Today's Papers

Trying Differences

The New York Timesleads with the Senate judiciary committee approving a continuation of the warrantless eavesdropping program by the White House. At the same time, the Bush administration is facing increasing difficulties in getting the Senate to approve its plan for trying detainees being held at Guantanamo. USA Todayuses the problems in Maryland’s primary on Tuesday to point out there is currently a rush by officials to get polling places ready for November’s elections. New technology could lead to big problems in some of the most contested races.

The Los Angeles Timesleads with news that almost 100 people died or were found dead in Iraq. Joining other Democrats who have increased their criticism of President Bush, former National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski said the war is “unwinnable.” The Wall Street Journal leads with a new poll that shows President Bush’s approval ratings rose to 42 percent, compared to 38 percent in June, after he gave a number of speeches on Iraq and the war on terror. Despite this increase, 54 percent of voters say the United States is headed in the wrong direction. The Washington Post devotes a lot of space on Page One to local politics, but it off-leads a story on the first woman, and fourth person, to receive a “bionic” arm. The arm can be controlled with the mind and is part of an effort by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency to create better artificial limbs for amputees.

The Senate judiciary committee voted along party lines to approve a plan that is seen as an endorsement of the administration’s eavesdropping program, and it would allow a secret court to rule on whether the warrantless wiretaps are constitutional. As the WP emphasizes, the Bush administration could submit the program to a secret court for constitutional review, but it is not required. Confusingly, the Senate judiciary committee also approved seemingly contradictory legislation sponsored by California Sen. Dianne Feinstein that reaffirms the 1978 law and would require court approval before any eavesdropping can take place. This contradiction is mentioned high up in the LAT’s story, while the NYT leaves it for the end, and it is ignored by the WP.

Getting all Republican members to agree to the administration’s plans for trying terrorist suspects being held at Guantanamo is proving to be more difficult. The chairman of the Senate armed services committee said his committee would vote on an alternative. In an attempt to discredit this new plan, the director of national intelligence held a conference call with reporters to speak out against the bill. In the House armed services committee, the Bush administration’s plans passed by a wide margin.

Maryland is simply the latest in a list of states that has had problems in its polling places this year. Thirty percent of voting jurisdictions will be using new technology in the November elections, increasing the chances that there will be unexpected difficulties caused by human error or technical glitches. On average, poll workers are 72 years old and generally don’t have a lot of experience with computers. Compounding the problem is a lack of support staff and delivery delays.

Iraqi officials announced yesterday they found the bodies of 60 men over a period of 24 hours. Additional violence yesterday claimed the lives of at least 35 people and U.S. officials announced two more American soldiers were killed in Iraq. Meanwhile, Brzezinski, who was President Carter’s national security adviser, criticized Bush for committing the country to an impossible mission in Iraq.

The LAT fronts word that House Republicans unveiled a new bill that would order 700 miles of fencing to go up along the U.S.-Mexico border. Members will vote on the “Secure Fence Act” today, which would also push the Department of Homeland Security to step up its border patrols. Republicans say they are trying to close a security hole, while Democrats insist it is part of a ploy to rally voters.

The WP gets its hands on a letter sent by the International Atomic Energy Agency in which a House intelligence committee report on Iran is characterized as “outrageous and dishonest.” In the letter, which was sent to the committee chairman and the WP posts online, the IAEA said there are five major errors in the report that said Iran’s nuclear capabilities are more advanced than the IAEA or U.S. intelligence has shown. Several anonymous intelligence officials say the report makes at least 12 claims that are either wrong or impossible to know. At the end of the story, the Post reveals the same committee is now working on a report about North Korea, and its main author will be the same as the one who wrote the Iran report.

In his regular column space in the WP, Robert Novak accuses Richard Armitage of lying about the conversation the two had in order to decrease his role in the leak of Valerie Plame’s identity. When Armitage admitted publicly he was Novak’s source, he said he had mentioned Plame’s identity offhand at the end of their conversation. Not so, says Novak, who claims Armitage told him “the CIA division where Mrs. Wilson worked and said flatly that she recommended the mission to Niger by her husband.” Novak also says Armitage “made clear that he considered it especially suited for my column.”        

The NYT fronts the Interior Department’s inspector general telling a House subcommittee that top officials in his department have a culture of covering up incompetence and don’t seem to care about ethics. “Simply stated, short of a crime, anything goes at the highest levels of the Department of the Interior,” the inspector general said. The hearing was about the signing of more than 1,000 leases for offshore drilling in the late 1990s that failed to include an important clause, and as a result energy companies do not have to pay billions of dollars in federal royalties.

The WP and NYT mention a reduction in the amount of ice formed in the Arctic winter has led NASA climate researchers to say this is increased evidence that greenhouse gases are warming up the planet. USAT says the country just had its hottest summer in 70 years. The only one warmer was in 1936.

The papers note the death of Ann Richards, the former Texas governor who was known for her progressive views and wit. She gained national attention after the 1988 Democratic National Convention, where she said former President George Bush “can’t help it. … He was born with a silver foot in his mouth.”

If you say so … Reviewing Meredith Vieira’s debut as co-anchor of NBC’s Today, the NYT’s Alessandra Stanley writes: “[T]he staff of Today greeted its new co-anchor with the kind of relief and giddy happiness that enveloped Corazon Aquino after Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos were ousted.”