The Washington Post leads with news that a deal has basically been reached to end the standoff at Bethlehem's Church of the Nativity. As was anticipated yesterday, some Palestinians inside will be exiled to Italy, while some others will be sent to the Gaza Strip. The top story in the Wall Street Journal's world-wide newsbox focuses on Israeli Prime Minster Ariel Sharon's planned peace proposal, which he's expected to present to President Bush today: In return for security, Israel would give Palestinians a large, contiguous swath of the West Bank, though actual statehood and a final settlement would be, as the WSJ put it, "indefinitely delayed." Palestinians says the deal is a non-starter. USA Today leads with word that Army Secretary Thomas White will "likely to be forced out of his post" by the White House. White ticked off Defense Secretary Rumsfeld last week after he continued to lobby Congress for an artillery system that Rumsfeld had ordered killed. (The NYT isn't convinced that White is a goner yet. It notes such "rumors," but adds, "Senior Pentagon officials said the secretary had not been asked to resign.") The New York Times and Los Angeles Times lead with Enron documents released yesterday showing that the now-bankrupt company used various techniques to manipulate California's energy crisis last year. Previously, Enron's execs had denied that they did any such thing.
One Enron memo talked about a strategy dubbed the "Death Star," which was described as a method for billing clients "for moving energy to relieve congestion without actually moving any energy or relieving any congestion." (As USAT noted last week, execs at other energy companies acknowledged that they also contemplated manipulating the market, but—at least according to the execs—rejected the idea.)
While the Post headlines, "DEAL SET IN BETHLEHEM SIEGE," the NYT isn't so sure. Its headline reads, "DEAL TO END CHURCH SIEGE IS SNAGGED ON ANGRY DETAILS." Meanwhile, the LAT goes down the middle: "PALESTINIANS DESCRIBE DEAL TO END STANDOFF AT CHURCH." The paper's subhead adds, "The Israelis, however, deny that a final agreement has been reached."
The Post emphasizes that Sharon said yesterday that the Palestinian Authority needs to undergo "major institutional, structural reform" before Israel will accept it as a peace partner. Sharon also reiterated that Yasser Arafat should be replaced. According to Israel's education minister, who stopped by the Post for a chat, "We demand and expect the Palestinian Authority to take steps toward democracy." (Here's an issue pundit-types might want to ponder: As Today's Papers understands it, though Palestinian law says there should be elections every three years, they haven't been held since 1996. Why has Israel decided that now is the time to make Palestinian democracy a prerequisite to peace?)
Everybody goes high with the assassination of leading anti-immigrant Dutch politician Pim Fortuyn. The Netherlands was scheduled to hold elections May 15, but now they might be postponed. The alleged killer has been arrested.
The WP fronts word that the 16 pipe bombs found in mailboxes in the Midwest, including another one found yesterday, are nearly identical and likely came from the same person. So far six people have been injured by the bombs.
The papers report that, as expected, the Bush administration formally renounced U.S. support for the International Crimes Court, which has been established to prosecute potential war criminals. The White House argued that the court doesn't have effective checks on its power and could end up having "politically motivated" prosecutions. "If you didn't like the independent counsel, just imagine it writ globally," said a State Department official.
Everybody notes that someone from the State Department announced that the administration believes that Cuba has "at least a limited" bio-warfare program and that the country may be exporting the technology to "rogue nations."
The NYT stuffs investigators' conclusion that the anthrax sent through the mail last fall "grew more potent from one letter to the next." The paper says that the conclusion "deepens the mystery" around the attacks and indicates that investigators are "still at sea."
The WP has a great piece saying that "a new analysis has found that in the majority of trials conducted by drug companies in recent decades, sugar pills have done as well as—or better than—antidepressants."
USAT stuffs word that President Bush has asked predecessor Bill Clinton to serve on a U.S. delegation being sent to celebrate the May 20 independence of what will become the world's newest nation, East Timor. According to White House officials cited by the paper, Bush wanted to make nice to Bubba since the administration has repeatedly dissed his policies.