Today's Papers

Sticky Tapes

The Washington Postleads with the Bush administration announcing it will launch a full national security review of two planned purchases of companies that have contracts with the Pentagon, one by a Dubai-based firm and the other by an Israeli corporation. The Dubai company is different than the one in the ports brouhaha, but this time the administration decided to give Congress—and presumably the WP—a big heads-up. The Los Angeles Timesleads with Saddam Hussein’s trial, where he acknowledged he was responsible for the arrests of 148 men and boys who were later executed. As the LAT emphasizes, Saddam also asserted that he,and not his co-defendanants, was responsible for the orders. “This is the very reason that any criminal defense lawyer doesn’t want his client standing up and speaking on his own behalf,” said one outside lawyer. The New York Timesleads with the feds suing New York state, claiming the state hasn’t complied with a federal mandate to toss out its creaky voting machines. The Justice Department—and election-reform advocates—say New York ranks dead last in following a post-Florida 2000 voting-modernization law. USA Todayleads with an in-house analysis showing the runway at Chicago’s Midway Airport was much slicker than the airport estimated before a plane skidded off it in December. The paper suggests the problem is rooted in an FAA system for measuring runway conditions that isn’t up to snuff.

According to late-night news reports caught by a few of the papers, there were two near-simultaneous bombs exploded next to the U.S. consulate in Karachi, killing four people and injuring about 20. Speaking early this morning in India, President Bush said one U.S. diplomat was killed. He also announced a long-expected deal to help India with civiliannuclear reactors. Bush is heading to Pakistan later on the trip.

The president, of course, also made a surprise swing by Afghanistan, where, as the NYT fronts, nowadays the Taliban are doing brisk business in the south. In the last year, they’ve closed about 200 schools “through threats and burnings” and killed “dozens of government officials.”

Somewhere between 30 and 50 Iraqis were killed yesterday, two dozen from a car bombing outside a traffic police station in a Shiite neighborhood. Also, insurgents kidnapped about 20 police trainees north of Baghdad. “We’ll consider them dead,” said one official. What did not seem to happen yesterday: attacks on Sunni or Shiite mosques.

The NYT reefers Sunni, Kurdish, and secular Iraqi parties pushing for Shiites to withdraw their divisive pick for prime minister, Ibrahim Jaafari. The parties said they might just have enough votes to form an alternative government. (Blogger-prof Juan Cole says they don’t really.) Still, it’s a big possible development. But it’s not exactly new. The anti-Jaafari movement was detailed by the Post’s David Ignatius two weeks ago.

The LAT and Post front a newly leaked video of top federal officials in the immediate hours before and after Katrina hit the Gulf Coast. The obviously selective excerpts show Hurricane Max and former FEMA man Mike Brown warning of a big disaster—including the possibility of overtopped levees—while the president tried to buck up spirits and declared “we are fully prepared.”

The NYT goes inside with the video: “UNAWARE AS LEVEES FELL, OFFICIALS EXPRESSED RELIEF.” Except the conversation the Times cites happened at noon Monday, just a few hours after Katrina landed. New Orleans officials didn’t even seem to know about the levees until later that afternoon. Given the time, how significant is it really that top officials were still in the dark?

A Page One NYT piece looks at federal data showing that, surprise, major fines for mine safety violations have decreased during the Bush administration. In nearly half the cases, federal officials haven’t collected the fines in the first place. A spokesman for the mining safety agency blamed the bad collection rate on “technical issues.” It’s a good piece, but it’s also worth knowing that for the last two months USAT has been flagging the lax enforcement.

The Post fronts a now-shuttered Islamic charity alleging in a suit that the government’s case to close the organization was based on warrantless spying. Other lawyers for terror suspects have said they’re suspicious that the snooping was used in their cases, but the former charity might have the goods. As the WP puts it, the lawsuit cites the “government’s own documents of intercepted conversations and e-mails.”