Today's Papers

Parsing the Pakistan Meeting

Everybody leads with President Bush’s visit to Pakistan, but the papers differ on what to make of his meeting with Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf. The New York Times and Los Angeles Times focus on Bush’s refusal to give Pakistan a nuclear deal similar to the one he handed India only days before. But that aspect of the meeting gets barely a mention in the Washington Post, which instead focuses on Bush’s praise of Pakistan’s anti-terrorism efforts and Musharraf’s dubious commitment to democracy.

The NYT seems to undermine its own choice of headline, “BUSH RULES OUT A NUCLEAR DEAL WITH PAKISTANIS,” by pointing out that there was never any chance of Pakistan obtaining a deal. But the Times says “it was striking that the president spoke so directly” about the differences between Pakistan and India in front of Musharraf, as the US has long tried to balance relations between the two rivals. In an allusion to Pakistan’s problems with proliferation and terrorism, Bush said he explained to Musharraf that “Pakistan and India are different countries with different needs and different histories.”

In its lead, the Post devotes a subhed and a good deal of space to a Pakistani crackdown on political leaders planning a protest of Bush’s visit. In the city of Rawalpindi, police beat some protesters with bamboo sticks as foreign journalists looked on. The incident, which gets one-sentence coverage in the LAT and NYT, also went unmentioned by the two leaders. All the papers point out that Bush seems more concerned about Pakistan’s anti-terrorism efforts than Musharraf’s mixed record on democracy.

The Post Web site also has a great photo of Bush looking ready to charge the mound during a game of cricket at the Islamabad College for Boys.

The NYT reports that serious technical problems continue to slow Iran’s nuclear ambitions, with experts telling the paper that obstacles “remain at virtually every step on the atomic road.” The Times does a good job of breaking down the technical jargon (with the help of this graphic) and says Iran’s main problem involves the complicated construction and operation of centrifuges used to enrich uranium. The report seems to back up the claim by American intelligence agencies that it will take at least 5 to 10 years for Iran to manufacture enough fuel for a nuclear weapon.

The WP fronts the White House cracking down on leaks of classified information. The Post says the administration’s efforts “include several FBI probes, a polygraph investigation inside the CIA and a warning from the Justice Department that reporters could be prosecuted under espionage laws.” But while a number of government employees are feeling the heat, the media seems to be safe for now. Way down in the story we’re told that investigators have not contacted the reporters who broke the news of the secret CIA prisons and the NSA’s warrantless surveillance program.

The NYT and WP front the Pentagon inspector general ordering the Army to open a criminal investigation into the death of Pat Tillman, the NFL star turned Army Ranger who was killed by friendly fire in Afghanistan in 2004. The new probe will examine whether negligent homicide charges should be brought against members of his unit. Three previous investigations (the AP says four) into Tillman’s death found no criminal wrongdoing and, according the NYT, no new evidence prompted the inspector general’s decision. Tillman’s family has been very critical of the previous investigations and only the LAT wonders “whether the announcement was the Pentagon’s latest attempt at damage control, a public move meant to show the military was not trying to play down the incident.”

Everybody reports on the growing but civil dispute over the post of prime minister in Iraq. The ruling alliance of Shiite parties has nominated Ibrahim Jafari for the job, but Iraq’s Kurdish president joined the country’s leading coalition of Sunni Arab parties on Saturday in calling for a less divisive candidate. In a sign that Jafari may be on his way out, the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, the largest party in the Shiite bloc, issued a statement saying it was open to negotiations.

Two British papers, the Sunday Telegraph and the Sunday Mirror, report that the U.S. and Britain are planning to pull all their troops out of Iraq by the spring of 2007. No American paper picks up the story, which is based on quotes from unnamed sources in the British defense ministry.

In a video broadcast on Al Jazeera, al-Qaida’s No. 2 leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri, read from his usual script and urged Muslims to attack the west. He also counseled Hamas not to recognize peace deals signed by the Palestinian Authority with Israel.

In Chechnya, the young leader of a paramilitary group accused of human rights violations has been appointed prime minister. Ramzan Kadyrov, 29, the son of an assassinated Chechen president, has been accused of corruption, torture, and ordering kidnappings. Vladimir Putin awarded him the Hero of Russia medal in 2004.

In business news, the board of Berkshire Hathaway has chosen a successor to multibillionaire investor Warren Buffett, but they’re not saying who it is.

IRS Humor … The NYT reports that the IRS is reminding Hollywood stars that the plush gifts they receive for attending tonight’s Oscars ceremony are taxable. In a statement on Friday, IRS commissioner Mark Everson said, “We want to make sure the stars ‘walk the line’ when it comes to these goodie bags.”