Deposed President Can't Land
The Wall Street Journalleads its world-wide newsbox with, while the Los Angeles Timesdevotes its top nonlocal spot to, the dramatic scene that played out yesterday in Honduras as the airplane carrying ousted president Manuel Zelaya was forced to turn back after the military blocked the runway with vehicles. Thousands of supporters tried to reach the Tegucigalpa airport to greet Zelaya but were pushed back by soldiers and police, who fired tear gas and at least some live ammunition into the crowd, apparently killing two people. The Washington Postleads with a look at how health care companies have gone into overdrive in hiring former government insiders to help their lobbying efforts. More than 350 former government staff members and retired members of Congress have been snapped up by the companies that are trying to shape health care reform and that are willing to spend $1.4 million a day on lobbying to do it.
The New York Timesleads with a look at the rollercoaster ride that oil prices have gone through in the last year. After reaching $145 a barrel last summer, it then tumbled to $33 in December and has now more than doubled since the beginning of the year despite the deep economic turmoil. This extreme volatility makes it difficult for businesses to plan for the future, and officials are worried that rising oil prices might delay economic recovery. USA Todayleads with a preview of President Obama's trip to Russia, where he will attempt to "reset" bilateral relations that grew strained during the last few years. Obama and President Dmitry Medvedev will discuss the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, which expires in December. Obama is likely to seek Russia's help in nuclear negotiations with Iran and North Korea, while Medvedev will certainly bring up Russia's longstanding objections to the U.S. plan for a missile-defense system in Eastern Europe.
Several members of the Organization of American States tried to convince Zelaya not to attempt to fly back to Honduras because it would be too dangerous for him and his supporters. The provisional government had warned long before Zelaya's plane entered Honduras that he wouldn't be able to land. But he ignored them, boarded a Venezuelan plane in Washington, and even had an entourage. Accompanying Zelaya in his plane were the U.N. General Assembly president, several advisers, and reporters for Telesur, Venezuela's state-run television network. The presidents of Argentina, Ecuador, and Paraguay followed him in a separate plane, and a third plane carried journalists.
Adding to the whole spectacle, Zelaya carried out a live interview with Telesur while his plane circled the airport. The NYT points out that Zelaya's plane "swept in low and made two passes over the city" that were met by cheers from his supporters gathered below. But it infuriated the military. "They entered our airspace without permission and they were flying lower than allowed. It was an act of provocation," one air force officer tells the NYT. Soldiers and military vehicles lined the runway, making a landing impossible. Zelaya then made a brief stopover in Nicaragua and proceeded to El Salvador.
Acting Honduran President Roberto Micheletti said he would welcome dialogue with the OAS, which voted to suspend Honduras over the weekend, but he made it clear the ouster of Zelaya is non-negotiable. Officials close to Micheletti have been warning that Zelaya would be arrested if he returned to Honduras. The LAT notes that the attorney general's office "has drafted a complaint with 18 criminal charges against him, including treason, abuse of power and failure to enforce scores of laws."
Almost half of the government insiders currently employed by the health care industry used to work for key committees and lawmakers in the health care debate currently going on in Capitol Hill. At least 10 members of Congress are also working with the industry. This means that some of the meetings between lobbyists and congressional staff members can feel like a reunion. For example, when aides to Sen. Max Baucus, chairman of the finance committee, met with health care lobbyists, two of the senator's former chiefs of staff were present representing the industry. Of course, lawmakers and aides vehemently deny that former colleagues or staff members get preferential treatment. But public interest groups say it's yet another example of the "revolving door" between the private and public sectors. Even if the lobbyists can't get everything their employers want, at the very least, these close, personal connections make it easier for the industry to have a seat at the table.
The LAT fronts late-breaking news that tensions between Muslim Uighurs and Han Chinese in northwestern China led to riots yesterday that left 140 people dead and more than 800 injured, according to China's official news agency. Details are still murky, but, like the Tibetan uprising last year, "it highlighted the deep-seated frustrations felt by some ethnic minorities in western China over the policies of the Communist Party," notes the NYT. The Chinese government accused Uighur exiles of planning the riots, while Uighurs countered that the violence only began after police officers used extreme force to break up what had been a peaceful demonstration. The demonstrators were demanding justice for two young Uighur men who were beaten to death by a mob at a factory last month after rumors began circulating that they had sexually harassed—or raped—Han women.
The NYT notes that while the location of President Obama's first vacation since moving into the White House is officially classified, "it is hardly a secret to the people on Martha's Vineyard," who are preparing for the first family to arrive in August. Although his family will stay longer, Obama is likely to take only a week of vacation. But it seems the White House is determined that it will be real vacation time, as most of Obama's senior advisers will be heading elsewhere.
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.