The French Kiss of Death

A summary of what's in the major U.S. newspapers.
May 30 2005 4:45 AM

The French Kiss of Death

Everyone leads with France's decisive rejection of the European constitution. French voters turned out in droves to deal a momentous setback to the European Union, with nearly 56 percent voting against the charter. The constitution cannot be adopted unless all 25 member states sign on, meaning the no vote from France—for decades a leading member of the EU—could bring the ratification process to a permanent halt.

The result appears to have been fueled by fears that a strengthened EU could lead to a decline in already-sagging French living standards. Voters are worried that an influx of workers from the union's poorer Eastern European countries would exacerbate unemployment—currently around 10 percent—and eat into France's robust social security system. The vote may also have been a backlash against the EU's failure to consult voters last year when it admitted 10 new member states, many of which are poor and whose governments do not align politically or culturally with France.

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President Jacques Chirac may be in political hot water. A leading proponent of the "yes" movement, he, along with France's business elites, envisioned a strong Europe that would be better equipped to compete economically with the U.S. and China. Several of Chirac's right-wing opponents have already called for his resignation, or at least a dissolution of Parliament. Though he appeared unlikely to resign, Chirac did say he'd reshuffle the government. In a public statement, he doggedly added that the fight to empower the EU was not over, even if "France's decision inevitably creates a difficult context for the defense of our interests in Europe."

The New York Times off-leads, the Los Angeles Times fronts, and the Washington Post just reefers yesterday's wave of violence in Iraq. In response to the Iraq government's new security operation—in which Iraq troops will be moved "from the defensive to the offensive"—insurgents launched a series of coordinated strikes against government targets, killing 34 across the country, 20 in Baghdad alone. There is also a deepening worry that the bloodshed in Iraq, where the one-month death toll is up to 700—is becoming increasingly sectarian. Many Iraqi Sunnis believe the counterinsurgency—not the insurgency, mind—is being aided by the Badr Organization, a "shadowy" militia group from Iran that has ties to one of Iraq's governing Shiite parties. If Iran were found to be influencing the Iraq government's military decisions—especially those that have resulted in the deaths of Sunnis—the schism between the two sects could widen drastically.

The Post fronts a chilling report on the Chinese government's detention of Ching Cheong, a renowned journalist from Hong Kong. Ching was working on a story in involving secret interviews with a former Communist party chief who opposed the Tiananmen Square massacres and who died recently after 16 years of house arrest. After receiving a call from someone on the mainland claiming to have access to the interviews, Ching traveled to Beijing to get them. When he arrived, he was swiftly detained. Though China often takes its own journalists into custody, this is the first instance in which a foreign reporter has been arrested.

The NYT fronts the result of a terror sting: Two men accused of pledging assistance to al- Qaida were arrested on Friday. The first suspect is a physician from Boca Raton, Fla., who authorities say planned to fly to Saudi Arabia in order to treat wounded jihadists. The other man is a martial-arts expert who had committed to training al-Qaida operatives in hand-to-hand combat. Undercover agents taped both men swearing fealty to Osama Bin Laden.

The LAT fronts the election of Saad Hariri in Lebanon. Hariri is the son of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, whose assassination in February galvanized anti-Syrian protesters and eventually led to the withdrawal of Syrian forces from the country. Saad Hariri's ticket swept all 19 of Beirut's parliamentary seats, virtually guaranteeing him the prime ministership.

Everyone runs at least a front-page photo of 23-year-old Danica Patrick's amazing showing at the Indianapolis 500. By coming in fourth, she recorded the best-ever finish for a woman—earlier she'd become the only woman ever to lead the race. Unfortunately, because Patrick was running low on gas, she was forced to give up the lead to eventual winner Dan Wheldon with only six laps to go.

Big Mother is Watching ... Several school districts in Atlanta now offer parents the option of electronically monitoring what their children are buying at the cafeteria. Parents can access records of kids' lunch choices by simply going on the Internet and clicking, the idea being to make sure youngsters aren't spending all their lunch money on chips. Or worse. Said one vigilant mother: "She was getting an extra 12-ounce can of juice each day. ... That's about 150 extra calories."

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