Today's Papers

Strip War

The New York Times leads with the increase in fighting between Hamas and Fatah forces in the Gaza Strip. The clashes that had been going on for a few days took a decisive turn for the worse yesterday, as approximately 25 Palestinians were killed and Hamas took control over a northern area of the Gaza Strip. The Washington Post leads with a U.S. military commander telling a House panel that the Iraqi army needs at least 20,000 more soldiers in order to be effective. Lt. Gen. Martin Dempsey, who until recently spearheaded the training effort, told lawmakers that, although the local forces are improving, they’re still a long way away from being able to take over all responsibility from U.S. troops. He also told lawmakers that the Iraqi security forces continue to be plagued with sectarian problems and corruption.

The Los Angeles Times leads with a new poll that reveals a significant majority of Americans support the idea of giving illegal immigrants a chance to become U.S. citizens, which has become the most controversial aspect of the moribund immigration bill. The NYT had a similar poll last month. The WSJ leads with President Bush’s visit to Capitol Hill, where he didn’t seem to have much success in convincing Republican senators to embrace the immigration legislation. USA Todayleads with an analysis of college homicide data and says that in several cases university officials should have been able to pick up on some of the warning signs that were displayed by those who went on to become murderers. Part of the problem is that many campuses simply don’t have a strategy to identify and deal with students who could become violent.

The WP and LAT also front the Palestinian violence and all the papers invoke the phrase “civil war” to describe the latest round of clashes. Illustrating how Palestinian leaders have become clear targets in the fighting, gunmen fired rocket-propelled grenades at the home of Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas. Mortar shells were then fired at the Gaza offices of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas of Fatah. Neither one of the leaders was home at the time of the attacks but Fatah says Hamas forces are “planning to stage a coup.” The LAT notes Haniyeh and Abbas called for a cease-fire, but it seems their influence over the militants is waning as neither side seemed ready to drop their weapons.  Both the LAT and WP cite Human Rights Watch officials saying that both factions have been committing atrocities in the last few days of fighting.

In other aspects of the immigration bill, the LAT poll found that almost 50 percent of people support the idea of a guest worker program but one-quarter of respondents said they couldn’t give an opinion. A significant proportion of those polled (43 percent) also didn’t give an opinion on the plan to overhaul the system that would prioritize skills rather than family connections for those who want to settle in the United States. Thepoll also revealed that only 34 percent of the population approves of President Bush’s performance as president.

Bush didn’t seem able to change many minds during his meeting with the senators. But some lawmakers said they would be willing to consider the legislation if there’s an emergency spending bill (the WSJ says it could total up to $15 billion) to increase money for border security, which Bush appeared to accept. It is still unclear when (or if) debate on the immigration bill will be reopened, but the main backers of the compromise legislation met yesterday night to decide what amendments would be introduced if it ever does come back. The administration has made it clear it is willing to accept a number of proposals in order to get the bill moving.

All the papers go inside with news that U.S.-led troops killed seven (or eight) Afghan police officers, and injured four others. The troops apparently thought the police officers were Taliban fighters.

The NYT fronts an interesting look at the history of two ships that lawmakers gave a faith-based organization through an earmark. The ships were supposed to be used for medical missions in the South Pacific, but Canvasback Missions, which does both secular and religious work, sold them and kept the money. Coast Guard officials and the lawmakers that inserted the earmark said they had no idea that the ships had been sold. Although Canvasback insists the money from the sales was used for secular purposes, the events raise questions about whether the federal government inadvertently ended up funding evangelism activities.

The papers note that Don Herbert, aka Mr. Wizard, died yesterday at the age of 89. Herbert became a familiar face in many households during the 1950s and 1960s with his popular NBC program, where he explained science to children using basic experiments. The show came back in the 1980s on Nickelodeon.

The WP and NYT cover the first day of the trial in the now-infamous case of the judge who filed a multi-million dollar lawsuit against his dry cleaner  after his pants were lost. Judge Roy Pearson wants the owners of the dry cleaners to pay him $54 million for all his trouble. The owners of the dry cleaner even tried to offer him $12,000, but he refused. Apparently because the trauma of the lost pants was so overwhelming, Pearson cried while he told his story. Pearson makes more than $100,000 as a judge, but the NYT notes he might not have that job for much longer. “I don’t know of any other cases that have been quite this ridiculous,” a law professor tells the NYT.