Today's Papers

Trustee Coverage?

Everybody leads with the latest on the Terri Schiavo case: Her parents’ lawyers have now appealed to the Supreme Court, which has previously declined to hear the case. Meanwhile, Florida Gov. Jeb Bush is trying to get state custody of Schiavo. The governor succeeded in getting a state judge to consider an affidavit from a neurologist who said Schiavo might not be in a permanent vegetative state.

The New York Times, and to a lesser degree the Washington Post, do background checks on that neurologist. He’s a member of a foundation for “Christian bioethicists,” and his clinic said that while he “observed” Schiavo for an hour he “did not conduct an examination.” One neurologist who did said, “He has to be bogus, a pro-life fanatic. You’ll not find any credible neurologist or neurosurgeon to get involved at this point and say she’s not vegetative.”

The Post fronts and NYT teases the latest Medicare and Social Security trustees’ report, with both papers highlighting the report’s conclusion that the financial health of Medicare is “much worse than Social Security’s.”(The Post’s Page One chart is particularly evocative—eh, in Medicare graph terms.)

Thus ends the similarities between the two trustee pieces. The NYT spends a lot of space recounting that the trustees’ estimate that the Social Security’s trust fund will run out in 2041 rather than 2042. The WP, meanwhile, says it’s only the two semi-independent trustees who are raising the alarm about Medicare. Indeed, the Post says the Bush administration has been running interference on the two and didn’t include them in yesterday’s press conference.

But the prize for the worst trustee coverage goes to the Los Angeles Times. The piece begins: “The overseers of the government’s two biggest domestic programs estimated Wednesday that Social Security was one year closer to financial crisis than they had figured a year ago, but that Medicare was one year further away.” Compare that to the Post’s first-sentence summation of the report: “Medicare’s financial problems far exceed Social Security’s and are in urgent need of attention.” 

The NYT has a helpful editorial, explaining the report’s flexible math.

Following up on its own story of a few weeks ago, the Post announces (on A15) that despite official claims to the contrary, the CIA’s “ghost prisoners” effort in Iraq was routine, codified in memos, and something top military intel officials were cooperating with.

The LAT sits down with some military intelligence officials who say the Pentagon’s spooks operation is growing by leaps and bounds. Apparently, that includes an increasing number of specialized soldiers—aka spies—being snuck into unknowing countries. “They’re trying to penetrate jihadi organizations and they’re doing battlefield reconnaissance in preparation for special operations in various places,” said one retired military intel man. “It’s happening all over the Islamic world.” The current officials also said they don’t think the military is required to tell Congress about such extracurricular activities.

The NYT and USA Today both go Page One with about 80 insurgents, including some foreigners, reportedly killed when their training camp was attacked by hundreds of Iraqi troops backed by U.S. support. If accurate, of course, it suggests Iraqi forces are improving. But that’s a big if. The KIA count comes from the Iraqi government, which also said a foreign fighter had been captured. But 12 paragraphs into the NYT piece, a U.S. military spokesman, said there were about 80 insurgents at the camp in total, he didn’t know how many were killed, and none had been taken prisoner.

The Times’ headline: “U.S.-BACKED IRAQIS RAID CAMP AND REPORT KILLING 80 INSURGENTS.” (The WP’s coverage, run inside, isn’t much better.)

Meanwhile, a wire reporter with the AFP has visited the camp and found about 30 insurgents still hanging around, alive, and insisting that only 11 of their fellow fighters died. The reporter later asked an Iraqi police commander to explain the presence of the loitering rebels and was told “Iraqi and U.S. troops withdrew from the area.”