USA Today leads with a broad import alert on Chinese food products containing melamine, possibly responsible for more than 4,000 pet deaths. The Washington Post leads with word that April was the deadliest month this year for U.S. forces in Iraq. The New York Times leads with the story of a critical report of Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's handling of the Lebanon war. The Los Angeles Timesgoes with five Britons given life sentences for plotting terror attacks. The Wall Street Journal goes high with a father's desperate attempt to get his daughter an experimental treatment for her rare cancer.
The report critical of Olmert was commissioned by the government and charges the prime minister with "severe failures," triggering calls for his resignation from across the political spectrum. Olmert, whose approval rating in Israel is lower than Vice President Cheney's here in the United States, is defiant, saying that rather than resign he will appoint a team to study the report. After Hezbollah kidnapped two Israeli soldiers in July, Israel launched a 34-day land and air war with the intent of destroying Hezbollah's infrastructure and rescuing the kidnapped soldiers; it accomplished neither.
The WSJ story on the fight between a very wealthy father and a drug company highlights an ethical dilemma: Should the resources of a small biotech firm be diverted to try to save a girl, if it is possible to save her? The father has prominent backers, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. The company is refusing, saying it would be bad business and may not work anyway.
USAT says the import alert is historic in its breadth and that the Food and Drug Administration took the drastic action because it has been unable to figure out what's going on in China—where the contamination is coming from or what controls are being put in place to contain it. Regulators aren't quite sure what melamine's effects are on humans; it may not be highly toxic, which has inspectors wondering if a second substance might also be responsible for contaminating food.
USAT fronts and gives a big photo splash to a good-news tale from Iraq (datelined from Germany) about an American colonel who managed to forge alliances with Sunni sheiks, helping create an improved situation in Ramadi and surrounding Anbar province. (Disclosure: USAT has some type of content-sharing agreement with TP's employer, politico.com.) But the good news is tempered by the 104 American soldiers killed in April, the highest total for 2007, which the story notes and the Post leads with. The paper ties the increasing death toll to the 11-week-old surge/escalation—the effort to reduce violence by putting more soldiers in the field. It was also the deadliest month for British soldiers with 11 fatalities.
Things don't seem very safe in the Green Zone, either, as the Post gets this unusual under-fire quote from a military flak: " 'There is a duck-and-cover going on right now,' said Lt. Col. Christopher C. Garver, a U.S. military spokesman, before quickly getting off the phone. Later, Garver confirmed there had been an assault on the Green Zone, but it was unclear what had happened. Local Iraqi television stations reported 10 explosions inside the zone."
Perhaps the most devastating news for prospects of success in Iraq comes in the 10th paragraph of the Post piece: The largest bloc of Sunni lawmakers say they have "lost hope" in the Shiite government and have threatened to pull out, prompting a call from President Bush. They NYT breaks the story out and puts it on the front, below the fold.
Five Britons were convicted of plotting to carry out various attacks on targets such as shopping malls and utility grids. The NYT has it in the second spot and the Post also fronts it. The trial disclosed that the British government had monitored meetings between the suspects and the group responsible for the July 7, 2005, tube bombings, raising allegations that the government should have done more to prevent that tragedy.
The LAT fronts a piece on Scott J. Bloch of the Office of Special Counsel, a deeply religious conservative and Bush appointee who is now going after the White House, specifically Karl Rove's use of federal funds for political purposes, just as the White House is investigating Bloch. "I am a prosecutor," the Times has Bloch saying. Rove probably wishes Bloch had made plainer his prosecutorial zeal during the interview process.
WSJ and others report on the ongoing battle between Paul Wolfowitz and a World Bank board accusing him of improper involvement in the promotion and salary increase of his girlfriend. Wolfowitz calls the charges "hypocritical" because he was transparent with the ethics committee, whose instructions he says he followed. He opened up the possibility of resigning, but only if he was cleared of the charges.
Local tragedies: Two historic buildings burned down in Washington, D.C., which the Post puts above the fold with a large photo. The first fire consumed Eastern Market, where TP got his (slightly overpriced) cheese; the second took down a historic Georgetown branch of the public library, burning artwork, books, and documents. The Post reports that the annual Eastern Market Day will still be held Sunday as scheduled.