Today's Papers

Great Shake

Everybody leads with the 8.7-magnitude quake that struck off the coast of Sumatra, killing hundreds. Reports are still sketchy, but damage appeared to be centered on the island of Nias, a frequent surf stop just off the Sumatran coast. “About the victims, we cannot count them now,” one local official told Reuters. “We only know there are many buildings flattened.”

There haven’t been reports of significant tsunamis, but scientists haven’t ruled them out considering the size of the quake and how close it was to land. “There’s got to be a local tsunami,” one geophysicist told the Los Angeles Times. “I wouldn’t be surprised if we wake up tomorrow and find there’s some villages destroyed.”

The temblor ranks among the 10 largest on record, and scientists said it was probably related to last December’s shift. “What happened today was not a surprise,” said one geologist. “And it may not stop here.”

Unlike last year, India, Indonesia, and others issued tsunami alerts within minutes—which prompted thousands to flee—and then rescinded them a few hours later. As the New York Timesemphasizes, there’s still no early-warning tsunami system slated for the Indian Ocean, and building one would take years.

The NYT off-leads a sneak-peak at a presidential-appointed panel’s report on U.S. intel failures. Citing “officials who have seen the report’s executive summary,” the Times says the commission focuses much of its heat on the CIA’s Iraq work but doesn’t have any major bombshells. The commission, which the NYT notes operated behind closed doors, and whose creation was initially opposed by President Bush, was not specifically mandated to look at the other side of the question: how the administration portrayed the intel it received. The NYT mentions that the commission made a “case study” out of the much-flawed and rushed 2002 National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq. What the Times doesn’t mention is that the original classified NIE had lots of caveats and CYA language that somehow disappeared from the version that was made public in the run-up to the war.

Celebrating its get, the NYT fronts an interview with a top Sunni cleric, Sheik Harith al-Dari, who said he’s a fan of the insurgency. “We ask all wise men in the American nation to advise the administration to leave this country,” he said. Nothing new there. What’s fresh is buried in the 24th paragraph: “There are indications that Mr. Dari may be softening his line.” He dropped a recent list of conditions, adding yesterday, “We do not insist that the Americans withdraw at once.” The Times’ headline: “SUNNI LEADER VOWS SUPPORT FOR INSURGENCY.”

The Washington Post, sadly, stuffs a fascinating Anthony Shadid story about college students in Basra who protested in the streets after cleric-appointed goons crashed a co-ed picnic, beating students left and right. “The students broke through the barriers of fear,” said one elder organizer. “This was the first mass response to religious power.”

At least 12 people were killed in Iraq, including seven Shiite pilgrims by a bomb hidden in a bike basket.

The LAT fronts a dozen bankruptcy judges bemoaning the new tough-love/luck bankruptcy law. “The folks who brought you ‘those who can pay, should pay’ are pulling the stuffing out of the very part of the bankruptcy law where debtors do pay,” said one judge. “The advocates aren’t trying to fix the bankruptcy law; they’re trying to mess it up so much that nobody can use it.”

USA Todaysays above-the-fold that police in Minnesota have arrested a juvenile in connection with last week’s school shooting. Officials think he helped shooter Jeff Weise plan the assault and maybe meant to join him. FWIW: Only the NYT prints the name of the kid; he’s the son of the reservation’s tribal leader.

Everybody mentions that in an effort to keep comity, opposition leaders in Kyrgyzstan have agreed to let the new parliament stick around even though the recent elections seem to have been cooked and most of the “winners” were the now toppled president’s buddies.

Writing a NYT op-ed, a U.S. journalist who lived in Kyrgyzstan says it’s not a simple morality play, and the opposition itself is filled with shady characters. To label last week’s events the latest velvet revolution is “akin to stuffing an elephant into a gorilla skin.”