Today's Papers

National Missile Defect

The New York Timesleads with a missile interceptor failing to launch during a key test. The last such test was about two years ago; it also ended in failure. USA Today leads with Sprint buying Nextel for $35 billion, to become the nation’s third largest cell carrier and increasing the likelihood that Sprint subscribers will soon be reliving their youth and using cellphones as walkie talkies, a la Nextel users. The Washington Postleads with Major League Baseball rejecting D.C.’s terms for financing a new stadium, meaning the Expos might not be heading to the capital after all. The Los Angeles Timesleads with lip-service: President Bush said he supports a strong dollar. “Comments about a strong dollar are kind of like saying, ‘I’m all for education, motherhood and apple pie,’ ” said one financial analyst. “It’s pretty much meaningless.” That seems to be a consensus; in fact the analysts cited agreed with their colleague who said, Bush “would prefer a weaker dollar, but he can’t come out and say it.” Well, whatever: “BUSH PLEDGES STRONGER DOLLAR.” 

Though the papers fly by it, the Pentagon’s chief tester has said the missile defense system isn’t ready to be deployed. The president has promised to do just that by the end of 2004, and the military is hoping to get it up and running ASAP. A Pentagon spokesman said the test wasn’t a failure, rather, it never happened: “I definitely wouldn’t categorize it as a setback of any kind,” he said. “We weren’t able to complete the test that we had planned.”

The LAT’s lead also flags Vice President Cheney saying the administration supports more tax cuts, which the paper notes “some analysts said could deepen the budget deficit.” (Some?)

The Journal, Post, and NYT frontthe SEC’s chief accountant announcing that Fannie Mae cooked its books and must restate its earning for the past four years. The change could add up to $9 billion in losses. Instead of following generally accepted accounting practices, the official said, Fannie Mae “developed its own unique methodology.” There are a handful of other ongoing investigations of the company, including a criminal one.  

The Wall Street Journal’s world-wide newsbox lead with, and except for the NYT other papers stuff, the latest from Iraq: The election campaign formally began, and a bombing near a Shiite shrine in Karbala killed at least seven and wounded about 40, including a top aide to Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani who’s on the cleric’s electoral ticket. The Post details the apparent assassination attempt.  

The papers note that Iraq’s defense minister, who’s allied with Prime Minister Allawi, bad-mouthed Sistani’s list of mostly Shiite candidates, charging they’re flunkies for Teheran.  “I want to warn that Iran is the most dangerous enemy to Iraq and to all Arabs,” he said. Referring to the Shiite candidate and former exile likely to top Sistani’s list, the minister added: “We will not let him come back and become an Iraqi prime minister.”

The LAT mentions that another candidate on Sistani’s list was assassinated Saturday.

The paper also emphasizes that Allawi himself formally entered the race and announced a slate of candidates, but declined to release the names.  This morning, a top Iraqi communications official was assassinated.

USAT says on Page One: “ARMY ADDING ARMOR IN IRAQ; $4.1B Allotted to Protect Vehicles; June Target Set.” The article itself says the military “would not specify” how much of that money is newly allocated, and thus evidence of an initially slack response. But judging by a transcript of the press conference the story is based on, some significant chunk of the $4.1 billion does actually seem to have been allocated long ago. In other words, why is this on Page One?

The NYT previews up front a number of former top military lawyers coming out against attorney general nominee Alberto Gonzales, who was behind some of the administration’s torture memos. “When we say ‘only follow the Geneva Conventions as much as it suits us,’ when we take steps that the common man would understand is torture, this undermines what we are supposed to be, and many of us find it appalling,” said one lawyer, a retired general.

The WP mentions inside that the Pentagon just sent Gitmo detainees letters advising them of their right to an attorney, a mere six months after the Supreme Court ordered the military to do so. Lawyers complained that the letters are so vague as to be nearly useless. For one thing, they don’t tell detainees that pro-bono lawyers are standing by to represent them.

The Post fronts a two-year-old government survey concluding that twenty percent of relevant FDA scienists said they had been pressured to approve a new drug despite concerns about its safety or effectiveness.Thirty-six percent said they were at most “somewhat confident” in the FDA’s drug decisions. The WP got the survey via some advocacy groups, who FOIAed it. The paper’s headline: “MANY FDA SCIENTISTS HAD DRUG CONCERNS, 2002 SURVEY SHOWS.” Is there a better term than “many,” say, “roughly 1/3”?

The NYT mentions inside that the administration plans to dip into the kids’ vaccination budget in order to pay for doses of an experimental flu vaccine, a move that has some state officials ticked off. 

The Post fronts and Journal goes high with word that Time Warner said it will pony up $510 million to settle the government’s investigation into fraud at AOL.

Boys off the Bus…
From the NYT:

Dr. Allawi’s campaign started on an odd note, when American and Iraqi forces closed off sections of central Baghdad so he could leave the Green Zone and cross the Tigris River to declare his candidacy at a sports club. But Western reporters judged the three-mile journey to be too hazardous in the bus provided by Allawi aides, and remained behind.