Israel sends ground troops into Gaza; Congress wrangles over Obama's stimulus bill.

A summary of what's in the major U.S. newspapers.
Jan. 4 2009 8:00 AM

Israeli Troops March on Gaza

The Washington Post, the New York Times, and the Los Angeles Times all lead with Israel's dramatic decision to send ground troops, tanks, and artillery into Gaza. After eight days of airstrikes, Israel says the invasion is necessary to dismember Hamas's rocket-launch infrastructure (and, some of the papers speculate, to overthrow the terrorist group)—a task that "will not be easy or short."

All the papers basically have the same information—which is limited, since foreign reporters have not been allowed into the Gaza Strip since last week: Israeli troops entered Gaza from multiple directions in large numbers, engaging in skirmishes that have killed at least five Hamas members and three civilians. Ehuds Barak and Olmert say Israel isn't going to reoccupy Gaza, but it will hold areas as it deems necessary, which risks ugly guerrilla warfare and high civilian death tolls. In response, Hamas vowed to turn Gaza into a "graveyard" for Israeli soldiers before, the LAT says, Israel cut off the group's ability to make TV broadcasts.

The NYT and WP also front analysis pieces that say both sides are refighting the 2006 war between Israel and Hezbollah. The Israelis are keeping expectations low and hitting as hard as possible to avoid a repeat—though they may face "mission creep" toward ousting Hamas. Hamas, which has built a 1,500-man guerrilla force, thinks it can gain legitimacy and fame by copying Hezbollah's moves.

Meanwhile, protests erupted across Europe and the Middle East; U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon expressed displeasure to Israel's prime minister; and the U.S. beat back a Libyan-sponsored U.N. statement calling for an immediate cease-fire.

The WP and NYT off-lead previews of the new Congress that will do much to revamp America's economy. Democrats hope to have a $1 trillion recovery package on Obama's desk by the inauguration, but the NYT thinks it will take until at least February because of competing demands from deficit and earmark hawks. The WP says that Obama really will have to change the tone in Washington before he can pass his agenda, since Congress has grown steadily more ideological and less productive for the past 15 years.

The NYT goes above the fold with what may or may not be another Clinton scandal. (Which, sadly, does not involve Anne Hathaway.) As a senator, Hillary Clinton pushed two key bills that gave millions for Albany developer Robert Congel's planned shopping-entertainment complex. Around that time, Congel gave $100,000 to Bill Clinton's foundation—a sensitive transaction, since similar charity donations have been "a recent ethics flashpoint in Congress."

The WP fronts a look at rising unemployment among college graduates, who will soon be out of work at the highest rate ever recorded. (Available numbers go back to 1970.) As a result, companies are facing a glut of qualified workers and young grads are posting desperately on Craigslist.

But maybe they should be moving to Detroit, suggests the LAT, and getting a job at a solar panel plant. While the rest of the economy is contracting, many green energy outfits are still growing at a breakneck pace—and creating a lot of jobs. General Electric, for example, has promised that for the next three years it will hire every graduate of one college that trains windmill technicians.

An NYT front profiles the "troubled life" of a biodefense scientist who may have committed the anthrax attacks after 9/11 and later killed himself. Free to publish the results because the case is almost closed, the NYT finds no conclusive proof that Bruce Edward Ivins carried out the attacks, but it admits to "a strong hunch, based on a pattern of damning circumstantial evidence, that Dr. Ivins was the perpetrator."

The NYT also fronts a look at the recession's impact on Broadway, where half the major shows are ending before January—including standbys like Hairspray and Spamalot. But the LAT ran a strikingly similar piece a week ago.

The LAT fronts a piece on the sealing of "Smuggler's Gulch," a sizeable canyon that has served as a conduit for illegal immigrants on California's border. In 2005, the Bush administration bypassed environmental regulations so that bulldozers could raze the geographic formation, and now it's done.

And the WP surveys security preparations for Barack Obama's inauguration in Washington, D.C. Historic numbers of national guard troops and other security professionals will be called up for the festivities, armed with new crowd-control technologies like sonar-based loud speakers. (Does that mean Obama's inauguration isn't dolphin-safe?) Interestingly, the paper says there are "no indications that large numbers of demonstrators are coming to Obama's swearing-in."

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