Today's Papers

Monster Truck Sally

The New York Times’ lead, in a bit of catch-up, says that the U.S., worried that Iran is speeding up its covert nukes program, is now pushing now the U.N. to rule that Tehran has violated the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. The Los Angeles Times leads with word that the Bush administration yesterday lifted U.S. sanctions against Iraq. U.N. sanctions are still in place, but the decision allows for humanitarian shipments from the U.S. as well as commercial deals that are done under the auspices of a government contract. The administration also said it plans to introduce a Security Council resolution as early as this week to lift the U.N. sanctions. While Treasury Secretary John Snow said the loosened U.S. rules are “wholly consistent” with continued U.N. sanctions, a number of analysts told the Wall Street Journal that that’s not the case. USA Today leads with the suspected mobile bio-weapons lab that the military has found and that a named Pentagon official finally talked about yesterday. The Washington Post leads with, in fact devotes a near-banner headline to, word that the Washington Wizards’ owner fired Michael Jordan yesterday.

U.S. officials now say that the evidence of Iran’s nukes program is so strong that the U.N. will have little choice but to declare Iran in breach of the treaty when member nations meet about the issue next month. The Times also says that the administration’s position on Iran is facing the now-common schism between moderates who want to negotiate and hawks who want to put the pressure on. By the way, though the Times suggests that the concerns about the speeded up program are new, they were widely reported in March.    

USAT’s lead is careful not to suggest too much about the big-rig, “POSSIBLE ARMS LAB STUDIED.” And the story itself says right up in the first paragraph that “more tests are needed before a final conclusion can be reached.” Given that, should USAT really be leading with it? The other papers stuff the truck.

The NYT says that Iraqis are increasingly upset that “many members” of the Baath Party have been appointed to leading positions by U.S. administrators. The Post had a similar piece yesterday, but the Times’ story adds good color, detailing how hundreds of doctors and nurses protested yesterday against the appointment of a former senior Baath official as health minister.

The WSJ says that a U.S. commander in Mosul ordered troops to take over a local TV station after it broadcast an Al Jazeera program. According the Journal, an American officer who objected was relieved of her duties. The story appears to have been filed close to deadline and doesn’t have comments from senior officials.

In a development that doesn’t get flagged by the papers, there appears to be the beginnings of a cholera epidemic in Basra, with perhaps a few hundred cases so far. According to the BBC, southern Iraq has such outbreaks every year during the summer, though doctors says that due to the current state of Iraq’s infrastructure this one is shaping up to be worse.

The NYT says inside that U.S. intel officials now believe that North Korea is reprocessing small amounts of plutonium for nukes. Yesterday’s WP mentioned this, too. North Korean officials recently told U.S. negotiators that they had already turned 8,000 spent fuel rods into weapons-grade material, but U.S. officials now think they were exaggerating. “That’s the whole point of all of North Korea’s behavior,” said one analyst. “You don’t know whether it’s a threat or whether it is the truth.” For the record, earlier this week, Today’s Papers highlighted a NYT story reporting that the administration, having concluded that North Korea is intent on getting nukes, is now focusing on trying to stop Pyongyang from exporting them. TP missed a bit of history: The WP, and to a lesser degree the LAT and USAT, all said two months ago that the administration was heading towards that position.

A front-page piece in the LAT looks at just how angry State Department officials are about the increasingly central role the Pentagon is playing in developing foreign policy. Said one current diplomat, “I just wake up in the morning and tell myself, ‘There’s been a military coup,’ and then it all makes sense.”

The president’s jet landing on a carrier last week continues to generate ink. USAT fronts it, emphasizing Democratic criticism. The WP puts it inside,  headlining, “SHIP CARRYING BUSH DELAYED RETURN, Carrier That Spent Night off San Diego Could Have Gone Straight to Home Port.” That’s true in a literal sense, but misleading. While the ship was indeed close to shore and did hang for a night, Navy officials insisted there’s a good, non-presidential, reason for that: It’s standard operating procedure. Ships, as in this case, often arrive early but wait until their scheduled time to dock so that they don’t arrive before family members do. (Of course, the papers should double-check that contention. The Post, which focuses on partisan trash-talking, doesn’t.)

The Journal says that the Bush administration plans to create a special unit within the Homeland Security Department to track down torturers, death-squad members, and other international criminals who are living in the U.S. Human-rights advocates have long complained that torturers have been left undisturbed in the U.S.

The story of Jayson Blair, the now-former NYT reporter who was recently busted for plagiarism, keeps getting worse. A number of publications have noticed that Blair not only plagiarized, he appears to have invented facts and filed from places he never really visited. The WP’s Howard Kurtz adds plenty of examples. Among them, he points to a piece Blair wrote about the father of former POW Jessica Lynch. The story, datelined Palestine, W. Va., seemed to include an interview with Lynch’s dad, who says he never met Blair and adds that the story was “all bogus.”

According to Kurtz, a NYT editor “said Blair was hired as part of an intermediate reporter program in 1999, after a summer internship the year before, and that the paper had been aware of his substandard record.” Does that mean that before the paper hired Blair it was aware of his “substandard record”? If so, why did it hire him?