The New York Times leads with the Department of Homeland Security replacing ineffective screening equipment bought in the post-9/11 security shopping spree. The Washington Post leads with an insurgent attack on a U.S. convoy in Baghdad. The Los Angeles Times leads locally with Gov. Schwarzenegger’s expected decision to reverse budget cuts.
Despite spending $4.5 billion on screening devices, the inspector general of the DHS says that the likelihood of detecting a hidden weapon or bomb has not significantly changed since 2002, when the federal government assumed control of airport screening. Turns out, the equipment bought by the government to monitor the country’s ports, airports, mail, and air is largely ineffective, unreliable, or too costly to operate. Because of a glitch in the design of one device, termed a “dumb sensor” by officials at Newark Airport, cat litter may set off an alarm, but highly enriched uranium may not. The department is expected to spend another $7 billion to upgrade its technology but maintains that this time it will insist on testing prototypes before dropping cash.
Everyone fronts a Saturday morning bombing in Baghdad, which killed at least 22 people, including a group of schoolgirls from a nearby Catholic school—bringing the death toll to 300 in nine days. Two Americans were among the dead. Sunni clerics discovered the bodies of 14 blindfolded men in a landfill in northern Baghdad. A spokesman for the Muslim Scholars Association said the bodies belonged to a group of men who had been detained two days earlier at a vegetable market.
Also from Iraq, after weeks of bickering, jockeying, and speculation, both the NYT and WP front, and the LAT goes inside with, the completion of the Iraqi Cabinet. Although the names of the six previously unfilled posts were withheld, aides to Prime Minister Jafaari say several of the spots have gone to Sunni Arabs. In particular, the WP reports that the minister of defense position will go to Sadoun Dulame, a Sunni Muslim and former security police official who defected from Iraq in 1991. The new posts also include ministers of industry, human rights, and electricity. Both papers note that Prime Minister Jaafari suggested he’d appoint his fourth deputy prime minister, probably a woman.
In Europe to mark V-E Day, President Bush spoke in Latvia on Saturday, noting that although defeat in the World War II led to freedom in Germany, it did not signal the end of oppression in Eastern Europe. Hours before flying to Moscow to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin for Monday’s festivities in Red Square, President Bush used the 60th anniversary of peace in Europe to distance himself from Mr. Putin’s rather undemocratic ways. He continued the war of words with his Russian counterpart by calling for free elections in Belarus (Eastern Europe’s last official dictatorship) and by failing to dispute a reporter’s implication that the U.S. supported the recent regime changes in Georgia, Ukraine, and Kyrgyzstan. “All free and successful countries have some common characteristics—freedom of worship, freedom of the press, economic liberty, the rule of law and the limitation of power through checks and balances,” Mr. Bush remarked.
While the NYT concentrates on tension between Presidents Bush and Putin, * the WP and the LAT focus on the legacy of WWII in Europe. In his speech to Latvian leaders, President Bush seemed to breathe new life into the debate about American culpability at the Yalta summit, which led to the carving up of Eastern Europe after the war and the ultimate creation of the Soviet Bloc. The WP notes that in describing Yalta as a “mistake,” President Bush aligned himself with those Republican critics who claim that FDR sold out Eastern Europe at Yalta. This view directly contradicts the view of others, former President Reagan included, who maintained that the Yalta agreement actually called for democratic elections, a mandate ignored by Stalin. “Let me state emphatically, we reject any interpretation of the Yalta agreement that suggests American consent for the division of Europe into spheres of influence,” Reagan said in 1984. “On the contrary, we see that agreement as a pledge by the three great powers to restore full independence, and to allow free and democratic elections in all countries liberated from the Nazis after World War II.”
All papers go inside with three bombs that killed 11 people and wounded 162 others in Rangoon, Burma, on Saturday. Although most of Burma’s ethnic rebel groups have signed a cease-fire agreement with the government, those that have not are said to be responsible for the blasts.
The WP goes inside with a story on Al Jazeera’s newfound focus on political reform. The network is increasing its coverage of growing reform movements in Kuwait, Egypt, and Morocco; airing hours of footage of street protests in Lebanon, as well as the Palestinian and Iraqi democratic elections; and is set to launch “Al-Jazeera Live”—the “Arab equivalent of C-Span.” Although the Post begins the article by claiming this new focus is a “boon” for President Bush and his push for Mid-East democratization, it later quotes an anonymous senior State Department official as saying, “It’s still the enemy. It still does stupid things.”
Everyone fronts the upset by Giacomo, the previously unknown colt who outran his competition, to win the 131st Kentucky Derby. The Derby, a notoriously quirky race, is Giacomo’s second victory. His first was in October and was promptly followed by five losses. Especially peeved: George Steinbrenner, the owner of Bellamy Road, who had been favored to win the race. All bets are now on Bellamy’s jockey finding a pink slip tucked under his saddle.
Mum’s the word: In the NYT op-ed section, Katherine Ellison, the author of The Mommy Brain: How Motherhood Makes Us Smarter, explains her theory that pregnancy-brain is actually a good thing. If you don’t believe her, just ask her rats. As evidence of the theory that having is a child is a “revolution for the brain,” Ellison cites the work of a team of neuroscientists who “found that mother lab rats, just like working mothers, demonstrably excel at time-management and efficiency, racing around mazes to find rewards and get back to the pups in record time.”