The New York Times, Washington Post, and Wall Street Journal lead with Israeli soldiers evicting protesters from two synagogues in Gaza, where the most defiant settlers and their supporters tried to resist the forced evacuation. All the papers focus on the Kfar Darom settlement, where the most dramatic scenes played out on the synagogue's rooftop as settlers resisted by throwing eggs, rocks, paint-filled light bulbs, and an acidlike substance at the unarmed soldiers, who used water cannons to push the settlers back. USA Today leads, while the rest of the papers go inside, with the sentencing of Dennis Rader, the "BTK" serial killer, to 10 consecutive life terms in prison. Rader, 60, killed 10 people between 1974 and 1991 in Kansas. The Los Angeles Times leads with a ruling by the Federal Election Commission permitting members of Congress to raise unlimited amounts of soft money to campaign for or against ballot measures in California. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's key initiatives could be hurt by this ruling, which many see as a loophole in campaign-finance law.
Israeli officials tell the papers that yesterday was the most difficult day of Gaza evacuations as they fought protesters who consisted mainly of outsiders who had come into the settlements to help with the resistance. The NYT points out that the protesters on the roof of the synagogue were receiving advice from a reserve colonel and had effective tactics that held the Israeli soldiers back for a few hours. After some failed attempts, the army managed to lower storage containers filled with officers onto the roof to remove the protesters. USAT seems to be the only paper that actually had a reporter on the roof of the synagogue interviewing the protesters. "Our boys today showed that we will not go to the slaughter like sheep," said one.
In another settlement, Neveh Dekalim, the WP says more than 1,000 people (the NYT says it was 600) were in the synagogue there and had poured motor oil on the ramp leading to its entrance. The army proceeded to carry out the protesters one by one. More than 100 people were arrested, and the LAT says more than 80 police officers and soldiers were injured. By the end of the day, officials said 17 out of the 21 settlements had been emptied. The evacuation will be paused on Friday at sundown due to the Jewish Sabbath and is likely to continue on Sunday. Although all the papers have maps of the settlements, the NYT'sis the only one that is truly interactive and shows the progress of the evacuations, making it particularly useful to understand the scope of the operation.
The WP fronts an attack on Sunni leaders in Ramadi, Iraq, who were discussing voter- registration drives for the constitutional referendum. Three hours after the attack, al-Qaida in Iraq claimed responsibility and said it planned on discouraging Sunnis from voting on the "devil's constitution." The LAT notes that an investigative judge from Baghdad was shot to death as he was leaving his home, which is less than two miles from the Green Zone. The U.S. military announced on Thursday that a roadside bomb killed four U.S. soldiers in the city of Samarra. The NYT reports that two U.S. soldiers were also killed in an explosion in southern Afghanistan.
USAT fronts, and the rest go inside with, NASA's announcement that it will not launch another space shuttle until March to ensure any problems are fixed, primarily having to do with debris from the fuel tank. Originally they had hoped to have another shuttle in space by September. The announcement comes after an independent commission's report, released on Wednesday, said NASA had ignored risks in order to continue with the space shuttle program.
Thousands of files from Supreme Court nominee John G. Roberts' days in the Reagan White House were released on Thursday, and all the papers try to give their interpretation of what they mean, although they do not seem to include any damning revelations on key issues. The WP off-leads with "ROBERTS RESISTED WOMEN'S RIGHTS," saying the nominee objected to the Equal Rights Amendment and found some legislative efforts to provide equality "highly objectionable." He was also against the idea that salaries for jobs traditionally held by women should be raised to the salaries of jobs traditionally held by men. The LAT goes inside with a short story on the women's-rights angle, but its main front-page story about the documents goes the same route as the NYT in pointing out that Roberts often advised caution to protect the White House from any legal or political mistakes. USAT focuses on the nominee's argument in favor of a national ID card in a 1983 memo. Both the NYT and the WP include links to the actual documents. ThePost's Dana Milbank describes the chaotic scene at the usually calm National Archives as 100 reporters tried to read as many of the documents as possible before deadline.
The NYT fronts a picture of, while the WP and LAT go inside with, Pope Benedict XVI's first trip to his native Germany for World Youth Day. Although the NYT emphasizes the cheering crowds that received the pope, the WP is more skeptical, noting that the crowds lacked the exuberance that often greeted Pope John Paul II, particularly in his home country. Pope Benedict XVI did not kiss the ground, as his predecessor always did when landing in a foreign country. The pope is scheduled to meet with Jewish and Muslim leaders.
USAT fronts a look into the record number of illegal immigrants who have died trying to cross the Arizona desert. So far in this fiscal year, 201 people have been killed by the harsh weather conditions. No one knows how many people make the journey, but agents have caught more than 500,000 since October. "When we first started coming across UDA (undocumented alien) bodies, it was a big deal," a police officer said. "Now, it's almost routine."
All the papers note that anti-war protester Cindy Sheehan is leaving Crawford, Texas, because her mother suffered a stroke in California. Others who have joined her outside President Bush's ranch will remain, and Sheehan said she would try to return as soon as possible.
The WSJ fronts, while the WP and LAT mention in their business sections, news that Google will offer up a new round of shares worth up to $4.2 billion. Nobody knows what the company is planning to do with the money, but some speculated that Google might be planning an acquisition or perhaps that it will start an Internet telephone service. In a characteristically nerdy humorous approach, Google will offer 14,159,265 shares, which corresponds to the first eight digits after the decimal point in the value of pi. Pi's first nine digits are 3.14159265.