Today's Papers

Rehnquist Won’t Relinquish

The Los Angeles Times, Wall Street Journal world-wide newsbox, and Washington Postall lead with Chief Justice Rehnquist saying he’s sticking around. “I am not about to announce my retirement,” he said in a statement. “I will continue to perform my duties as chief justice as long as my health permits.” According to one of his former clerks, “He wanted to get the trucks off his front lawn.” Citing “someone who has been officially briefed on the matter”—whatever that means—the New York Times’ leadsays Karl Rove did indeed chat with columnist Robert Novak about CIA agent Valerie Plame before Novak published a story outing her. But according to this single-sourced account, Novak was the one who rang Rove and brought up Plame. USA Todayleads with, and the NYT fronts, a federal study showing that elementary-school students are making big strides in both math and reading while older kids are stagnating. While the White House quickly credited the No Child Left Behind Act for the improvements, researchers behind the study said that’s unlikely since their tests were given just a year after the NCLB was enacted. USAT sees another, partial explanation: “The typical 9-year-old in the USA now reads more each day than a 17-year-old.”

Novak’s original column outing Plame cited twoadministration officials. Reportedly it’s the first official who told him about Plame and her until-then secret employer. Novak then supposedly mentioned it to Rove, who simply responded, “I heard that, too.”

The NYT’s background on the single source for all this:

The person who provided the information about Mr. Rove’s conversation with Mr. Novak declined to be identified, citing requests by Mr. Fitzgerald that no one discuss the case. The person discussed the matter in the belief that Mr. Rove was truthful in saying he did not disclose Ms. Wilson’s identity.

The WP files a late-night catch-up fronter on Rove and Novak, getting the same details from a (the?) source, whom it IDs, more helpfully, as “a lawyer involved in the case.” Now, who might that be?

Both papers cite their source saying Rove originally learned about Plame from—get this—a journalist. The Post gets curious and asks Lusk … “the lawyer” whether Karl would like to share who he originally talked to. According to the lawyer, surprise surprise, Rove can’t remember.

A bit of context to keep in mind: Two years ago the Post reported, “A senior administration official said that before Novak’s column ran, two top White House officials called at least six Washington journalists and disclosed the identity and occupation of Wilson’s wife.”

The Post alone frontsa Pew poll showing that support for Osama Bin Laden has taken a dive in many Muslim countries, particularly in those that have faced major terrorist attacks: Indonesia, Morocco, and Turkey. It’s not all good news: Pakistan and Jordan both showed increased confidence in Bin Laden—a bit over half those polled in the former said they admire OBL.

The Journal mentions that most Senate Republicans blocked an effort to add $800 million to the budget for mass-transit security. As the NYT flags, homeland security chief Michael Chertoff defended the feds’ focus on aviation. “The truth of the matter is, a fully loaded airplane with jet fuel, a commercial airliner, has the capacity to kill 3,000 people,” said Chertoff. “A bomb in a subway car may kill 30 people. When you start to think about your priorities, you’re going to think about making sure you don’t have a catastrophic thing first.”

USAT and LAT front word that British investigators are now looking for an Egyptian chemist who studied for a semester in the U.S. The LAT says he rented an apartment where “the explosives were assembled.” The WP isn’t so sure, saying he helped another friend rent the place, and investigators don’t know whether he was involved.

Four months after a Marine officer called Fallujah the “the safest city in the country,” the NYT’s Ed Wong visits and says insurgents are making a comeback—this, despite tight security measures, including badges for residents. Among the other issues: The Iraqi government has stopped doling out reconstruction money. Then there are tensions with the largely Shiite Iraqi Army. They are “not trained,” complained one local leader. “They’re killing people. They’re shooting people in the head.”

The papers notice the U.S.’s announcement that it has captured (yet another) top lieutenant of Abu Musab al Zarqawi. A Web statement from Zarqawi’s group tried to play down the capture but actually acknowledged he was in the group. It called him “no more than a responsible man of one of the brigades in Baghdad.” Iraqi police also foiled three suicide bomb attempts near the Green Zone. Cops shot up one would-be suicide bomber’s car and two men wearing explosives vests. About a half dozen police were killed in other attacks.

On Wednesday, a partially released military investigation detailed “abusive” and “degrading”—but somehow not “inhumane“—treatment of a detainee at Gitmo. The abusive techniques authorized and closely resembled what was later was photographed at Abu Ghraib. TP invited the NYTimes to explain its take: “REPORT DISCREDITS F.B.I. CLAIMS OF ABUSE AT GUANTÁNAMO BAY.”

Still happy to hear.