Today's Papers

Baghdad’s Bombings Back

The Wall Street Journal tops its world-wide newsbox with sectarian violence in Iraq picking up again as about 75 people were killed, mostly by about five insurgent bombings in Baghdad. The Washington Postleads with a Pentagon survey concluding that about a third of returning Iraq vets have sought mental health help. That’s nearly twice the rate of those who’ve returned from Afghanistan. The New York Timesplays down the study, putting it inside and saying it showed a mixed bag: “Most of the veterans who sought help did not receive diagnoses of mental illnesses like post-traumatic stress, and many consulted clinics just once.” The NYT leads with Saddam Hussein’s trial finally showing some meat, with prosecutors offering what they said were papers signed by Saddam ordering the execution of 148 men and boys. USA Todayleads with the housing market continuing to chill. Existing home sales in January were down for a fifth month in a row. The Los Angeles Timesleads with the head of the L.A. archdiocese, Cardinal Roger Mahony, decrying what he dubbed “hysterical” anti-immigrant sentiment in Califonia and the nation as a whole. If Congress passes a pending bill to require socal welfare groups to ask immigrants for proof of legal residency, Mahony said he’ll order his priests to ignore it.

Bombs at three Shiite mosques killed about 20 people. A couple of Sunni mosques were also attacked. As the WP notes, attacks on holy sites “had been rare in Iraq until last Wednesday.” Two British soldiers were killed in the usually peaceful Shiite-dominated south, and a GI was reported killed near Baghdad.In terms of the capital, says the LAT, “explosions continued to sound as night fell

The WP’s fronter on Iraq announces “an emerging trend in Iraq: the expulsion of Shiites from Sunni towns.” The Post is thin on the stats of the “trend.” But the NYT mentions some: “Shiite families from volatile areas north and west of Baghdad fled their homes after Sunni Arab threats. The families numbered about 10, though Shiite political leaders put the total at around 60.”

There’s still no corroboration of yesterday’s big Post report, cited to Baghdad’s morgue, that 1,300 Iraqis have been killed since last week’s shrine bombing. The NYT again points out that the two directors of the morgue recently put the figure at 246. The LAT says authorities have logged 519 deaths from “unnatural causes,” though that includes car accidents, suicides, and such.

The Post doesn’t seem to be backing down. “PRESSURE SEEN ON PROBES AT BAGHDAD MORGUE,” announces the paper. And who saw that pressure? The U.N.’s former human rights chief for Iraq, who recently left the job and spoke to the WP from … Sydney. The Post also quotes an Interior Ministry official putting the number at 1,077—except that again the other papers don’t have that. Meanwhile, the Post follows up with the director of the morgue, who basically repeated what he told the NYT: Only a few hundred bodies have shown up. The WP puts that in the 11th paragraph.

The Post goes inside with the head of military intel telling senators things are going downhill in Afghanistan. Suicide attacks increased “almost fourfold” last year, and the number of roadside bombs, long the insurgent weapon of choice in Iraq, “more than doubled.”

Knight Ridder reports that U.S. intel agencies warned the White House in the fall of 2003 that the Iraq insurgency was taking off and was made up mostly of locals—both contrary to the administration’s assertions at the time. “Frankly, senior officials simply weren’t ready to pay attention to analysis that didn’t conform to their own optimistic scenarios,” said one official who was then chairman of the National Intelligence Council.

The Post stuffs Attorney General Gonzales perhaps hinting that the administration’s extra-legal snooping is wider than known. Gonzales previously told senators that the wiretapping “is all that [the president] has authorized.” But in a recent letter to senators, he clarified, “I did not and could not address … any other classified intelligence activities.” “It seems to me he is conceding that there are other NSA surveillance programs ongoing that the president hasn’t told anyone about,” said one lawyer for previous Republican administrations.

The WP off-leads Canada’s Western forests being chewed up by the pine beetle, which is now thriving in the toastier temperatures granted by global warming. The bug has infested an area three times the size of Maryland. And scientists are worried it’s heading south. “We are seeing this pine beetle do things that have never been recorded before,” said one forestry officer. “People say climate change is something for our kids to worry about,” added a researcher. “No. It’s now.”

A piece inside the NYT notices that the administration has cut back on auditing royalty payments for oil companies drilling on public land even as the administration has approved much more of the drilling.

Also, please note, Jews tend not to drink the blood of Christian babies … From the NYT’s correction box:

The Istanbul Journal article on Feb. 14 about “Valley of the Wolves—Iraq,” a popular Turkish-made film that depicts American soldiers in Iraq as tyrannical occupiers, referred imprecisely to scenes cited by the screenwriter as “inspired by real events.” While two such scenes—the killing of Iraqis by American soldiers and the mistreatment of inmates at Abu Ghraib prison—have been documented, the scene depicting an American Jewish surgeon at Abu Ghraib removing organs from Iraqi prisoners for shipment to recipients in New York, London and Israel is fictional.