The New York Timesleads with the Taliban stepping up their attacks and “flooding the rural areas of southern Afghanistan with weapons and men.” The Taliban have launched spring offensives every year since their downfall, but this year they’ve built up quite a base. The Times says 20 minutes from the south’s capital, Taliban are “walking in the villages openly with their weapons, and sitting under the trees eating mulberries.” USA Today previews the administration’s avian-flu pandemic plan, which is going to be formally released today. The plan reportedly envisions states carrying much of the load and recommends quarantining some airline passengers, which experts have dismissed as unrealistic. On the bright side: In the event of a pandemic, says USAT, “flexible work hours and telecommuting would be recommended.”
The Washington Postgoes really inside Washington: Its front page has a total of one nonlocal story: State legislatures are considering “hundreds of proposals” for dealing with illegal immigration. The Los Angeles Timesleads with Mexico’s President Vicente Fox preparing to sign a bill legalizing personal use of cocaine, heroin, and just about any other drug Courtney Love could think of. The new law will be among “the most permissive in the world” and looser than the Netherlands’ codes. The original measure only proposed decriminalizing possession for addicts. But at the last minute it was changed to apply to all “consumers.” Lawmakers said they were “unsure who amended the bill.” (Short-term memory loss, obviously.)
“The Taliban and Al Qaeda are everywhere,” said one shopkeeper. “It is all right in the city, but if you go outside the city, they are everywhere, and the people have to support them.” This TPer recently flagged the Taliban’s rise in the south, noting a vehicle ban they just ordered.
The NYT declares the Senate Republican proposal to give taxpayers $100 to help at the pump “all but dead.” “I just think that trying to satisfy voters with a $100 voucher is insulting,” said House Majority Leader John Boehner. The plan was originally pitched by Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist.
The Post runs a gas piece inside and gives some interesting background on the president’s recent call to be given (or is it just to have reiterated) authority to raise fuel economy standards: “One aide acknowledged the idea was devised on the fly, with almost no planning or discussion among relevant agencies. This became obvious within hours when White House officials cautioned that Bush had no immediate plan to use the authority even if he had it.”
A piece inside the NYT notices that the downward slide for SUV sales, which has been going on for a few years, just got steeper: Last month, sales of the Ford Explorer and Jeep Grand Cherokee, for example, were both down about 40 percent from last year.
The NYT’s off-lead says Democrats’ strategy to take the House is focused on trying to knock off Northeast Republicans, many of whom, of course, are centrists. The Dems need to pick up 15 seats to flip control.
USAT notices that 67 GIs were killed inside their Humvees by roadside bombs in the first four months of the year. That’s a bit more than double the number last year. One reason could be that even armored Humvees aren’t reallyheavily armored, and insurgents’ bombs have been getting bigger and more sophisticated.
The military announced that one GI was killed yesterday, south of Baghdad. Three bombs in the capital also killed “at least six Iraqis.” And two German engineers were released three months after they were kidnapped.
The NYT fronts the administration trying, quietly, to continue research on a ground-based laser to destroy satellites. A congressional committee is pushing on a bipartisan basis to cut funding for the project because, the argument goes, such lasers could set off a space weapons race, and that could ultimately hurt the U.S., since it relies so heavily on satellites.
Only 20 to go … Everybody mentions a Bush-appointed science panel confirming that there’s global warming not just next to the ground but in the lower atmosphere. As the NYT puts it, that “eliminates a significant area of uncertainty that the administration has long cited as a rationale” for going slow (or not anywhere) on global warming. The Wall Street Journal points out that the study is the first in a series of “21 commissioned by the Bush administration that attempt to resolve scientific questions pertaining to climate change.”
Check back tomorrow … A few days after President Bush said he wants the national anthem solo en ingles, the WP notices: “The State Department posts four Spanish versions of ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’ on its Web site.”