Today's Papers

Future Deficits Secured

The Washington Post leads with a report by a group of nuclear experts saying the federal government’s decision to allow radioactive spent fuel to be stored in pools of water rather than dry storage cases could pose a greater risk in the event of a terrorist attack. The classified report has not been made public since it was issued to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission last summer, but scientists are now coming forward with the information because they fear the federal government has not taken their warnings seriously. The New York Timesleads with news that congressional leaders who traditionally support the Army are now questioning how they will pay for the growing price tag of its plan to reinvent itself into a futuristic, highly technological force. Army officials announced that the first phase of the Future Combat Systems program could cost as much as $145 billion, which is larger than previous estimates. The Los Angeles Times and USA Todaylead with, while the rest of the papers stuff, the latest from the Terri Schiavo situation. As one of the lawyers for Schiavo’s parents announced that “Terri has passed the point of no return,” protesters became more desperate, and five people were arrested for trespassing when they tried to enter the hospice to help Schiavo, who passed her 10th day without food or water. The protesters had their hopes set on Florida Gov. Jeb Bush taking custody of Schiavo, but he said there is nothing more he can do. The Wall Street Journaltops its world-wide newsbox with the return of policy debate in Washington regarding Social Security and Medicare after “Washington’s right-to-life immersion.”

The recently announced price tag on Future Combat Systems, which is part of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld’s plan to build a faster and lighter Army, is still only preliminary and likely to increase. The comptroller general of the United States tells the NYT that the Pentagon’s plans are unaffordable, particularly with the increasing costs of the current conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq. A member of the Government Accountability Office says there is simply no proof that most of the planned weapons systems are even feasible. The Army, on the other hand, says developing these new technologies is essential to fighting terrorism around the world.

USAT and LAT front, while the NYT fronts a picture and WP goes inside with, Pope John Paul II’s attempt, and ultimate failure, to speak to thousands of people gathered in St. Peter’s Square on Easter. It was announced that the pope would give a special blessing, but when a microphone was placed in front of him, he managed to utter only a few inaudible whispers. The pope then proceeded to bless the faithful gathered below by making a sign of the cross. The public appearance, lasting approximately 12 minutes according to all the papers except USAT, which says the appearance lasted six minutes, was the longest since he was hospitalized last month. Everybody mentions this was the first time Pope John Paul II did not preside over the Mass on Easter since the beginning of his tenure 26 years ago.

The NYT fronts a look at one of the biggest safety risks facing Iraqis today: kidnappings.  Although Western media tend to focus on high-profile cases of foreigners taken hostage in Iraq, it is far more common for locals to get kidnapped for ransom money. In the last year and a half, as many as 5,000 Iraqis have been a victim of these kidnappings, and children are particularly vulnerable.

A front-page story in the WP reveals that pharmacists around the country are refusing to fill prescriptions for female contraception, including birth control and the morning-after pill, because they say it interferes with their moral or religious beliefs. Although some of these pharmacists will transfer the prescription to another nearby pharmacy, others refuse to do so and even include a stern lecture to the women who come with a prescription. This has led to women not being able to receive time-sensitive medication, and some fear that it may intimidate teenage girls from receiving the prescription they need.

All the papers go inside with the latest news from Kyrgyzstan, where politicians from the old and the new legislatures argued over who could legitimately rule the country after President Askar Akayev fled from office in the face of mounting protests late last week. Although the new parliament began convening earlier this month, they came into power through a disputed vote, and most of them are Akayev supporters. According to early-morning wire reports, the old legislature decided to disband on Monday and leave all governing responsibility to the new parliament. Confusion still seems to be running through the country.

The LAT, NYT, and WP mention the Egyptian government’s arrest of approximately 100 members of the Muslim Brotherhood, a banned opposition party, yesterday. The group was planning a demonstration in front of the Egyptian parliament to demand faster election reforms, but it was blocked by thousands of police officers. The arrests occurred when the group reconvened in two other locations. Demonstrations have been banned in Egypt since 1981.

In an effort to cash in on the great appetite the American public seems to have for religious entertainment, several TV networks are currently developing comedy and drama series that have spirituality as a central theme, reports the WSJ. Of course, networks can’t help but add their own twist to this religious programming. NBC, for example, is developing a drama called Book of Daniel, in which Aidan Quinn will play the role of a drug-addicted cleric who talks about his problems with a “hip, modern-day Jesus.” The cleric will have to deal with his daughter getting arrested for marijuana and having a gay son. For its part, Fox is developing a series titled Briar + Graves, about an excommunicated priest who fights evil in the name of God but also likes hard liquor and guns. Not surprisingly, some think this strategy might backfire on the networks.