The Washington Post leads with news that the U.S. has been spying on Iranian airspace for the past year, looking for signs of nuclear weapons. The New York Times leads with news that violence by Iraqi insurgents has been more deadly since the election. The Los Angeles Times leads with news that the militant group Hamas has agreed to halt attacks on Israel as it decides whether to honor the Israeli-Palestinian ceasefire.
Unmanned U.S. planes have been monitoring Iranian airspace in search of nukes, reports the WP. The drones complement satellite recon by sampling the air for traces of nuclear activity. The story elaborates on news broken by Seymour Hersh last month. Iranian civilians first spotted the drones in December but thought they were flying saucers. Though the United States believes that Iran’s nuclear energy program is a front for developing nuclear weapons, Condoleezza Rice said that an Iranian invasion is not on the menu “at this time.”
The NYT leads with an update on the intensifying insurgent violence in Iraq following the election two weeks ago. A suicide bomber blew up a car outside a hospital, a family running a bakery was murdered, and a Basra judge was assassinated. Why the increase? Insurgents may fear that Sunni participation in planning the incoming government will negate the one success they could claim about the election: low Sunni turnout. Meanwhile, growing Iraqi willingness to provide tip-offs about insurgent hideouts and weapons caches suggests “a widespread feeling that control of the country’s affairs was passing into Iraqi hands.”
Hamas and other militant groups have agreed to cease attacks against Israel as they contemplate whether to abide by the cessation of hostilities declared at last week’s summit, reports the LAT. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas met with militant leaders, who agreed to a policy of “quietness.” While they vowed to retaliate against any hostile acts by Israel, they agreed to consult Palestinian Authority officials first.
The NYT fronts an update about what may or may not be an aggressive new strain of HIV. In the case of one New York City man, HIV infection swiftly progressed to full-blown AIDS and proved resistant to nearly all anti-retroviral drugs. The NYC Department of Health declared a new strain but a companion piece points out it is unclear “whether the disease had progressed so rapidly because the virus was strong or the patient was weak.” Either way, officials are concerned about a potential AIDS resurgence as a result of “HIV precaution burnout”—the rise in unsafe sex due to a false sense that thanks to anti-retroviral cocktails, HIV is harmless. “I have spoken to young kids, sometimes here, who say, ‘If I get it, it’s no big deal. I can just take a pill,’ ” said a Brooklyn man who watched his father die of AIDS. “I’m like, ‘Are you stupid?’ “
The WP fronts and the NYT and LAT tease word that Howard Dean ascended to the chairmanship of the Democratic National Committee. In his speech, Dean cast the Democratic Party as the voice of fiscal responsibility, attacking the Bush administration for its “borrow and spend” politics and its “Enron-style accounting to our nation’s capital.” Some were skeptical (including Newt Gingrich, who called the decision to elect Dean a “death wish”), but Dean vowed to spend time in red states. The LAT notes that Dean rejects the idea that the party needs to overhaul its message, maintaining that Democrats should not change what they have “always stood for and fought for.”
NYT fronts a vivid blow-by-blow account of yet another Guantanamo detainee alleging abuse, this time an Egyptian-Australian terror suspect who claims he was beaten, tortured, and sexually humiliated over 40 months of detention in Pakistan, Egypt, Afghanistan, and Guantanamo Bay. The man says interrogators burned him with cigarettes, shocked him, jump-kicked him, doused him with ice water, and showed him pictures of his wife’s face superimposed on naked women next to Osama Bin Laden.
The NYT fronts word that Ahmad Chalabi, the Iraqi exile vilified in the U.S. for his role in making the case to invade Iraq, is jockeying to become prime minister. Last May, the U.S. raided his compound, suspecting that he’d passed on information to Iran. But recently there has been “a substantial change in chemistry between Mr. Chalabi and the American government.” And while becoming PM is a long shot, Chalabi is almost certain to get a seat in the national assembly.
Points of hue … The NYT and WP front big photos of the Gates, the Central Park installation made up of a million yards of fabric blossoming over 7,500 portals. But what color is it? At times, says a NYT review, “It was shiny, like gold leaf, or silvery or almost tan.” But the WP describes the color as a “slightly pinkish ‘hazard orange’ ” reminiscent of an “orange alert.” The artists call it saffron, but the WP objects to that too: ” ‘Saffron’ ought to be the color of paella at midnight in Valencia or of the robes on an Eastern divine.” The LAT explains the discrepancies: In trying to describe their reactions, it says, “Most people talked either gibberish or poetry.”