Today's Papers

Contractor Killings

The New York Times leads with news that 2007 is shaping up to be the bloodiest year to date for civilian contractors in Iraq, while the Wall Street Journal tops its world-wide newsbox with President Bush’s refusal to set even a flexible target date for the withdrawal of U.S. troops. The Washington Post leads with complaints by China that America’s trade policies are too aggressive. The Los Angeles Times leads local with the mayor’s decision not to try to gain direct control of the city schools.

According to previously unpublished figures, casualties among private contractors in Iraq are now at record levels, with 146 civilians killed in the first quarter of this year, bringing the total killed since the war began to nearly 1,000. Some observers believe the surge is leading insurgents to seek out civilian targets. The White House rejected calls to set a loose target date for withdrawing U.S. troops as crucial negotiations with congressional Democrats over the war-spending measure ended in deadlock. Meanwhile, violence in Baghdad and Diyala province continues; the Post reports that five U.S. soldiers and two ABC journalists were killed in separate incidents.

The WP reports that China’s Vice Premier Wu Yi may boycott this week’s trade talks in protest at America’s “bullying” attitude, particularly the lawsuits and import tariffs introduced by the U.S. in response to Chinese trade violations. The WSJ plays down the tension, noting several token concessions made by China, including a rare change to currency policy, in the buildup to the talks.

Everyone fronts or teases the continuing tussle over the bipartisan immigration bill, which would allow people already in the U.S. to stay and eventually apply for citizenship. The WP off-leads with skepticism in the GOP ranks: Mitt Romney, Fred Thompson, and Newt Gingrich all blasted the bill, and even Rudy Giuliani didn’t have a kind word to say. The NYT goes inside with a look at the candidates’ soul-searching and fronts a slightly barbed look at President Bush’s newfound interest in political compromise. The WSJ breaks down the tug of war over the details of the plan but praises the bulk of the bill’s provisions in its editorial review. The LAT reefers the story.

Everyone but the LAT fronts Microsoft’s $6 billion purchase of Internet advertiser aQuantive, with the WSJ arguing that the deal signals the rise of “an oligopoly of huge companies that sell and place the ads users see online”. The NYT suggests that the online ad market may have reached a tipping point, with the flow of dollars finally starting to reflect the amount of time people spend online. Below the fold, the WP ponders the rise of technology devoted to serving up online advertising that accurately reflects viewers’ interests.

The LAT fronts an exclusive interview with sacked New Mexico U.S. Attorney David Iglesias, who says he believes he lost his job because he was slow to bring voter-fraud charges that would have helped Republican election chances. The WP reports that Alberto Gonzales came under heavy fire at a closed meeting with prosecutors this week; in the paper’s editorial pages Eugene Robinson continues to put the boot in.

The WP fronts, and the NYT also reports, a tiff between Estonia and Russia that may have flared into cyber-warfare. The tiny Baltic country has recently been the victim of massive and coordinated attacks on official Wb sites, apparently originating from Russia. The NYT and the WSJ report on the harassment of opposition leaders by Russian police and a continuing state crackdown on journalists. In an editorial, the WP criticizes Condoleezza Rice for not taking a harder line on Russian excesses.

France’s newly elected president, Nicolas Sarkozy, appointed his Cabinet Friday; the WP notes that nearly half his appointees are women, reflecting his pledge to diversify French political life. The WSJ reports that Sarkozy, a conservative, took pains to appoint ministers from across the political spectrum, but questions how long a leash they will be allowed. The NYT profiles Bernard Kouchner, the country’s flamboyant new foreign minister and the Cabinet’s single socialist.

The NYT reports that the White House plans to move quickly to replace Paul Wolfowitz as head of the World Bank, but the WP notes that the Wolfowitz affair has led many international observers to question America’s traditional right to appoint the bank’s chief.

Below the fold, the LAT casts an eye over Hillary Clinton’s record as a member of Wal-Mart’s board of directors. According to fellow board members, in her eight years as a director, the Democratic presidential hopeful helped promote workplace diversity and better environmental practices but did little to oppose the company’s anti-union strategies.

The LAT,NYT, and WP all tease the discovery of a huge treasure trove by a Florida-based marine exploration company. The haul, consisting of about 17 tons of Colonial-era coins, may be the most valuable find to date; the site’s exact location is still under wraps.

Continuing in a time-honored tradition of Manhattan media schadenfreude, the NYT takes prim pleasure in the New York Post’s decision to dish the dirt on itself. In a juicy Page Six column intended to minimize the fallout from a dispute with a former freelancer, the New York tabloid spilled the beans Friday on everything from its editor’s visits to strip joints to allegations that Post owner Rupert Murdoch personally nixed gossip stories he thought might damage his business interests.