The New York Times leads with Israeli troops battling Palestinian gunmen in the Gaza Strip in the wake of a suicide bombing there, the first in five months. The Washington Post(online, at least) goes with the Justice Department's plans to seek the death penalty for Brian Regan, an alleged spy charged with attempting to sell classified info to Libya, Iraq, and China. The Los Angeles Times leads with, and the NYT coincidentally fronts, the San Fernando Valley's attempts to secede from Los Angeles.
The violence in the Gaza Strip comes as Israel has been withdrawing soldiers from the West Bank, the NYT reports in its lead. A suicide bomber blew himself up in a car in central Gaza on Friday, wounding two Israeli soldiers. The Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility, and other militant groups promised more bombings.
The NYT also includes several diplomatic developments in its lead, including the U.N. Security Council's resolution to investigate Israeli military action at the now-leveled Palestinian refugee camp in Jenin. And Yasser Arafat has offered to send to Palestinian court the five men accused of killing an Israeli Cabinet minister last year. The five are currently huddled up with Arafat at his headquarters in Ramallah.
The Post reports in its lead that Brian Regan, a retired Air Force master sergeant, wrote letters to the likes of Saddam Hussein and Muammar Qaddafi, offering them top-secret Defense Department intelligence about their respective countries. Regan wanted $13 million for his trouble. Now he will face the death penalty, though his indictment does not say that he sent the letters and the WP says there's no "public evidence" of his guilt. He stands to be the first person executed for espionage since Julius and Ethel Rosenberg in 1953.
If the 1.4 million people in the San Fernando Valley manage to shear off from Los Angeles this fall, they will suddenly constitute the country's 14th-largest city, the LAT reports in its lead. (L.A. would drop from second to third, behind New York and Chicago.) The issue is likely to land on the November ballot following yesterday's report determining that the as-yet-unnamed metropolis would be fiscally viable. (Some favor calling it Camelot, according to the NYT.) A majority not only of the valley but of the city as a whole must vote for succession in order for it to pass. An LAT poll (also cited by the NYT) shows 46 percent of Angelenos in favor. "There is an odd alliance of white citizens who want to leave and African-Americans who want them to leave," says a city historian in the LAT. Many black leaders are unhappy with Mayor James Hahn, who recently opposed a second term for Police Chief Bernard Parks.
The FBI has warned banks in the northeast and mid-Atlantic states that they may be the next targets for terrorism, according to a WP fronter. The warning was based on information offered by Abu Zubayda, the only big al-Qaida fish in captivity and someone who "may have reason to lie," in the words of the LAT, which also fronted the story (as did the NYT). The FBI was careful to qualify the alert as "unsubstantiated" and made "out of an abundance of caution," the NYT reports.
The WP fronts victims of inhalation anthrax exposure who (six months later) have yet to make a full recovery. The paper interviewed five of the six anthrax survivors, and four of them reported serious memory loss and fatigue. Only a 74-year-old Florida man has returned to work. "The question is, why aren't these people back to normal?" asks an infectious disease expert. Little is known about the lasting effects because, before last year's incidents, the result of anthrax exposure was typically death. (Five of the 11 exposed in the fall have died.)
The NYT fronts the Rev. Enrique Díaz Jiménez, whose "story is different and significant because the totality of his crimes, and the degree to which they were ignored or overlooked in several countries, illustrate a problem that seems to know no national boundaries." After facing a 60-count indictment in Queens, N.Y., Jiménez was deported to Venezuela, where his habits continued unabated. He is currently charged in his native Colombia—with molestation. "If you are a bad guy as a priest, the system allows you to go all over," says director of the Catholic Information Center in Washington. "Being a priest is an excellent cover."
Finally, this being 4/20, the LAT fronts the story of "420," which has somehow come to be a "sly reference" to pot smoking. Two decades ago, apparently, maybe, some kids in California (where else?) got into the habit of lighting up at 4:20 in the afternoon (repeatedly). In the intervening years the number has become so evocative (except to the irreparably out-of-touch) that it's used as a marketing tool. There's 420 Pale Ale, Highway 420 Radio ("music for the chemically enhanced") and, out of New York, 420 Tours (low-cost packages to the Netherlands and Jamaica). Even the squares are hip to it. The latest public service announcement from Health and Human Services asks: "It's 4:20—Do You Know Where Your Teen Is?"
Do you know what time it is?