain the release of the captured Israeli soldier.
USA Today goes high with a Fourth of July feature on how Americans see themselves, but, in its lead story, the paper reports the Army, Navy, and Air Force are facing a shortage of elite special operations forces. The Pentagon is facing difficulties in reaching its goal of increasing these types of troops by 15 percent in the coming four years. The intense training programs, and the large sums of money veterans of these elite groups can make in the private sector, are two important culprits. The Wall Street Journal tops its world-wide newsbox with Iraq, partly playing catch-up with the bombing over the weekend of an outdoor market that killed at least 66 people (the Post fronts a large picture of the funeral). The Journal also reports the largest Sunni bloc said it would boycott parliament to protest the kidnapping of a legislator. In addition, Iraq’s national security adviser issued a “most wanted” list of 41 insurgents, which include the wife and daughter of former president Saddam Hussein (the rest of the papers go inside with the news).
The fact that the two front-runners in Mexico’s presidential election claimed victory even though officials urged patience is seen as a sign of a brewing conflict. Regardless of the outcome, many believe the results will be contested. It is estimated that 60 percent of the electorate voted in what is described as one of the most intense campaigns in Mexico’s history. Even though, as the LAT notes, some voters had to suffer through long lines in order to vote, the NYT says the peaceful election showed Mexico’s “maturing democracy.”
A “citizen petition” to the Food and Drug Administration can be filed by anyone to call attention to any scientific or legal issues. But some FDA officials, as well as those in the generic-drug industry, say the brand-name drug companies are using this as a loophole to delay the release of competitors since a petition leads to more testing and review. Any delay in the release of generics translates into more money for the brand-name drugs. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., has joined forces with Sen. Trent Lott, R-Miss., to introduce legislation that would cut down on the citizen petitions that can be filed by the drug industry.
After a relatively calm Sunday, Israeli airplanes hit offices of the Fatah political party in downtown Gaza on Monday morning. Although Israeli officials said there were only a small number of tanks and troops moving into Gaza, the NYT says it could be part of the preparation for a larger incursion. Meanwhile, some of the borders were opened to allow some basic supplies to come through as aid agencies warned of an imminent humanitarian crisis.
Haaretz reports that the Palestinian groups believed to have kidnapped the soldier gave a deadline of 6 a.m. Tuesday for the Israeli government to release Palestinian prisoners or “pay the consequences.” Israel said it is prepared to release Palestinians who have not been involved in planning or executing terrorist activities but not those “with blood on their hands.”
The WSJ reports that even though two years ago Republican activists were rallying against the new political groups known as 527s, many are now fighting legislation that would limit their funding. In the last election, 527s were widely used to campaign against President Bush. So far in the 2006 campaign, though, conservative 527s are receiving more money. Regardless, most seem to agree that these groups will not be as important in this campaign cycle, as they were in 2004.
The NYT fronts an interesting look at the meticulous planning that went into last October’s terrorist attack in Bali, which killed 20 people. Indonesian police recovered the document from a computer that belonged to one of the planners of the attack. The 34-page document shows that the planners gave careful thought to all the details of the attack, from the clothes the bombers would wear to the type of switches that would be most effective for the bombs and at what precise moment the terrorists should approach their targets.
The Post goes inside with more details on the person who appears to be the alleged victim of a rape and murder in Mahmudiyah, Iraq, that is now being investigated by the U.S. military as a possible atrocity by soldiers in the 502nd Infantry Regiment. The WP says the 15-year-old Abeer Qasim Hamza was scared and told her mother the U.S. soldiers in a checkpoint near her house often made (in the Post’s words) “advances toward her.” Hamza was raped and killed along with three family members. U.S. military said it has not identified the victims, but it did point out that according to its preliminary findings the alleged rape victim was 20 years old, not 15.
The LAT reports on Page One that Bush and his allies face some risky choices now that the Supreme Court has ruled against the military tribunals being used to try prisoners at Guantanamo Bay. If they attempt to use their majority in Congress to ratify a similar system to the one currently in place, it could be stricken down once again by the court. But if they create a new system, it could possibly lead to no convictions of the alleged terrorists. Either way, this has the potential of creating a debate that would not be useful in an election year. In a Sunday morning talk show, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., warned: “Republicans will rue the day if they politicize this.”
Former President Jimmy Carter writes an op-ed piece in the WP to note that on July 4, the Freedom of Information Act turns 40. Despite the anniversary, he says it “will not be a day of celebration for the right to information” because “our government leaders have become increasingly obsessed with secrecy.” Carter cites a watchdog group that says the U.S. government created 81 percent more “secrets” in 2005 than in 2000. Getting at material that should be available can turn into a headache as response times to FOIA requests continue to increase in some agencies. Among other suggestions, Carter says the FOIA should be amended to include all branches of government and should provide sanctions for those who fail to comply with requests.