The Washington Post and New York Times lead with last night's agreement by Israel and the Palestinian Authority to a U.S.-brokered cease-fire. This is also the top nonlocal story at the Los Angeles Times, which leads instead with the news, based on confidential government records, that under the long-term utility contracts California recently signed in an attempt to tamp down spiraling electricity costs, the state has agreed to purchase power for years to come at prices well above those now being paid on the spot market. Although the paper explains that this discrepancy could quickly disappear as air conditioning use rises this summer, it quotes one expert high as saying that it shows that Gov. Gray Davis, in championing the long-term power contracts, adopted "a long-term strategy for a short-term crisis." USA Today stuffs the Middle East and leads instead with the endorsement by the major Wall Street firms of conflict-of-interest guidelines governing their stock analysts. The paper reports that critics are not that impressed because the rules--which say that analysts' pay should not be directly linked to investment banking transactions, that they should not trade in the stock of companies they recommend, should disclose their holdings in companies they cover, and should not administratively directly report to their firms' investment banking branches--are voluntary.
The Middle East coverage explains that no details of the cease-fire deal, brokered by CIA Director George Tenet (even though, the NYT reminds, when President George Bush took office he said he would take the CIA out of the Middle East broker role), have been officially released, but various sources have made it known that under it, Israel has agreed to withdraw its forces to the lines they held before the second intifada began last September and to begin lifting a blockade of towns in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The Palestinian leadership is required in turn to confiscate mortars and other illegal weapons and to reduce incitement in the Palestinian media. The NYT says that the key Israeli demand that the Palestinian Authority arrest terror suspects has been "massaged" by Yasser Arafat's promise to concentrate on those planning terrorist attacks rather than those accused by Israel of previous attacks.
The LAT says that if Arafat proceeds with any such arrests, he will be taking a "politically perilous step" because the "activities of Islamic Jihad and Hamas militants, including suicide bombings, enjoy wide approval among many ordinary Palestinians." And the coverage notes that even as Arafat and Tenet were meeting in the West Bank, Palestinians were outside demonstrating against any cease-fire agreement.
The papers note that both sides were less than enthusiastic about the agreement's prospects, and the NYT serves up a simple reminder of why: It is very similar to the plan worked out by both sides last October.
The WP, the NYT, and the LAT front George W. Bush's first presidential trip to Europe. The main news of his visit to Spain yesterday was his description of the ABM treaty as a Cold War "relic" and of the Kyoto emissions protocol as "unrealistic" and "not based on sound science."
The LAT is alone in fronting a federal judge's ruling that a Seattle drugstore chain must include female contraceptives such as birth control pills, diaphragms, and IUDs in its health insurance coverage. The paper says the ruling could influence the decisions of many companies and health insurers and prompt many states to mandate such coverage.
The NYT off-leads, and the WP stuffs, new research coming out indicating that, in the words of the Times headline, "LYME DISEASE IS HARD TO CATCH AND EASY TO HALT ..." The findings are contrasted by the NYT with what it calls the "inflated public fear" of the tick-spread disease. Both stories note that in the last year on record there were 16,000 Lyme cases, most occurring in the Northeast U.S. (although the WP adds that actually the number might have been five times higher), but neither adds to the reader's perspective by giving the case numbers for any other diseases.
USAT notes, on its "Life" front, that with the character of Dr. Joshua Sweet in Atlantis: The Lost Empire, Disney has done something it's never done before: created a black human animated character.
On the LAT op-ed page, Marvin Olasky offers this advice to the Republican Party: Drive home to the voters the equation "Bush equals money in your pocket." The commentary's credit line says that Olasky is a senior fellow at the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty, but shouldn't it have also mentioned that he's been a close adviser to President Bush?