Today's Papers

All by Itself

USA Todayleads with the director of the U.S. reconstruction program in Iraq saying that the Iraqi government should no longer count on American money to complete the country’s rebuilding. Iraq must now fund the projects itself, or find money from other countries. While it is giving up on money for reconstruction, the Bush administration continues to request significant sums to build large bases in Iraq, and that is raising concerns about whether they are being thought of as permanent outposts, reports the Los Angeles Timesin its lead story. The Wall Street Journal tops its world-wide newsbox with, and the LAT and the WP front, the rescue of three peace activists, two from Canada and one from Britain, who had been held hostage since November in Baghdad. British and U.S. troops (the LAT says the operation was “British-led”) acted on information they obtained from two detainees and went to rescue the activists, who were tied up in an empty house. Meanwhile, yesterday’s Iraq death toll was 58, says the WSJ.

The New York Times leads with the news that the American Red Cross is investigating a wide range of accusations of improper, and maybe even criminal, behavior among its volunteers after Hurricane Katrina, as well as possible misappropriation of funds, which could amount to millions of dollars. The Washington Post leads with a preview of next week’s debate in the Senate over immigration and says it is turning into one of the first fights in the 2008 presidential campaign. Some Republican leaders are calling for more border control, while others are supporting the president’s call for a guest-worker program. Republicans face a tough choice with the immigration issue, because if they emphasize border security, they could appeal to their base, but it also risks alienating the middle ground, as well as the increasing Latino vote. The NYT says on its front page that Bush has lost the ability to sway his party on the immigration issue.

The United States is winding down its rebuilding programs in Iraq, which, according to one expert, have been a “dismal failure” that have “left a legacy of half-built projects.” One of the goals was to create jobs for 1.5 million Iraqis, but USAID said last week they’ve only managed to get to 77,000.

Although the House of Representatives approved the money for the bases, which was included in the general war funding, congressional leaders are now asking for explanations on why they are needed. Some lawmakers fear that they could further incite terrorism, since it might help to confirm theories that the United States plans to have a permanent presence in the country for economic reasons.

The Red Cross says that its investigation into the irregularities in the aftermath of Katrina has been going on for several weeks. Besides misappropriated funds and materials, caused by a lack of oversight, there seems to be evidence that some Red Cross volunteers were felons, which is a violation of the organization’s rules.

The LAT fronts, and the rest of the papers go inside with, the increasing pressure from the Bush administration toward Afghanistan’s government to free a man who could be sentenced to death for converting to Christianity. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice called Afghan President Hamid Karzai yesterday to discuss the issue. Although yesterday the WP published a story saying the case was unlikely to go forward, according to today’s NYT the presiding judge said he has not received any direct pressure and that he expects to rule on the case in the next few days. The Afghan Constitution has certain contradictory positions and includes a provision that allows certain crimes to be tried by religious judges. 

The NYT reefers, and the WSJ and LAT go inside with, the latest from Belarus, where police officers arrested hundreds of demonstrators. Protesters had set up a tent camp in Minsk’s central square to vocalize their opposition to the election results that gave President Aleksandr Lukashenko an overwhelming victory. In the early hours of the morning, police closed in on the protesters and detained approximately 300 people.

Democratic women candidates are campaigning in almost half of the competitive House races for the upcoming congressional elections, reports the NYT. Democratic strategists are hoping that desire for change will lead voters to pick a woman candidate.

Everyone goes inside with the prosecution wrapping up  its case in the Zacarias Moussaoui trial. Moussaoui left the court room today shouting: “I will testify, whether you want it or not.” It seems he might have directed that outburst to his attorneys because they have been against him taking the stand. Starting next week, the jury might also hear from the government lawyer who improperly coached witnesses and testimony from terrorism captives being held overseas, such as Khalid Shaikh Mohammed.

The family of a Pakistani journalist who was kidnapped in December says that he could be in U.S. custody, reports the LAT. Hayatullah Khan is well-known in Pakistan for having reported allegations that a suspected al-Qaida member and four other people were killed by a U.S. missile and not by an accidental explosion, which was the government’s version. Khan’s family tells the LAT that intelligence sources told them U.S. officials might be interrogating him to find out about any ties he has to al-Qaida.

People who are still working to track the missing from Hurricane Katrina are finding that some have used the devastation as an opportunity to escape their lives, according to the WP. Although some are felons, people flee for all sorts of reasons, including some who took the chance to escape abusive relationships.

The NYT and USAT mention that a girl who had been missing for more than 10 years was reunited with her family. The girl, who was 14 at the time of her disappearance, says she was being held against her will by a security guard from the school where she was an eighth-grader.

The WP and NYT report that when Vice President Dick Cheney stays in a hotel, his staff faxes over a list of requirements for the “downtime suite.” The document was posted online by The Smoking Gun, which publishes accommodation demands of big names and elebrities. Unlike some stars, however, the vice presidential requirements aren’t too grand and include things like diet caffeine-free Sprite, and that all television channels be tuned to Fox News. Cheney’s office also requests certain newspapers: NYT, USAT, WSJ, WP, and a local paper. Interestingly enough, the NYT’s story on the document fails to mention the WP in the list of reading material.