The New York Timesleads with Israel stepping up pressure on Hamas: Early Thursday morning, it "seized" (or "detained") the Palestinian deputy prime minister, about six other Cabinet members, and about 20 parliamentarians. (Haaretz says about 60 Hamas officials have been taken into custody.) The Wall Street Journal's world-wide newsbox and USA Todaylead with, and others front, the Supreme Court's split decision mostly upholding Texas Republicans' partisan, mid-decade redrawing of congressional districts. The ruling "leaves the door wide open" for other states to do redistricting whenever they want, namely when control of a legislature switches parties.
The Los Angeles Timesleads with an investigation showing that a fifth of federally funded organ-transplant programs "fail to meet the government's minimum standards for patient survival or perform too few operations to ensure competency." Government oversight of the programs isn't exactly stellar. If programs aren't up to snuff, the government rules "mandate no sanction, only that the programs turn themselves in." The Times helpfully lists the lax programs. The Washington Postleads with the aftermath of the big floods in the mid-Atlantic region: Ten people have been reported killed. Nearly 200,000 have been told to evacuate in Pennsylvania, where there's worry that a levee could burst.
The body of a missing Israeli teen from the West Bank was found. Palestinian militants showed his ID card and said they had killed him. Gunmen associated with the Fatah party also said they abducted an Israeli man who officials said has been missing since Monday.
Israel shelled some open areas in northern Gaza and dropped leaflets in two towns warning residents to clear out. There were no reports of casualties from the shelling.As of the early morning hours, there were sketchy reports that troops have started a second thrust into Gaza. Israeli jets also buzzed Syrian President Assad's house. Assad has long given asylum to the hard-line Hamas leader believed to be behind the kidnapping of the Israeli soldier.
On Tuesday, airstrikes knocked out Gaza's only power plant, meaning about half of Gaza residents are without power and nearly as many are without water since many houses rely on electric pumps. An Israeli spokesman insisted Israel just wanted to make it harder for militants to move. "They want to keep people in the dark so kidnappers don't move?" asked the manager of the power plant. "What's the relationship?"
Given all the developments in Israel and Gaza, the Post puts it all in an interesting place: Page A20.
The Supremes did rule that one Texas district that was carved up did indeed violate the Voting Rights Act—since it worked against Hispanics—and needs to be redrawn by a court. That part of the ruling was 5-to-4. But seven justices, and nearly as many opinions, went against the overall challenge to the Rep. Tom DeLay-spearheaded gerrymandering. As the LAT notes, the court has "never struck down a redistricting plan as too partisan."
Justice Kennedy, who wrote the controlling opinion, acknowledged that the Texas legislature did the redistricting "for the sole purpose of achieving a Republican congressional majority." Slate dialoguer Walter Dellingersays Kennedy should have overruled the redistricting based on that conclusion, because the redrawing "failed the basic constitutional test that all legislative acts must, at the very least, serve some legitimate legislative purpose."
The WP follows President Bush to a Republican fund-raiser in Ohio where he accused some Democrats of "waving the white flag of surrender" in Iraq and declared there is "no excuse" for papers to publish information on hush-hush programs. A separate piece in the Post points out that Republicans think kvetching about the New York Times and the other lily-livered leak-publishers makes for good election-year theatrics.
The NYT's Dexter Filkins has a moving piece on a soldier he saw killed yesterday in Ramadi and the battlefield farewell for him. Filkins' shaky-voiced audio dispatch—interrupted twice by gunfire—is even more jarring. It's today's must-listen.