Today's Papers

Nagourney Weaver

The New York Times and Los Angeles Times lead with two FDA advisory panels voting overwhelmingly to recommend that the emergency contraception known as the morning after pill be sold over the counter. The FDA usually goes along with the panels’ decisions. The morning-after pills, marketed as Plan B, would cost about $25 per package and could be on shelves by spring. Five states—Washington, California, Alaska, New Mexico, and Hawaii—already allow pharmacists to dispense Plan B without a prescription, but few women know about it or take advantage of it. The Wall Street Journal says up high that the U.S. has frozen the Iraq reconstruction bidding process while top officials “weigh what could be deep changes to the way the contracts are awarded.” Last week, the Pentagon announced that primary contracts will be limited to “coalition partners.” The WSJ says that with the delay, the $18.9 billion in promised reconstruction work might not get started until early summer. The Washington Post’s lead says documents found with Saddam show that a small band of Saddam loyalists have been funding guerrilla attacks. “It could be this was—to borrow [Hussein’s] phrase—the mother of all networks,” said the 1st Division’s top general. “But we just don’t know. We’re only 48 hours into this.” The general added that Saddam didn’t seem to be guiding the guerrillas so much as providing moral support. “These networks reported to him in a way that might” be characterized as “a son reporting to his parents,” said the general. The LAT fronts a similar story. USA Today leads with, and the Post fronts, a preview of Saddam’s interrogation, which Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld said will be led by the CIA. Among the super-secret tricks revealed to the nation’s largest paper: Interrogators will ask Saddam questions they already know the answers to.

According to late-night reports caught by the LAT, an explosives-laden truck collided with a small bus near a police station in Baghdad, killing at least 10 people.

In other attack news, three GIs were wounded by a roadside bomb near Tikrit, while there were pro-Saddam riots in Fallujah, Ramadi, and Mosul. Six Iraqis were killed and one GI was wounded in those incidents.

In Fallujah, the crowd chased Iraqi police officers from the mayor’s office before GIs came in and reclaimed the building. The LAT says rioters “blew up” the building. “What could the police do?” asked an Iraqi police captain in the NYT. “We had one choice: to attack them with tear gas. But we didn’t have any tear gas.”

The papers mention that the military busted in on a guerrilla meeting in Samarra and arrested 73 men in attendance, including a man who’s believed to be a key financier. The military said it found blasting caps, detonation cord, car batteries, mortars, and artillery shells. “We believe it was not just your local neighborhood meeting,” said an Army officer.

The NYT, LAT and WP all front Germany and France agreeing to a “substantial reduction” in Iraq’s debt and promising to push other creditor countries to do the same.

The NYT fronts a poll concluding that after Saddam’s capture, President Bush’s approval rating has jumped six points, from 52 percent to 58 percent. A poll in yesterday’s Journal had the same numbers. A majority of respondents also said that the administration still doesn’t have a post-war plan.

In a Post story stuffed on A35, the paper says Italian investigators have concluded that Ansar al-Islam is working with al-Qaida to bring recruits into Iraq from Europe. The investigators say they have evidence that one of the bombers in the August attack on the U.N.’s Baghdad HQ arrived from Italy.

A NYT op-ed says Osama “is using Iraq the way a magician uses smoke and mirrors.” Rather than committing serious resources or recruits there, the author argues, al-Qaida is using Iraq as a big recruiting commercial while focusing on actually attacking softer locales.

Thepapers say inside that the Bush administration has dropped plans to remove millions of acres of wetlands from federal protection. The White House made the move after receiving 133,000 comments opposing the proposal.

The Post’s Howard Kurtz notices that the Kerry campaign is hopping mad after NYT reporter Adam Nagourney wrote the following in Monday’s paper:

Mr. Kerry’s press secretary, Stephanie Cutter, sent an e-mail message to news organizations listing remarks Dr. Dean had made over the past six months that she said demonstrated that his opposition to the war was “politically driven.” Cutter put a note on the top of the statement demanding that it be reported as “background” and attributed only to a Democratic campaign.

Kurtz says Kerry’s team is “deeply unhappy” about the outing. “We’ve never had a problem with ground rules before,” said Cutter. That’s probably true, which is exactly the problem. Journalists’ lemminglike and seemingly self-serving tendency to incorporate such no-name attacks in their stories is de rigueur and frequently serves to obscure things and misinform readers. Good for Nagourney for not playing along.