The Wall Street Journal’s world-wide newsbox and Washington Postlead with the Senate smacking the White House and voting 90-9 to reinforce the military’s restrictions on interrogations of detainees. A White House veto, which has been threatened, won’t do any good against those numbers, but the Post reminds that GOP leaders in the House are against the amendment as well.The Los Angeles Timesleads with, and others front, the growing Republican insurrection over the nomination of Harriet Miers. “Right now, I’m not satisfied with what I know,” said Republican Sen. Trent Lott. “I’m not comfortable with the nomination.” The New York Times leads with two sets of scientists concluding that the 1918 influenza strain—which killed about 50 million people—probably started out as a bird bug, similar to the virus currently making its way around Asia. USA Todayleads with, and the NYT fronts,the Supreme Court considering whether the federal government has the power to, effectively, put the kibosh on Oregon’s assisted suicide law. At issue is a 2001 decision from then-Attorney General John Ashcroft that federal drug statutes trump Oregon’s law; Ashcroft had threatened to revoke the licenses of Oregon doctors who prescribed lethal doses of meds. Newly hired Chief Justice Roberts appeared sympathetic to the White House’s case, while the court’s liberals and Justice O’Connor seemed to support Oregon. O’Connor’s vote will count only if she’s around for the decision.
The interrogation measure passed by the Senate last night would force the military, and only the military, to refrain from “cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment.” A White House statement yesterday repeated the threat of a veto and said the measure would “restrict the president’s authority to protect Americans effectively from terrorist attack and bringing terrorists to justice.” The Journal suggests the legislation might survive but be watered down in Senate-House negotiations.
Looking to tamp down concerns about Miers, White House envoys hosted two closed-door meetings with conservative leaders. At which point the concerns took over. The envoys “got pummeled,” said one participant. “I’ve never seen anything like it.” The Post has good dirt on the scrum. Apparently, one of the White House’s men—Ed Gillespie—suggested the unease about Miers “has a whiff of sexism and a whiff of elitism.” At that, says the Post, “irate participants erupted and demanded that he take it back.” (Gillespie did, sort of.)
There are no live strains of the 1918 virus; it was reconstructed by scientists. The discovery that it mutated from the avian flu is obviously foreboding, but it also could be enormously useful: Scientists might be able to monitor how far the bird flu is from mutating into a big people-killer. Researchers now think there are 10 changes needed for the virus to make the turn. Apparently two have happened so far with Asia’s avian flu.
The NYT sees the most import in the virus discovery—”This is huge, huge, huge,” says one scientist quoted up high. The Post, meanwhile, urges caution, emphasizing the unknowns: It’s unclear, for example, if the avian flu “will ever acquire all the genetic features necessary for rapid, worldwide spread.”
The Journal fronts a look at the U.S.’s avian flu preparations, or the lack of them. “We are not prepared for a pandemic,” said Health and Human Services Secretary Michael Leavitt. The administration is about to unveil a $6 billion to $10 billion preparation plan. But what the Journal focuses on is the U.S.’s lack of a “surge” capacity for vaccines. Vaccines are high-risk and don’t make big bucks, so most companies aren’t interested in making them. Leavitt wouldn’t go into detail on the administration’s plan, and it isn’t clear whether it will address the vaccine-production issue. (Not mentioned but potentially worth exploring: HHS’s assistant secretary for public health emergency preparedness—the point person for responding to flue pandemic—seems to have limited expertise in public health as well as emergency preparedness.)
The NYT off-leads, and others go inside with, Iraq’s parliament backing down from its quite creative interpretation of election laws, which would have effectively rigged the coming constitutional referendum and ensured Sunnis couldn’t defeat it. The U.N. had complained loudly about the rule change, and a State Department spokesman called the reversal “a positive step.” Meanwhile, between 25 and 36 Iraqis were killed when a bomb exploded in a Shiite mosque in Hilla. The LAT says the mosque was “full of mourners who had gathered to remember a restaurant owner slain Monday by insurgents.”
The NYT gives the glimpse of the sausage factory that is the Iraqi parliament:
Most members appear to have voted Sunday without clearly understanding what they were voting for, and then reversed themselves on the orders of their party leaders, who were themselves taking orders from the United Nations. “They told us, please don’t discuss this or make objections, just vote for the statement,” Shatha al-Musawi, a Shiite lawmaker, said of the Shiite leadership.
The WP fronts and others go inside with the feds looking into whether a Filipino-American filched classified papers while he worked in the vice president’s office about four years ago. The officer was recently caught stealing files from the FBI. And ABC News, which broke the story, says the officer has admitted to passing along documents from the White House. Apparently, the papers were intel assessments of the Philippines’ president and were given to opposition members.
The Post fronts and others go inside with CIA chief Porter Goss’ decision not to go after any agency people for pre-9/11 snafus despite a (classified) inspector general’s report that had called for just that. The report had named about 20 current and former employees, including one man named George Tenet.