Israel says it's ready to talk about a new cease-fire, but will Hamas listen?

A summary of what's in the major U.S. newspapers.
Jan. 17 2009 6:37 AM

Gaza on the Brink of Peace

The New York Times leads with reports that Israel will convene its security cabinet on Saturday to declare a cease-fire in the Gaza Strip, though Israeli troops are expected to stay put in Gaza during the next phase of negotiations. The Wall Street Journal leads with the federal government preparing to take a second run at bailing out the banking industry, this time focusing on getting bad assets off bank balance sheets. The Los Angeles Times leads with a local law-enforcement story, while its top national news piece is Circuit City announcing it will close all 567 of its U.S. stores, leaving 34,000 employees out of work. The Washington Post leads with ongoing preparations for Tuesday's inaugural events, focusing on organizers worrying about striking the proper tone.

Fighting in Gaza continued early Saturday morning: Israeli tank fire killed two boys and injured 14 others in Beit Lahiya. Israeli officials say, however, that the current offensive has met its objectives and that they're prepared to put an end to the campaign. While Israel isn't negotiating directly with Hamas, the two sides are holding parallel talks with Egypt to come up with a formal cease-fire.As part of an effort to end the violence, the U.S. has agreed to take certain steps to help the Egyptian government end the smuggling of weapons into Gaza. The agreement does not cover sending in U.S. troops. The paper says Hamas' leadership is officially defiant, but Hamas' Gaza branch is seen as likely to comply with the proposal.

In an accompanying story, the NYT looks at accusations that Israeli forces have acted improperly during the campaign in Gaza. Have Israeli soldiers committed war crimes? The paper doesn't pretend to know the answer. Instead, it focuses on the dilemmas that war presents— and how difficult it is to establish when ethical guidelines have been breached on the battlefield.

The incoming Barack Obama administration is preparing to unveil a second component of its financial bailout program, this time focusing on buying toxic assets from financial institutions. The proposal is gaining momentum on the heels of Friday's announcement of huge losses at Citigroup Inc. and Bank of America Corp. FDIC Chairman Sheila Bair said that any proposal must be aimed at getting private capital back into the banking system. It is unclear whether the White House's plan will require Congress to authorize funding beyond the $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program. TP thinks this sounds suspeciously like what the TARP program was supposed to do in the first place.

The WP off-leads with a look at how the foreclosure crisis is spreading. The problem is no longer confined to people with subprime mortgages or people who bought homes they knew they couldn't afford. Most shockingly, the paper reports that some homeowners are intentionally missing payments in order to refinance their mortgages.

The NYT fronts a piece on a 1992 securities scandal that could have tipped regulators off to Bernie Madoff's scheme—if inspectors had just been looking a little closer.

The LAT off-leads with a feature on Nick Scandone, a competitive sailor with Lou Gehrig's disease who died earlier this year. Scandone won a gold medal at the Beijing Paralympics last year.

Will California's Sen. Dianne Feinstein give up her clout as head of the Senate Intelligence panel to run for governor in 2010? The LAT says Feinstein has been butting heads with her fellow Democrats lately, but Feinstein swears she isn't going to let internal party politics influence her decision.

In what has got to be the most lighthearted plane-crash story ever written, the NYT gets anecdotes galore from the survivors of US Airways Flight 1549, which crashed into the Hudson River on Thursday. The story picks up just after the plane hit the water, recounting the experiences of several passengers as they scrambled out of the plane and waited on the wings to be rescued. While some of the anecdotes are amusing, the piece doesn't do such a great job of creating a narrative or painting a picture of the scene. The story freely jumps from one passenger to another, creating a pastiche of the event instead of a reconstruction.

The WP also fronts the crash but chooses to look at it in the context of airline safety. The paper notes that no one has died in a U.S. commercial airline accident in more than two years. Crashes still happen, but, increasingly, all the passengers are able to escape unharmed. The paper credits the decline in fatalities to better training and better plane designs.

The WSJ writes that a growing number of companies are cutting their workers' pay to shore up the bottom line.

Both the WP and the NYT front and the LAT teases an obituary for painter Andrew Wyeth. Wyteth was best known for painting stark rural landscapes.

The WP argues that Iraqi Prime Minister  Nouri al-Maliki  isn't just a leader anymore; he's a symbol of a political slate and the embodiment of new "Iraqist" political agenda.

Would you get a clothesline just because the Obamas have one? At least one advocacy group is hoping some people will go back to drying their clothes outside if the White House gets onboard. Other interest groups have similar plans, writes the WSJ. Interest groups are pushing the Obamas to do everything from installing an organic vegetable garden to adopting a stray dog.

The NYT takes a break from reporting on the U.S. economic meltdown to talk about the collapse of the Chinese tea bubble.

The WSJ reports that the Australian government's controversial aborigine welfare policies are paying unexpected dividends, particularly for aboriginal women.

Jesse Stanchak is a writer living in Washington, D.C.