The LA Times, New York Times, and Wall Street Journal lead with—and the Washington Post fronts—moves by Hamas and Fatah to consolidate power in, respectively, Gaza and the West Bank. Each group says other’s rule is illegitimate. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas appointed a Western-friendly prime minister and staged a show of force, while Hamas asserted control over the borders and declared amnesty for members of Fatah.
The WP leads with a “parallel surge” of private security contractors in Iraq. The contractors are playing an ever-larger role in Iraq and taking more (often unreported) casualties as a result. The NYT also leads with a renewed White House debate over whether or not to bomb Iran.
The NYT lead says Gaza has a “postrevolutionary feel.” Hamas flew its flag over government buildings, took over border crossings and condemned—but didn’t stop—the looting of prominent Fatah officials’ homes and offices. The LAT says that Gaza’s new masters are sending “conciliatory signals.” Instead of executing Fatah members, as was widely feared, Hamas said it would grant amnesty. But the WSJ says the amnesty goes only so far.
The WP says Hamas is now in control of the Egypt-Gaza border crossing, and the LAT says Israeli and Hamas border guards so far refuse to talk to each other. The LAT is worried that the cold silence will develop into a humanitarian tragedy—if the borders stay closed, Gaza will run out of supplies within weeks. But some in Israel’s government want Hamas to “stew in their own juices,” and Hamas hasn’t made reopening the borders a priority.
In the West Bank, Abbas appointed former World Bank official (and Bush favorite) Salam Fayyad as prime minister. Everyone says President Bush will probably ask Olmert to release millions in frozen Palestinian tax revenues during a meeting next week. The WSJ says Bush intended a major policy address on Palestine next week but was overtaken by events.
The WP says private security companies are engaged in an Iraq escalation of their own. Contractors have been hiring steadily and buying oddball heavily armed vehicles—like Ford F-350 pickup trucks with machine-gun turrets—to the point where Iraq “resemble[s] the post-apocalyptic world of the ‘Mad Max’ movies,” sans Mel Gibson. The companies are taking numerous casualties, and some say their deaths often go unreported in a way that minimizes their sacrifice.
The NYT reports that fighting has flared up again between the Rice and Cheney factions in the White House. Cheney’s people want to declare a “red line” for Iran’s nuclear program, beyond which we would bomb the country. But the NYT thinks Rice, who wants more sanctions and diplomacy through 2009, is firmly in control.
On that note, a WP piece likens the current crackdown in Iran to the Cultural Revolution. The government is purging universities and ministries, cracking down on free speech, and intimidating freethinkers as the economy worsens.
The NYT off-leads with, the LAT fronts, and the WP goes inside with the resignation of Durham County District Attorney Mike Nifong. Facing charges of unethical conduct, Nifong broke down, cried, apologized, and announced his resignation in a barely audible voice. The WP was impressed with Nifong’s “quavering voice.” It says the “riveting” statement “reflected a remarkable turnabout not only in the legal sense but personally,” ending Nifong’s “emotional distance.” The NYT isn’t so enthusiastic. The paper omits that he cried and focuses heavily on Nifong’s indiscretions.
The WP and NYT both go inside with news that another ”Justice Department official announced his resignation.” This time it’s Paul McNulty’s chief of staff, who was close to the fired U.S attorney scandal.
Everyone reports progress releasing the funds involved in the North Korea nuclear deal.
The NYT and WSJ go inside with a growing child-labor scandal in China. The Chinese media are abuzz with tales of kids kidnapped and sold into slave labor in Shanxi Province. China has announced a crackdown.
The WP fronts news that Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, has become an Internet celebrity among anti-war Republicans and Libertarians. Paul says he never heard of “this YouTube and all the other Internet sites” until they started making money for him. A word to older members of Congress: YouTube is just one in a remarkable series of tubes.
Local news, and a dash of dorkery: The WP reports that parts of the Jefferson Memorial are sinking. The sea wall has subsided by about 6 inches since last year, and the walkway has moved downward, too.
Apparently, this has happened on and off since the monument’s construction in the 1930s. Much of Washington actually sits on unstable mud dredged from the Potomac, so a lot of the monuments are held up by piles and caissons driven through the mud into the bedrock. The sea wall is sinking because it’s held up by wooden pilings that may be past their prime. Don’t worry though. Jefferson himself isn’t sinking, yet.