The New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, and USA Today all lead with U.S. cardinals' new guidelines to defrock any priest who "has become notorious and is guilty of the serial, predatory sexual abuse of minors." The papers all say that the proposal, which came as the cardinals finished their meetings at the Vatican, stops short of a no-tolerance policy. The Wall Street Journal tops its world-wide newsbox with a Mideast roundup, emphasizing Secretary of State Powell's comments that he doesn't think there was a massacre in Jenin.
The NYT points out that the cardinals' press conference started two hours late because they were still hashing out their statement. When it finally did begin, many of the cardinals weren't there. They explained that they already had other plans.
The WP off-lead's what looks like a big scoop: U.S. special ops soldiers have "been attacked several times a week over the last month" and have "suffered some casualties, though no American has been killed." The paper also says that as part of the same general operation, "covert U.S. military units have participated in attacks" on suspected al-Qaida hideouts in Pakistan. (For the record, the paper headlines the latter point: "U.S. UNITS ATTACKING AL QAIDA IN PAKISTAN.")
The Post says that most of the fighting has taken place in villages in eastern Afghanistan, near the (now well-known) town of Khost, and is occurring in very small groups on both sides. The paper adds that U.S. troops have been "deliberately exposing" themselves in an attempt to draw out al-Qaida forces, who have intermingled with civilians.
USAT also fronts the special force's operation. But the article doesn't mention U.S. causalities or firefights, and says there hasn't yet been a U.S. combat mission inside Pakistan.
Both the Post and USAT emphasize that Pakistan prefers to keep on the down-low any evidence that it's letting U.S. troops operate in the country.
As the WP notes, yesterday's NYT reported that Pakistan agreed that U.S. "advisers" could operate in the border area near Afghanistan.
The NYT writes that three Palestinian teen-agers died Tuesday night as they tried to attack an Israeli settlement in the Gaza Strip. Two of the boys were 15 and one was 14. The paper says that Palestinian parents "called for an investigation" to find out who was behind the mission. The Times says that both the Islamic Jihad and Hamas denied being involved. How about the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades?
In an interview with the NYT, Israeli Prime Minster Ariel Sharon said he is "ready to consider" letting Yasser Arafat leave his besieged compound and move on to Gaza. Sharon said that the move would test whether Arafat will rein in terrorists, since he still has somewhat of an intact security force there.
Meanwhile, the LAT reports that Sharon is "increasingly convinced" that many in the Bush administration would back a decision to expel Arafat.
That story's 23rd paragraph also says that Sharon "stunned his allies in the Labor party" by reportedly announcing during a Cabinet meeting that Israel would not pull out of a single settlement. The paper concludes, "Sharon's statement seemed to remove the basis for political negotiations."
The papers all note that Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah will meet with President Bush today. Everybody says that the prince is going to warn Bush that the U.S. has been too supportive of Israel. (The NYT goes strongest with this. It quotes "a person familiar with the Saudi's thinking" saying that the Saudis are steaming mad and are even considering cutting off the flow of oil.)
The WSJ has the counterintuitive take. It agrees that the prince will criticize Bush. But it also points out that the prince "has come to Mr. Bush's rescue at critical moments of late."
Everybody notes that the FBI warned police yesterday that it received an unconfirmed and nonspecific tip from al-Qaida commander Abu Zubaydah that the group may be planning to attack supermarkets and shopping centers. Authorities tried to downplay the warning. "There is no alert," said one official quoted in the WSJ.
The LAT has a smart piece wondering what's going on with the recent flood of (mis)-info from Zubaydah. The paper say one possibility is that the U.S. is making a big stink about his warnings in an attempt "to create a buzz among his al-Qaida followers." That way, they'll pick up the phone and get busted.
According to the LAT, a classified CIA report has concluded "that the Chinese military is working to launch wide-scale cyber-attacks on American and Taiwanese computer networks." Sounds scary. But the paper notes (up high) the report's conclusion that China doesn't yet have the hacking skills to cause major damage. "These aren't the keys to the kingdom we're talking about," one official said. (By the way, it would have been nice if the paper had noted this caveat in its subhead, which instead reads, "Analysts fear government and private efforts to sabotage federal Internet sites.")
The NYT reports inside, "In the past year, the United States channeled hundreds of thousands of dollars in grants to American and Venezuelan groups opposed to President Hugo Chávez, including the labor group whose protests led to the Venezuelan president's brief ouster this month." The paper says that the funds were given by a nonprofit agency created by Congress.
In what looks like a hint as to who leaked the story, the NYT cites a "midlevel" State Department official saying that the department's human right's bureau has suspended a grant it was going to give the nonprofit. Meanwhile, a State Department spokesman said he didn't know anything about the grant.
The article's 19th paragraph has this intriguing line: "Critics say, in Chile in 1988 and in Nicaragua in 1989, [the agency's] funds were used to sway the outcomes of elections." More, please.
Thinly veiled ... USAT goes inside with the latest trend among brides: Sexy wedding dress. Apparently, it all started a few years when Cindy Crawford got married while sporting a "thigh-grazing slip dress." Some in the business, though, thinks it's gone too far. "I've had a few brides who say, 'I want to show some cleavage,' " says one bridal consultant. "So I pull down the neck of my blouse and show them my cleavage."