Today's Papers

New-Clear Deal?

Everybody leads with news that the U.S. and Russia have agreed on a pact to scale back their respective strategic nuclear arsenals by two-thirds over the next 10 years, going from 6,000 warheads each to about 2,000. But as the New York Times notes right at the top, “The accord does not require destruction of the warheads, essentially giving both sides the right to keep the weapons in storage where they could be reactivated on relatively short notice.”

Everybody notes that the agreement is just three pages long and unlike previous treaties gives a basic framework to follow rather than spelling out every last detail.

The Washington Post calls the agreement a “face-saving gesture for Putin,” who had insisted on a formal agreement, something the Bush administration didn’t want.

Still, as the NYT says, the agreement is essentially a victory for Bush since it “gives the Pentagon enormous flexibility.” For example, besides giving the countries the option of mothballing rather than destroying nukes, “the reductions do not have to take place before 2012, and the treaty expires that same year.” The Wall Street Journal, meanwhile, emphasizes that “the agreement does not lay out a monitoring mechanism.” That makes it seem pretty loosey-goosey to Today’s Papers, who wonders whether the dailies should have hinted at the deal’s skimpiness in their headlines or subheads.

“This agreement appears to be an enormous missed opportunity to lock in U.S.-Russian nuclear reductions,” one arms-control analyst told USA Today.

The papers mostly skip what looks like an important point bit of context: As the NYT’s lead editorial mentions, the agreement doesn’t apply to smaller, tactical nukes, of which Russia has about 8,000.

A Los Angeles Times piece about the agreement makes an interesting point: “Because the Bush administration insisted that both countries be allowed to achieve reductions by storing—rather than dismantling—their nukes, arms control experts said the treaty would raise the likelihood that warheads would find their way into the hands of terrorists or rogue nations.” As the paper points out, Russia has long been criticized for not properly guarding its nukes.

The LAT fronts, and the others reefer, former President Jimmy Carter’s statements that before his trip to Cuba he was repeatedly assured by the White House that Castro’s government was not exporting any potentially military technology to terrorist-affiliated states. Last week Undersecretary of State John R. Bolton said that Cuba has at least “a limited biological warfare” program and has provided “dual-use technology to rogue states.” 

Carter said that while he was reluctant to counter the State Department’s statements, he felt he had to “because these allegations were made, maybe not coincidentally, just before our visit to Cuba.”

The NYT emphasizes that Secretary of State Colin Powell “cast some doubt on assertions last week by [Undersecretary of State Bolton] that Cuba was making [bio] weapons.” But according to the Post,“Powell said he stood by Bolton’s comments.”

Discrepancy Explainer (or at least TP’s best guess): The Post focuses on Cuba’s supposed exporting of dual-use biotechnology, that is, stuff that has both military and civilian uses. The NYT, meanwhile, picks up on Powell’s assertion that “we do believe Cuba has a biological offensive research capability. We didn’t say it actually had some weapons.”

The WP also quotes an anonymous Bush official as saying that Cuba has “a number of projects that are what could be dual-use things, but they’re probably not. It’s a question more of them exciting suspicions by not being open.”

Everybody reports that Yasser Arafat made his first trip outside of Ramallah in five months, visiting Nablus and Jenin. The papers all note that Arafat abruptly canceled his planned visit to Jenin’s refugee camp after militants there threatened to jeer him.

As the papers explain it, those folks think Arafat wimped out. Specifically, says the WP, they’re peeved that as Jenin was about to be invaded last month, Palestinian police drove around the refugee camp “with loudspeakers and urged people not to resist.”

A piece inside the LAT says that while Bush, Sharon, and many Palestinians are saying that the Palestinian Authority needs to be reformed, that doesn’t mean they all want the same changes: “Sharon and Bush apparently want a Palestinian Authority that will jail gunmen and sign a peace accord. Many Palestinians want an authority that will stand up to Israel.”

Everybody reports that U.S. troops raided a suspected al-Qaida or Taliban compound in Afghanistan, killing five fighters and capturing 32. No Americans were injured. The papers say that somebody launched a couple of rockets again at American soldiers near Khost. And again, nobody was injured.

Meanwhile, the papers report that the British say they’ve wrapped up an operation along the Afghan-Pakistani border. The troops found arms caches but no Taliban or al-Qaida fighters.

The WSJ has an interesting piece noting that lawyers for captured American Taliban fighter John Walker Lindh filed a motion yesterday arguing that he should be granted “combat immunity;” that’s the principle that soldiers can’t be prosecuted simply for fighting. The paper says that if a judge agrees with that argument, detainees at Guantanamo Bay might try to make similar claims.

Everybody notes that the Supreme Court partially upheld a law meant to shield children from online pornography. By an 8-to-1 vote, the Supremes said that the Child Online Protection Act’s reliance on “community standards” to define pornography doesn’t necessarily violate the First Amendment. However, the court said the law could still be unconstitutional for other reasons and sent the case back to a lower court to have them ponder that.

Everybody reports that President Bush signed the $190 billion farm-aid bill, legislation he originally opposed as too porky. The papers point out that Bush did the actual signing at 7:45 a.m., “assuring wide coverage by farm broadcasters while minimizing exposure elsewhere in the country,” as the WSJ put it.

The LAT and WP front word that former Arthur Andersen accountant David Duncan began his testimony yesterday in the obstruction of justice case against his company. Duncan, who admitted he committed a crime when he supervised the shredding of Enron-related docs, has turned state’s witness, and there’s plenty of speculation that he will finger top Andersen execs for ordering him to do it.

The NYT goes inside with a profile of the latest real-estate hotspot, where apartments just six months ago went for a few hundred bucks per month and are now being rented out for $6,000. The location? Kabul.