Today's Papers

Mideast, Peace by Peace

Everybody leads with President Bush’s speech yesterday in which he offered an expansive vision of what a win in Iraq could bring. Bush argued that it “could begin a new stage for Middle Eastern peace, and set in motion progress towards a truly democratic Palestinian state.” Bush emphasized that “a liberated Iraq” could help “transform” the entire region.

The Washington Post’s lead, co-written by White House press corps  bad-boy Dana Milbank, calls Bush’s vision “neo-Wilsonian” (how about Wolfowitzian?) then takes a smack at it, noting that it “challenges a panoply of experts and diplomats who say a U.S. attack would foster instability and backlash.” As the New York Times notes up high, and the other papers mention as well, Bush didn’t offer any timeline or “road-map” for an Israeli-Palestinian settlement. The E.U., Tony Blair, and the NYT’s editorial page had hoped he would. The Times’ news piece says that Bush ducked out because he doesn’t want to hassle Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon right now, since he’s going to need to keep Sharon quiet during the coming war.

The Los Angeles Times says in a separate front-page piece that Security Council member  Pakistan suggested it will support the U.S.-backed resolution on Iraq. The LAT also says other countries seem to be falling in line: Mexico suggested it could be persuaded if the U.S. tweaked the resolution in some unmentioned ways. China and Russia also hinted they won’t veto. (FYI: TP said yesterday that the U.S.’s lobbying effort was sucking wind.)

A front-page Post piece says the U.S. has agreed to Turkish demands not to let Kurds in northern Iraq establish any kind of autonomy after Saddam goes. As expected, Turkey also said it will be sending troops across the border just to make sure. They said they plan to stay behind U.S. troops. Really? “You never know,” said the head of Turkey’s ruling party. “They may go further.”

A piece inside the Post says that as part of the cost of Turkey onboard, the U.S. has offered to loosen restrictions on Turkish textiles.

The Wall Street Journal has an interview with Spanish Prime Minister José María Aznar, who has some suggestions for how Bush might help his European allies: “I told the president that we need a lot of Powell and not much of Rumsfeld.”

The NYT, alone among the papers, fronts word that North Korea fired up its nuclear reactor yesterday—a step toward producing nukes. The move came shortly after Secretary of State Colin Powell praised Pyongyang for having made “a wise choice” not to restart the reactor. In a nice bit of anti-sensationalism, the Times reminds that the activation of the reactor wasn’t the most provocative move North Korea could have made. It will take about a year for the reactor to make enough fuel for one nuke. A live reprocessing plant is what could quickly turn Pyongyang into Nukes-R-Us, and that plant hasn’t been restarted yet. 

The NYT and WP both off-lead NASA’s release of e-mail correspondence sent during the Columbia’s flight in which mid-level engineers essentially predicted what would later happen to the shuttle. NASA officials said the engineers were just “what-iffing” and that they expected a safe landing. But the e-mails aren’t so clear on that. “Any more activity today on the tile damage (discussion) or are people just relegated to crossing their fingers and hoping for the best?” wrote one engineer. The concerns never made it to top managers.As the Post says up high, NASA safety experts asked the Pentagon during the shuttle’s mission to try to take some photos of the potential damage, but the request was canceled because managers had concluded that the foam debris that hit the shuttle posed no “major problem.”

The LAT’s shuttle piece takes a different tack, dissing the Boeing study that concluded the shuttle wasn’t in any danger from the falling foam. That’s the study that led NASA managers to discount the what-iffing. The LAT cites various experts saying the study ignored important, disturbing data. As one former NASA consultant put it, “It should have assumed the worst, not the best.”

A front-page Post piece, by the first-rate Susan Glasser (who did some fab reporting from Afghanistan), notices that despite the Kuwaiti government’s post-Gulf War promises, it hasn’t democratized. Glasser blames, among others, the U.S., which never pushed the emir to keep his word. Glasser also says the Kuwaiti government has been sucking up to Islamic theocrats.

The Post fronts, and others stuff, the Supreme Court’s ruling that prosecutors can not use RICO conspiracy laws—originally meant to nab Soprano-types—against abortion protestors who block access to clinics. (Here’s a Slate piece on RICO.)

The LAT and NYT front word that New York City settled on a proposal to rebuild Ground Zero. Architect Daniel Libeskind’s design, unlike the other finalist, will keep the open pit—and the retaining walls—at the World Trade Center. The design will also include the world’s largest tower, a 1,776-foot spire.

The editors at the WP are clearly big sports fans. They decide to front a story on Chinese NBA phenom Yao Ming mere months after every other publication in the country gushed about him. And their headline—”THE TAO OF YAO”—is simply genius. If only it hadn’t been used first by ESPN, Sports Illustrated, or—hello!— Slate.

But let it be said, Today’s Papers is a mensch … As the WP’s style section reminds, some greedy music retailers got caught in a price-fixing scheme, and by order of the court are offering a wee bit of cash to anybody who bought a CD between 1995 and 2000. No proof of purchase necessary. Just go to The deadline is March 1, and as it stands, claimants—such as TP—will get about 17 bucks each. But the more people that sign up, the lower that’ll go. So, shush.