Zimbabwe's opposition leader drops out of the presidential runoff election.

Zimbabwe's opposition leader drops out of the presidential runoff election.

Zimbabwe's opposition leader drops out of the presidential runoff election.

A summary of what's in the major U.S. newspapers.
June 23 2008 6:18 AM

Life Is Not Worth Losing

The New York Times, Washington Post, and the Wall Street Journal's world-wide news box lead with Zimbabwe's opposition leader announcing that he would pull out of the presidential runoff election scheduled for Friday due to rising levels of violence. Morgan Tsvangirai said he could no longer ask his supporters to risk their lives "for the sake of power." Violence has been escalating as President Robert Mugabe's supporters have been stepping up their efforts to kill and intimidate opposition activists under the ruling party's new slogan: "WW—Win or War." The opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change, says that at least 86 of its supporters have been killed and thousands more have been injured. "We will not be part of that war," Tsvangirai said.

USA Todayleads with word that there's been an almost 90 percent decrease in deaths caused by roadside bomb attacks in Iraq. Military leaders say this is due to a variety of factors, including new armored vehicles, more assistance from Iraqi security forces, and enhanced methods of surveillance. The Los Angeles Timesleads with a look at how Barack Obama wants to get a record number of black voters to go to the polls in November as part of his strategy to win five key battleground states. Aides have identified "a gold mine" of new voters and will target them with the help of Obama's deep pockets and sophisticated techniques that were critical to Bush's victories in several crucial swing states. But strategists insist he has to play a delicate balancing act in order to avoid the appearance that he's "exploiting race or running solely as a black candidate," which could hurt his chances with white working-class voters who didn't support him in the primaries.

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The LAT talks to an official from Zimbabwe's ruling party who makes it clear that just because Tsvangirai plans to drop out of the election (he has to put it in writing to make it official) doesn't mean the violence will automatically end. The official warned that the crackdown would intensify if opposition supporters decide to protest. The NYT notes that Tsvangirai's decision "seems intended to force Zimbabwe's neighbors to take a stand." There is a growing sense of frustration among Zimabawe's opposition about the reluctance of South Africa, along with other African nations, to condemn Mugabe's tactics.

The WSJ says that although it's evident that there's "growing international impatience with the Mugabe regime," it's unclear whether it "would translate into any concrete steps." The United States and Britain want the United Nations Security Council to discuss the issue, a move South Africa has long opposed. The WSJ points out that the opposition wants foreign leaders to support a transitional government that would take over Zimbabwe until fair elections can be held. But, of course, it's quite unlikely that Mugabe would agree to such a plan, seeing as he's made it clear that he would not hand power to the opposition, no matter the results of the election.

The WP fronts a look at al-Hurra, the Arab-language television network founded by the Bush administration to improve the image of the United States in the Middle East and to  promote democracy. Around $350 million in taxpayer money has been plunged into a project that has been, for all intents and purposes, a flop. Al-Hurra has been plagued with problems from the start, partly due to the fact that many of its top executives had no experience in the TV business and couldn't speak Arabic. But, ultimately, critics say the whole idea that a network could play the same role as Radio Free Europe did during the Cold War was ill-conceived. As opposed to those who lived behind the Iron Curtain, residents of the Arab world have plenty of choices due to the high proliferation of satellite dishes, and al-Hurra's programming, which is widely described as mediocre, has never found an audience. Coincidentally (or not?), ProPublica and 60 Minutesreleased the extensive results of a joint investigation into al-Hurra and its partner radio station last night and say that the network's "four years of operation have been marked by a string of broadcast disasters that government officials believe are as negative as anything aired by Al Jazeera."

The NYT fronts a look at Obama's close ties to domestic ethanol producers. The presumptive nominee represents the country's second largest corn-producing state, so it's hardly a secret that he's a big supporter of ethanol as an alternative fuel. Today, the NYT notes that several of his advisers and biggest supporters have close ties to the ethanol industry. Obama's campaign insists the presumptive nominee's views have nothing to do with where he's from or any pressure from special interests. But the NYT points out that the presumptive nominee is against removing the tariffs on Brazilian ethanol that is made from sugar cane even though it is much more efficient. Instead, Obama favors awarding subsidies to farmers and imposing the tax on imports so the United States can build "energy independence."

The LAT, USAT, and WP catch late-breaking news that legendary comedian George Carlin died of heart failure yesterday. Throughout his career, Carlin tried to push boundaries and was probably best-known for his routine called "The Seven Words You Can Never Say on TV," which exemplified how he came to be known as "the dean of counterculture comedians." The "Seven Words" routine got him arrested in 1972 and even led to a 1978 Supreme Court ruling that said the government has the power to police offensive language if children might be listening. "I think it is the duty of the comedian to find out where the line is drawn and cross it deliberately," Carlin once said. He was 71 and had a history of heart trouble.

Quote of the day: "Republicans say [Karl] Rove is the architect," a GOP insider tells the Post. "He's the architect of our demise."

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