Today's Papers

Bill of (Few) Rights

The Los Angeles Times’ top non-local spot goes to the House about pass a bill that would stop states from giving illegal aliens driver’s licenses, make asylum claims harder, and mandate that the secretary of Homeland Security “waive all laws” (LAT) in order to expedite construction of border fences. The bill’s slim chances in the Senate have improved after the White House endorsed it. The Washington Postleads with a Pentagon investigation that “generally confirms” Gitmo detainees’ complaints that female interrogators sexually harassed them. That included things like touching the detainees suggestively, making sexually explicit remarks, and smearing some with fake menstrual blood. A former Gitmo translator has also written a book detailing the treatment. The Post notes that the investigation only began in January, after the ACLU uncovered FBI memos complaining about Gitmo abuses.

The New York Timesleads with Hewlett-Packard’s board pink-slipping once-celebrated CEO Carleton Fiorina. The NYT cites her “personality and management style.” The Wall Street Journal, which tops its biz box with Fiorina’s fall, quotes a psychologist who has a name for it: “productive narcissist.” The Journal says Fiorina’s P.N. style used to be lauded. USA Todayleads with the apparent proliferation of state laws giving perks, such as tax breaks, to soldiers on active duty.

The NYT off-leads apreviously undisclosed 9/11 commission report showing that the FAA had lots of vague warnings about al-Qaida in the months before the attack but didn’t do anything to ramp up security. Senior agency officials “were basically unaware of the threat,” says the report. The Times says the White House “blocked” the release of the report for five months. The NYT gets all excited in the first paragraph, saying some of the intel reports “specifically discussed airline hijackings and suicide operations.” Skip down to 11th paragraph for the caveat: The report “finds no evidence that the government had specific warning of a domestic attack.”

As the Journal flags up high, Iraqi officials announced that the final vote count, which was expected today, will be delayed for a bit as 300 apparently tampered-with ballot boxes are recounted. “This will lead to a little postponement in announcing the results,” said one official.

Also yesterday, an Iraqi journalist for a U.S.-sponsored TV station was killed along with his 3-year-old son. A Housing ministry official was also assassinated as were three members of a Kurdish party. And the military announced the deaths of four more soldiers. According to early morning reports, a car bomb in central Baghdad killed at least three.

Asked to assess the counter-insurgency effort, one “senior U.S. Embassy official” in Baghdad told the Post the most optimistic scenario is a political solution that would make the insurgents “less and less effective. And then it will still take you years.”

The NYT teases a fascinating profile of Adel Abdul Mahdi, a leading candidate to become Iraq’s next prime minister. Mahdi is relatively secular and considered a U.S. favorite, but there’s also concern he could be a front man for more religious types. Mahdi also had interesting “boyhood playmates”: Ahmed Chalabi and Iyad Allawi. 

The Post fronts a survey on Social Security and concludes Americans don’t know jack. The “serious misunderstandings” range from underestimating the share of the budget spent on the program to believing that the president’s plan would “protect people from losing retirement money they invested.” (The poll itself also shows respondents spot-on with plenty of questions. See pages 16-17.) Meanwhile, 70 percent said Social Security will go bankrupt, and only about 25 percent said it’s in crisis.

A slightly confusing story inside the Journal says that as part of a “peace deal,” Pakistan’s military paid tribal leaders about $800,000, which the tribal chiefs would in turn use to pay back money al-Qaida had given them. One general also said the military is considering pulling out of the tribal areas so long as “militants abided by the peace deal and not use the region to carry out attacks in Afghanistan.”

The Post fronts new Pentagon personnel rules similar to those just introduced at Homeland Security: Raises will be based largely on performance than longevity. And the Pentagon will use an in-house board to deal with labor-management issues, “shrinking the role” of the current independent board.

The papers mention the administration tripling its tsunami-aid pledge to $950 million. The Post says in the seventh paragraph that some of the money may be used to “reimburse the Defense Department” for its post-tsunami work.

The NYT mentions NASA scientists concluding that last year was the fourth-warmest on record. Two of the three hotter years were 2002 and 2003. The other was 1998. The overall rise, one of the lead researchers explained, is “due primarily to increasing greenhouse gases.”

The LAT and NYT front Saudi Arabia’s first national-level elections, which begin today. Though registration has been “sluggish,” the papers say there is some excitement among Saudis. And a tiny bit of skepticism. The elections are only for municipal councils, whose power hasn’t been clarified. Half of the seats will be filled by government appointees. Women, of course, can’t vote. And oh, political parties are still outlawed.