Everyone leads with the news that the pace of job creation surged last month, overshadowing previous signs that the economy had hit a soft spot. The unexpectedly high number of new jobs suggests that businesses are optimistic enough about the economy to expand their payrolls.
After weeks of bleak news, including March drops in hiring, retail spending, and consumer confidence, the government reported 274,000 new jobs in April. Implication: "the economy may not be as weak as many previously expected." Unemployment, meanwhile, held steady at 5.2 percent. The New York Timesemphasizes that income also rose: Hourly wages are up slightly, while employees are working more, pushing average weekly pay up by 3.3 percent in the last year. The Treasury secretary credits Bush with the robust growth. But despite the good numbers, the overall economic picture is still uncertain, and it remains to be seen whether oil prices will level off.
The Washington Postand Los Angeles Timesfront, and the NYT teases, the latest carnage in Iraq, where eight days of insurgent violence have left more than 270 dead. The violence culminated in twin suicide bomb attacks that killed 25. Despite the unabated bloodshed, U.S. and Iraqi forces are saying they're close to nailing arch-insurgent terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, having captured or killed 20 of his top lieutenants. The WP's grim analysis: The resurgence of attacks following the election has surprised U.S. officials, "ending hopes that the success of the January elections had set back the insurgency."
Meanwhile, a worker digging with a shovel in a Baghdad garbage dump discovered the corpses of 12 men who had been tortured, blindfolded, and shot, their bones broken and their necks burned by rope. The NYT gets the perfect quote from the worker, who sums it all up: "Nothing in the time we are living would surprise me anymore."
The NYT reports that Shiite and Sunni lawmakers have agreed on a new defense minister, a deal that, if it holds, would end an impasse that may have exacerbated the violence. But such deals are notoriously fragile, and lawmakers aren't getting their hopes up. "We've been burned before," said one aide.
The NYT fronts word that the editor of the Catholic magazine America was forced to resign after publishing articles critical of the church's views. The offending pieces were "articles representing more than one side on sensitive issues like same-sex marriage, relations with Islam and whether Catholic politicians who support abortion rights should be given communion." The most notable part of the story: The order came from the Vatican's enforcement office, AKA the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith—and the decision was made when that office was still headed by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger.
A day after breaking news that North Korea may be preparing a nuclear test site, the NYT stuffs word that the White House has warned North Korea against testing a nuke.
But an LAT front-page analysis concludes that a North Korean nuclear weapon is all but inevitable. As North Korea puts its weapons program on fast-forward, the U.S. and its allies have limited options. The U.S. had hoped that multinational talks could convince Pyongyang to voluntarily dismantle, especially if China put the squeeze on, but that's looking increasingly unlikely, and, as the headline notes, "THERE'S NO PLAN B TO DETER N. KOREA." Direct diplomacy between the U.S. and North Korea has failed, with Bush calling Kim Jong Il a "tyrant" and the North Koreans calling Bush a "philistine" and a "hooligan."
The WP teases the news that a "subdued and unsmiling Blair" quietly began his third term as prime minister.
Meanwhile, the NYT's front page wonders when Blair will step aside and make room for Gordon Brown, Britain's "transparently ambitious" chancellor of the Exchequer. In contrast to Blair, who is now seen as lacking honesty and substance, Brown is perceived as a plain-spoken man of integrity, reports the NYT. The WP observes that the timing of the switch largely depends on whether Blair's domestic agenda succeeds or fails.
The NYT fronts, and the others tease, news that a federal court struck down an anti-piracy rule that had previously been approved by the FCC. The NYT calls the ruling "a major setback to Hollywood and the television networks." The rule would have required computer and television manufacturers to implement technological barriers to copying digital programs. But the court ruled that the FCC can only regulate devices that transmit programs.
The LAT teases word that after a four-month long "biomedical soap opera" of a competition, San Francisco was selected to house the HQ for California's new $3 billion stem cell research institute.
Show of force … The Washington Post teases a vivid peek inside Skywalker Ranch, where reporters were invited to tour the grounds and preview the new Star Wars movie. "The vibe," we learn, "is boys camp"; the "hard-cores" are separated from the other reporters by trivia questions; visiting George Lucas' ranch is like "entering the Jedi temple." The group of reporters is driven past the Skywalker Fire Department, Francis Ford Coppola's vineyards, the "animal facility," the Archives, and an X-Wing fighter. Their reaction? They're so overawed that their guide finds it necessary to remind them, "You're allowed to talk."