The Washington Postand the Wall Street Journal’s world-wide newboxlead with the gunman who opened fire at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., yesterday. The 88-year-old white supremacist killed a security guard before he was shot. Police identified the suspect as James W. von Brunn, a man well-known to groups that keep tabs on extremists. “This is a longtime white supremacist and anti-Semite approaching the end of his life who may have decided to go out shooting,” said the director of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Brunn is now in critical condition. USA Todayleads with federal data that show almost 20 million children now receive free or reduced-price lunches in their schools, a record. California is one of the states that has seen demand skyrocket as enrollment in free lunch programs has increased almost 17 percent. Schools don’t get fully reimbursed for each free lunch, so they must make up the shortfall at a time when budgets across the country are already stretched thin.
The New York Timesleads with the White House appointing Kenneth Feinberg, “a well-known Washington lawyer,” to determine compensation of senior executives at the seven firms that have received billions of dollars in bailout funds. For other companies, including others that have received federal assistance, the Obama administration didn’t impose any specific rules but said it would push lawmakers to pass legislation that would give shareholders more of a say in how much executives get paid and strengthen the independence of board committees that set compensation. The Los Angeles Timesleads with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger telling the paper’s editorial board that he would rather see California’s government come to a “grinding halt” than take out a high-interest loan if lawmakers can’t agree on what to cut to get rid of the state’s massive budget gap. “What we need to do is just to basically cut off all the funding and just let them have a taste of what it is like when the state comes to a shutdown,” he said.
When von Brunn opened fire at the Holocaust Museum yesterday, it wasn’t the first time he decided to act on his extremist views. He had previously spent several years in prison for attempting to kidnap members of the Federal Reserve Board in 1981. “We’ve been tracking this guy since the late 1970s,” said the research director of the Southern Poverty Law Center. “He has an extremely long history with neo-Nazis and white supremacists, and is extremely hard-core.” Von Brunn was in their radar partly due to his status as one of the leading writers among white supremacists and for keeping “a rambling, racist and bitterly anti-Semitic Web site,” as the Post describes it. On his site, von Brunn acknowledges he was sentenced to prison more than 20 years ago and wrote that he was “convicted by a Negro jury, Jew/Negro attorneys, and sentenced to prison for eleven years by a Jew judge. A Jew/Negro/White Court of Appeals denied his appeal.”
In a separate front-page look at von Brunn, the Post says that “even admirers considered him a loner, a hothead and a man consumed with hatred.” In his Web site, von Brunn writes about the time he served as a PT boat captain in the Navy during World War II, but those who knew him say he sometimes bemoaned that he had fought for the wrong side. His ex-wife said the couple divorced more than 30 years ago in large part because of his extremist views.
From the could-be-funny-if-it-weren’t-so-sad department: “The responsible white separatist community condemns this,” an acquaintance of von Brunn tells the Post. “It makes us look bad.”
The WSJ is alone in even mentioning that federal law enforcement officials had previously warned about the potential rise in violence from right-wing extremists. The FBI and the Department of Homeland Security were both “sharply criticized” for these efforts.
The administration’s new “pay czar” will have broad authority to set the compensation of executives at the firms that the government says received “exceptional assistance,” including American International Group, Bank of America, Citigroup, General Motors, and Chrysler. As expected, the guidelines that the government issued for other companies are voluntary. Yesterday’s announcement was “somewhat weaker than what many on Wall Street had feared, given the heated rhetoric surrounding pay earlier this year,” notes the WSJ. But the NYT highlights that for the seven firms that won’t be able to appeal Feinberg’s decisions, the “new rules illustrate the humiliating downfall of the once proud giants, now wards of the state whose leaders’ compensation will be set by a Washington paymaster.”
The WSJ hears word that Yemen and the United States may be close to reaching an agreement that would allow “a considerable portion” of the almost 100 Yemenis currently being held in Guantanamo to be sent to Saudi Arabia. Finding a home for the Yemenis has presented a considerable challenge for the administration, which is reluctant to send them back to Yemen because it fears the country won’t be able to keep proper track of them. Yemen had been demanding that they be returned to their country, but it seems they’re easing their stance a bit. “What’s crucial is how many the Saudis will take,” one official said.
Most of the papers have stories about the final day of campaigning in Iran as citizens prepare to vote in Friday’s contested presidential elections. The WSJ focuses on how for the first time, the candidates are actually campaigning to get women on their side. In the past, candidates mostly ignored them, but now the challengers to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad are making a point of mentioning them to set themselves apart from the man who has cracked down on women’s rights activists. Ahmadinejad’s main opponent, Mir Hossein Mousavi, even campaigned with his wife, whom the media have characterized as Iran’s Michelle Obama.
The NYT fronts a look at how the man whom Ahmadinejad beat in 2005 is now running an intense campaign to unseat him. Ahmadinejad has seized on Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani’s public actions to associate his challengers to the unpopular former president who is widely seen as corrupt. The harsh exchanges between the two men illustrate “the surprising vigor of Iran’s limited democracy.” Although it’s a given that each candidate first has to be approved by Iran’s theocratic rulers, “within those confines, the races are hard-fought and unpredictable.” The LAT’s Borzou Daragahi paints the best picture of how the heated contest has animated the population in a front-page first-person account. “These are strange, magical days in Iran,” writes Daragah. The campaign “has opened up the country’s political and public spaces to an extent not seen since the 1979 Islamic Revolution. Students have called the president a liar to his face. Carnival-like demonstrations erupt on the streets. Ordinary people engage in lively political debates with strangers on street corners.”
In the LAT’s op-ed page, Laurel Fletcher and Eric Stover write about how they interviewed 62 released Guantanamo detainees from nine countries and found that the vast majority are having difficulty adjusting to normal life. Most can’t find permanent jobs and continue to suffer psychological problems. It’s imperative that the United States plans to help former detainees adjust to their new lives, if not for humanitarian reasons then at least because it’s in the country’s national security interests. Right now, “former detainees often find themselves destitute, which puts them at risk of drifting to radical mosques where, in addition to receiving food and a place to sleep, they listen to anti-American diatribes.”
The LAT reports that a porn actress in Southern California has tested positive for HIV. It marks the first time that a performer in Southern California’s porn industry has been publicly confirmed to have HIV since 2004, when production was shut down for four weeks after an actor spread the virus to three actresses. So far, all of the people who have performed with the woman have tested negative, but public health officials used the opportunity to once again highlight their ongoing fight with the industry over condoms. “You wouldn’t send someone to work on a high-rise building without a hard-hat,” the health officer for Los Angeles County said, “so why are we allowing these performers to perform without condoms?”
Yesterday, in an article about how Michael Douglas will receive the American Film Institute Life Achievement Award tonight, the LAT quoted the actor-producer saying he didn’t attend the ceremony when his father received the same award 18 years ago. “I don’t know where I was at the time,” Douglas said. In a correction today, the LAT makes clear that not only did Douglas attend the 1991 ceremony, he was also the host.
AP Video: Reaction to the Holocaust Museum shooting