The New York Times, Wall Street Journal world-wide newsbox, and Los Angeles Timeslead with the conditional truce declared by Israeli Prime Minister Sharon and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. The Washington Postfronts the handshakes, but the paper's top story goes to budget numbers showing the Medicare drug benefit costing about $1.2 trillion over the next decade, three times what the White House estimated (at least publicly) back when it was pushing the plan. USA Todayleads with a poll on Social Security that has 55 percent of respondents giving President Bush's plan a thumbs down. The paper headlines respondents' most popular option for shoring up the program: Sixty-eight percent were all for making "higher income workers pay Social Security taxes on all wages."
Sharon said he and Abbas have "agreed that all Palestinians will stop all acts of violence against all Israelis everywhere, and in parallel, Israel will cease all its military activity against all Palestinians everywhere." Neither side used the word "cease-fire." Most touchy issues were referred to committees, from the number of prisoners Israel will release to when Israel will follow through on its pledge to pull out of five West Bank cities.
One unnamed Israeli official told the NYT that the deal still leaves Israel in a "pre-road map situation," suggesting Sharon isn't ready to do what the map calls for, such as freezing settlement building.
Hamas leaders did a bit of media outreach, reminding reporters that Hamas isn't in on the deal. Only the NYT raises a big flag on that, saying up high that the comments were an "immediate reminder of the fragility" of the truce. But read down to the 13th paragraph for a bit of context: "Hamas has agreed to a temporary period of quiet, and its statements on Tuesday may be more rhetoric than substance."
The NYT also fronts the new Medicare numbers, though it puts the 10-year cost at $720 billion. The Post, whose estimate is $500 billion higher, gives a brief nod to the lower number, saying the head of Medicare "cited several major savings and offsets that would reduce the federal government's bottom-line cost." The WP then moves right along, but does the Medicare chief have a compelling case for the lower number or not?
Everybody stuffs or teasesa suicide bomber at a police recruiting center in Baghdad who apparently killed 21. (Citing hospital officials, the LAT says 13 died.)One witness said this is the fifth time the center has been attacked. Another three police were killed in other attacks, as were two sons of one politician in a failed assassination attempt. As the LAT notes, the politician targeted caused a ruckus last year when he visited Israel.
The NYT doesn't headline the attacks and instead continues its recent curious habit of reading electoral tea leaves. The Times notes that the Kurdish coalition is faring well in the still-unfinished count. The group will probably come in second. The main Shiite coalition is expected to get a majority but not the two-thirds needed to govern solo. That's where the Kurds might be able to help or block the coalition. (Hey, we said it was speculative.)
The WP fronts some conservatives getting fidgety over what the paper describes as the president's effort to increase "not only the size of the federal government but also its influence over the lives of millions of Americans by imposing new national restrictions on high schools, court cases and marriages."
Doing some crackerjack reporting, the NYT's Elisabeth Bumiller covers Bush giving a speech lauding his proposed cuts. Referring to the Even Start program, which serves kids with illiterate parents and is penciled in for elimination, the president said, "After three separate evaluations it has become abundantly clear that the program is not succeeding." Bumiller quotes an Even Start lobbying group official crying foul, and leaves it at that. But how hard would it have been to track down those three purported evaluations or to get an independent assessment of the program? TP, using such obscure tools as Google, found a study, commissioned by the government, concluding, "On the whole, Even Start projects are meeting their legislative mandate. They recruit and serve needy families. And, a high percentage of families take part in core services and receive an amount of service that compares favorably with other existing programs."
USAT teases and others stuff Karl Rove's promotion. He'll now be in charge of coordinating policies between the national security council, economic advisers, and others. The NYT isn't impressed: It's "a move that formally gives him what he has had in practice all along."
American democracy on display ... Everybody notes Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice whispering sweet nothings to European allies. Speaking, very generally, at a university in Paris, Rice said the U.S. and Europe should "turn away from the disagreements" of the past. And indeed, there were no disagreements at the Q&A after the speech. "Only a handful of the school's 5,500 students were allowed near the auditorium where Rice spoke," says the Post, "and the questions were vetted in advance by the school and the State Department."