Israel Strikes Back
Everyone leads with Israeli airstrikes against Hamas facilities in the Gaza Strip. The attacks killed at least 225 Palestinians and injured at least 400 more, making it one of the deadliest days in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The New York Times says the bombings had a "shocking quality," starting in broad daylight and not shying away from civilian-populated areas. The Washington Post writes that the attacks are the first stage of an Israeli attempt to clamp down on Hamas launching rockets into Israel. The Los Angeles Times writes that the bombings were not aimed at ousting Hamas but at forcing them to accept a new cease-fire that includes a pledge to stop smuggling weapons.
The WP reports that Israel saw a marked increase in rocket attacks following the collapse of the old cease-fire on Dec. 19. Israel is calling these airstrikes the first stage of an open-ended campaign to stop the rocket barrage. Defense Minister Ehud Barak said, "There is a time for calm and a time for fighting, and now the time has come to fight." The NYT reports the campaign may include the use of ground troops. The LAT speculates that the attack could have an impact on the upcoming election to replace Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.
The WP says that senior Hamas official Ismail Jumaah was among the dead. Following the Israeli attacks, Hamas launched 110 additional rockets into Israel, killing one person and injuring at least four others. Hamas has also called for the resumption of suicide attacks on Israel, a practice the group had all but abandoned.
President Bush has issued a statement condemning Hamas' actions, while the U.N. and the European Union, Russia, Egypt and other nations have admonished both sides. Inside, the WP writes that these attacks could snuff out any hope the incoming Obama administration might have had of finding a peaceful resolution to the conflict, since it seems likely that these attacks will only breed more violence in the future.
The NYT publishes its reactions to a lengthy interview with Caroline Kennedy regarding her push to be appointed the next senator from New York. To put it mildly, they aren't impressed. The paper calls her, "less like a candidate than an idea of one" because of her lack of strong issue positions. Kennedy declined to specify how she'd improve on Hillary Clinton's tenure as senator and demurred as to how she'd differ from the Democratic Party's platform or from other prominent New York politicians. There are moments in the piece in which the writers sound a little irked by some brusque comments made by Kennedy, which may have contributed to the pessimistic tone of the piece. The quotes in the article appear a little scant at first, but a full transcript of the interview appears online, and it shows the reporters didn't miss much of substance.
The WP goes under the fold with a feature following up on Saturday's coverage of the disintegration of the Chesapeake Bay's distinctive culture. Efforts to restore the bay's biodiversity have repeatedly failed and so the bay's oyster and crab populations continue to dwindle. Without the bounty the bay used to provide, residents have a hard time maintaining the seafood-centric traditions that made the area unique. Online, the paper includes a variety of multimedia elements, including photos, video, and graphics, to enhance the story.
White farmers in Zimbabwe won their case against President Robert Mugabe, reports the NYT, but the victory is largely symbolic. Since 2000, Mugabe has been seizing land owned by white farmers and then using it as a reward for supporters. In an effort to get an impartial ruling, the farmers took their case to a tribunal of judges representing a regional trade federation. The tribunal ruled in the farmers' favor, but the paper makes it very clear that no one expects Mugabe's government to abide by the decision.
The LAT explores the web of connections between politics and drug kingpins in the state of Sinaloa, Mexico. The piece examines the ways drug traffickers have infiltrated law enforcement, the statehouse, and the federal government. The story is divided into several vignettes about people trying to stand up to the cartels, and it's not until the final third of the article that the stakes become clear. The paper warns that as the cartels gain increasing control over local affairs and hire their own paramilitary forces, Mexico runs the risk of becoming a fragmented coalition of warring states each run by their own drug lords, akin to Afghanistan.
As part of their "The Reckoning" series on the financial crisis, the NYT publishes a look at the incredibly lax lending practices at Washington Mutual, where employees were all but required to approve every loan application. Employees were discouraged from verifying facts on loan applications, no matter how ridiculous the claims sounded.
Jesse Stanchak is a writer living in Washington, D.C.