Israel reasserts itself as the neighborhood tough.

A summary of what's in the major U.S. newspapers.
Dec. 29 2008 6:25 AM

Lebanese Do-Over

Israeli warplanes continued their attack on Gaza, dominating global news coverage. Israel called up thousands of reservists, sparking fears that those new soldiers would be used as part of a ground invasion. The death toll hovered around 300 as night fell and protests broke out in Western European capitals.

The New York Times leads with the conflict and gives most of its above-the-fold space to a photo of a man screaming, trapped under the rubble of a bombed security compound and prison. The Wall Street Journal tops its world-wide news box with the crisis and fronts a photo of the same bleeding man. An NYT analysis, also above the fold, is headlined "With Strikes, Israel Reminds Foes It Has Teeth" and argues that the bombing is a way for Israel to expunge memories of the failed war against Hezbollah in Lebanon in 2006. The Los Angeles Times also makes the Lebanese connection.

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USA Todayfronts a photo of Gaza horror but leads with news that the capture of immigrants trying to sneak into the United States is at the lowest level since the mid-'70s. The L.A. Times leads with the Gaza battle, fronting analysis and news stories. The Post also leads with a photo of Gazan carnage buttressed by a spread of analysis (medical supplies running short) and news (death toll nears 300; Hamas calls for suicide strikes).

"This is something we never even dreamed of," a Gazan told the L.A. Times. "We expected an Israeli retaliation but not like this."

Israel says that Hamas was warned. "We contacted Hamas and spoke to them bluntly," Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas said during a visit to Cairo. "We pleaded, 'Please do not end the cease-fire.' " A cease-fire expired Dec. 19. The Israeli strikes are said to be in response to a consistent and low-volume barrage of mortar fire that has been coming from Gaza.

President-elect Barack Obama was largely pushed off the front pages by the attacks, which he is currently leaving to President Bush to handle, but the L.A. Times reports that he is still planning for a middle-class tax cut and a giant stimulus package to be ready for his signature after his inauguration.

"It is a good time to be me," a lawyer who worked with S&L bailout regulators in the '90s tells the NYT in a front-page look at the cottage industry of bailout consultants, which is looking forward to a boom time. "It is a great time to be a banking lawyer," says another.

The Post fronts the first of a three-part series (with a Bob Woodward tag line) on the oh-so-clever guys who, back in 1986, thought they could model and quantify their way out of financial risk and who ultimately persuaded American Insurance Group to back their scheme. The next installment in the series is titled "A Dangerous Fork in the Road." TP is guessing that the guys will make a wrong turn there.

The Wall Street Journal, too, gets in on the year-end, look-back action with a front-page feature called "The Weekend That Wall Street Died"—a recap of the death of Lehman Bros., complete with an interactive graphic (though TP couldn't figure out how to interact with it). "It was a weekend unlike anything Wall Street had ever seen: In past crises, its bosses had banded together to save their way of life. This time, the financial hole they had dug for themselves was too deep. It was every man for himself, and Mr. Fuld"—Lehman's CEO—"who declined to comment for this article, was the odd man out."

The LAT fronts an investigation into high arsenic levels in the water at a California prison.

The Post fronts a three-pager (online) that marshals anecdotes and data to make the case that the Bush administration's Occupational Safety and Health Administration was effectively run by the industries it was meant to regulate. Under Bush, OSHA officials issued 86 percent fewer rules deemed economically significant than over a similar period during the Clinton years—a disparity Bush officials insist is due to their embrace of regulatory "quality, not quantity."

Thailand's political structure continues to disintegrate.

The Journal tops its business and finance box with news that wealthy Latin American investors may have been the biggest victims of Bernie Madoff's Ponzi scheme.

The item shares front-page space with the ravings of a Russian analyst who has long been predicting the disintegration of the United States by 2010. Although the Journal doesn't say as much to its readers, professor Igor Panarin's analysis is based on near-total ignorance of the United States. A story that made the rounds in November, after being linked on the Drudge Report, more clearly illuminates his reasoning: "He predicted that the U.S. will break up into six parts—the Pacific coast, with its growing Chinese population; the South, with its Hispanics; Texas, where independence movements are on the rise; the Atlantic coast, with its distinct and separate mentality; five of the poorer central states with their large Native American populations; and the northern states, where the influence from Canada is strong."

Right. Will the part about "the South, with its Hispanics" be on the midterm, professor?

Ryan Grim writes for the Huffington Post and is the author of the forthcoming book This Is Your Country on Drugs.

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