Today's Papers

Kickback and Enjoy the Dough

The New York Times(national edition) and Los Angeles Timeslead with sneak leaks of the final report of the investigation into the U.N. oil-for-food scandal; it apparently shows that nearly 4,500 companies—from 60 countries—gave Saddam kickbacks. The two countries most represented: Russia and France. As only the NYT briefly mentions, the largest-scale Iraq smuggling actually happened outside the oil-for-food program and—this part doesn’t make it into the Times—was winked at by the U.S. government. USA Todaybanners the lagging government response to Wilma in Florida. There are shortages of gas, and authorities appear to have run out of water and ice in a few spots. “Don’t blame FEMA,” said Gov. Bush, who accepted responsibility and then tweaked citizens, pointing out that he told them to stock up. About 2 million homes are still without power. The Washington Postleads with no news from the Plame investigation: Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald met with the grand jury yesterday and then chatted it up with the federal judge, which obviously means, well, we’ll find out eventually. Right? And yes, the White Sox’s 88-year drought is over.

The LAT and WP front the latest installment of Harriet Miers Troubles: As the LAT says, “one of the nation’s largest Christian advocacy groups” called for her to withdraw. The group was responding to speeches Miers gave in the early 1990s—first flagged in the Post—in which Miers said, among other things, abortion is a matter that should be left to “self-determination.” The speeches, said the group, “indicate a radical feminist worldview, a penchant for judicial activism, race and sex quotas, a liberal characterization of the abortion debate and government spending, and an inability to articulate her positions clearly.”

The Post’s Miers piece headlines Judicial Committee chief Sen. Arlen Specter’s plans to question Miers on her independence from her current boss, particularly regarding the White House’s positions on detainees. 

Another Miers piece inside the Post finds senators wondering about her former firm’s involvement in selling what a Senate committee witness recently called a “classic ‘sham’ tax shelter.” The White House previously said Miers had nothing to do with the deals. But turns out Miers was the firm’s co-managing partner during about half the sales. A lawyer at the firm told the Post, “it’s a fair assumption that she was aware” of the deals.

Miers’ rewrite of her Senate questionnaire was due yesterday. And at least by their deadlines, the papers didn’t hear she turned it in. (Maybe Miers could snag an incomplete.)

As the WP fronts, the White House gave in to pressure from moderate Republicans (in union-heavy districts?) and agreed to restore wage controls for federal contractors doing Katrina-related work. The NYT focuses on President Bush telling Congress to “push the envelope” on domestic spending cuts.

A Page One piece in the NYT says that while the White House’s strategy to avoid potential oil shortfalls rests on a Saudi promise to pump up production, a secret U.S. intel assessment has concluded the Saudis are full of it and don’t have the capacity to crank up production.

Everybody mentions Iran’s president going, well, nuclear. Israel “must be wiped off the map,” he said during a student conference on “The World Without Zionism.” He added, “Anybody who recognizes Israel will burn in the fire of the Islamic nation’s fury.” Top Iranian officials have avoided that kind of talk for the last decade.

There was also a suicide bombing yesterday in Israel; five people were killed by the explosion, which happened at a falafel stand in the coastal town of Hadera.Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for the attack, which was the first bombing in Israel in three months.

The WP profiles an Iraqi who’s an insurgent by night and nowan election-outreach worker by day. “It is a new jihad,” he said. “There is a time for fighting, and a time for politics.” The reporter traveled with the insurgent for five days and among other adventures watched him stuff ballots. The Iraqi also gave a strong sense at the growing rift between Iraqi and foreign fighters. “When al Qaeda came here, I was the first to fight it,” he said. “They kill and slaughter too easily.”

The NYT flags three Sunni parties who’ve joined together to participate in the next set of elections.

Come again? The Wall Street Journal: “JEWISH FAMILY NEARS VICTORY IN LEGAL FIGHT.”