Today's Papers

From Russia With Love

The Washington Postleads with, the Los Angeles Timesfronts, and the New York Timesreefers revelations that Russian officials passed on intelligence about U.S. war plans and troop movements to Iraqi leaders in the early days of the American invasion. It seems the Russians might have had a spy inside the U.S. Central Command. The LAT leads with diplomatic sources saying that Iran could create enough highly enriched uranium to build a bomb within three years, instead of five to 10 years as was commonly believed. The NYT leads, and the WP goes inside, with the announcements by the United States and the European Union that they will impose sanctions against Belarussian leaders to denounce the arrest of hundreds of political protesters early Friday morning. The Wall Street Journal tops its worldwide newsbox with an Iraq roundup that includes the spying allegations and the announcement by Iraq’s president that a new unity government could be in place by the end of the month. At least 51 people, including two U.S. soldiers, were killed in attacks across Iraq yesterday (the rest of the papers mention the deaths in a wire story inside or a brief).

The Russian spying allegations were included in a 210-page study based on Iraqi documents and interviews with former leaders. Even though some of the information that was passed on was inaccurate, and it is unclear whether the Kremlin approved the operation, if the allegations are true it will almost certainly further strain the relationship between Washington and Moscow. “This is one step short of firing upon us themselves … It’s hard to get more unfriendly than that,” an analyst tells the LAT. The NYT mentions that since some of the information was false, it raises the possibility that the Russians might have been part of a U.S. military effort to fool Iraqi leaders.

In order to produce quick results, Iran seems to be trying to put together as many centrifuges as possible in a short period of time. But experts still emphasized that the three-year estimate is a best-case scenario for Iran since it still has to overcome several important technological hurdles that could easily cause delays.

The sanctions on Belarussian leaders will probably involve travel and financial restrictions. The United States called on Belarus to release all of the protesters who were arrested while demonstrating against the March 19 elections, which are widely believed to have been a sham. The NYT is the only one to follow up on the arrests from Minsk and says that, according to opposition leaders, most of those arrested were given a 10-day sentence. Prison officials refused to release a list of the detained.

In a Page One article, the NYT seeks to explain why there has been less talk about Abu Musab al-Zarqawi lately. Al-Zarqawi, who is the head of al-Qaida in Mesopotamia, is keeping a low profile as his group has supposedly joined forces with other insurgent organizations to create the Mujahadeen Shura (Council of Holy Warriors), which is allegedly under Iraqi leadership. Under the new structure, al-Zarqawi’s group has toned down the rhetoric and no longer claims responsibility for large civilian attacks. It is possible that by passing on the leadership to an Iraqi, al-Zarqawi is now ready to set up terrorist groups in other countries in the region.

The Post goes inside with new rules proposed by the Federal Elections Commission that would pretty much extend the media exemption to the online world, thereby permitting Web sites and bloggers to attack or praise candidates. Campaign advertisements on the Internet will have to be paid with money regulated by federal campaign law and must carry a disclaimer. For the most part, bloggers and their advocates welcomed the new proposals.

The NYT fronts news that the American Red Cross fired two supervisors yesterday as a consequence of its investigations into irregularities in the New Orleans relief operations. The two were in charge of the kitchens and shelters and, like 95 percent of those who work for the Red Cross, they were volunteers.

After the whole Dubai ports kerfuffle, the WSJ reports that lawmakers are seeking to have more leverage when it comes to approving foreign investments in the United States. The Senate banking chairman is seeking to introduce a bill that would allow Congress to scrutinize these deals. Some business groups, along with administration officials, fear this could harm the U.S. economy.

The LAT picks up the story that Barbara Bush donated money for Hurricane Katrina evacuees in Houston, and specifically instructed that part of the money be spent on buying educational software from her son Neil’s company. Although the LAT does not mention it, the Houston Chronicle first reported this story on Thursday. The WP’s Al Kamen mentioned the story in his column yesterday, and credited the Chronicle for the scoop.

The LAT and WP report that a conservative blogger hired by the WP’s Web site resigned soon after evidence surfaced in liberal blogs that he plagiarized part of a movie review he wrote for the National Review Online. Earlier, liberal blogs had raised issues of plagiarism with some articles he wrote for his college paper. The 24-year-old Ben Domenech had started the blog, titled Red America, only three days earlier. His hiring was met with complaints from readers who questioned his qualifications and some of his earlier statements that included calling Coretta Scott King a “communist.” 

Sounds like a blogger … The WSJ reports that judging by such factors as electricity and water consumption, it is clear that more people in the country are waking up earlier than ever. This has resulted in some businesses realizing this trend and adjusting their schedules. For example, CNN has changed the start time of its morning news show from 7 a.m. to 6 a.m. and some stores, such as Staples, are opening earlier. As a result of increased around-the-clock connectivity with the office, many are realizing that the early morning is the only time they can have to themselves. Some, however, are not affected. Hugh Hefner, the founder and editor in chief of Playboy magazine, says he wakes up in the late morning and when he gets ready for work he simply changes “out of one pair of pajamas and into another.”