Today's Papers

Blair Snitch Project II

The Los Angeles Times and Washington Post lead with the British government’s now-public dossier detailing the status of Saddam Hussein’s various weapons programs. The report concluded that Iraq could deploy some of its chemical and biological weapons within 45 minutes of an order being given. It also said Saddam has been looking to buy uranium from an undisclosed African country. The New York Times leads with new numbers from the Census Bureau showing that poverty increased last year. USA Today reefers the dossier and instead leads with news that about 200 U.S. troops have been dispatched to rescue 100 American children who have been trapped in a school in the Ivory Coast since a rebellion started there last week.

Despite the Blair dossier’s revelations, everybody cites experts concluding it doesn’t have a smoking gun. “There really is nothing new here,” said the editor of the defense journal Jane’s World Armies. “We were all expecting the evidence for war, and what we got was evidence for UN inspections.”

According to the census report, the United States’ official rate of poverty rose last year by .4 percent to 11.7 percent. That’s the first time that the rate of poverty—defined as $18,022 for a family of four—has gone up in eight years. Median income also fell; that last happened in 1991. The WP and Wall Street Journal both go high with the conclusion that, unlike in previous recessions, white households have been hit the hardest. The NYT deemphasizes that and instead says up high that the recession has affected “large segments of the population, regardless of race, region or class.”

The Times’ piece also says, “With its usual caution, the Census Bureau said the data did not conclusively show a year-to-year increase in income inequality. But the numbers showed a clear trend in that direction over the last 15 years.” The article goes on to say that the richest fifth of the population earned about half of all household income last year, up from about 45 percent in 1985. The poorest fifth earned 3.5 percent of all income, down from 4 percent in 1985. That’s evidence of something but not necessarily of a 15-year-long trend. After all, the paper doesn’t tell readers what happened during any of the years between ‘85 and ‘01. What if, say, the disparity reached its peak in 1992 and has been going down ever since? (Reader Research Project—those folks procrastinating at work are encouraged to participate: Is the Times correct to say that it’s a clear trend? First reader to answer that, and provide primary-source evidence, wins a super-secret present from Today’s Papers.)

The LAT off-leads word that the White House, in a change of policy, is planning to ask Congress for permission to begin giving military training to Iraqi opposition groups. The goal apparently isn’t to start an uprising but to create what one administration official described as “support staff” for U.S. troops if and when they roll in. Still, as one “well-placed” administration source told the paper, “We have graduated to the next step of regime change.”

The WP off-leads news that the Senate voted 90 to 8 to create an independent commission with broad powers to investigate any government failures (foreign policy, border control, etc.) related to the 9/11 attacks. The NYT says that the White House still wants any commission to steer clear of intel-failure issues.

The WP fronts and the others go inside with news that federal prosecutors offered evidence connecting Zacarias Moussaoui with the Sept. 11 hijackers. Prosecutors said investigators at the crash site of United Flight 93 had found a business card from one of the highjackers that had a number on it that Moussaoui called shortly before the attacks. That could be a big deal, because as some folks—including TP—have pointed out, though the government charged Moussaoui with conspiring to take part in 9/11, it hadn’t presented diddly to support that point.

The NYT wraps its commission coverage into a front page piece noting that Senate Democrats now seem to have enough votes to pass a compromise bill that would give many workers at the newly formed Department on Homeland Security similar workers’ rights as those of other federal employees. The White House says that’s a bad idea, arguing that it should have free rein to hire and fire employees.

Everybody notes inside that the administration, pointing to the recent capture of various of al-Qaida honchos, has lowered its terror threat index from orange to a more mellow yellow.

The papers note inside that unidentified gunmen raided a Hindu temple in India, killing at least 25 people. The NYT quotes an Indian official seeming to blame Pakistan for the attack: “We’re capable of giving a fitting reply to the enemy nation.”

In what seems to be a scoop, USAT reports that former Enron CFO Andrew Fastow is about to be indicted. Fastow ran the now infamous Enron partnerships that hid humungous losses.

Everybody notices remarks made recently by retiring House Majority Leader, Dick Armey, R-Texas. Speaking at an event last Friday in Florida, Armey said, “I always see two Jewish communities in America: one of deep intellect and one of shallow, superficial intellect. Conservatives have a deeper intellect and tend to have occupations of the brain in fields like engineering, science and economics,” while liberals gravitate to “occupations of the heart.” After a couple of Democrats kvetched about the comments, Armey explained that he didn’t mean to offend anybody, it’s just that “liberals are generally not very bright.”