The Los Angeles Timesleads with and others front Mexico's conservative candidate Felipe Calderón getting a "slim but apparently insurmountable lead" in the race for the Mexican presidency, though leftish candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador is not inclined to trust the numbers. "Obviously, there was a manipulation," he said, alleging 3 million ballots had gone missing. Mexico has a well-regarded independent elections agency and—with "teams of lawyers are girding for a massive challenge of the results"—a special electoral court that could end up adjudicating the fight. The New York Timesand Washington Post lead with the arrest of a former Army private for allegedly raping a young Iraqi woman and then murdering her and three others in her family south of Baghdad in March.
Other soldiers reportedly helped with the attack, and some have apparently confessed. According to prosecutors, the private hatched the plan with other GIs after noticing the apparently teenaged girl at a checkpoint. Then they allegedly got drunk, changed out of their uniforms, and raided her house, later setting her body on fire to cover up the evidence. The one soldier arrested reportedly shot the family and used an AK-47 to make it appear like an insurgent attack.
Officials had no inkling of what happened until soldiers talked about it in a stress-counseling session because the two soldiers who were captured and beheaded last month were from the same platoon as those involved.
Everybody mentions Israel rejecting militants' ultimatum that about a thousand Palestinian prisoners be freed or "the soldier's case will be closed." The deadline was 11 p.m. EST last night.
The NYT highlights Israel's defense minister talking tough about Syrian President Assad, who has long harbored the hardline leader of Hamas. "I suggest that Bashar al-Assad, who is trying to conduct himself blindly, open his eyes, because he bears the responsibility," said the minister. "We will know how to strike those who are involved."
The military announced the deaths of one GI and one Marine in Iraq. Meanwhile, Sunnis have been boycotting parliament since a Sunni parliament member was kidnapped Saturday along with "seven of her bodyguards."
A NYT piece inside looks at the Taliban's habit of targeting Afghan interpreters. And it's not just those who work for the military: "A translator working for The New York Times in southern Afghanistan has also received indirect threats from people known to be close to the Taliban." Also, it merits just a few lines in the piece—and even less in other outlets—but a suicide bomber killed one person in Kandahar, and another bomb killed a student in Herat.
The NYT reefers a follow-up to a NPR report that the CIA has disbanded its unit dedicated to nabbing Osama Bin Laden. There will still be plenty of resources devoted to going after the guy, but the idea is to reorganize, given that the threat from "al-Qaida"—or more accurately, violent jihadists—is far more diffuse nowadays.
The WP alone fronts NASA greenlighting today's launch of the shuttle Discovery despite a small chunk of foam that fell off the fuel tank. The agency said the piece was only about half the size of the foam that could really damage the shuttle and weighed about as a much a penny. The piece that doomed the Columbia weighed 1.67 pounds. A top safety officer among others has previously argued that the shuttles need more reworking before they're ready to go, but they were overruled. Liftoff is set for 2:37 p.m. EST.
Back to Mexico …
With less then a million votes still to count in Mexico, the conservative candidate Calderón was leading by a few hundred thousand. "If we lost the election, I will recognize it," his main contender, López Obrador offered. As the Post notices, Obrador's Web site takes a slightly different stance, featuring a "short animated film clip of him climbing onto a podium," with the narrator announcing, "Smile. Mexico won. López Obrador is now our president."