Today's Papers

Kofi A-None Too Pleased

The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, and Washington Post all lead with an Israeli strike on a Hezbollah bastion in Baalbek, Lebanon, an act U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan considers a violation of last week’s cease-fire agreement.

Israeli commandos were airlifted into the Hezbollah-dominated area early Saturday, dressed as Lebanese troops, according to the NYT, where they engaged Hezbollah fighters before being evacuated. While Israeli officials claim that the action was meant to stop Syrian arms from reaching Hezbollah, all the papers cite Lebanese sources saying the raid was either a rescue mission or an attempt to capture Hezbollah official Sheik Mohammed Yazbek. Whatever the objective, it’s unclear from the papers’ reports how successful the exercise was, with Israel naturally claiming triumph and Lebanese villagers saying the Israelis left empty-handed. All the papers mention Israel sustaining one dead soldier and two wounded. According the LAT, Hezbollah is denying it sustained any losses in the engagement.

Though Annan expressed grave concerns about the raid and called it a violation of last week’s fragile truce, no formal reprisal has been made by either the U.N. or Hezbollah. Lebanese officials, meanwhile, have threatened to halt the deployment of Lebanese troops into the south of the country if Israel launches further raids. Israel claims that it didn’t violate the cease-fire since it reserved the right to intervene to stop arms shipments to Hezbollah. What’s more, the WP cites Israeli sources passing the buck to the Lebanese army and the still-coagulating U.N. peacekeeping force for not heading off the arms shipment on their own. Israel says the raids will continue as necessary until other forces are able to control the Syria-Lebanon boarder.

Incumbency still grants Republicans a fund-raising edge in competitive House races, but the gap is narrowing, says the WP. Based on calculations from recent FEC reports, the paper says Democratic challengers for this year’s 27 competitive seats raised 60 percent of their incumbent opponent’s totals. In 2004, there were only nine such races, according to one source, and the Democrats only managed 42 percent of their opponent’s bankrolls. While the data are interesting and significant, TP isn’t convinced that the numbers are quite the bellwether the paper makes them out to be. And they certainly don’t explain the story’s assertion that all Democratic challengers have to do is maintain enough cash flow to respond to Republican attack ads. All the paper’s got to go on there is a single quote from a college professor who once ran unsuccessfully for Congress—a peculiar qualification for determining what it takes to win an election.

Newly declassified documents show that army investigators were finding evidence of severe prisoner abuse during the Vietnam War, even as the service worked to discredit a whistle-blower making far milder charges, says the LAT. The WP, meanwhile, breaks the silence on P.O. Box 1142, a WWII facility where U.S. soldiers, many of them Jewish-Americans who’d lost family in the Holocaust, interrogated captured Nazi scientists to learn the secrets of the atom and the microwave.

The NYT fronts a N.J. hospital chain that allegedly bilked Medicare out of more than $600 million over eight years, reflecting a national trend that saw 450 hospitals nationwide overbill the program for a total of over $6 billion. Even worse, in cases where the chains admit to overbilling, the government is still unable to recoup the full balance of payments without forcing the closure of some hospitals.

The LAT reports that Baghdad is becoming increasingly divided along sectarian lines, with the Tigris River acting as a natural barrier.

The NYT looks at the British family at the heart of the U.K. government’s murky investigation into this month’s alleged hijacking plot.

The WP goes over the fold with a feature on the special challenges of women returning with post-traumatic stress after serving in Iraq, a conflict in which record numbers of women are seeing hostile fire.

Under the fold, the LAT considers the FBI’s move away from investigating crimes that have already been committed toward preventing future terrorist acts.

A legal loophole allows some child fetish Web sites to flout child-pornography laws and publish sexually suggestive photos of barely clothed children, according the NYT.

The WP examines Brazil as a possible model of ethanol-fueled energy independence.

The WP and the NYT both stuff the Democratic National Committee’s decision to move the 2008 Nevada and South Carolina caucuses so they fall just after Iowa’s, but before New Hampshire’s primary. The move was made to give minority voters a greater say in the party’s nominating process. New Hampshire is threatening to ignore the change, however, and hold its primary even earlier. The DNC also approved sanctions against candidates who violate the new primary order, as several Democratic contenders are mulling campaigning early in New Hampshire.

Inside, both  WP  and the LAT have continuing coverage of the arrest of John Mark Karr as a suspect in the JonBenet Ramsey murder case.

The Plutocrats vs. “Eight Is Enough” … So, what makes a planet a planet? The LAT reports that, according to a new definition offered by the International Astronomical Union, it’s anything that’s round and circles about the sun. The definition is part of an ongoing debate over whether or not Pluto, the most distant planet, should be numbered among the planets at all. The IAU’s very broad proposed definition would keep Pluto but also raise the number of official planets to 12, with possibly several more lying in wait on the edges of the solar system. A competing definition, which takes size into account, would cut the number of planets to 8, with Pluto being reclassified as a “dwarf planet.” The union will attempt to sort out the debate this week during a conference in Prague.