Today's Papers

Act of Contrition

The Los Angeles Times leads with Pope Benedict XVI publicly apologizing for part of a speech in which he quoted a medieval text that called Islam’s legacy one of “evil and inhuman” teachings and actions. “I am deeply sorry for the reactions in some countries to a few passages of my address,” the pope said. The Wall Street Journal tops its world-wide news box with the Bush administration’s efforts to reach a compromise on its controversial detainee interrogation policies. Republican critics are receptive to a potential deal.

USA Today leads with a second spinach processor being implicated in the recent nationwide E. coli outbreak. River Ranch Fresh Foods is recalling three varieties of its bagged mixed greens; the FDA warns consumers to avoid spinach entirely until the scare is resolved. The New York Times leads a report on Project BioShield, the beleaguered and obnoxiously capitalized biowarfare-protection program that is a “torturous labyrinth of federal fiefdoms into which billions disappear,” according to one congressional observer. TP recalls the WashingtonPost running a strikingly similar story six months ago. The Post leads a feature on Virginia’s U.S. Senate race, where incumbent Republican George Allen faces unexpectedly forceful competition from Democratic challenger James Webb. Allen and Webb appeared on Meet The Press Sunday morning, debating the Iraq war and other issues.

In remarks delivered as part of his weekly blessing, the pope apologized to all who were offended by last week’s speech, reiterating that his initial address was meant to invite “frank and sincere dialogue, with great mutual respect.” Benedict’s mea culpa is thought to be the first time a modern pontiff has ever publicly expressed personal regret for his statements. His apology capped a weekend’s worth of Vatican attempts to quell worldwide protests that often devolved into violence: On Sunday, a West Bank church was burned, and a nun was killed in Somalia. Many Muslim leaders want more: “We need a clear and direct apology to all the Muslims in this world,” said a Muslim Brotherhood official.

Although Benedict generally writes and delivers his speeches unilaterally, some experts believe that this faux pas might presage closer Vatican review of Benedict’s remarks in the future. “Now he’s the pope, and that means anything he says can have reverberations,” said one Vatican observer.

Appearing on several Sunday talk shows, President Bush’s national security adviser, Stephen J. Hadley, talked of compromise with the John McCain-led Republican legislators who have opposed an administration proposal that would specifically allow the harsh interrogation of terrorism suspects. Hadley said that clarifying certain vague clauses in the Geneva Conventions could help end the impasse. “Nobody knows what humiliating treatment is. What does it mean?” said Hadley.

Project BioShield’s efforts to manufacture and store bioterror vaccines have been slowed by endemic mismanagement, the NYT reports. “The inept implementation of the program has led the best brains and the best scientists to give up,” says one bioterrorism expert. Who’s left? Inexperienced startups like California’s VaxGen, which has categorically failed in its attempts to rapidly produce and stockpile an anthrax vaccine. The NYT’s version doesn’t really add much to the Post’s March 17th report, but, really, the world can never have enough bioterror alarmism.

Allen’s campaign has been reeling since the mid-August “macaca” incident. Once solidly ahead in polls, Allen now leads Webb by only 4 percentage points. The Post just recaps the Meet The Press appearance, in which Webb, a former secretary of the Navy and a Vietnam veteran, challenged Allen’s military credentials, while Allen, son of a legendary football coach, chided Iraq war critics for their “Monday-morning quarterbacking.” Not to be outdone in the cliché parade, the NYT tops the online version of its Webb-Allen piece with an exceedingly trite photograph of the candidates’ shoes.

Swedish voters elected a conservative prime minister after 12 years of leftist rule, everyone reports. Fredrik Reinfeldt promises to make broad changes to Sweden’s sweeping welfare programs, causing some Swedes to cringe: “If Fredrik Reinfeldt wins, we will get less money and he will force me to work even though my doctor says I’m not ready yet,” said one man. The lame-duck Social Democrat party had ruled Sweden for 65 of the last 74 years.

USAT reefers and everyone else barely mentions news that bombings in the Iraqi city of Kirkuk left 27 dead and dozens wounded. The LAT fronts a feature on the brazen and open proliferation of Shiite and Sunni death squads in Baghdad.

Hewlett-Packard’s secret attempts to track and pinpoint the sources of news leaks were much more extensive than originally thought, the NYT reports. HP hired private detectives to comb phone records, trail suspected leakers, and, in at least one case, surreptitiously install tracking software on a journalist’s computer. The WSJ notes that the investigation may have continued for weeks after the leaker was identified.

Bowing to public pressure, the Israeli Cabinet will investigate the conduct of the recent war in Lebanon, everyone reports. Although many Israelis wanted an independent, Supreme Court-appointed state commission to head the inquiry, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert cited time constraints in nominating his own commission instead. The WSJ goes inside with an understated feature on the death of tourism in northern Israel. “We have huge image damage,” said one Israeli hotelier.

The Post examines the administration’s failed attempts to implement a biometric ID program for transportation workers. A law mandating smart ID cards for all port workers was signed in 2002, but four years later, costs have doubled, card production has stalled, and the program has been assailed by many industry groups. “It just doesn’t make any sense given the real-world operations of the tugboat industry,” said one tugboat kingpin.

The NYT reports that Silicon Valley researchers have built a microchip that utilizes internally produced laser beams to transmit data. The chip will supposedly revolutionize data delivery, dropping costs while increasing computing power. “Everything will change and laser communications will be everywhere, including fiber to the home,” said one scientist.

The WSJ and the LAT front big features on immigrants who currently serve as guest workers under facets of the existing immigration laws.

And a moat filled with sharks with lasers on their heads: The Post fronts a feature on the various firms competing to land Homeland Security contracts for border-security measures. “We don’t need a Star Wars-type solution here. We need something that will work,” said one executive. Among the proposals: wireless video receivers for border agents, 1,800 watchtowers spaced along the border, and observation blimps.