The Washington Post and Los Angeles Times lead with the latest U.S. diplomatic efforts to prevent war from breaking out on the Indian subcontinent. The New York Times leads with a banner headline: "Where Twin Towers Stood, a Silent Goodbye." Yesterday, the eight-month operation to clean up the World Trade Center site ended with a solemn ceremony marked by the symbolic removal of an empty stretcher from the ground zero pit followed by the extrication of the building's last remaining steel column. The Wall Street Journal tops its world-wide news box with yesterday's unveiling of new Department of Justice guidelines that grant the FBI a broad expansion of powers on domestic spying. The NYT and WP previewed the new regulations in yesterday's papers. USA Today leads with a piece on America's few proud soccer fans, who will be losing sleep this month to watch World Cup games broadcast live during the middle of the night from South Korea and Japan. One devotee of the U.S. national team says he plans to "go nocturnal" for the entire month of June.
President Bush announced yesterday that he is sending Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to South Asia next week to try to defuse tensions between India and Pakistan. As the two nations apparently move closer to war, President Bush used what all the papers deem his toughest language yet to demand that Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf curtail the incursion of Muslim militants across the Kashmiri Line of Control.
The WP suggests that the U.S. strategy is to keep the two nations talking through July when the heavy rains of the monsoon season will arrive, making fighting substantially more difficult. When Rumsfeld arrives next week, he will likely bring with him a classified report completed last week by the Defense Intelligence Agency, which details the catastrophic consequences of a nuclear exchange between Pakistan and India (think 12 million people killed instantly).
One big question mark for all the papers is if and when the U.S. will deem it necessary to evacuate U.S. personnel in India (all non-essential embassy staff have already left Pakistan). The LAT quotes a senior State Department official saying an evacuation "could come any day now."
A USAT front-pager offers up polling data that suggests Americans are growing increasingly pessimistic about the war on terrorism. According to a USA Today/CNN/Gallup poll, only 41 percent of Americans say the United States is winning the war, down from a high of 66 percent in January. Still, Bush holds on to a sky-high approval rating of 77 percent.
A NYT "News Analysis" piece reminds us that the restrictions on domestic spying that the FBI relaxed yesterday were self-imposed 30 years ago without any legislative backing, which is why they were able to be revoked just as easily. The guidelines date back to the 1960s and '70s and were a response to public outrage at abuses perpetrated by the FBI while investigating political dissidents such as Martin Luther King, Jr. The relaxed regulations will give FBI agents more latitude to monitor the Internet and once again conduct surveillance of political and religious organizations even when they're not being investigated for any particular crime. The article speculates that the Supreme Court is unlikely to be swayed by a legal challenge of the relaxed guidelines, especially if the court relies on a 1972 precedent that held that the Army has the right to monitor public political activities.
A front-page WP piecenotes that Jewish settlements in the West Bank have steadily increased under Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. This may not sound particularly surprising or noteworthy since Sharon has long been one of the most outspoken proponents of West Bank settlement. And besides, settlement has expanded without pause under every prime minister since 1967. However, ever since the Oslo accords of 1993, the number of formally designated settlements has remained constant even while the number of Jews living in those communities has grown. What's news is that in the past few months, Sharon appears to have signed off on the creation of at least three dozen distinct new settlements, though the government has tried to justify the new construction as mere expansions of existing communities.
The LAT fronts a small scoop in the ongoing investigation of Enron's collapse. The newspaper acquired an eight-page memo written by Enron lawyers in late October 2000 describing the company's potential criminal liabilities. What makes this revelation front-page material is that it means Enron was fully advised of the illegality of its actions at least one month earlier than previously disclosed.
The LAT fronts—and the other papers reefer—news of a helicopter crash yesterday on Mt. Hood, Ore. The helicopter was in the process of rescuing eight climbers who had fallen into a crevasse when it crashed into the mountainside and rolled 1,000 feet downhill. Three of the climbers died and at least three of the helicopter crewmen were injured. The rescue attempt was playing live on local television when the crash occurred.
A WSJ article describes an outlandish piece of mythology circulating on the Iraqi street. The Iraqis have apparently convinced themselves that in 1993 the U.S. assassinated the head of the nation's state institute for the arts because she was responsible for an unflattering (and to Today's Papers' mind, quite ridiculous looking) portrait of George Bush Sr. cut in Italian marble on the floor of a Baghdad hotel lobby. In fact, artist Leila al-Attar didn't even have anything to do with the marble caricature. And her death was hardly targeted. She was killed in a cruise missile attack that just missed her next-door neighbor, Iraq's foreign-intelligence headquarters. Iraqis should know that in America we don't assassinate artists whose work we find distasteful; we put their pieces in museums.