Today's Papers

Smoking Warhead?

Every paper except the New York Times leads with the U.N.’s announcement that its weapons inspectors found 11 empty warheads equipped to carry chemical weapons (plus another warhead that required more analysis) in a well-known weapons site in Iraq. The papers note that this development looks like it might be a “material breach” of the U.N. resolution that ordered Iraq to disarm or face consequences. Bush administration officials, though, made no move to describe the inspectors’ discovery as such, waiting, the papers say, to find out more before commenting publicly. The top story in the Wall Street Journal’s world-wide newsbox says that U.S. officials say privately they believe they’ve caught Saddam lying. The NYT leads local with NYT poll results showing that NYC Mayor Bloomberg’s job-approval rating has fallen precipitously in the past few months as he has worked to manage the city’s fiscal crisis.

Perhaps not surprisingly, there seems to be some confusion over whether or not these 12 warheads appear in the 12,000-page weapons declaration Baghdad turned in to the U.N. in December. A U.N. official initially told reporters that the weapons were not there, according to reports in the papers. But the Los Angeles Times says that according to the U.N. team’s spokesman, the U.N is still checking whether the weapons are in the report. U.N. officials later said they do not know if this finding constitutes a violation of the resolution, the WSJ reports. The NYT says simply that everyone is racing to figure out if the weapons are listed in the declaration.

According to the head of the Iraqi team that monitors the inspectors, the weapons are in the declaration, the papers say. Confusingly, Iraqi officials also said, according to the LAT, that the weapons were so old they were overlooked. The U.N. reported that the weapons are in excellent condition and were found stored in a recently built bunker, and this fact raises questions about whether Iraq had really had them a long time, the WSJ says.

As the Washington Post notes, it is very unusual for a U.N. team to announce inspection results. The papers don’t speculate at this early stage on why the U.N. revealed this discovery.

Weapons inspectors also conducted surprise interviews with an Iraqi physicist and a nuclear scientist; this was the first time inspections took place in private homes, the NYT says. The inspectors took a box of documents from one of the scientists after searching his house thoroughly. The LAT adds that the inspectors were probably acting on intelligence tips since these scientists’ names weren’t on the list of weapons experts Iraq provided the U.N.

The coverage also notes that at a U.N. Security Council meeting the United States was unable to convince other members that chief weapons inspector Hans Blix should make a report of his findings in Iraq before March 27, the date inspectors are planning on revealing what they’ve discovered.

The papers report that Bush is renewing his push for Congress to limit jury awards from malpractice lawsuits. Bush blames the lawsuits for rising health-care costs and doctor shortages.

The NYT offleads news that the Bush administration has ruled that states can put limits on the coverage of emergency services for Medicaid recipients. The decision reverses a 1997 law that said states could not limit coverage for emergency care for Medicaid recipients in managed-health care organizations.

The papers front follow-ups to President Bush’s denunciation, via a Supreme Court brief, of the University of Michigan’s affirmative action program. The WP says National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice helped convince Bush to denounce Michigan’s program. An NYT news analysis suggests that Bush’s brief may have been calculated to appease the Republicans’ conservative base while at the same time aimed at not pushing the Supreme Court too far: While Bush’s rhetoric strongly denounced affirmative action at Michigan, the brief’s legal argument had the same conflicting effect as if the administration had submitted a brief condemning abortion but not asking the court to overturn Roe v. Wade.

The NYT fronts, and the others go inside with, the election of AOL Time Warner Chief Executive Richard Parsons to the post of chairman of the company.

According to reports in the WP and NYT, which overnight included a photo online, the 46 formerly sedentary penguins of the San Francisco Zoo have been swimming in a circle in their pool pretty much non-stop for the last three weeks. In the wild, penguins swim thousands of miles, but these guys only started swimming seriously when the zoo introduced six new penguins who began the swim, inspiring the others to join in. Strangely, the birds are undeterred by lack of water: When the zoo drained the pool to clean it, the penguins continued on, waddling instead of paddling.