Ethiopian-backed troops take control of Mogadishu.

Ethiopian-backed troops take control of Mogadishu.

Ethiopian-backed troops take control of Mogadishu.

A summary of what's in the major U.S. newspapers.
Dec. 29 2006 5:03 AM

Friends Will Be Friends

The Los Angeles Timesand New York Timeslead with Ethiopian-backed troops taking control of Somalia's capital without firing a single shot. Leaders of the Islamic Courts movement withdrew from Mogadishu saying they wanted to avoid civilian casualties. The Islamists fell from power more quickly than expected, but some analysts worry this could be the beginning of an Iraq-style insurgency.

The Washington Postleads with a new analysis by the Food and Drug Administration that concludes milk and meat from cloned animals pose no particular threats and are safe to eat (the LAT had the story on Saturday). The assesment is now open to public comment and it still has to be formally approved before the current moratorium on cloned meat and milk is lifted. The Wall Street Journal tops its world-wide newsbox with word that President Bush met with top security advisers for three hours on Iraq policy yesterday in Crawford, Texas. He said good progress was made but emphasized he still needs time to work out the plan for Iraq that he's scheduled to announce early next year.  USA Todayleads with a recap of the extreme weather conditions the country has faced in the past year. Depending on how warm the rest of December turns out to be, 2006 could be the second-warmest year on record. So far, it is slated to go down as the third-warmest year since 1895.

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When the Islamist forces left the capital, Mogadishu descended into chaos as armed groups began looting and fighting among each other "for the spoils of war," as the NYT puts it. Clan warlords also went back to setting up checkpoints, a familiar scene before the Islamist forces brought order to the city in June. There are now questions as to whether the government troops can keep control of the city. Ethiopia said it will help the government bring order and hunt down remaining leaders of the Islamic Courts, but it emphasized its troops will not stay for long and they will not take on the task of rebuilding Somalia. The LAT notices the headline in an Ethiopian newspaper brought echoes of another invasion that initially went faster than expected: "Mission Accomplished."

If there are no unforeseen delays, the FDA could approve the sale of cloned meat and milk by the end of next year. But even if that happens, it doesn't mean cloned food will be available any time soon. The technology is still too expensive and farmers are more likely to use cloned animals to produce good offspring. Several who oppose the measure, either out of concern for the safety of the food or for the welfare of the animals, vowed to fight the measure. The FDA has been studying the safety of cloned animals for years, a sign of the strong opinions surrounding the issue. Although other countries are considering it, none has yet approved the sale of the meat or milk from cloned animals. 

Former President Gerald Ford's friendship with Richard Nixon was an important factor in his decision to issue a pardon, the Post reports on Page One. Bob Woodward analyzed transcripts of calls, personal letters, and an interview the journalist had with Ford before his death, and concludes their friendship was much closer than most people ever realized. "I had no hesitancy about granting the pardon, because I felt that we had this relationship and that I didn't want to see my real friend have the stigma," Ford said in an interview. Ford also said he considered himself to be Nixon's "only real friend." The friendship between the two former presidents stayed strong years after they both left Washington. 

The papers note inside that President Bush declared a national day of mourning and ordered the federal government to close on Tuesday. Bush won't be cutting his trip to Crawford, Texas, to make it back to Washington for Saturday's ceremony at the U.S. Capitol. He will be back on Monday to pay his respects, and to speak at Ford's funeral service on Tuesday.

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In a decision TP finds mildly baffling, the Senate's top two Democrats have decided that spending New Year's in Machu Picchu is apparently more important than attending Ford's funeral. The incoming Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and the Majority Whip Richard Durbin, went on a fact-finding mission to Latin America and are expected to miss all of the memorial services for Ford. Others on the trip include Republican Sens. Robert F. Bennett of Utah and Judd Gregg of New Hampshire. 

The NYT fronts, and the LAT goes inside with, word that the execution of Saddam Hussein will probably take place within the next few days. A senior administration official tells the NYT the White House was told to expect the execution on Saturday. Iraq's national security adviser said the execution will take place without advanced warning and emphasized the press will not be allowed to attend.

The WP notes inside that with Thursday's announcement of the death of five more American service members in Iraq, December's death toll is now 100. The deadliest month of the year so far was October, with 105 deaths.

The LAT fronts and the NYT reefers word that Egypt sent weapons and ammunition to the security forces of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas with U.S. and Israeli consent. The weapons were escorted by the Israeli military police, in an apparent effort to demonstrate Israel's backing for Abbas. The delivery seems to be an attempt to help Abbas counter the power of Hamas. The NYT notes senior Palestinian officials denied the claims, and said it was all "Israeli propaganda."

The Post fronts, and everyone else goes inside with, a dispatch from New Orleans, where John Edwards announced he is launching his second bid for the White House. The announcement was no surprise, and, in fact, Edwards had been scooped by his own Web site, which published the announcement early by mistake. The former senator used the setting of New Orleans to pick up on the "two Americas" theme from his previous campaign. 

The LAT fronts, and everybody mentions, James Brown managed to fill the Apollo Theater in Harlem one last time yesterday. Thousands of family, friends, and fans gathered yesterday to view Brown's body, which lay in an open coffin on the stage. The lines went on for blocks and some waited up to five hours to get inside.

Sen. Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut writes an op-ed piece for the Post today where he explains why he thinks more troops need to be sent to Iraq. "More U.S. forces might not be a guarantee of success in this fight, but they are certainly its prerequisite." Lieberman never specifies how many more troops are needed, but he does insist "the war is winnable." The senator also emphasizes these extra troops must come with a "new military, political, and economic strategy" in order to be successful.

Daniel Politi has been contributing to Slate since 2004 and wrote the Today’s Papers column from 2006 to 2009. Follow him on Twitter.