Mass and Commander

Mass and Commander

Mass and Commander

A summary of what's in the major U.S. newspapers.
April 25 2005 5:54 AM

Mass and Commander

The Los Angeles Times leads (at least online) with the pope's inauguration, and everyone fronts photos of the Mass that installed Benedict XVI as the new leader of the church. The Washington Post leads with, and the Wall Street Journaltops its worldwide news box with Bill Frist's call to end filibusters of judicial nominees in a speech targeted at conservative Christians. The New York Times leads with news that Condoleezza Rice and Dick Cheney are pushing Iraqi leaders to hurry up and form a government. USA Today leads with news about potential conflicts of interest among police officers who are also on the payrolls of weapons manufacturers.

Over 350,000 people, including 100,000 German pilgrims, gathered for the new pope's installation and inaugural Mass, as Benedict XVI officially took control of the Roman Catholic Church. Speaking Italian with a German accent, the pope told the assembled, as the LAT colorfully put it, that "only by embracing God can mankind escape a wasteland that haunts this Earth." The WP reports that the pope outlined the themes he expects to pursue, but the NYT emphasizes that he specifically said he'd decided not to talk about his future plans for the church. Possibly responding to criticism of his "dictatorial" manner, he told the crowd that his program was not to pursue his own ideas, but to listen to God.

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The WP and the WSJ worldwide news box lead with (and USAT teases) news that Bill Frist delivered a taped speech in which he urged Democrats to allow votes on judicial nominees. The speech was part of an event called "Justice Sunday: Stopping the Filibuster Against People of Faith," which was simultaneously broadcast to churches around the country as well as to 61 million households. Frist didn't mention religion, but other segments did, and Democrats complained that the broadcast inappropriately brought religion into a political debate. Some less-conservative religious groups had the same objection. "Exploiting God," said one Methodist minister, is a "theological obscenity."

USAT leads with word that hundreds of police officers nationwide are on the payroll of weapons companies. Suppliers of guns, riot gear, and other police equipment pay officers to conduct training seminars. But many of those on the payroll are also involved in making decisions about which weapons are safe enough for police departments to purchase.

The NYT leads with word that the Bush administration is pushing Iraqi leaders to end their stalemate and come together to form the new government. Up until now, the administration had pursued a policy of noninterference. But American officials now blame the delay for spiraling violence, saying the leadership void has led to lax law enforcement. Iraq's new president, Jalal Talabani, even got a personal phone call from Condi, who told him to finish up "as soon as they could."

The delay in creating an Iraqi government, the LAT reports, is being blamed on outgoing interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, whose party finished third in the elections but is demanding key posts, including deputy prime minister. The top two parties have the required two-thirds majority even without him, but they'd been hoping to include him in their government as a gesture of good will. Now they may be ready to freeze him out: The NYT quotes an adviser who says that Allawi can't yet be ruled out, but the WSJ reports that lawmakers have decided to form a cabinet without him.

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The recent violence in Iraq culminated in a series of car bombings in Baghdad and Tikrit, killing 21 Iraqis. Separately, U.S. forces arrested four more suspects in the downing of a civilian helicopter last week.

Meanwhile, Marines continued to point out their lack of adequate armor. One group of Marines was killed because the makeshift scrap-metal shields in their unarmored Humvee only went up to their shoulders.

The WP fronts a feature about humanitarian organizations in Sudan, where aid workers are increasingly being shot at, arrested, robbed, and harassed by officials.

The NYT exposes a loophole in the corporate tax code that allows some people to enjoy big tax breaks designed for charitable donations. By creating an entity called a supporting organization and donating to it, wealthy people can claim multimillion dollar deductions, even if only a small fraction of that money winds up in the hands of charities. As one critic put it, "It is legal, but it shouldn't be."

The WP fronts a story on Internet vigilantes. "Part informants, part nosy neighbors," they cruise the Web for "pro-terrorist" activity. When they find it, they spread the word, and hackers dismantle the sites. But some law enforcement officials think the vigilantes are doing more harm than good, arguing that monitoring suspicious sites as they continue to operate is more useful than crippling them.

Not your father's popemobile ... After his inaugural speech, the new pope took a victory lap around St. Peter's Square. But there's some confusion about how to refer to his ride. The LAT calls it an "an open-backed Fiat sport-utility vehicle." The WP and USAT both call it "Jeep-like." The WSJ twice refers to it as a "white open-topped vehicle." The NYT calls it simply a "popemobile." But unlike JP2's popemobile, this vehicle has no bulletproof glass. "It was not the same 'popemobile' that John Paul used," writes the LAT, "but it made a similar point."