Today's Papers

Discovery Channeled

The Washington Postleads with the Army relieving one of its top generals of duty over what appears to have been some extramarital hanky-panky. The four-star general—one of only 11 in the Army—oversaw training for the Army and had been pushing for retooled training to better prepare GIs for Iraq. The Los Angeles Timesand New York Timeslead with the Discovery’s early morning landing at Edwards Air Force Base in the Mojave Desert. USA Todayleads with an interview with Homeland Security czar Michael Chertoff, who defended a coming TSA program that will encourage, but not require, passengers to offer some extra info—such as birthdates—when buying a plane ticket. “The average American gives information up to get a CVS [drugstore discount] card that is far more in-depth than TSA’s going to be looking at,” said Chertoff.

The Post says it’s rare for an officer, especially a top general, to get the boot because of an affair. The paper speculates that the Army felt compelled to act for, possibly, consistency’s sake. A few other officers have recently been reprimanded for unauthorized overnight activities. Riffing off an Army spokesman’s quote, the Post also says that in the wake of the detainee-abuse scandal the firing was meant to show the Army “takes issues of integrity seriously.”

There was lots of celebration at the space agency about Discovery, but analysts weren’t impressed. “They are all on happy pills,” sniffed one critic. Apart from fixing the foam problem, NASA now needs to decide whether to keep putting duct tape on the shuttle or cut bait and move quickly to a replacement.

The Wall Street Journal tops its world-wide newsbox (at least online) with a casualty count from Iraq: A blast in Baghdad killed one GI and between seven (WSJ) and 12 Iraqis ( WP). A Marine was also killed in Ramadi, and nine Iraqi security officials were killed in assorted attacks.

According to early morning reports caught by the LAT, four GIs were killed and six wounded when their patrol was hit by a mine in the north. Two Humvees and what police told Reuters was a “larger armored vehicle” were destroyed. The LAT also counts of a total of 22 Iraqis killed by insurgents yesterday.

The NYT teases what appears to have been a group of Shiite gunmen who “ousted” the technocrat mayor of Baghdad. “This is the new Iraq,” said the mayor, an engineer who has no party affiliation. “They use force to achieve their goal.” The gunmen were members of the Badr Brigade, the militia of one of the largest Shiite groups, SCIRI. The now-unemployed mayor had been installed by former Iraq boss Paul Bremer.

Reuters also covers the mayor’s troubles but offers a murkier picture emphasizing what seems to be a power struggle between the mayor’s office and the (elected) provincial council. “It’s absurd to think that I could force my way in,” said the Shiite politician who replaced the mayor. “I only came with five Land Cruisers! [The former mayor] has 100 personal guards.”

A front-page NYT piece looks at one of Baghdad’s more curious, and challenging, businesses: a Chinese food restaurant, complete with takeout.

A fascinating “Cover Story” in USAT says GIs are often now handing over suspected insurgents to Iraqi courts. As a result, the GIs increasingly have to operate like cops. According to one officer in the division overseeing Baghdad, nearly every Humvee in the unit now has an “evidence kit.” One beef: It’s not until deep down that USAT gives a sense of the percentage of suspects actually heading to Iraqi courts. About 650 defendants have been tried, and another 3,300 are awaiting trial. The U.S. is holding nearly 11,000 detainees.

The Post off-leads the White House delaying the release more of Judge John Roberts’ early papers while apparently belatedly poring over the documents themselves. The piece also has conservative activists grumbling that the White House has been needlessly apologetic about some of Roberts’ early conservative work-related writings. “They should be embracing those memos,” said one conservative observer.

Everybody but USAT fronts a judge’s ruling that, at least legally speaking, Disney’s board didn’t screw stockholders when it handed exec Michael Ovitz a $140 million severance package. Ovitz lasted all of 14 months at Disney. CEO Michael Eisner didn’t come out looking great, either. The judge said Eisner “stretched outer boundaries of his authority” and “enthroned himself as the omnipotent and infallible monarch of his personal Magic Kingdom.”

Remember the Egyptian chemist who lived in Leeds and was detained in connection with the London bombings? The LAT and USAT both fronted speculation about him—while the Post suggested there was nothing solid against him. Well, he was just released by Egyptian police who said he wasn’t connected to the bombings. The NYT runs a solid story  on his release. The LAT and USAT don’t—they have short wire stories inside.

A NYT op-ed flags a revelation from the hearings for now-Ambassador John Bolton that was lost in the focus on the man himself: U.S. intel agencies have been listening in on conversations between foreigners and Americans and have often been handing over details of those chats, complete with names, to policymakers:

The big lesson of the Bolton hearings is that there are very few legal protections or policies separating the kind of snooping the United States does on its citizens today from what it did in the bad old pre-Church Committee days. The significance of this revelation will outlive its partisan utility. Rather than drop the matter, Congress should look more deeply into how the intelligence services deal with information they glean about American citizens, and it should ensure that Gen. Keith B. Alexander, who took over as director of the National Security Agency last week, makes it a priority to clarify for the public precisely who can snoop on whom, and when.