Today's Papers

Hans Across America

The Washington Post and New York Times lead with word that inspectors have concluded that one Iraqi missile program is clearly violating U.N. rules limiting its range, though not by much. The Los Angeles Times’ lead says that Hans Blix is going to report on Friday that Saddam isn’t cooperating. Yesterday’s Post said that Blix was leaning toward filing a hazy report that wouldn’t explicitly say that Saddam was in violation of U.N. resolutions. Today’s LAT doesn’t speculate whether Blix will actually utter the phrase “material breach.” USA Today leads with Secretary of State Colin Powell’s comments outlining the U.S.’s post-war plans for Iraq, most of which, as the paper points out, have already been leaked: A U.S. general will oversee things for about two years and most current Iraqi officials will stay in office. And in part of the plan that has yet to get much attention, the paper says the U.S. will let Turkey keep troops indefinitely inside a 15-mile “buffer-zone” within northern Iraq. Kurds aren’t happy about that.

The LAT and NYT say that inspectors think that the offending missile has exceeded its 90-mile limit by 25 miles. The Post’s lead, which headlines “PANEL: IRAQ BROKE LIMIT ON MISSILES,” never gives readers a sense of the magnitude of the violation. As everybody mentions, Iraq argued that the missile does fall within allowable range and that inspectors aren’t accounting for the extra weight of the guidance system.

In a big above-the-fold off-lead, the Post announces, “SPECIAL OPERATIONS UNITS ALREADY IN IRAQ.” That’s not news. The more interesting part of the story says that unlike Gulf War I, the U.S. might launch a ground invasion before any lengthy air assault, the better to catch Saddam off guard before he can blow up oil wells ‘n stuff, which the NYT says he is already rigging explosives to do.

A piece inside the Post casts doubt on the administration’s claims that Osama and Saddam are linked. There doesn’t seem to be much new here, just a compilation of the latest administration quotes with attendant skeptical responses.

The LAT and WP front word that, as expected, the U.N.’s atomic agency yesterday declared North Korea in breach of its non-proliferation promises. As the papers mention, there probably won’t be any sticks—i.e., economic sanctions—to back up the scolding.

The papers also mention that CIA Director George Tenet said during congressional testimony yesterday that North Korea has a missile capable hitting of the U.S. mainland. Most of the papers mention that U.S. intel estimates have warned about that possibility before. And the LAT quotes some experts as saying Tenet was overplaying Pyongyang’s capabilities. For one thing, it’s not clear that the missiles can carry nukes. Also they’re so inaccurate, said one analyst, “if they aimed for the United States, they might hit South America.”

Following up on a mention in one of its editorials yesterday, the NYT continues to harp on the federal government for not yet delivering on the $3.5 billion that President Bush promised local and state governments last year to prepare for terrorist attacks. An above-the-fold piece today headlines, ” ANTI-TERROR MONEY STALLS IN CONGRESS.” It’s a worthy crusade, but a misleading headline. As the article’s third paragraph mentions, “Something close to the $3.5 billion was finally approved today by Congressional negotiators.” Sure, as the Times emphasizes, the money will take a while to move through the pipelines, but it’s not exactly “stalled” anymore.

Everybody goes high with an e-mail that a NASA engineer sent to HQ during Columbia’s mission speculating that “carnage” might result if the now-famous falling foam somehow damaged the heat-shielding tiles around the wheel well. Columbia’s left wheel-well gauge registered a temperature spike before the shuttle went down. Though the engineer warned of the potential for “a world of hurt,” he also acknowledged, “I am admittedly erring way on the side of absolute worst-case scenarios.” NASA itself released the e-mail and played it down, saying that the engineer was just “what-iffing,” since their tests had concluded that the foam caused no real damage in the first place. (TP wonders how much the e-mail’s colorful language contributed to its nearly universal Page One play.)

In these days of economic uncertainty, it’s good know that some jobs apparently anybody can do: According to the NYT’s Web site, “ C.I.A. CHIEF SEES BIN LADEN TAPE AS URGING TERROR.”

The WP’s “Style” section gives a dispatch on yesterday’s jalapeño-eating contest in Congress. ( Really.)

Too late … The NYT’s runs the following correction:

Because of an editing error, a front-page article yesterday about diplomatic developments in the Iraq crisis misidentified the Bush administration official who said about the weapons inspectors in Iraq, “At some point it will become obvious that it’s time for them to go.” It was an administration official speaking on condition of anonymity, not Condoleezza Rice, President Bush’s national security adviser.