The New York Times leads with a new Labor Department report that pins the nation's unemployment rate at 6 percent, the highest it has been since August 1994. The Los Angeles Times leads with possible new evidence that Iraq might be developing long-range missiles. The Washington Post leads with positioning by Israelis and Palestinians now that Colin Powell's proposed international conference on the Middle East has been agreed upon.
The WP headlines Israeli and Palestinian acceptance, but the paper also writes that it "remained unclear who would attend the international conference and what its goals would be." The paper also seems intrigued with Ariel Sharon's visit to Washington next week where he will offer, in his own words, "a plan, a serious plan, maybe the most serious that has been presented so far." Sharon will also give his vision of what the international meeting is to look like. The WP speculates, deep into the story, that Sharon's talk with Bush may include the idea of dealing with alternative Palestinian leadership.
The NYT, in a front-page news analysis, writes that Bush administration officials are already playing down the international conference, quoting one senior official as saying it "is not intended to be the peace conference."
Meanwhile, the papers report that around 50 Israeli tanks raided the West Bank city of Nablus and that three people—one Israeli officer and two Palestinians—were killed.
All three papers read into the Labor Department's new unemployment figures as gloomy economic news, but all also note that in April companies added a total of 41,000 jobs to their payrolls. The WP further notes, and is the only paper to do so, that "the number of people with jobs did increase by 82,000." How then, one might ask, did the unemployment rate go up? The WP notes the nation's workforce increased by a size of 565,000 persons while the NYT, although it doesn't mention this number, offers the best answer as to why: "The government's extension of unemployment benefits in March has caused the number of people looking for a job to increase since they must be on the job market to qualify for the benefits. Only people looking for work count as unemployed."
The LAT leads with an exclusive: U.S. officials are showing U.N. Security Council members in closed meetings new evidence, including satellite photographs and documents, alleging that Iraq is developing long-range missiles, beyond the 100-mile limit the U.N. had previously ruled on for Iraq. Members of the council are said to be "impressed." Furthermore, Russia, a longtime critic of U.S. and U.N. policies toward Iraq, is said to have struck an agreement with the U.S., whereby the two nations will jointly introduce a U.N. resolution in the coming days increasing the amount of goods Iraq can't import without U.N approval, including radio scanners and laboratory equipment.
The NYT and WP front the Archdiocese of Boston's decision to back out of a multimillion-dollar settlement with 86 alleged victims of defrocked priest John Geoghan. Officials for the archdiocese wrote in a statement that there wasn't enough money to cover this settlement (estimated between $15 and $30 million) as well as cover current and possible future lawsuits by other victims.
The papers go inside on the exploding pipe bombs that showed up in at least eight mailboxes in rural Illinois and Iowa. Five people were injured. The bombs, which weren't mailed but rather placed inside the mailboxes, came with notes threatening more "attention-getters."
The NYT reports that Bill Clinton will not be hosting a daily syndicated talk show for NBC. Clinton is said to have met with two top executives there on Wednesday, in what a senior executive called a "courtesy meeting." Clinton may pursue part-time TV and radio opportunities in the future, the article says.
The WP and LAT report on a 5-year-old Florida girl named Rilya Wilson, who has been missing for 15 months "without anyone noticing." Rilya was first taken from her mother by the state and given to her grandmother. Then, she was taken by a person who claimed to be a Florida Department of Children and Families agent. She has not been seen since and hasn't been inquired about until recently. Meanwhile, Rilya's former caseworker resigned after an agency probe revealed she had filed false reports in cases involving other children. Gov. Jeb Bush is calling for an investigation.
The LAT fronts a 1,700-plus word feature on Japan's infestation of ghosts. Tokyo alone has 100 designated haunted sites. Japan's last prime minister reported hearing funny sounds at night, and the nation is wondering what might be lurking in the new prime minister's just-moved-into abode. One prominent ghost in Tokyo has $190,000 in his bank account. Other ghosts like to come out in the warm weather of mid-August and hang around damp areas, like toilets. Buddhist priests and psychics act as ghostbusters in Japan. Says Motohiko Izawa, managing director of the Mystery Writers Association of Japan: "Japan's real religion is wa. The ultimate aim is to keep the wa so that powerful, grudge-laden ghosts don't appear."