Obama to Iran: "The World Is Watching"
As anticipated, thousands of protesters took to the streets of Tehran on Saturday in support of opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi, who again called for the results of the recent Iranian election to be nullified. All the papers lead with word that the pro-government Basij militia used sticks, water cannons, and tear gas to keep people from leaving their homes. While all report rumors of casualties at the hands of Basijis, none can confirm the death toll, as foreign journalists are still forbidden from reporting in the streets of Iran's capital. The Guardian Council, which oversaw the election, has renewed its offer to recount 10 percent of the votes, but according to statements on his Web site, Mousavi will not accept those terms. At a demonstration, Mousavi instead told supporters, "I am ready for martyrdom," according to the New York Times and Washington Post, via Reuters.
In a separate incident, the WP and NYT report three people were wounded after a suicide bomber blew himself up at a shrine to the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, leader of Iran's 1979 Islamic revolution, several miles from the site of the demonstration, according to state-run Iranian media. (The Los Angeles Times instead notes two injuries and one fatality.) Outside Tehran, there were rumors of unrest in Shiraz, Esfahan, and Tabriz. Iranian exiles gathered in Paris called for an end to Iran's theocratic dictatorship, and about a thousand people turned out at a rally in Los Angeles, as well. President Obama has not yet directly addressed the election results themselves, but yesterday he issued a statement calling for the Iranian government to "stop all violent and unjust actions against its own people" and "to understand that the world is watching."
Despite journalists' orders not to leave their offices in Tehran, there are still a number of on-the-ground observations from the city, with several NYT articles expressing the most confidence in their facts. (The WP and LAT are quicker to note that many reports cannot be verified.) NYT op-ed columnist Roger Cohen emphasizes that the demonstrators, both men and women, were fighting back vigorously against the Basijis, as "[h]urled bricks sent phalanxes of police, some with automatic rifles, into retreat to the accompaniment of cheers." Cohen described seeking shelter from the tear gas himself with demonstrators gathered around makeshift fires, because the smoke was an antidote to the stinging effects of the gas. At the end of the day, clouds of smoke rose above the city, supposedly from a gas station that had been set on fire, the WP reports.
The perils of reporting in Tehran last week notwithstanding, "Ascertaining what the true Iran is has never been harder," writes the NYT's Robert F. Worth from Beirut in the Week in Review. Attending a pro-government demonstration in Tehran earlier this week, Worth was approached by a number of people who believed the election was fraudulent or did not support Ahmadinejad. He notes, though, that Iranians on both sides of the controversy believe themselves to be in the majority, making public opinion a matter of individual perception. Another Week in Review article warns against using Twitter as a trustworthy indicator of Iranian public opinion.
The WP and NYT front word that NYT reporter David Rohde escaped imprisonment after his kidnapping by the Taliban outside Kabul seven months ago. The NYT and other media outlets had kept quiet about the abduction out of fear for his safety. Rohde and a local Afghan reporter, kidnapped with him, escaped by climbing over the wall of the compound where they were being held.
The LAT's front-page centerpiece is a joint Times-ProPublica investigation revealing that a taxpayer-funded workers' compensation insurance program has failed to deliver to foreign workers (and their families) who have been injured or killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. Many of the tens of thousands of foreign civilian employees of the U.S. government in Iraq and Afghanistan, mostly from poverty-stricken countries, were not made aware of the benefits to which they were entitled.
Closer to home, the WP fronts an in-depth profile of John Boyd, founder of the National Black Farmers Association. For the past eight and a half years, the Virginia farmer has been lobbying congressional staffers on behalf of his fellow black farmers, whom he says are discriminated against in applications for government loans to operate their farms.
A NYT/CBS News poll shows that the majority of Americans favor a government-run health insurance plan. Eighty-five percent of respondents supported health care reform, but paradoxically, 77 percent were "somewhat satisfied" with their own health insurance plan. The WP's Dan Balz writes that the 10-year, $1 trillion price tag for universal health care leaves Obama with "a handful of big decisions" about cost and coverage that "probably will determine whether he succeeds where other presidents have failed."
Speaking of polling, for the first time, the 2010 census will count same-sex married couples, following the reversal of a 2008 decision by the Bush administration not to do so.
The NYT Style section may have found some of the cheapest concert tickets of the summer—if you're a well-bred teenager in Los Angeles, that is. The paper says that the latest L.A. trend has "kids in thrift-store threads churning out homespun indie music and flocking to shows often held in one another's backyards and living rooms" for $2 admission. Some are just having a little summer fun playing music before college; others have in-house recording studios built by their parents. One screenwriter said of supporting his 17-year-old's musical ambitions, "I don't want Hudson to wake up someday and say, 'What happened to that thing I dreamed about when I was a kid?'" Also in the Sunday Styles, one dad finds the reward for his long, "thankless" efforts at parenting: "a kid who'd figured out how to make herself happy." Happy Father's Day!