Today's Papers

D’oh, Canada

USA Today leads with the Bush administration saying that there’s “budding support” among world leaders for tough inspections in Iraq. The paper notes that while some leaders have called for unfettered inspections, only Britain has said it’s on-board with the U.S.’ more ultimatum-minded approach. The Washington Post also leads with the administration’s persuasion effort but goes with a more pessimistic tone, saying that Bush met with Canada’s prime minister and failed to convince him of the need for action. The Los Angeles Times’ lead says that the U.S. could build up an invasion-sized force around Iraq in about two months, much faster than it did during the Gulf War. The paper explains that over the past 10 years the U.S. has pre-positioned lots of equipment in the Gulf; also in the last decade shipping has become (who knew?) much more efficient. Citing unnamed U.S. intel officials, the New York Times’ lead says that small numbers of al-Qaida men are moving back into Afghanistan from Pakistan.

The Wall Street Journal tops its world-wide newsbox with the release of a report from an arms research group that concludes that Iraq is years away from being able to make a nuke on its own but that it could assemble one within months if it could get its hands on some high-grade uranium. The head of the group that published the report said it would be “very, very difficult” for Iraq to find that kind of stuff.

The Post’s lead mentions that there’s tension brewing between the White House and Republican leaders in Congress over the impending vote authorizing action in Iraq. The administration wants a broadly worded, open-ended-type resolution, but congressional leaders aren’t psyched about the idea of handing that over. Meanwhile, some Republicans have been complaining that the White House hasn’t been coordinating enough with them. “Our guys need more—now,” said one Republican aide.

The NYT’s lead, which broadens into a check-in on the state of al-Qaida, notes that “one of the most plausible explanations” about what happened to Osama is that he was smuggled out of Tora Bora by a warlord named Yunis Khalis. As the Times notes, Khalis and his men served as the U.S.’ proxy force during the Tora Bora battle. The paper also mentions that Khalis is the head of a radical Islamic group. (By the way, judging by his group’s Web site, Khalis is no longer best buds with the U.S.)

The WP off-leads word that the Bush administration, after much digging, still hasn’t found evidence connecting Iraq to al-Qaida. According to the paper, the CIA believes that the last time Iraq planned an anti-American attack was back in 1993 when Saddam plotted to kill our current president’s dad.

The NYT has a long piece  that maps out the 9/11 hijackers’ preparations and mentions something that hasn’t been reported before: Ringleader Mohamed Atta met with Bin Laden in late 1999.

In another salvo of the op-ed wars, USAT features former top military leader Gen. Wesley Clark, who oversaw the war in Kosovo. Clark says hitting Iraq before building a coalition is bad idea jeans: “Rushing too quickly to invade Iraq presents greater problems now than Saddam does.”

The NYT’s op-ed page goes with Susan Sontag, who was slammed last year for having written that the 9/11 hijackers “were not cowards.” Today Sontag argues that the “war on terror” isn’t really a war, it’s a “pseudo-declaration of pseudo-war.”

According to early morning wire reports, a train derailed in India, killing at least 35 people. Indian authorities said somebody sabotaged the tracks; they guessed that Maoist guerrillas were responsible.

The NYT’sbiz section has a piece by David Cay Johnston exposing a way some richy-rich investors can delay paying capital gains taxes. Johnston, who specializes in uncovering tax dodges, explains that folks who own $5 million worth of securities are allowed to take at least $1 million of their stock in a single company and contribute it to an investment pool that’s essentially a mutual fund. Then, instead of owning that particular stock, you’re issued shares of the pool. The tax issue factors in when you decide to pull out of the pool; instead of cash you’re given stocks in individual companies and don’t have to pay capital gains taxes on the transaction.

Johnston’s story is good, but in the quest for a catchy intro, it oversteps. The beginning of the piece says, “A few Americans are delaying taxes on their stock profits for years or decades—or, in some cases, never paying at all. It’s all perfectly legal.” Actually, no it’s not.As the article itself later notes, once investors sell the stocks they got via the fund, “they are supposed to pay taxes. Those taxes are by law owed on their investment profits all the way back to the time they bought the stock that they put into the pool.”

How to say “it was a normal day” in 2,078 words … The papers, of course, are all spending lots of ink covering the 9/11 anniversary. Original, insightful angles are hard to come by. USAT has struck on an innovative approach: It revisits the important events of 9.10.01: “In New York, the day’s high of 86 degrees is recorded at 2 p.m. The reservoirs are 71% full, the air quality is good, and the Yankees are 13 games ahead of the Red Sox. They play tonight at Yankee Stadium with Roger Clemens going for his 20th win.” And so on and so on.