The New York Timesleads with “White House and Air Force officials” giving a heads-up (warning?) that the Air Force is asking the president to sign off on policy that would open the door for putting offensive weapons in space. The directive hasn’t been put in print yet, so the Times has to do a bit of guesswork. An Air Force spokeswoman explained, carefully, that the policy isn’t focused on “putting weapons in space” but rather on “having free access in space.” The Washington Postleads with a bipartisan group of senators hunting so far unsuccessfully for a last-minute breakthrough to fend off the impending filibuster showdown. USA Todayleads with a government audit concluding that after Hurricane Frances hit Florida FEMA paid out $31 million to people who weren’t hit by the storm. The paper says that fits in with a long pattern of FEMA flubs. The Los Angeles Timesleads with L.A.’s runoff elections in which Councilman Antonio Villaraigosa cleaned the clock of incumbent Mayor James Hahn. Villaraigosa will become L.A.’s first Latino mayor in a century.
The NYT says the final decision on opening the door for space weapons could happen in a few weeks. “Space superiority is not our birthright, but it is our destiny,” said the head of Air Force’s Space Command last year. “Space superiority is our day-to-day mission. Space supremacy is our vision for the future.” The commander’s name: Gen. Lance Lord.
As a Page One peer-into-the-future Post pieceexplains, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist plans to introduce one likely-to-be-blocked judicial nomination today. And after a few days of debate, Frist will then probably move for a vote to put the kibosh on the filibuster. One of the only swingers in the potential fight is Republican Sen. John Warner, who declined to say how he will vote and expressed a certain sense of kinship with Trappist monks: “I think I can pursue my goals more effectively by being quiet.”
The LAT says that with both parties’ bases fired up, a compromise isn’t likely. “We feel like there should be zero compromise, no deal,” said one conservative activist.
The NYT reefers the White House’s continued lashing of Newsweek for the magazine’s since-retracted report on Quran abuse. Spokesman Scott McClellan said the magazine should “help repair the damage,” perhaps by “pointing out what the policies and practices of our United States military are.” The Times has a helpful summary of the magazine’s (widely misread) apology:
Newsweek’s retraction dealt only with its mistaken assertion that the report on a months-long Pentagon investigation was expected to confirm the toilet accusation. But around the world, discussion continued on the larger issue of whether such abuse ever occurred at Guantanamo, as released prisoners have asserted over the years.
A piece inside the Post details the long history of allegations about mistreated (but not necessarily flushed) Qurans at Gitmo. Detainees have made most of the charges, but a few Americans at the base have backed them up.
The NYT and LAT front U.S. immigration officials arresting Cuban exile and suspected terrorist Luis Posada Carriles, who had been hanging in Miami and was hoping to be granted asylum. Carriles has admitted being behind some mid-1990s bombings of tourist spots in Havana and is suspected in the 1976 bombing of a Cuban airliner. Despite reports about his presence in Miami, the Bush administration had stayed mum, saying it wasn’t sure Carriles was in the country. An immigration spokesman said Carriles is being held while officials decide “what we are charging him with and what his custody status will be.”
The NYTflags the Iranian foreign minister’s historic visit to Baghdad, a visit that came just two days after Secretary of State Rice swung through the neighborhood. The “political message of this visit is very important, notably in its timing,” said the minister’s Iraqi counterpart. USAT says a Shiite cleric was assassinated in Baghdad yesterday, and the bodies of two missing Sunni clerics were found.
The NYT and WPboth now have reporters filing from Uzbekistan. The Post’s piece is chock-full of eyewitness accounts of last weekend’s government-run massacre, while the Times sticks to the big picture. Both stories are worth reading. But it’s the NYT’s headline that’s most noteworthy—for being bad: “UNDER PRESSURE, UZBEK PRESIDENT RAISES DEATH TOLL FROM CLASHES.” PresidentKarimov did up the number of dead by about 150, but as the article itself emphasizes, he mostly kept on lying, for instance low-balling the count by hundreds, adding, “Only terrorists were liquidated by government forces.”
A piece inside the Post looksat the U.S.’s historically tight relationship with Karimov. “This is a big mess for the U.S. because we’ve seen this coming for a long time,” said one (non-human-rights) analyst.
The other nuclear scenario … With the media packs settling down to enjoy the filibuster fight, Post quasi-columnist Dana Milbank notices that a conservative think tank and a liberal one joined with the U.S.’s comptroller for a press conference to raise the alarm about the “nightmare” that is the future budget. “The only thing the United States is able to do a little after 2040 is pay interest on massive and growing federal debt,” said the comptroller. “The model blows up in the mid-2040s. What does that mean? Argentina.”
There were no cameras, not a single microphone, and no evidence of a lawmaker or Bush administration official in the room—just some hungry congressional staffers and boxes of sandwiches from Corner Bakery.