Military ousts Honduran president; Iran continues crackdown of demonstrators.

A summary of what's in the major U.S. newspapers.
June 29 2009 6:53 AM

Military Coup Shakes Up Honduras

The Los Angeles Timesleads with the Honduran army ousting President Manuel Zelaya and forcing him into exile in Costa Rica yesterday. Soldiers stormed the presidential palace early in the morning, hours before a controversial referendum—one that could have paved the way for rewriting the country's constitution, potentially to allow presidential re-election—was set to begin. It was the first military coup in Central America in 16 years. "This has been a brutal kidnapping," Zelaya said at the airport in San Jose, Costa Rica, where he was still wearing his pajamas. Leaders throughout the Americas condemned the coup. The Wall Street Journalleads its world-wide newsbox with the latest from Iran, where nine Iranian employees of the British Embassy were arrested. Iranian media tried to portray the British Embassy employees as instrumental players in the recent unrest. Meanwhile, security forces forcefully beat back thousands of protesters in Tehran. The Washington Postalso leads with Iran but focuses on a look at how opposition leader, Mir Hossein Mousavi, faces a tough choice  in deciding whether to continue contesting the election at a time when leaders in Tehran are consolidating their power.

The New York Timesleads with President Obama calling the energy bill that passed in the House on Friday an "extraordinary first step," but he criticized a measure that would impose tariffs on imports from countries that do not impose limits on carbon-dioxide emissions. "At a time when the economy worldwide is still deep in recession and we've seen a significant drop in global trade, I think we have to be very careful about sending any protectionist signals out," Obama said. USA Todaygoes across its front page with a look at how Michael Jackson was preparing for the 50 shows he was scheduled to give at London's O2 arena. The night before he died, Jackson rehearsed at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, and those who witnessed it say they saw hints of the old Jackson onstage. While some say he looked underweight, they insist he was energetic and didn't appear to be sick as he put on the finishing touches to what everyone expected would be his comeback.

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The Organization of American States called for an emergency meeting  following Zelaya's ouster. President Obama said he was "deeply concerned" and called on Honduran politicians to "respect democratic norms." Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, a close ally of the Honduran president, said the coup was carried out by "the bourgeoisie and the extreme right." Although lawmakers and army leaders had strongly opposed the referendum and the Supreme Court had ruled that it was illegal, Zelaya vowed to press ahead. The WSJ hears word that it was the Supreme Court that gave the order to the military to detain the president. Despite the worldwide condemnation, the Honduran Congress officially voted Zelaya out of office and named congressional leader Roberto Micheletti to the presidency.

The WP hears word that the Obama administration plans to work with the OAS to restore Zelaya to power, but "a senior Honduran official" says it's unlikely that the new government will be giving up its new power very easily. Regardless, analysts say it's important for Obama to strongly condemn the coup and insist on the reinstatement of Zelaya, even if U.S. officials share concerns that he might have been following Chavez's example of using the ballot box to hold onto power. At the very least, if Obama speaks strongly on the issue it should help take some attention away from Chavez. "This would prevent Chavez from stealing the show," one expert tells the WSJ.

Early morning wire stories reveal that a spokesman for Iran's Foreign Ministry said five of the Iranian British Embassy employees have been released and four are still being held for questioning. Despite the recent brutal crackdown on demonstrators, thousands still flowed to the streets on Sunday only to be met, once again, by security forces that used tear gas and batons to disperse the crowds.

The WP states that the recent unrest in Iran has allowed President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to consolidate control and grant more power to a small group of hard-line clerics and Revolutionary Guard commanders. Mousavi must now choose between continuing to fight the election results and probably face imprisonment or accept his defeat and become a strong opposition force inside the government. If he accepts defeat, he would certainly anger supporters, but if he doesn't, it's likely that he and his advisers would be jailed. The WP says that the "one possible wild card in Mousavi's favor" could come from the holy city of Qom, where several grand ayatollahs are calling for compromise and have pointedly refused to support Ahmadinejad. Former President Hashemi Rafsanjani broke his post-election silence. While the WP and NYT interpret Rafsanjani's words as support for the demonstrators, the WSJ calls it a "double-edged comment that chilled expectations he might play an influential role in favor of the opposition."

The WP takes a look at how General Electric has become the biggest beneficiary of a government program to help out banks. The world's largest industrial company has been able to save billions of dollars by raising money at lower interest rates, as part of the Temporary Liquidity Guarantee Program. GE Capital "has issued nearly a quarter of the $340 billion in debt backed by the program," notes the paper. Although GE's huge financing arm isn't a bank, it was able to take advantage of a loophole that the Obama administration is now trying to close. So far, GE has been able essentially to "live in the best of both worlds," as the WP puts it, because it can take advantage of the federal safety net while avoiding the stricter regulations that banks have to endure.

The WSJ fronts word that the Justice Department has concluded that detainees tried by military commissions in the United States have at least some constitutional rights. The Justice Department under the Bush administration had long contended that detainees have no constitutional rights. Defense Department officials are worried that this could make it more difficult to win convictions, particularly since the Justice Department has determined that detainees are protected from information obtained through coercive interrogation techniques. Around 50 or 60 of the approximately 230 Guantanamo detainees may be tried by military commissions.

The LAT fronts the death of Billy Mays, the well-known infomercial pitchman who hawked OxiClean stain remover, Orange Glo, Mighty Putty, and a host of other items. Mays died at his home yesterday. He was 50. The cause of death is not known. On Saturday afternoon, Mays was on a flight that had a rough landing, apparently due to a ruptured tire. Mays told a local TV station he was struck hard on the head by a falling object during the landing. "I hate to say it, but the king is dead," said Anthony Sullivan, an infomercial veteran who has worked with Mays.

Daniel Politi has been contributing to Slate since 2004 and wrote the "Today's Papers" column from 2006 to 2009. You can follow him on Twitter @dpoliti.