Today's Papers

To Russia, With Love

The New York Timesleads with Secretary of State Powell saying that the U.S. “expected to meet” Russia’s desire for the two countries to eventually sign a treaty requiring both countries to cut their nuclear stockpiles. Back in the fall, the Bush administration had demurred from talk of a treaty and instead suggested that each country just occasionally ring the other to let ‘em know how many nukes they’ve dismantled. The Los Angeles Timesleads with an analysis of top Enron executives’ stock sales that shows that the execs dumped Enron stock around the time they figured out, but didn’t publicly disclose, that the company was losing big bucks on its shady partnership programs. In other words, the LAT may have just found evidence of insider trading, a federal crime. The Washington PostUSA Today, and the Wall Street Journal’s world-wide newsbox all lead with Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle’s announcement that he won’t bring the president’s economic stimulus package to a vote, meaning the bill is dead in the water. Daschle said he had no choice, because President Bush wasn’t willing to compromise and scale back tax cuts. Daschle did say that he would work to pass a 13-week extension of unemployment benefits, which is something both parties support.

The papers note that Daschle decided to risk being a called a stimulus-killer after some recent economic reports have suggested that the economy doesn’t need a booster-shot in order to recover.

Powell, who was speaking before a congressional committee about the State Department’s budget, said that the president’s “axis of evil” comment was “not a rhetorical flourish—he meant it.” Then he added, “That does not mean that we’re getting ready to invade anybody or that we’re not willing to engage in dialogue.”

The WSJ skips Powell’s buddy-buddy talk about Russia and instead focuses on his statement that the U.S. won’t negotiate with Iraq about the possible reacceptance of U.N. weapons inspectors. “It should be a very short discussion,” Powell said. “The inspectors have to go back.”

The papers report that Pakistani police have arrested three men suspected of being involved with the kidnapping of WSJ reporter Daniel Pearl. Two of the men are suspected of sending the e-mail messages that had pictures of a captured Pearl attached. The police also said they’d confiscated the computer used to send those messages. “We think we are on the verge of a breakthrough,” said a Karachi police official. Investigators haven’t received any e-mail from Pearl’s captors in a number of days.

Everybody goes high with a grand jury’s 10-count indictment of John Walk Lindh. “In this indictment, the grand jury outlines a timeline of terror in which (Lindh) is an active, knowing participant,” said Attorney General Ashcroft, who continued, “Americans who love their country do not dedicate themselves to killing Americans.” If convicted on any number of the charges, Lindh would face life in prison.

The NYT de-emphasizes Lindh’s indictment, and instead headlines: LINDH COERCED AFTER CAPTURE, LAWYERS ASSERT. Lindh’s lawyers—who asked that he be released on bail—charged that the government’s evidence is based on statements Lindh gave under “highly coercive conditions.” They said that after American soldiers captured Lindh, he was blindfolded, “bound tightly with duct tape to a stretcher,” and left in an unheated “metal shipping container.” His lawyers also claimed that Lindh was initially denied access to a lawyer.

In an interview with the WP, Afghan leader Ahmed Karzai said that the U.S. did mistakenly kill civilians during two controversial raids, one a helicopter assault a few weeks ago and another a December bombing of a vehicle convoy. Karzai also confirmed that U.S. military officials in the area have already apologized. The Pentagon, though, says it’s still not sure what happened and is investigating the charges.

USAT fronts the Iranian foreign minister’s attempt to cozy up again to the U.S. by promising to send back any al-Qaida or Taliban officials who have “escaped” to Iran. The WP doesn’t mention the minister’s bid to cuddle, and instead, nabbing a copy of a letter the minister sent the U.N., says Iran expressed “strong indignation” over Bush’s “axis” comment.

Citing “several American intelligence officials,” the NYT reports, “The Central Intelligence Agency has no evidence that Iraq has engaged in terrorist operations against the United States in nearly a decade, and the agency is also convinced that President Saddam Hussein has not provided chemical or biological weapons to al-Qaida or related terrorist groups.”

The papers note that the Bush administration announced that it will give about $100 million in additional aid to Colombia, including, as the WSJ puts it, providing “training, weapons and aircraft to protect a pipeline carrying U.S. oil.” The papers say that the increased aid is a sign that the U.S. is expanding its military support to Colombia beyond just drug interdiction. 

Meanwhile, the WP says that three human-rights groups released a joint report yesterday charging that Colombia’s military still collaborates with right-wing death squads.

The papers report that House Republican leaders have agreed to allow a vote on a major campaign-finance reform bill, which floundered last year after Republicans opposed it. 

The NYT fronts an fascinating story about a young man from New Jersey named Hiram Torres, who has been missing for three years—ever since he told his mother he had gone to study in Afghanistan. Torres, who dropped out of Yale his freshman year in 1994, converted to Islam a number of years ago. Around the same time, he stopped calling his family and basically disappeared. Now, the NYT’s David Rohde has come across a small clue hinting at what Torres has been up to: Rohde got ahold of a member list recovered from a terrorist safe house in Kabul. Among the names on the document: Hiram Torres.