Today's Papers

Camp Closed

The New York Times leads with the U.S’s continued offensive north of Baghdad, including an attack on a guerrilla camp that killed “scores” of Iraqi fighters. Four U.S. soldiers were injured, and a U.S. Apache helicopter was shot down; the two crewmen weren’t hurt. USA Today leads with word from administration officials that the high-intensity portion of the war cost about $60 billion. The Washington Post leads with word that a major medical devices company pleaded guilty to and agreed to pay a $92 million fine for covering up thousands of cases in which ones of its products, an implant meant to strengthen parts of the aorta, malfunctioned. The Los Angeles Times leads with L.A.’s archbishop calling for the removal of the church-appointed overseer who is supposed to make sure that the church implements its anti-pedophilia reforms. Unnamed bishops have recently sniped to the media about the overseer, and he in turn has accused them of being like “La Cosa Nostra.”

The Pentagon said a key target in the ongoing Iraq operation is “a terrorist training camp” housing “Baath Party loyalists, paramilitary groups,” and maybe some foreigners. Now, Today’s Papers wouldn’t want to attend camp with any fedayeen, but their recent attacks have been guerrilla actions, not terrorist attacks: They’re targeting soldiers, not civilians. Despite that, the Wall Street Journal and USAT adopt the Pentagon-preferred language. The other papers use scare quotes.

According to USAT’s lead, “IRAQ WAR COSTS LESS THAN WAS EXPECTED.” That’s odd, because $60 bil is right on target with what the Bush administration, after much prodding to makes its estimates public, predicted it would be. The White House has declined to release estimates about how much the occupation and reconstruction will cost.

The NYT mentions that despite edicts for Iraqis to turn in their weapons, all of 386 rifles have been turned in.

Everybody fronts the latest from the Mideast: Israel launched another helicopter strike in Gaza, this time killing a Hamas militant, along with his wife and their 3-year-old daughter. Four bystanders were also killed and about 30 injured. (The army later apologized for killing the family members, saying it didn’t know they were there.) Later in the day, an unidentified Palestinian shot and killed an Israeli man in the West Bank.

The Post takes a skeptical look at Israeli Prime Minister Sharon’s stated strategy of pursuing negotiations while at the same cracking down on terror. Sharon has ordered the army to “completely wipe out” Hamas. As the Post and others note, Sharon reportedly said at a Cabinet meeting that the Palestinians are “crybabies” and that Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas is “like a chick who hasn’t grown his feathers.”

A piece inside the Post notices that the administration yesterday moved away from any criticism of Israel:“The issue is not Israel,” said spokesman Ari Fleischer. The issue is “terrorists.”The Post notes that while officials insisted there has been no change in message, they refused to repeat their earlier criticism of Israeli attacks.

There are a plethora of pieces following up on yesterday’s Page One Post story that carried White House officials’ contentions that President Bush only offered bogus intel in his State of the Union—about Iraq trying to buy uranium from Niger—because the CIA hadn’t told the White House that it was bunk. The NYT’s Nicholas Kristof, who has done some of the best legwork on the phony tip, suggests the key thing that’s bogus now is the White House’s seeming CYA leak to the Post: “It was well-known throughout the intelligence community that it was a forgery,” one named former CIA official told Kristof. An Associated Press story reiterates that point. Meanwhile, the Post has its own confusing follow-up piece. On the one hand the story again says that the CIA downplayed its own debunking of the supposed uranium sales. But the WP also says that when the State Department highlighted the allegations last December, the CIA “raised an objection“—that happened at least one month before the State of the Union.

Kristof’s column also continues to serve as a prime spook-confessional spot. “It was a foregone conclusion that every photo of a trailer truck would be a ‘mobile bioweapons lab’ and every tanker truck would be ‘filled with weaponized anthrax,’ ” one former military intel officer said.

Everybody mentions inside that the House approved expanding the child tax credit to include low-income families. But in a Bizarro-world kind of twist, the likely outcome of that passage is exactly the opposite of what it seems. That’s because the House bill includes $82 billion in additional tax cuts, and some senators have vowed that they’ll filibuster such big-ticket cuts. The House bill also omitted language instructing the government to send out the credits this summer. In other words, the House bill may actually reduce the chances that the tax-credit expansion will happen soon.

Most of the papers’ headlines try to give a sense of that—USAT online, “Child tax credits on hold”—but the Post whiffs it and instead leaves readers in the dark: “HOUSE APPROVES TAX RELIEF BILL: $82 Billion Measure Aimed at 6.5 Million Poor Families.” Another reason that headline smells: As the NYT notes in its first sentence, the bill “provides 96 percent of its benefits to middle- and upper-income taxpayers.”

The NYT off-leads word that the Justice Department, responding to last week’s scathing internal report, is tightening its guidelines for IDing and locking up suspected terrorists. For instance, said one unnamed official, illegal immigrants will “no longer automatically be considered a special interest case just because they happen to register at the same DMV office as one of the hijackers.”

Everybody fronts the death of Oscar-winning actor Gregory Peck. He was 87. The papers also all front the death of defining TV anchor David Brinkley. He was 82. The Post says that unlike many of his peers, Brinkley wrote his own stuff, including his autobiography, which was titled, “David Brinkley: 11 Presidents, 4 Wars, 22 Political Conventions, 1 Moon Landing, 3 Assassinations, 2,000 Weeks of News and Other Stuff on Television and 18 Years of Growing Up in North Carolina.”