Two days after Thanksgiving, the papers serve up platefuls of leftovers. The New York Times leads with a state environmental board's decision—two weeks ago—to dramatically toughen its regulations on automobiles' carbon dioxide emissions. The Los Angeles Times recaps a week's worth of rumblings and concludes that the Bush administration may be planning a "significant" reduction in the number of American troops stationed in Iraq. The Wall Street Journal tops its world-wide newsbox with the political reverberations of this week's violence in Iraq, as Sunnis accused Shiite politicians of sponsoring "death squads," and Shiites expressed outrage over Thursday's suicide bombing at a hospital, which killed at least 30. The Washington Post leads with the Palestinian Authority's assumption of authority over an international border post between Gaza and Egypt.
Actually, the Palestinians are re-assuming control of the Rafah border crossing. Two months ago, in the first days after Israel handed over Gaza, the border devolved into a free-for-all, as thousands of Palestinians streamed unchecked across the border for "family reunions, smuggling and afternoons at the beach along the Sinai coast." Israel protested, the border was closed, and it was only after protracted negotiations that Rafah reopened again. For the Palestinians, the autonomy seems largely symbolic: European Union monitors will check who comes and goes, and the Israelis will be watching via closed-circuit television.
California was the first state to adopt the new, tough auto-emission regulations, which have been cheered by environmentalists as a tangible step to control greenhouse gasses. New York is one of 10 other states, mostly in the West and Northeast, that have chosen to follow the Golden State's lead. The new rules say that cars sold in New York must reduce the amount of carbon dioxide they belch by 30 percent over the next decade, while simultaneously increasing their fuel economy by 40 percent. Automakers say that meeting the guidelines will mean adding as much as $3,000 to the price of a car. They are challenging the new rules in court.
The LAT lead, parsing recent statements by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and quoting the usual complement of anonymous officials, sees an administration that is "[laying] the groundwork for potentially large withdrawals in 2006 and 2007." The story reads particular significance into President's Bush's upcoming speech at the U.S. Naval Academy, at which he is expected to "herald the improved readiness of Iraqi troops, which he has identified as the key condition for pulling out U.S. forces." There are currently around 160,000 troops in Iraq; one former Pentagon official predicts that a quarter of those could go home before next year's congressional elections.
The scandal surrounding Mephistophelean lobbyist Jack Abramoff oozes on. The WP reports that prosecutors have informed Abramoff sidekick Rep. Bob Ney, R-Ohio, that they are "preparing a possible bribery case" against him and his former chief of staff. Ney is only one of several possible targets of the bribery investigation. Others include former House Majority Leader Tom Delay, R-Texas, and Rep. John Doolittle, R-Calif., both of whose wives worked at consulting firms that received business from Abramoff.
Both the WP and the NYT front features today about the effects of battle on soldiers' psyches. But the stories couldn't be more different. The NYT, in a story heavy on gore and grim statistics, writes that "some experts suspect that the legacy of Iraq could echo that of Vietnam, when almost a third of returning military personnel reported significant, often chronic, psychological problems." The WP, meanwhile, makes an unfashionable but intuitive point: War is good for some soldiers, who experience "spiritual development, improved relationships, a sense of personal strength, a better appreciation of life and new interests and priorities." Psychologists call it "post-traumatic growth." One veteran who spent six years as a North Vietnamese prisoner of war tells the paper that the experience had "an overall very positive effect on my life."
Everyone reports breathlessly on the first day of the holiday shopping season, which kicked off with the usual lunacy.
One other industry that—remarkably—seems to be on the upswing: airlines. The WSJ reports that several big carriers are predicting that they will finish in the black next year, despite high fuel costs, due mostly to a record-setting volume of air travel.
The NYT, slow off the mark, follows Friday's WP with a front-page dispatch from Harbin, the Chinese city that is going without running water after a huge chemical spill into the river that feeds its water supply. The Chinese government is hushing things up, as usual.
The LAT fronts an interesting feature on the trouble European nations have recently been giving the CIA. Investigations into agency's activities in Spain, Italy, and Germany, among other places, threaten to embarrass the United States and could perhaps even hamper intelligence-gathering.
Brownie Points … A wire story inside the WP catches up with former FEMA Director Michael Brown. "My wife, children and my grandchild still love me. My parents are still proud of me," says the least popular man in New Orleans. And what does Brown plan to do now that he's mercifully been returned to the private sector? He's setting up shop as a consultant—on disaster preparedness.