Today's Papers

Putin on a Happy Face

The Washington Postleads with U.S. commanders in Iraq shifting their resources a bit—sending more forces to the Syrian border—as they guess that foreign infiltration is increasing. The Post says the conclusions are based on “fragmentary information and intuition.” As the paper notes right up there in the 13th paragraph, commanders aren’t talking about thousands of fighters but in “the neighborhood of several score.” The Wall Street Journal world-wide newsbox and Los Angeles Timeslead with Presidents Bush and Putin hanging and making nice after both essentially grumbled about the other in the past few days. As they prepared to toast the 60th anniversary of the Nazis’ defeat, Bush took the wheel of Putin’s chick-magnet, a 1956 Volga. “I’m having so much fun, we’re going for another lap,” said Bush.

The New York Timesleads with a bipartisan working group of governors and state legislators getting ready to recommend Medicaid cuts. Besides limiting a few benefits, the proposal includes states getting together to negotiate lower drug prices (which the Fed can’t do, courtesy of last year’s drug bill). Anyway, none of this nailed down; it’s from a document marked “for comment only” that was, in the media version of Immaculate Conception, “obtained by The New York Times.” USA Todayleads with states and municipalities increasing taxes on cell phones, partly in order to replace lost revenue from landlines.

The LAT alone fronts the eight U.S. troops killed in Iraq over the weekend in various attacks.

The WP goes A19 with a government report that the reconstruction effort in Iraq is so fractured among U.S. agencies that the government might not be able to figure out how much projects are costing. The rebuilding effort is currently split among 12 agencies. The Journal also mentions the audit but goes with a totally 2004 angle: Security costs are driving up costs.

The NYT frontsa bunch of chemical plants in northern New Jersey, particularly a chlorine plant, that mark “what terrorism experts call the most dangerous two miles in America.” According to the Times, the EPA estimates that the chlorine plant has the possibility of being a “lethal threat” for a 14-mile radius, home to 12 million people. (Another study, not cited by the NYT, put the number at just a couple million.) The paper says the chlorine plant is so poorly guarded that a “reporter and photographer drove back and forth for five minutes, snapping photos with a camera the size of a large sidearm, then left without being approached.” Federal counter-terrorism funding for Jersey has been cut this year from $99 million to $60 million.

Two things about the Times chemical piece: First, the paper glides by the political angle, waiting until the 35th paragraph to mention, in passing, that congressional efforts to bolster chemical-plant security “have been stalled, in part by industry lobbyists.” Former EPA Chief Christine Todd Whitman gave the issue a bit more attention in her recent book, writing, “Although both Tom [Ridge] and I agreed such legislation was necessary, strong congressional opposition, led by some Republicans on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee and the House Energy and Commerce Committee, to giving EPA even this modest additional statutory authority, made it difficult to secure administration support.” (The New Republic has also probed the lack of action.)

Second point about the chemical piece: Despite all the wandering about, the Times published no close photos and it doesn’t name the plant. It’s an understandable decision, though one that TP disagrees with. As it happens, other papers and media outlets have already outed the place: It’s the Kuehne Chemical Co. plant in Kearny.

Two months ago, the NYT and LAT led with Egypt’s announcement that it would have big-time free and fair elections. At the time, the papers all noted that the proof would be in the details. Two months later the details are here: Egypt’s rubber-stamp upper-house of Parliament laid out the actual rules, and as it happens they effectively bar independent candidates. Problem is, that’s neither clearly nor prominently conveyed in the itty-bitty wire piece in the NYT, or the longer one in the LAT.  So far as TP sees, the Post skips it altogether. The details come courtesy of a blog.

The Post fronts the death of Lloyd Cutler, a Democratic power lawyer once dubbed “corporate godfather by day and Sister Teresa by night.” Cutler, who worked for Roosevelt, Clinton, and the Rolling Stones, was 87.

The NYTteases another in-house report it commissioned to ponder how the paper can increase reader trust. Among the potpourri of proposed reforms: Stop friggin’ using anonymice so much, stop being silent and proud and starting tussling with critics (in a mature fashion), and make it easier for readers to contact editors and  reporters. The report concludes (as TP once griped) that at the Times such contact is “harder than any other major American newspaper.” The report should be available this morning here—TP had no such luck as of 4:00 a.m. EST.

Bursting his bubble … The LAT notices that President Bush had a “youth round-table” in Holland yesterday, during which, in an apparent failure of advance work, the president was actually asked questions. “You made many laws after 9/11,” said the first student. “I’m wondering, will there be a time when you drop those laws and when you decrease the measures?” The next second student said the U.S. has been involved in “a lot of wars,” and wondered how Americans cope. That was the last query heard by reporters, who were subsequently “ushered from the room.” The chat continued, but was not “included in the White House transcript.”