The Washington Post leads with news that "more than 140 employees at the Washington area's three major airports have been indicted on charges of lying about their identities or criminal pasts" on various security-related applications. The Post says that authorities don't believe that any of those indicted are connected to terrorism. The Los Angeles Times leads with news that a freight-train collided with a commuter train in southern California, killing two and injuring more than 250 people, about 25 of them seriously. The Wall Street Journal tops its world-wide newsbox with word that Israel wants to delay a U.N. team that is planning to investigate what happened during the battle earlier this month in Jenin. The New York Times and USA Today lead with Pope John Paul II saying that pedophilia by priests is "rightly considered a crime" and is also "an appalling sin in the eyes of God."
To the victims and their families, the pope said, "I express my profound sense of solidarity and concern." A five-column near-banner headline in the NYT concludes, POPE OFFERS APOLOGY TO VICTIMS OF SEX ABUSE BY PRIESTS. The WP isn't so sure. It doesn't headline the statement, which it calls "the closest [the pope] has come to an apology." Both papers note up high that the pope didn't suggest concrete steps for U.S. cardinals to take.
Everybody, including the NYT,notices that the pope's speech was a bit ambiguous. Though he talked tough, he also spoke about the "power of Christian conversion." The papers conclude that it's unclear whether the pope supports a "one strike and you're out" anti-pedophilia policy.
A news analysis inside the NYT says the ambiguity isn't limited to the pope: "Several prelates acknowledged that purifying the church of its criminal priests would be a struggle. ... Certain fundamental church teachings are standing in the way."
Explaining his government's decision to block the U.N. investigation, an Israeli official told the NYT that given who's been named to the team, Israel is afraid that the investigation is a "setup to accuse Israel of war crimes."
Everybody notes that just a few days ago Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres pledged to support the inquiry. Meanwhile, the U.S., which says it supports the investigation, wasn't happy with Israel's new position.
A story inside the NYT reports that U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan "brushed aside the Israeli objections and said the team was expected to begin work by Saturday."
The papers note that Palestinian and Israeli negotiators met yesterday to try to resolve the stand-off at Bethlehem's Church of the Nativity. They said they made progress and are going to meet again today.
A front-page NYT piece reports, "American advisers have been granted permission to accompany Pakistani troops into tribal areas of Pakistan." The paper points out that the decision "falls short" of the U.S.'s request allow to American combat troops into the area. In fact, as the papers 21st paragraph notes, "Pakistani leaders have said that they would not permit American soldiers to operate" anywhere in Pakistan. Given that, the article's headline could easily leave readers with the wrong impression: PAKISTANIS SAY U.S. IS ALLOWED IN BORDER AREA.
The Times' article also points out that U.S. and British troops seem to be preparing for an operation to hunt down remnant al-Qaida and Taliban forces in eastern Afghanistan's Paktia province (the same region where American troops fought in March).
Everybody goes high with the Supreme Court's decision that the government isn't required to compensate property-owners when a regulation precludes owners from building on their own property. The papers say that the 6-to-3 decision is a victory for environmentalists and a loss for the so-called property rights movement.
The WP off-leads, and everybody else notes up high, news that top White House adviser Karen Hughes resigned yesterday, citing her desire to spend more time with her family and to move back to Texas. President Bush said he'll still seek her advice.
The NYT has a less than profound editorial about Hughes' departure. It concludes, "If Mr. Bush wants to keep relying on Ms. Hughes, he can make it happen. Her decision could also test the thesis that being a part of the maelstrom of gossip, buzz and speculation in Washington can be more of a hindrance than a help in giving unvarnished advice to this or any president."
A frontpage USAT story headlines, AIRPORT WORKERS BREACH SECURITY. The subhead adds, "At least 24 lapses cited in 3 weeks." The story is based on some documents the paper nabbed and looks at a period in late March to early April.
Over the past six months, USAT has been doing some of the best reporting about airport security. But this article doesn't quite deliver. For example, it turns out some of the "lapses" had nothing to do with security. Summarizing one incident, the story says (in the 10th paragraph), "On March 17, a National Guardsman was removed from duty after a flight attendant reported that he had been sending her lewd e-mail messages to her home."
Digging a hole ... The NYT runs a slightly embarrassing correction. A chart in last Sunday's Times mapped out Interior Department officials' ties to the mining and energy industries. (The chart accompanied a story reporting that Bush's policies have benefited those industries.) Today's correction notes: "The chart misstated the connection of Patricia Lynn Scarlett, assistant secretary for policy, management and budget, to the Reason Foundation, a libertarian research group. She is its former president, not its current one. The chart also misstated the source of the foundation's financing. Mining and oil companies provide about 6 percent of its money, not all."