Friday, August 18, 2006

Editor's Choice

So here's what my page 2 (world news) is looking like tomorrow. The main Middle East story, which will run on A1, is datelined Qana and here's the lede:

In an embarrassment to the Lebanese government, Hezbollah started handing out crisp $100 bills Friday to residents who lost their homes in the Israeli bombing campaign — $12,000 to each claimant at a school in south Beirut.

There were no lines and no waiting at the Shahed School in the Bourj el-Barajneh neighborhood. Applicants who had signed up for the aid this week simply showed up at the school, showed identification papers and only had to sign a receipt. Hezbollah workers promptly handed residents stacks of bills from a suitcase. Hezbollah is financed by oil-rich Iran.

Paid for in greenbacks. That tells you a great deal, in a symbolic way. Yes, I understand that the gas I didn't buy because I drive a hybrid made not a bit of difference in this picture. Someone else bought it instead. Even if all American saved gas, China and India would buy it. But the big picture remains: This stuff is killing us. As Tom Friedman wrote this week: "This is why I am obsessed with bringing down the price of oil. Unless we take this issue seriously, we are never going to produce more transparent, accountable government in the Middle East. Just the opposite — we will witness even more reckless, unaccountable behavior like Nasrallah's and Iran's."

So from rest of the stack of world news, here's what floated up to the top in my view:

  • Israeli soldiers returning from the war in Lebanon say the army was slow to rescue wounded comrades and suffered from a lack of supplies so dire that they had to drink water from the canteens of dead Hezbollah guerrillas.

    "We fought for nothing. We cleared houses that will be reoccupied in no time," said Ilia Marshak, a 22-year-old infantryman who spent a week in Lebanon.

  • LONDON (AP) — Several martyr videos were reportedly discovered on at least six laptops owned by some of the 23 suspects being questioned in the foiled terror plot to bomb as many as 10 jetliners bound for the United States.

  • WIESBADEN, Germany — German investigators said Friday that bombs found on two trains last month might have been planted by two young men angered by the war in Lebanon.

    The bombs were discovered in two abandoned suitcases on July 31 by train conductors in regional commuter trains in the northwestern cities of Koblenz and Dortmund.

    The ignition mechanisms triggered, but the bombs failed to explode. If they had, officials said, they could have destroyed several train cars and derailed the trains, with an untold number of casualties.

    The German police, citing surveillance videos from the station in Cologne where the two young men boarded the trains described them as men in their 20s with a "southern appearance."

  • The Islamic clerics who rule much of Somalia on Friday rejected a plan for African peacekeepers to be deployed there, saying that foreign soldiers, African or not, would be mercilessly repelled.

    ... On Friday, imams at Mogadishu's mosques urged followers to join Islamic militias and prepare for battle. One said, "The mosque will be the industry that will produce heroes," according to a Somali reporter who did not want to be identified because of safety concerns. The militias recently began a recruitment drive for teenage boys, and many war-orphaned children have been signing up.

  • The United Nations appealed to European countries Friday to contribute to an expanded peacekeeping force in Lebanon that would have a balance of European and Muslim troops so that Israel and Lebanon will view it as legitimate.

What sort of picture of the world does that add up to?

Did I cherry-pick the stories to create an artificial clash of civilizations theme? Well, what's left in the pile includes the kidnapped journalists in Gaza and the president of Sudan threatening to kill U.N. forces in Darfur. So even if I wanted to I didn't have room to tell the whole picture of Islam's bloody borders today.

Take all that out, and there's only two stories in the "world news" pile: Critcism of South Africa at an AIDS summit in Toronto, and Raul Castro yapping in the Cuban communist party newspaper.

P.S.: Castro, by the way, is likly to make it into the paper on a deep inside page behind the obits (the layout department typically sets aside more space for them than they turn out to need, which is sensible, and that gives us a bit of a hole to fill each evening deep in the B-section).

Yesterday I was reduced to writing an A-2 headline that read "Lebanese army occupies Lebanon" which, absurdist as it sounds, is the briefest accurate description of the story.

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