The Los Angeles Times and the New York Timeslead with the final results of last month's Iraqi parliamentary election, in which Shiite religious parties made the strongest showing, as expected. But a coalition alliance—perhaps even with Sunnis—will still be necessary to form a government. The results also top the Wall Street Journal's world-wide newsbox. The Washington Post, by contrast, stuffs the election. (Though it had lots of room above-the-fold for an enormous picture of a whale swimming up the Thames.) The paper's top non-local story reports that a Defense Department analyst was sentenced to 12½ years in prison yesterday for passing classified information to lobbyists and the government of Israel.
The Shiite-Kurd coalition that has ruled Iraq since the last election took 181 out of the 275 seats in parliament, leaving it three votes short of the two-thirds majority it needs to set up a new government. The Sunni parties made a solid showing, taking 58 seats, which makes it "the second-largest bloc," the NYT says. (The figures are fuzzy because at least two parties claim to represent Sunni interests; consequently, the LAT gives the Sunnis a slightly smaller take. The NYT has a snazzy online graphic that lays the results out in much more detail.) Now comes the part Iraqi politicians excel at: Weeks of bluster and backroom dealing over jobs and power in the new government. "Some politicians said they were concerned that the wrangling might last into March," says the LAT, "creating a power vacuum that would make it more difficult to fight the insurgency."
Despite the heartening Sunni showing, an LAT analysis says U.S. officials were "disappointed" by the results—they had hoped secular parties would do better—but have now turned their focus toward the "more modest goal" of convincing the religious and nationalist parties who won to play together nicely.
Lawrence Franklin pleaded guilty to passing classified information about Iran, his area of expertise, to a pair of officials at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the powerful lobbying group, and to an Israeli diplomat. He apparently believed that the pro-Israel lobbyists would be in a better position than he was to bring the information, still undisclosed, to the attention of the White House. The judge called Franklin "a loyal American" before issuing his sentence, which "fell at the low end of the federal sentencing guidelines," the WP says.
The Post also gives big play to a dispatch from Bolivia about its newly elected president, the alpaca-clad, Bush-baiting Evo Morales. The story explores whether Morales' lefty radicalism is more than just talk. An early test will be whether he follows through on campaign-trail hints that he will legalize the cultivation of coca, the plant from which cocaine is derived. Morales, a champion of the country's indigenous people and a former head of the coca growers' federation, contends that the plant can be put to uses Kate Moss could hardly imagine, such as making "teas, cakes, energy bars, skin creams, cough medicine and acne remedies." Legalization would mean the end of a $100 million-a-year program the United States sponsors to eradicate coca while encouraging farmers to shift to other crops.
The LAT and WSJ front news of the Dow's loss of 213 points yesterday, or 2 percent of its value, the largest such drop since May 2003. The WSJ blames the slump on rising oil prices, while the LAT stresses weak earnings reports that "raised new concerns about the economy's health." The drop comes less than two weeks after the Dow broke 11,000, prompting a front-story in the NYT to trumpet "the renewed confidence of investors."
Only the NYT fronts the indictment of 11 environmentalists for allegedly staging 17 attacks between 1996 and 2001 on such targets as lumber interests and a ski resort. No one died in the attacks, but they did an estimated $23 million in damage. At a news conference, FBI director Robert Mueller III said violent environmental groups were among the bureau's "highest domestic terrorism priorities." The WP's inside story arches a rhetorical eyebrow, recounting up high a Dec. 25, 1999, incident in which the group set fire to a wood product company's offices and left behind a note reading, "Early Christmas morning elves left coal in Boise Cascade's stocking."
Karl Rove popped his head above the foxhole he's been hiding in since Lewis Libby's indictment, the WP reports out front. In a feisty speech to the Republican National Committee, he previewed the GOP's attack plan for this year's midterm elections and attacked Democrats for their "ossified" thinking. Rove's fresh ideas: Republicans will fight terrorists and cut taxes.
In more sobering news for Republicans, the LAT fronts a piece that says many GOP members of Congress are worried about a big backlash over the federal government's blundering implementation of the new Medicare prescription drug program. Even conservatives are angry, polls show. The NYT has a well-crafted piece of its own about the Medicare woes, focusing on the plight of the mentally ill.
The NYT wraps into its lead the news that the deadline for the threatened execution of kidnapped American journalist Jill Carroll passed yesterday. There was no word from her captors. The WP has the most extensive coverage in an inside piece, which reports that an influential Sunni politician begged for her release, "In the name of God, in the name of religion, in the name of any word of sympathy that exists in Iraq."
Meanwhile, in Mozambique, a judge sentenced a hit man to 30 years in prison for murdering the muckraking journalist Carlos Cardoso. Prominent figures that are suspected of ordering the killing, including the former president's son, have yet to be charged.
The WSJ fronts a fly-on-the-wall feature about the making of a new television series that's giving a new twist to an old staple: the half-hour sitcom. Even as network sitcoms about bumptious but loving families have gone the way of Dumont, HBO is trying to revive the form with a potty-mouthed new show, starring comedian Louis C.K. Innovation hasn't been easy: Some studio audiences don't know how to react to Sopranos-style cursing and edgy humor, and it turns out that those network commercial breaks "are part of a sitcom's DNA, providing curtain-like intermissions to a story."
The WP Style section drops in on a left-wing historian whose Bush-bashing work recently won an endorsement from an influential source: Osama Bin Laden. After the Evil One gave a shout-out to William Blum's Rogue State: A Guide to the World's Only Superpower in the taped message that surfaced Thursday, the book shot from the nether reaches of Amazon.com's best-seller list to No. 26. The unrepentant author tells the Post: "This is almost as good as being an Oprah book."