Today's Papers

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The Los Angeles Timesleads and others go inside with the White House doing a sudden switch and agreeing to brief congressional committees on some details of the warrantless spying. The New York Timesleads with the military stepping up efforts to stop the hunger strikes at Guantanamo Bay. Detainees have been given feeding tubes and then strapped into “restraint chairs,” the latter to stop them from deliberately vomiting. According to the military, 84 detainees were on hunger strike in December. Now four are. Of course how to you define whether somebody is on a hunger strike if you’re force-feeding them?

The Washington Postleads with, and nobody else fronts, President Bush boldly stating that the violent anticartoon protests are bad. It was his first public statement on the issue. The last time the administration made significant comments was on Friday when the State Department condemned … the cartoons. The WP describes Bush’s comments as part of “a shift in White House strategy.” But isn’t it possible the State Department was taking the initiative last week and the White House is just reasserting itself? Meanwhile, Afghan police killed four people during yet more protests outside a U.S. base, although the Post suggests the action was only nominally about the cartoons. USA Todayleads with evidence that government standards for landing on shorter runways aren’t up to snuff. Federal investigators came to that conclusion after looking into the recent crash of a 737 that skidded off the runway at Chicago’s Midway. Given the poor conditions, Boeing says the plane would have needed about 5,800 feet to stop. The runway is 5,826 feet long.

The White House briefed the House intel committee behind closed doors yesterday and will do the same with the Senate intel committee. The move came amid bipartisan pressure, particularly from Republican Rep. Heather Wilson who heads the subcommittee that oversees the NSA and happens to be in a tight reelection race. “There are more questions that I have about operational issues,” said Wilson. “But this is the beginning of a dialogue.” Attorney General Gonzales’ chat with senators earlier this week was limited, among other things, to the legal questions around the program.  

Everybody mentions Sen. Arlen Specter announcing he’s writing legislation that would give the national security FISA court authority over the snooping. “The president should have all the tools he needs to fight terrorism, but we also want to maintain our civil liberties,” said Specter.

The Post fronts a frankly confusing piece saying that the warrantless spying might have been used to get national security warrants, a move the administration had promised top judges on the national security court wouldn’t happen. Worried that the spying might be unconstitutional, the judges insisted that the snooping, in the Post’s wording, “not form the basis for obtaining a warrant.”

There have been previous stories that the spying led to a few warrants being issued, and in those articles it wasn’t portrayed as a problem but as a success. For example, Sunday’s WP mentioned that about 10 U.S. citizens “aroused enough suspicion during warrantless eavesdropping to justify interception of their domestic calls, as well. That step still requires a warrant from a federal judge.” If the snooping isn’t supposed to be used to I.D. targets for warrants and investigation, then what use is it?

For what it’s worth, a lawyer for a Gitmo detainee says his client said that about two dozen detainees quit their hunger strike after “having their feeding tubes inserted and removed so violently that some bled or fainted.” A Pentagon spokesman said force-feeding was done “in a humane and compassionate manner.” As for the restraint chair, which the NYT makes much of, it’s a commercial model: Here’s where you can buy the chair, which is used by prisons and psychiatric hospitals. (The supplier’s motto: “It’s like a padded cell ‘on wheels.’ “)  

The WP goes inside with White House documents showing that, in order to meet its promise to halve the budget by 2009, the White House has plans to trim far more domestic programs than it’s acknowledged. As the Post notes, White House budget proposals historically include numbers over a five- or 10-year window. The recently unveiled proposed budget includes just next year, when as it happens relatively few programs are slated for cuts.

The Wall Street Journal, alone, goes high with an outbreak of avian flu among chickens in Nigeria, the first time its presence has been confirmed in Africa. “We had been hoping that it wouldn’t go to Africa, because it is a continent where the veterinary infrastructure is very weak,” said one U.N. specialist.

The NYT off-leads word that about half the promised trailer homes for Katrina evacuees have yet to be delivered.

Everybody has details on the discovery of the “granddaddy of all tyrannosaurs.” Christened Guanlong, it was around a mere 100 million years before T. Rex.