The New York Times leads with President Bush praising the Saudi plan for peace in the Middle East, which calls for Israel to pull out of the West Bank and Gaza in exchange for normalized relations with all Arab countries. The Wall Street Journal tops its world-wide newsbox with, and the Washington Post leads with, U.S. plans to send military advisors and equipment to the former Soviet republic of Georgia in order to fight what the government says are Islamic extremists linked to al-Qaida. The plan is similar to the current operation in the Philippines and, at least at this point, doesn't call for U.S. combat troops. USA Today leads with a near banner headline: IN POLL, ISLAMIC WORLD SAYS ARABS NOT INVOLVED IN 9/11. According to the Gallup poll, which was released yesterday, 61 percent of respondents (from a total of nine countries) said they do not believe that Arabs carried out the Sept. 11 attacks. The Los Angeles Times leads with the president's proposal to strengthen work requirements for welfare recipients, while also offering expanded work-training programs so that people will be better equipped to meet the tougher standards. Bush's suggested reforms also included a proposal to spend about $200 million to encourage recipients to get married.
The NYT picks up a bit of skepticism from "administration officials" about the Saudi's peace plan. As one of the officials put it, "It's not a plan, it's a vision."
Unlike the WSJ, the WP reports that the United States has already begun supplying combat helicopters to Georgia. The Post also reports that the White House is now saying that rebels in Chechnya have connections to al-Qaida, a link long asserted by Russia, and long doubted by the United States.
According to USAT, the "sweeping poll of attitudes in the Islamic world" uncovered a "breathtaking amount of anti-U.S. sentiment." Among the findings, 77 percent of respondents believe that the U.S military action in Afghanistan was, and is, "morally unjustifiable." (The paper, though, does note up high that a majority of respondents also found the Sept. 11 attacks to be morally unjustifiable.)
USAT doesn't latch onto it, but the actual poll results suggest that the largest bastion of anti-American sentiment resides in ... Pakistan. For example, only 9 percent of respondents in that country held a favorable view of the United States; Iran was next at 14 percent.
Though USAT doesn't put it in this context, the last paragraph of its piece hints at one possible reason most folks in the Muslim world don't buy the official 9/11 story: Their governments are keeping them ill-informed. According to the article, "The poll had about 120 questions, but not all were asked in every country because of censorship. For instance, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Morocco did not allow the question about Arab responsibility for the Sept. 11 attacks."
The papers note that the United States pressed Pakistan to extradite the suspected murderers of Daniel Pearl. But Pakistani authorities said they want to hold off for a bit because, they say, keeping the jailed suspects nearby will help the investigation.
The NYT fronts a story based on interviews with Afghan survivors of the misdirected U.S. commando raid last month that killed at least 16 people. The Afghans were adamant that, contrary to the Pentagon's position, the Americans fired first. The NYT's Web site has a helpful series of graphics illustrating what appears to have happened. (Click on the link in the previous sentence, then scroll down the right-hand column and click on "Interactive feature.")
Everybody notes that Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld said he's closing the short-lived, and much-maligned Office of Strategic Influence. Rumsfeld insisted that the office never planned on planting false stories, but said that the media's focus on it meant that the office couldn't do its job.
The NYT, which broke the story about the office's existence, adds a nice detail for the record: "Though Mr. Rumsfeld said the office did not yet have a charter, classified briefings circulating in the Pentagon said the office should find ways to 'coerce' foreign journalists and opinion makers and 'punish' those who convey the wrong message."
The papers note that Rumsfeld got a bit cranky when reporters kept peppering him with questions. "The office is done," he told them. "What do you want, blood?"
The NYT notices that although Bush's welfare proposal calls for recipients to be working more, it doesn't appear to offer any additional funds for childcare.
The WP off-leads former Enron CEO Jeffrey Skilling's "unrepentant" congressional testimony. Skilling denied that he did anything wrong and said he merely relied on accountants who told him Enron's books weren't cooked. Asked if in retrospect he wished he had done anything differently, Skilling said, "Quite frankly, there is nothing I can come up with."
The Post notes,"Skilling is the only member of Enron's senior management team not to exercise his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination." The paper adds a bit of context to that 12 paragraphs later, when it explains that legal experts say it's a risky move and could expose him to charges of perjury.
The WP's Style section ponders Alanis Morissette, who according to the paper, "never wavers from total self-involvement." That may explain why the singer elicits such a strong reaction that she's become "the Hillary Clinton of pop." As one detractor put it, "What I feel for her isn't simple hate. It is an all-encompassing repulsion not unlike what you might feel if you woke up to discover a four-pound cockroach using your toothbrush."