The Lebanese army clashes with Islamic militants.

The Lebanese army clashes with Islamic militants.

The Lebanese army clashes with Islamic militants.

A summary of what's in the major U.S. newspapers.
May 21 2007 6:25 AM

Second Chances

The New York Times leads with yesterday's clashes in Lebanon between the army and Islamic militants, which amounted to the worst internal fighting in years and killed at least 22 soldiers and 17 militants. The clashes began early in the morning with the search for suspects in a bank robbery in the city of Tripoli and escalated as militants came out of a nearby refugee camp and attacked the army. Some are seeing Syria's fingerprints all over the violence, which risks escalating Lebanon's ongoing political crisis between the government and Hezbollah. The Los Angeles Timesleads with the tough choice facing the White House as it tries to decide whether it should wield its power to bring changes to the very top of Iraq's government. Publicly, the Bush administration insists it is committed to making the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki work, but a change in leadership could be seen a welcome development to U.S. lawmakers clamoring for progress.

The Washington Postleads with a look at how this quest for progress has led many in Washington to revive the recommendations issued by the Iraq Study Group. Many who gave the report a less-than-enthusiastic welcome when it was first released now seem to be prepared to give its suggestions a second chance. USA Todayleads with word that, through a series of raids, the U.S. military has managed to break up the group of insurgents behind the attacks on U.S. helicopters in Iraq a few months ago. The Wall Street Journal tops its world-wide newsbox with news that seven U.S. soldiers were killed Saturday in Iraq.

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As the NYT notes, "many of the complex crosscurrents of Lebanon's politics were on display in the crisis." Residents cheered as the army began shelling the refugee camp where the militant group Fatah al-Islam is based. The growth of militant groups in the camps has been a source of concern for Lebanon, although because of an agreement, the army was not allowed to enter the camp yesterday. Adding to the confusion is the suspicion by some in the government that Syria was behind the clashes to warn against setting up an international tribunal to try those suspected of killing former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. Perhaps hinting at the possibility that these clashes were not an isolated incident, a car bomb exploded in a parking lot in Beirut late last night, killing one person.

Administration officials acknowledge privately that the appeal of changing Iraq's government will only increase as the months go on. Of course, the U.S. government is unlikely to come out publicly against Maliki, but, as the paper makes clear, it could use its influence to push other groups to come forward. There are currently two political groups vying for American support. One is headed by former interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, and the other is the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council, the largest Shiite faction, which is attempting to become more moderate and has recently dropped the word "revolution" from its name. 

The WP goes inside with word that the U.S. military is currently "engaged in delicate negotiations" in Sadr City as it prepares to move American and Iraqi troops into the area in the next few weeks. As more troops arrive, the military is expecting to increase its presence in the slum, and it is holding talks with local officials to try to make it a peaceful process. The goal is "to take Sadr City without a shot fired," the senior U.S. general overseeing Baghdad tells the paper.

All the papers go inside with the latest Israeli aristrikes in the Gaza Strip, which, according to the LAT, killed 13 people. Everyone focuses on the airstrike that hit the home of a Hamas lawmaker, who was not there at the time, and killed eight people. The Israeli government warned that it would be stepping up its operations in Gaza to try to stop the continuing barrage of rocket fire.

The NYT goes inside with a look at how absolutely nothing has happened since the British military began allowing gay men and lesbians to serve in the military in 2000. Some feared it could raise problems, but none of it has come to pass, and some even say it has helped with morale. "It has for the most become a nonissue," says the paper. Despite the success, the British military isn't too eager to talk about it, saying it doesn't want to be seen as pressuring the United States to change its policy.

USAT fronts a look at how older Americans are seeing vast increases in their wealth, which aren't being met by those in the younger generation, who have actually seen their net worth decline after adjusting for inflation. For example, median net worth for those 55-59 was almost $250,000 in 2004, which marked a 97 percent increase in 15 years. In contrast, the median net worth for those 35-39 decreased 28 percent to less than $49,000.

In the Post's op-ed page, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Connecticut Gov. Jodi Rell criticize the federal government for refusing to allow states to set their own emissions standards to combat global warming. The Environmental Protection Agency is currently debating whether to grant the permissions, and, if it doesn't, the governors warn a legal battle may be on the horizon. "It's high time the federal government becomes our partner or gets out of the way."

Everyone notes the war of words continued yesterday between former President Carter and the White House. Over the weekend, Carter characterized the Bush administration's foreign relations as "the worst in history." Yesterday, deputy White House spokesman Tony Fratto called the comments "sad" and "reckless." Fratto added that Carter "has proven to be increasingly irrelevant with these sorts of comments." Speaking of former presidents, the WP says some doctors believe that if Abraham Lincoln would have been shot today, he might have survived.

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