The Los Angeles Timesand the Wall Street Journal’s world-wide newsboxlead with, and everyone else fronts, news that a gunman killed at least eight people, and wounded nine, when he opened fire at a Jewish seminary in Jerusalem yesterday. It was the first attack inside Jerusalem in four years, and the deadliest against Israeli civilians in almost two. The attack that apparently involved a sole gunman, who was killed at the scene, comes during a tense time for the region after an Israeli military operation in Gaza killed more than 100 Palestinians. The New York Timesleads with a look at how Democratic leaders are desperately trying to figure out a system that would allow voters from Michigan and Florida to have a say in the presidential contest. In such a hotly contested race, the fight over these delegates is intensifying, and the big question is whether the two states will hold another vote. It seems both candidates could agree to a do-over, but the problem is no one wants to pay for it.
The Washington Postleads with the Senate overwhelmingly voting in favor of a new law that would strengthen the government’s oversight of safety in consumer products. Spurred into action by last year’s recalls of toys that contained hazardous materials, it would mark the first time Congress passes this type of legislation in 18 years. Differences with the House version of the bill still have to be worked out, but the legislation would give a bigger budget and more power to the Consumer Product Safety Commission. It could also lead to the creation of a public database of complaints about potentially dangerous products as well as an increase in fines for safety violations. USA Todayleads with the Federal Reserve’s announcement that Americans’ percentage of equity in their homes fell below 50 percent for the first time since 1945. This trend downward is likely to continue as home prices continue to decrease while mortgage rates increase.
The gunman who attacked the Jerusalem seminary, which the WSJ says is “known as the birthplace of religious Zionism,” has not been identified, but there’s speculation that he was a young man from East Jerusalem. Hamas didn’t take responsibility for the attack but praised it, and thousands of Gaza residents took to the streets to celebrate the killings. The WP and LAT note that a television station operated by Hezbollah said a previously unknown group—named for the Hezbollah leader who was killed last month—claimed responsibility for the attack. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas condemned the act. He had recently agreed to return to the negotiating table, but talks now seem less likely because, as the NYT points out, the attack will certainly push Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert “to respond somehow, somewhere with force.” Hundreds of people gathered outside the seminary last night, chanting, “Death to Arabs” and blaming Olmert for the attacks. “Tonight’s massacre … is a defining moment,” Olmert’s spokesman said.
Everyone agrees that disenfranchising millions of voters from two battleground states could be a disaster for the Democratic Party, even if those states did break the rules by scheduling primaries in January. No one really worried about it when it was assumed the eventual nominee would simply agree to seat the delegates. But now it turns out that their delegates could be crucial in figuring out who wins the nomination. DNC Chairman Howard Dean said it’s up to the states to figure out what to do, while emphasizing that he won’t change the rules in the middle of the contest so there’s no way delegates from the January vote will be seated. Dean also insisted states should not be looking to the national party to fund a primary, while the leaders of the states said they won’t ask taxpayers to foot the bill, which, in Florida, could be as high as $25 million. The LAT notes that in Florida some are suggesting a mail-in vote, which would be much cheaper. Despite all the back-and-forth, the WP says both campaigns just want the issue to be decided as quickly as possible so they can start planning.
Dean has been adamant that the Democratic National Committee needs to keep its money for the general-election campaign. But the truth may be that it simply doesn’t have much money to spare. In a Page One story, the NYT takes a look at how the DNC trails the Republican National Committee in the amount of cash it has in hand. The DNC ended 2007 almost broke while the RNC has raised far more money in this election cycle and has $25 million in cash on hand. Democratic officials say money will start flowing once a nominee is picked, but some are quick to blame Dean for the predicament, saying that his “50-state strategy,” which involves opening offices in all states, has proved to be too expensive. Many within the DNC insist the strategy will pay off in the end, but in the meantime, the RNC has a clear advantage since it can start spending more money to campaign for Sen. John McCain.
The WP and LAT front news that Viktor Bout, a Russian businessman who is thought to be one of the world’s largest arms dealers, was arrested yesterday in Thailand after a sting operation by U.S. agents. Bout has long been the stuff of legend, particularly since he seemed to operate with impunity even though his role in fueling some of the world’s deadliest conflicts was widely known. Much has been written about him over the years (including a long profile in the NYT Magazine in 2003), and his life is said to have been the basis for the movie Lord of War. But DEA authorities managed to get Bout to Thailand for a supposed arms deal with people he thought represented the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC. Federal prosecutors in New York said they plan to seek Bout’s extradition, along with an associate, and charge him with conspiracy to provide support to a foreign terrorist organization.
Nobody fronts news out of Baghdad, where a bomb in a crowded shopping district killed at least 68 people, according to the LAT.
Worried about losing an hour of your life this weekend in the switch to daylight saving time? In the NYT’s op-ed page, Stefan Klein argues that our constant battle with a lack of time has much to do with the belief that time is money, but “the quest to spend time the way we do money is doomed to failure.” The solution? Just relax. “We are not stressed because we have no time, but rather, we have no time because we are stressed.”