Today's Papers

Elite Takeover

The Washington Postleads with new plans recently approved by Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld to change the way the country fights against terrorism. Although the specifics of the plans are secret, the paper gets a few anonymous sources to reveal the main points, which include the increasing use of elite Special Operations forces as well as a larger role for the military in areas that have been the domain of the State Department and the Central Intelligence Agency. The New York Timesleads with the continuing protests in Nepal as the coalition of the country’s political parties rejected the king’s proposal to return governmental control to the prime minister. The demonstrations also became violent as police beat protesters. The Los Angeles Timesleads with, and the rest of the papers go inside with, Iraq’s parliament ending the political deadlock by approving several top jobs, including president and speaker. They also officially gave the new Shiite prime minister nominee Jawad al-Maliki 30 days to form a Cabinet. U.S. officials welcomed the news, but everyone admits that Maliki will have a tough job ahead.

The new Department of Defense plans, which the Post calls the “most ambitious” in the fight against terrorism, were developed by the Special Operations Command and follow Rumsfeld’s long-repeated goals to modernize the military and increase the role of elite Special Operations troops. The WP says there are three plans: a main one that describes priorities and strategies, and two offshoots, one that focuses on al-Qaida as well as other terrorist groups, and another one that details what the military role could be if there is another terrorist attack on U.S. soil. 

Nepal’s coalition of political parties said the king’s concessions were insufficient. He did not mention the main demands of the protesters, which include the reinstatement of the parliament, as well as a referendum to rework the constitution and decide on the future of the monarchy. The LAT fronts its dispatch from Nepal and takes a wider view of what it could mean for the country if it does away with the monarchy, which has largely gone unquestioned throughout its history. The WP goes inside with the story and focuses more on the beating of protesters by police officers that left “several” injured people lying on the streets.

All the papers mention that five U.S. soldiers were killed in Iraq on Saturday and a roadside bomb in Afghanistan killed four Canadian soldiers.

Both the WP and NYT front stories on the firing of Mary McCarthy, the CIA officer who is accused of leaking information to the media. The Post’s story (which makes up for yesterday’s lack of substance with a complete article that has a dual byline and six contributors) emphasizes that McCarthy’s position with the CIA’s internal inspector made the leak a bigger deal because the office has access to information that is kept secret from most people in the agency. Although several officials said firing her was the right thing to do if the leak could indeed be traced back to her, others see this as a way to warn officials not to talk to the press. For its front-page story, the NYT talks to some of McCarthy’s colleagues, who all seem to be surprised by the news, saying that she always went by the book and whenever she disagreed with something, she filed complaints through the appropriate channels. As the Post mentions, and the NYT emphasizes in a separate story inside, CIA Director Porter J. Goss has publicly stated that one of his top priorities is to stop leaks from his agency.

All the papers go inside with the results of the New Orleans election, where current Mayor C. Ray Nagin received 38 percent of the vote and Louisiana Lt. Gov. Mitch Landrieu got 29 percent. Because neither candidate received more than 50 percent, Nagin and Landrieu will compete in a runoff election on May 20.

The LAT reveals on its front page that a company headed up by former Veterans Affairs Secretary Anthony J. Principi has received contracts from the VA that could be worth up to $1.2 billion through 2008. Principi was the president of QTC Management Inc. before he became secretary and then, four years later, returned to the company as the chairman of the board. While he worked for VA, QTC Management received approximately $246 million in fees from the government agency. Principi insists he had no contact with the company while he was the VA secretary.

China and the Roman Catholic Church could be getting closer to normalizing their ties, reports the WP on Page One. The Vatican has signaled that it is willing to break its ties with Taiwan in order to set up an official diplomatic relationship with China. There are an estimated 10 million Catholics in China, and about two-thirds of them worship in “underground” churches that are not approved by the government.

The WP and NYT go inside with the meeting of Democratic Party officials in New Orleans, where Howard Dean said the “Republicans have cut and run when it comes to rebuilding the Gulf Coast.” The WP emphasizes that even though many democrats are optimistic about their midterm election chances, many worry that there is still no clear strategy. Even though the country seems to want change, this may not be enough if the democrats are unable to come up with a unified alternative.

The NYT goes back to check-in on the Pennsylvania Senate race and puts it on the front page, saying that it could serve as a sign of how far Democrats are willing to compromise on abortion to win elections. The nine Democratic women in the Senate, and several prominent leaders of the party, have expressed their support for Bob Casey Jr., who opposes abortion. Some obviously dislike this strategy, but others see it as the only way to get rid of Republican Sen. Rick Santorum.

In the WP’s Outlook section, Douglas Farah, looks into Africa’s tyrants who are driving their countries into ruin and largely get by unnoticed. Although the former Liberian President Charles Taylor was arrested for crimes against humanity, that is seen as an exception in Africa. “When the Bush administration speaks of spreading democracy around the world, these petty and cruel tyrants, who make Saddam Hussein seem tolerant, are not condemned,” writes Farah. As part of its package, Outlook asked some experts to name the most “overlooked autocrats.”

Using Scott McClellan’s resignation as a peg, David E. Sanger wonders in the NYT’sWeek in Review whether daily press briefings from the White House are really necessary. As time has gone on, these press briefings are rarely useful to reporters who have devised new ways of covering the White House, since information is rarely passed on by official channels. Over at the WP’s Outlook, Ana Marie Cox calls McClellan the “baby panda of the press corps” and concludes that he was lied to, just like the reporters.

The NYT reports on an innovative way the Portland Public Library in Maine has decided to recycle unwanted books. Rather than merely throwing them away, the library partnered up with the Maine College of Art and had artists create works of art from the discarded books. For example, one artist took a book titled Feeding the Brain and cut out the middle and filled it with Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. Almost all the 186 altered books can now be checked out from the library.