Today's Papers

Saudis Get Syria-Us

The New York Timesand Los Angeles Timeslead with Saudi Arabia becoming the latest to tell Syria it needs to boogie from Lebanon. Syrian ruler Bashar al-Assad got the earful when he arrived for a confab in Riyadh. “They know what they should do,” one unnamed Saudi official told the wires. “They should withdraw immediately.” The Washington Post’s top non-local spot also goes with the Saudi smackdown. USA Todayleads with the proliferation of what military doctors are calling TBI, or traumatic brain injuries, among GIs in Iraq. Essentially super-sized concussions, they usually happen to soldiers who’ve been wounded by blasts that would have killed them if they hadn’t been wearing body armor. One survey of wounded Marines and sailors at a hospital in Bethesda showed 83 percent had symptoms of TBI.

As everybody notes, Saudi Arabia’s call is particularly significant since Syria had been relying on the Saudis for support. Meanwhile, Assad has been looking to negotiate, so far in vain.  “Syria says, ‘Well, what are we going to get for [withdrawal]?’ ” one Egyptian analyst told the LAT. “The Americans are calling the Syrian bluff for nothing and forcing Syrians to come to their knees.”

The Post picks up one news outlet with the counterintuitive take on the Syrian-Saudi summit. It was a love-in, said Syria’s official news agency, “Points of view were identical.”

The NYT goes Page One with U.S. prisons in Iraq bursting at the seams. That’s partly a result of big sweeps and partly of a seemingly slow vetting process. Right before the elections, the military had suspended the release of any prisoners. The Post flagged most of this, inside, six weeks ago. And frankly, the Times doesn’t add much, relying heavily on one Lt. Col. Johnson, a spokesman. A possible hint why: “Though this reporter arrived at Abu Ghraib on the military police convoy from Tikrit, soldiers at the prison did not allow him to look inside any of the compounds.”

The Wall Street Journal says the Pentagon is “struggling” to find trainers for Iraqi troops. With Army and Marine units overstretched, “there is a huge fight over where we find” them, said a Pentagon officer. The story isn’t on Page One, or actually a story at all. It’s a small squib in the Washington Wire, on Page 4.

There were two suicide bombings in Iraq, killing five policemen. The military also announced three U.S. soldiers were killed Wednesday in two attacks.

The NYT fronts Fed chief Alan Greenspan tentatively endorsing a national consumption tax, which he said would be just the ticket to encourage needed savings. Still, rather than replacing the income tax with a national sales tax, Greenspan suggested a mix. “Don’t try for purity,” he said. As it stands, the Bush cuts already moved the tax code a bit away from taxing savings.

As the Post emphasizes, some Democrats took big swings at Greenspan, mainly charging he was playing a double-game by bemoaning a deficit he helped create by endorsing Bush’s tax cuts. “I’m not a big Greenspan fan,” said Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid. “I think he’s one of the biggest political hacks we have in Washington.”

The Times’ Paul Krugman joins in the pummeling, bemoaning Greenspan’s “fiscal three-card monte.”

A frontpage LAT piece says while credit card companies are kvetching that easy-to-get bankruptcies are killing them—thus the “need” for the Senate’s bankruptcy bill—the companies have actually been making a killing, thanks to usurious add-on fees and penalties. (Here’s a graphic plotting the industry’s record profits.) “The idea that companies are losing their shirts on bankruptcies is a lot of bull,” said one industry analyst. “With these rates and fees, the card industry is a gravy train right now.”

The LAT’s piece also details the various ways in which the bankruptcy bill would, what’s the word, screw consumers.The New Republic has a similar indictment sheet: “Morally Bankrupt.” (Sadly, sub-only.)

A frontpage LAT piece says the administration is considering getting forwarding-leaning about funding Iranian dissidents inside the country. “The guys at the State Department were too afraid to try anything during the first term,” said one administration anonymouse. Only $3 million has been allocated for the job. But the problem is, officials haven’t quite figured out how to spread the (minimal) wealth without branding the dissidents as American lackeys.

Everybody gives some frontpage play to Steve Fossett completing the first solo non-stop flight around the world. On takeoff, 82 percent of the plane’s weight consisted of fuel. Or as the NYT explains, the craft weighed as much as a commuter plane when it took off and an SUV on landing. The plane was designed by Burt Rutan, the same guy who built SpaceShip One and the old-school Voyager. The flight took 67 hours. And how did Fossett go to the bathroom? Depends…