The Washington Postleads with Iran's overtures for direct negotiations with the U.S., including about nukes development.The Post says the effort has been endorsed by Iran's top conservatives, including Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei. "The taboo of the discussion is gone," said one Iranian analyst. It's not gone in Washington: The White House has so far rejected direct talks. The New York Times leads with a deeply reported piece on the death squads and assorted militia operating inside Iraq and often inside the government. "I think they have the evidence now as to who is doing most of the killing," said one "American official" in Baghdad. "It's a question of political will, the political will to do what needs to be done." He added, "I have just not seen it yet."
USA Todayleads with the latest hot trend for lawmakers: supporting tough sex-offender bills. Last year states passed 150 such laws, about double the number of the year before. The Los Angeles Timesleads with—as USAT did a few weeks ago—the expected crunch for air-travelers this summer. The number of passengers is going up, and the number of flights is already down. As one analyst put it, "Your ability to remain calm in the cabin is going to remain at a premium."
Citing "U.S. officials," the WP says, "Government experts have exerted mounting pressure on the Bush administration to reply," at least, to President Ahmadinejad's recent letter. So far, no dice on that.
The offers and the U.S.'s recalcitrance aren't new: This TPer recently had a video chat with an Iran expert recounting an earlier, also rebuffed, overture. Meanwhile, Time magazine landed a much-less-noticed letter from Iran that had real proposals for negotiations.
The LAT fronts President Bush meeting with House leaders, trying to get them to soften their enforcement-only immigration bill. He was shot down. "The basic difference of opinion that we have seen on this issue between the House and Senate and the White House is real, it is honest, and it was exhibited at this meeting," said House Majority Leader John Boehner.
Everybody mentions that the Senate intel committee approved Gen. Michael Hayden's nomination as CIA chief, all but sealing the deal for him. The vote was 12 to 3, with four of the seven Democrats supporting Hayden.
The WP goes inside with Israel's top military commander saying that cutting off money to the Palestinian government isn't resulting in a drop in popular support for Hamas and could actually increase it.
Everybody mentions Bush's vague comments on Israel's plan for unilateral withdrawal from parts of the West Bank. His take offered a little bit for everyone: Bush said Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, visiting the White House for the first time, has "bold ideas." Except Olmert's plan envisions annexing chunks of the West Bank, and Bush said Israel first needs to try a negotiated settlement—though not with Hamas. All clear? Neither are the papers.
"WEST BANK PULLOUT GETS A NOD FROM BUSH," says the NYT. USAT counters, "U.S. Calls for Israeli-Palestinian Talks."
The NYT has nice behind-the-scenes coverage of the language talks:
Negotiations took place over the last week or so on how Mr. Bush would characterize Mr. Olmert's proposal for withdrawal, with the Americans eager not to be seen to support what the Palestinians would call an Israeli land grab of occupied territory.
Having first suggested that Mr. Olmert's ideas were "interesting," the negotiators moved to "constructive" and finally to "bold," which pleased the Israelis.
About 30 Iraqis were killed in assorted attacks around the country. President Bush, while appearing with Olmert, offered his perspective:"Trying to stop suiciders—which we're doing a pretty good job of on occasion—is difficult to do."