The New York Times, Washington Post, and Los Angeles Times all lead with the arrival in Baghdad of Iraq’s temporary leader, retired Gen. Jay Garner. He basically did a meet-and-greet, touring a hospital, a sewage plant, and other spots. The NYT says the administration has planned a four-day “campaign-style trip for the general that seems as much tailored for American television as for the Iraqis.” The leads also mention that Marines briefly came under fire again in the northern town of Mosul, leaving one of them injured. USA Today leads with the Supreme Court’s decision to consider whether evidence obtained from suspects who haven’t been read their Miranda rights can be admissible in court. Such suspects already can’t have anything they say held against them, but the court will now consider whether any physical evidence gathered from their statements can be used. Lower courts have been divided on the issue, while the Justice Department has come out in support of using non-Miranda-covered evidence.
The Post’s lead briefly explores why there still isn’t electricity in most of Baghdad. An engineer with Garner’s team said 60 percent of overhead power lines in the capital have been damaged by the war. And looters have stripped a bunch of power plants. The goal today is to have lights on in 10 percent of the capital.
A front-page Post piece by Barton Gellman says that the administration is “losing confidence” in its own intel about where suspected bio or chemical weapons might be. The military is now hoping to rely on “unexpected discoveries and leads.” The lack so far of any solid finds could mean that Saddam got rid of the weapons and associated documents. Another possibility, as the Post suggests, is that former Iraqi officials have stolen the stuff, particularly the documents, perhaps to make a few bucks and resell them to whomever. There are signs, said Douglas Feith, the undersecretary of Defense for policy, “that some of the looting is actually strategic.” Gellman also mentions that there’s tension within the Pentagon about where the weapons-hunters should focus. Some officials are also ticked that potentially important sites were left unsecured for days after Baghdad fell.
The Post’s piece also takes a moment to smack yesterday’s iffy Page One NYT piece about an unnamed Iraqi scientist who asserted that Saddam recently destroyed his banned weapons and who also led soldiers to an unnamed site that had unnamed ingredients for unnamed chemical weapons. The WP: “Without further details of the find, experts said, its significance cannot be assessed. … Nearly any ingredient for a chemical weapon can also be used for civilian purposes.” Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld—who has, occasionally, served as an ace media critic—also downplayed the report, pointing out that the chemical weapons teams haven’t arrived at any conclusions yet. (Slate’s Jack Shafer also gagged on the Times’ story.)
The LAT fronts a piece on cluster bombs, one of the nastier weapons used in the war. Essentially grenade-sized bombs that disperse in large numbers, some portion of them fail to explode on impact, effectively turning them into mines—which most countries (the U.S. not included) have banned. The LAT says the bomblets are littered around a number of neighborhoods in Baghdad and have caused what one doctor estimated to be hundreds of injuries. U.S. soldiers have cleared some of the devices but haven’t done anything “large-scale or systematic.” One neighborhood has tried to get rid of them on their own:
In a trash-strewn vacant lot, [residents] demonstrated their crude but effective method: pile homemade sandbags around the suspicious object, then drop a wad of flaming paper through a small hole at the top of the sandbag pile. Then get back—quickly. “Yes, it’s dangerous,” said one resident. “But it’s more dangerous to leave them for our children to pick up.”
A front-page WP piece says that because of restrictions the White House imposed nearly two years ago on stem-cell research, scientists haven’t been able to take advantage of recent advances made in the field. Doctors say they’ve found new stem-cell lines that are particularly useful, but research has been stunted because the administration’s policy only allows for federal funding of lines that were already discovered when the policy was made. A White House spokesman said that there are “more than enough” stem-cell lines available.
In a sneak-peek at President Bush’s tentative re-election strategy, the NYT fronts word that the Republican national convention will be held at the beginning of September, the latest it’s ever convened and right near the third anniversary of 9/11. Before then, Bush is expected to spend upwards of $200 million in TV ads and other campaigning—twice the amount of his first go-round. Besides timing the convention to the 9/11 anniversary, the strategy also takes advantage of campaign-finance laws, which limit the amount of cash publicly financed candidates can spend after their parties’ conventions. (The NYT says that Bush is going to take public funds.) In a sense, White House advisers have, of course, already started campaigning, among other things slinging mud at prospective Democratic opponents. About Sen. John Kerry, one unnamed Bush adviser explained, “He looks French.”
The Post’s business section says that the SEC is expanding its investigation into AOL and suspects that the company may have far more shady, profitless ad deals than it has previously acknowledged. The largest questionable ad-sale is a $100 million deal announced back in 1999 with Monster.com. A small story in the NYT, which doesn’t have the details that the WP has, says that the SEC is also looking at a $25 million ad deal AOL had with Vivendi.
Most of the papers reefer the death of Nina Simone, aged 70, one of jazz’s most influential singers and an advocate for civil-rights. There are obits here, here, and here, and here are some audio clips.
The Post notices that Bush may lose a few pro-gun voters after the White House said that the president supports reauthorizing the Clinton-era ban on assault weapons. A (perhaps unscientific) poll on keepandbeararms.com asked visitors if they still plan on voting for Bush. Nearly 80 percent chose, “Hell no, and I’ll tell all of my friends to abandon him, too.” Three percent of respondents were more supportive and picked, “Yes, I would still vote for him, even after he proves that he’s a traitor.”