The New York Times leads with speculation that Porter Goss’ ousting as CIA chief marks a renewed attempt by National Intelligence Director John Negroponte to remake the agency into one primarily dedicated to fighting terrorism. Goss’ presumed successor, Air Force Gen. Michael V. Hayden, won’t stand in the way: He currently serves as Negroponte’s deputy. The Washington Postgives the CIA upheaval big play but leads with Democratic leaders announcing their party’s legislative agenda-to-be in anticipation of retaking the House in November’s midterm elections. On tap: boosting the minimum wage, allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices, and strengthening Homeland Security.
The Los Angeles Times leads news that while the Medicare prescription drug benefit known as Part D is largely doing its job by making prescription medicine more affordable to seniors, the program still has some problems, including incomplete coverage and a Byzantine enrollment process.
Whereas Goss resisted Negroponte’s attempts to diminish the CIA’s historic role as the government’s primary center for intelligence analysis, Gen. Hayden, former head of the National Security Agency, is expected to embrace Negroponte’s changes. Having his man in charge means that Negroponte will spend less time on turf battles and more time actually coordinating the various intelligence agencies’ activities.
Hayden’s confirmation process won’t be easy: As the director and foremost defender of the administration’s covert domestic surveillance program, Hayden will face harsh questioning from senators who hope to use the nomination as an opportunity to reopen debate on the issue. Hayden’s military background may also become a point of contention, as some are wary of the Pentagon’s expanding role in intelligence gathering.
While the Post thinks Hayden will face resistance from CIA lifers, who may resent a soldier being named to head a civilian agency, the LAT doesn’t anticipate him having any trouble being accepted. The NYT notes that since the CIA’s inception in 1947, almost all of its directors have resigned or been fired. Hayden’s first policy headache as director? Getting better intelligence on Iran.
Recent polls have left Democratic leaders increasingly confident that their party will win big in the November elections. They hope their policy announcement will help strengthen their position by providing a positive alternative to the Republicans’ recent history of scandal, unpopularity, and lawyer-shooting. It’s a page out of the Contract With America playbook. While the administration hopes that recent personnel changes will burnish the party’s image, at least one pollster thinks it might be too late for Bush to reverse his declining numbers.
The battle for midterm supremacy is already raging in full force in Ohio, where both parties are grappling in House, Senate, and gubernatorial races in a way that the NYT thinks mirrors the struggle for the nation as a whole. Although the NYT off-leads the piece, TP is unimpressed by the article’s insights: “Beyond corruption and worry about Iraq, the contests in Ohio are shaping up as a face-off between two powerful forces in American politics: economic issues … and social issues,” putting Ohio in the company of … every other state in the union?
Over 3,800 Iraqi civilians in Baghdad alone were killed between January and March, the LAT reports, relying on numbers from the Baghdad morgue. The majority of the dead were Sunni Muslims, many of whom were “hogtied and shot execution-style,” apparently targeted in the systematic sectarian violence that’s plagued Iraq throughout 2006. “There are no limits to the brutality,” said the morgue director.
The Post fronts news that, although a Nigerian panel of health experts found the pharmaceutical company Pfizer guilty of testing an unproven drug on sick children in 1996, the report has gone unreleased for five years. While Pfizer claims that the drug, Trovan, saved lives, the panel called the test “a clear case of exploitation of the ignorant.” The Nigerian government offers no explanation on why the report is unreleased.
Although Rep. Patrick Kennedy, D-R.I., may have scandalized Capitol Hill by crashing his car while under the influence of, er, something, his constituents are treating the news with equanimity, as the WP and the LAT report in essentially the same story—both even quote the same Brown University professor. “Somehow, I still love him,” said one woman. “We all have our problems,” said another.
The NYT goes inside with a great piece on how widespread poverty and governmental incompetence in the Egyptian Sinai is causing many young ethnic Bedouins to reject their traditional culture in favor of Islamic extremism. By undermining the authority of the sheiks who ran the tribes for centuries, thus weakening some Bedouins’ sense of identity and belonging, the Egyptian government inadvertently caused “many young people to adopt Islam as an identity, supplanting nationality or ethnicity.”
The NYT Magazine leads a story on how contraception might be the next front in the culture-of-life wars. Whereas opposition to birth control has historically been a Catholic issue, members of other Christian denominations are now joining in the fight. “We see contraception and abortion as part of a mind-set that’s worrisome in terms of respecting life,” said a lawyer for Americans United for Life.
The Post fronts a long, anecdote-heavy feature on how cost-of-living increases are pinching some consumers’ pocketbooks. One man would like to remodel his house, but can’t. Another traded in his Mitsubishi for a Volkswagen. Still, in “a strong economy with low unemployment and rising income, many households can afford to absorb some rising costs,” the article admits.
Overnight AP dispatches indicate that at least 17 people are dead after two car bombings in Baghdad and Karbala.
Have A Nice Day, See You In Court: Although Wal-Mart claims exclusive rights to use “Mr. Smiley,” its smiley-face logo, in connection with retail, the company’s claim is being challenged by a Frenchman who holds trademarks on the smiley-face in over 80 countries, the LAT reports. Franklin Loufrani has “applied for a trademark in 16 categories that would have granted him rights to smiley on products including depilatory wax, swords—’a smiley on that would be very disarming,’ his lawyer said—and even animal semen.”