Today's Papers

A New-Clear Deal?

The Los Angeles Timesleads with North Korea’s announcing that the country won’t scrap any friggin’ nukes until the U.S. hands over the light-water nuclear reactor that’s mentioned in the recently announced deal. The U.S., in turn, has said it won’t even discuss the reactor until North Korea scraps its nukes. It’s possible, of course, that one or both sides are—don’t tell anyone—bluffing. The New York Times, Wall Street Journal world-wide newsbox, and Washington Postall lead with New Orleans Mayor Nagin’s reversal, in which he shut down re-entry to the city and warned any residents already there to skedaddle by Wednesday. President Bush said yesterday it wasn’t safe to return. But Nagin said the call was based on Tropical Storm Rita and the fact that the levees are in worse shape than originally thought. USA Todayputs New Orleans across the top, but in the traditional right-hand lead spot goes with a post-address poll showing President Bush’s support at a record low 40 percent. Asked how to pay for Katrina, 54 percent said cut funding in Iraq; just 6 percent endorsed cutting domestic programs.

The “agreement” with North Korea is less a deal than an outline for one. It has no timelines and is full of mushy references such as: The parties will “discuss” North Korea getting a light-water reactor “at an appropriate time.” Now would be an appropriate time for the reactor, says Pyongyang. As if, said, Secretary of State Rice: “At an appropriate time we are prepared to discuss—discuss responding.” The outline doesn’t even mention uranium enrichment. North Korea swears it had no such program, but the U.S. says that’s B.S.

The NYT says the U.S. at first turned its nose up at the deal, but China pressured the U.S. to get on board, reportedly giving the U.S. a few hours to sign on or face a news leak that it blocked a deal. As Slate’s Fred Kaplan notes, the deal’s outlines have been around for a few years, but the White House wasn’t interested.

Rita is scheduled to hit Key West late today. Then it’s expected to strengthen in the Gulf and hit anywhere from Mexico to Mississippi but most likely Texas. An Army Corps of Engineers official said New Orleans’ levees “can’t take much of a hit.” Nagin—not an engineer—said a few feet of storm surge could flood the city again. Asked whether anything much can be done about that, he said, “Just tell people to run.”  

Two weeks after announcing “U.S. INQUIRY SET,” the NYT follows inside, announcing that the president has appointed the White House’s domestic security adviser to investig … analyze the White House’s and others’ Katrina response.

The Post and NYT front the indictment of the White House’s just-resigned top procurement official, David Safavian, for allegedly giving under-the-table help to über-lobbyist Jack Abramoff and then lying to investigators about it. Safavian, who, as the Post puts it, “set purchasing policy for the entire government,” resigned last week, when the indictments were written up. According to a piece in Government Executive magazine last year, he came to the gig with little procurement experience. Before his time in the administration, he worked as a lobbyist with Jack Abramoff. (And a final bit of fun: Safavian’s wife is the top lawyer on the House committee that oversees government procurement.)

Speaking of experience, a front-page Post piecepoints out that an official nominated by President Bush to head the customs and immigration agency doesn’t have much of it.

The WP fronts and others goes inside with yesterday’s confusing action in Basra, where British forces apparently broke into a prison in the southern Iraqi city to free two of their undercover commandos who had been arrested earlier in the day by police. (The police said the commandos shot at them.) Rioters then set fire to some of the British tanks.Basra is largely under the control of (often competing) Shiite militias. According to the Post, “Iraqi police cars circulated downtown, calling through loudspeakers for the public to help stop British forces from releasing the two.” A few days ago, British forces in Basra arrested a few of Muqtada Sadr’s aides.

Another NYT piece focuses on the murder-execution of one of the paper’s Iraqi stringers, also in Basra.

In a USAT interview, the head of the National Guard Bureau complains about what’s always been the case: Reserve troops don’t have anywhere near enough modern gear. “We were underequipped,” he said. “We don’t need tanks and attack helicopters and artillery, but we must have state-of-the-art radios and communications.”

Everybody gives some form of front-page play to former Tyco Dennis Kozlowski and his right-hand man getting eight to 25 years in the pokey for looting their former company. The two will be allowed to work in prison and earn $1.05 daily.

The LAT and NYT front NASA’s new plan to put astronauts back on the moon by 2018 using the same rockets being developed to replace the shuttle. NASA insisted the plan won’t require any extra money.

The LAT catches late-breaking word of the death of Nazi-hunter Simon Wiesenthal. He was 96.

The WP notices that the FBI is looking to fill a few congressionally mandated positions for what a recent bureau memo dubbed one of AG Gonzales’ “top priorities”: fighting porn. A memo from FBI central suggested going after things like “bestiality, urination, defecation, as well as sadistic and masochistic behavior.” One response suggested from a less-than-enthusiastic G-man: “I already gave at home.”