The New York Times leads with news from Gaza, where nearly 400 people have been killed by the Israeli offensive since Saturday. Under mounting international pressure, Israel offered humanitarian aid to Gazans but did not agree to a 48-hour cease-fire, holding out for a promise from Hamas for a cessation of rocket fire into civilian areas and full control over border crossings.
The Washington Post leads with how bad 2008 actually wound up—$6.9 trillion in assets lost, the worst for the markets since the Great Depression, etc. (The LAT and NYT also indulge in front-page rehashes of the economic year that was, reminding readers about the Dow's 34 percent drop and staggering losses on everything from industrials to derivatives.) Happy New Year!
The Los Angeles Times leads with relatively encouraging news: Bucking typical patterns of crime during recessions, violent crime decreased in the city for the sixth year in a row in 2008. Academics warn that the expected bump could still be coming down the pike, but the LAPD claims the numbers as support for its strategy of "putting cops on the dots," or increasing police presence in computer-identified hot spots.
(The Wall Street Journal and USA Today do not publish on New Years Day.)
The NYT also hones in on the human cost of bombing in Gaza, complete with overwhelmed hospitals and torpedoed ambulances. The United Nations estimates that a quarter of those killed were civilians—although since Hamas also serves as the official government, the line between civilian and military targets is sometimes blurry. The Post buries the main story on A10 but fronts a look at how the incursion has created even more Palestinian disunity, with Fatah blaming Hamas for the breakdown in a six-month truce with Israel and Hamas accusing Fatah of collaboration with the enemy. The dissention even prompted Saudi Arabia to break its typical Arab solidarity by rebuking both Palestinian factions for failing to reconcile their differences, the NYT notes.
Also in potentially big news, early morning wires are reporting that Russia has cut off all gas supplies to Ukraine after the two countries failed to agree on a financing arrangement for 2009, indicating a deepening rift between Moscow and Kiev.
New details of the hubbub surrounding Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich's appointment of Roland Burris have come to light, including the revelation that another black politician, Democratic Rep. Danny Davis, had been offered the seat nearly a week previously. Senate Democrats aren't sure whether they actually have the authority to prevent Burris from claiming his seat, but they're trying as hard as they can, attempting to stall the nomination with paperwork—like the form that would make his appointment official, which Illinois' secretary of state has refused to sign—until Blagojevich can be properly impeached. African-American public figures warn that their constituents won't look kindly upon opposition to Burris' appointment. But according to the Post, most aren't willing to stick their necks out for Blagojevich's otherwise inoffensive pick.
The New Year actually means something in Baghdad, the Post reports, where the U.S. military has officially turned over the Green Zone to Iraqi control under the "status of forces" agreement signed last month. In practice, that means moving out of Saddam Hussein's old palace into a new, $736 million embassy compound, and granting only "limited and temporary support" at the Iraqi government's request. Iraq celebrated by announcing a new round of bids for oil fields, with the goal of over doubling production within four or five years. The LAT fronts a peek at the challenges ahead for Iraq, including ongoing Sunni-Shiite tension and elections at the end of 2009.
Dec. 31 was also a deadline for Bernard Madoff to turn over a detailed account of all his assets to the Securities and Exchange Commission. Journalists will still have to wait to salivate over what it contains.
The post-mortems of financial giants continue with the second in a three-part series from the LAT on AIG—long, somewhat technical, but worth a read if you're interested in the details. And although it seems like it would go without saying that Citigroup executives wouldn't be paying themselves bonuses, the WSJ makes it official.
In the ongoing midnight pardons drama, real estate swindler Isaac Toussie wasn't the only one to bypass the normal review process for clemency petitions, according to the NYT. Several others lucky enough to have lawyers with White House connections have made the same play, and with upward of 2,000 trying to make it through the normal pipeline, it's hard to blame them.
Chief Justice John Roberts issued his annual State of the Courts, and guess what: Judges need a raise. The Post emphasizes that this year's request was more modest than years previous though: just cost-of-living increases this time around.
Is it the promised "commemorative credential"? With more and more people out of work, 60,000 have applied to volunteer for President-elect Barack Obama's inauguration. The committee organizing the event says it needs between 15,000 and 18,000—still three times the number recruited for the last two inaugurations—and has been screening applicants for availability and capability.
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