Today's Papers

Very Black Friday

The New York Times, Washington Post, and Los Angeles Times all lead with the carnage in Iraq, with Shiites attacking Sunni mosques as revenge for Thursday’s massive death toll. The Wall Street Journal tops its worldwide news box with Iraq.

The LAT dispenses with any timidity over whether Iraq is engaged in civil war and gets straight to the point in the lede: “Iraq’s civil war worsened Friday … ” The NYT and WP are not so blunt. The Times quotes a Bush administration spokesman who says the Iraqi president and prime minister do not believe it is civil war, while the Post handles it by saying the country is being propelled toward “full-blown civil war.”

Whatever it is, the LAT says it provoked at least 65 deaths in Baghdad and elsewhere by Friday night. According to the paper’s tally, a dozen or more Sunni mosques were attacked throughout the country. It also reports that a militia loyal to Shiite cleric Moktada al-Sadr set up roadblocks and threatened to kill Sunni families if they don’t leave their houses within two days.

The LAT, which has the day’s best roundup, gets solid quotes from one Iraqi police officer who watched a Sunni-Shiite battle and says the Iraqi army did nothing to stop it: “The army did not interfere. And we (the police) didn’t receive any orders to interfere. We would not have interfered even in the event that we were ordered to do so, because this is the Iraqi army’s turf.”

The NYT says Iraqi forces “were absent, unwilling or unable to stop the attackers,” while the WP says Friday’s events “illustrated Iraqi security forces’ inability to rein in violence.”

The WSJ relays an AP report on six Sunnis being burned alive, but other papers say they could not confirm it happened. The paper also puts the day’s death toll at 87.

On top of the attacks, politicians loyal to Sadr threatened to boycott the government if Iraq’s prime minister follows through on plans to meet with President Bush next week in Jordan. The Bush administration says it will press ahead with the meeting, and some say this is simply political posturing on the part of Sadr loyalists. Still, the LAT points out that their boycott, if it occurs, would likely cause the government to collapse.

The WSJ runs a helpful description of the current proposals on how to deal with the worsening situation, as well as charts, graphs, and a list of facts ranging from numbers of insurgents to the percentage of American soldiers who have died in Iraq who are white (74 percent).

The NYT, WP, and LAT front stories on the poisoning death of a former Russian spy who had been critical of President Vladimir Putin. Adding to the intrigue is the method used to poison him: polonium 210, a radioactive material that would apparently require expert handling when used in such a way. It also occurred in London, which the papers note was the same city where a Bulgarian dissident was poisoned in 1978 after being stuck with the tip of an umbrella.

Of course, the United States had its own share of chaos yesterday. Hordes of people gathered at various, largely suburban locations, resulting in occasional skirmishes and, undoubtedly, isolated outbursts of frustration. They went shopping.

The NYT, WP, and WSJ front Black Friday-related features, pointing out the increasing number of malls and stores deciding to open at midnight, or even before. Crowds were generally larger than expected, but the WSJ, which characteristically provides the most sensible coverage, warns that it may be only deep discounts that have attracted the crowds. This could turn out to hurt retailers in the long run, the paper says. The WSJ also looks at the impact on the economy as a whole, quoting an economist who says “a miracle on 34th Street” is needed for a rebound.

Both the WSJ and the LAT front features related to Pope Benedict’s upcoming visit to Turkey. The WSJ gets at the differences between the former pope and the current one, describing Benedict as much more solitary and businesslike, abruptly ending meetings when the scheduled time is up. The story also notes his view that there is a chasm between Catholics and Muslims, while Karol Wojtyla believed common ground could be found.

Considering his recent comments about Islam, his visit is unlikely to draw much love from many Turks. But, in what the LAT calls a “remarkable gesture,” the pope will meet with a prominent critic while there.

Ahead of a case related to global warming before the Supreme Court next week, the WP notes energy companies are now all but accepting the science on the issue. That has a lot to do with the fact that they don’t have much of a choice, having concluded that some form of emissions restrictions is likely inevitable. Various companies have begun lobbying for an emissions bill in Washington, partly to avoid having to deal with the issue state by state. They also want something to get done soon so they know where they stand for future investments.

The LAT also fronts a global warming story, zeroing in on the case before the Supreme Court. The paper explains that the main issue in the case is whether carbon dioxide constitutes a pollutant under the Clean Air Act.

The NYT takes a long look at the American Diabetes Association’s dilemma in balancing fund raising and conflicts of interest. Food companies have ponied up huge sums to use the ADA logo along with certain products, some of which can’t exactly be called healthy. Drug companies with much at stake in decision making have also donated large amounts. Rule changes have sought to address some of the perceived problems, but not everyone is satisfied they’re working.

For the important culture news of the day, look no further: The LAT seems to believe this guy is O.J. Simpson’s ghost writer.

Or, if you’re more of a low-brow type, the NYT has decreed that these books are the most notable for 2006.