The Washington Post and the Los Angeles Timeslead with news that NASA may attempt to repair the outside of the space shuttle while it is still in orbit. The New York Timesleads with word that Iraqi leaders promised to have the constitution finished by August. The Wall Street Journaltops its world-wide newsbox with a different version of the same issue, reporting instead that Iraqi leaders may need more time and that the decision would be made today. USA Todayleads with the judgment that the country is not prepared for a biological attack.
The WP and LAT lead with, the NYT and WSJ front, and USAT teases news that NASA, worried about the shuttle’s re-entry, is hoping to decide today whether to send an astronaut on a spacewalk to remove the two pieces of heat-resistant fabric that are currently sticking out of the craft. But NASA is waiting to hear from experts about whether the protruding bits, which make the craft less streamlined, could generate enough heat during re-entry to pose a risk. The repair would be the first to the underbelly of the shuttle, and some are worried because it’s never been done before. The WP reports that NASA sees such a repair as an “easy thing” with only a “remote” risk, and the NYT notes that fixing the problem could be as easy as grabbing the material and yanking it out. But as a retired astronaut put it, “There’s not anything with the shuttle that you can’t make worse by trying.”
The NYT disagrees with the LAT and the WSJ about what’s going on with Iraq’s constitution. American officials have been pressuring the leaders to stick to the Aug. 15 deadline, even if that means that some differences remain unaddressed. The administration’s plans to reduce troops this spring depend on the outcome. The NYT’s lead story claims that Iraqi leaders agreed to finish the country’s constitution by the original deadline, declining a proposal for a six-month extension. But the LAT said the final decision would be made today and that members of the constitution committee actually expected to request an extension. The WSJ reports that members of the drafting group said they needed another month, but President Talabani said it would be done on time. So, who’s right? The AP and Reuters report that in the end the commission went with the original deadline but made it clear that the decision was only made Monday and was up in the air until the last minute. So, why did the NYT report that committee members had already “turned down” the proposed extension on Sunday?
The United States is “woefully unprepared to respond to a bioterrorism attack,” says USAT, citing government and public-health officials. Despite the $20 billion that has gone toward bioterrorism preparedness since 2001, the last four years have brought only six months of progress, says the National Center for Disaster Preparedness. Some problems: The government has stockpiles of medical supplies, but local officials can’t distribute them fast enough; a government program to encourage big pharma to produce vaccines and antidotes has yet to show results; and hospitals couldn’t handle a surge of patients. As a former HHS preparedness chief put it, “Most cities, if they were to have 10,000 to 15,000 patients, would be brought to their knees.”
The NYT and the WSJ front news about confidential e-mails from two senior Guantanamo prosecutors complaining that the trials had been rigged to produce convictions. Similar criticisms had been leveled by military defense lawyers but were dismissed as efforts to help their own clients. But the cases of these prosecutors would, if anything, have benefited from the rigging of the process. Among the charges: that fellow prosecutors ignored torture allegations; that the members of the trial panels would be handpicked to ensure convictions; and that defendants were prevented from receiving evidence that could have proved their innocence. The messages prompted a Pentagon investigation that found the charges to be without merit.
The WP informs us that John Roberts was part of a legal team that sought “to curtail the use of courts to remedy racial and sexual discrimination.” Roberts, who worked on civil rights issues in the Reagan Justice Department, opposed broadening the right to sue for civil rights violations and challenged arguments in favor of busing and affirmative action. Roberts also advocated narrowing the reach of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, arguing that the law should bar only voting rules that discriminated intentionally and not those that merely had a disparate impact.
The WSJ fronts news that British police arrested seven more suspects in the London bombings. Authorities now believe they have captured all the perpetrators of the failed bombings, but they warned that more attacks are still possible.
The WPand LATtease word that the Sudanese VP, instrumental in the January peace deal that ended the country’s 21-year civil war, was killed in a helicopter crash after losing contact in bad weather. The WP had previously reported that the plane had landed safely.
Cereal number … The LAT reports that health advocates are livid over a Kellogg’s commercial that portrays a “grouchy” bad apple being beaten by a “confident” cinnamon stick in a race to a bowl of Apple Jacks cereal. A voiceover then proclaims, “Apple Jacks don’t taste like apples!” A consumer advocacy group complained, but Kellogg says the campaign “is not intended to disparage apples,” but merely “to communicate the cinnamon great taste of the cereal.”