Today's Papers

Who Taunted?

The New York Timesleads, and the Wall Street Journal tops its worldwide newsbox, with the Iraqi government ordering an investigation into the behavior of guards and witnesses at the execution of Saddam Hussein. A cell-phone video recording of the execution has caused widespread outrage in Iraq and around the world because it showed how Hussein was ridiculed and insulted in the minutes before his death. USA Todayleads with the memorial service held for Gerald Ford at the Washington National Cathedral before the former president’s body was flown back home to Michigan, where he will be buried today. The Washington Postleads locally but goes big with the state funeral above-the-fold.

The Los Angeles Timesleads with a shareholder lawsuit filed against executives and directors of Apple Computer, accusing them of manipulating stock options. On Friday, Apple said that after a three-month investigation it had absolved co-founder Steve Jobs of any wrongdoing, although it did acknowledge a widespread practice of improperly dating option grants over a period of six years. Apple is one of almost 200 companies currently under scrutiny for the practice of backdating stock-option grants.

American officials insist they tried to persuade Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to delay Hussein’s execution. Their efforts were unsuccessful, as Maliki claimed he was concerned about security and the potential for a mass kidnapping to attempt to bargain for Hussein’s release. As Sunni officials said the spectacle at the hanging had decreased the possibility of a national reconciliation, Iraqi officials announced the investigation that will be carried out by a committee from the Interior Ministry.

Questions remain as to who was responsible for shooting and disseminating the video of the execution. A prosecutor in Hussein’s trial said he saw two official observers openly using their cell phones to record the hanging. He tells the Posthe doesn’t know who they were but assures the paper he could recognize them. It seems his memory was refreshed by the time he talked to the NYT, because he tells the paper that one of those holding a cell phone was Maliki’s national security adviser. Even though the video seems to have been shot by someone who was happy with what was taking place, the Post decides to take a leap and states, “[T]he video was the latest example of how amateurs using modern technology are exposing abuses and holding the powerful to account.” 

The papers don’t mention whether a committee from within the Interior Ministry can really be expected to be independent and to investigate top officials. The NYT quotes a Maliki adviser who appears to give a preview of what the committee will find when he blames the worst sectarian taunts on a guard who is described as a “poorly educated Shiite man with a thick Arabic accent.” 

Former presidents, political leaders, and other dignitaries were present at the Washington National Cathedral to bid farewell to Ford. “Gerald Ford assumed the presidency when the nation needed a leader of character and humility,” President Bush said. In an analysis piece, the Post looks into how the Republican Party has changed since Ford was president. The GOP “has turned away from Ford’s conservatism, moving sharply to the right ideologically and to the South and West geographically.” In an op-ed piece in USAT, professor Ross K. Baker writes: “[L]ess than two months before [Ford] died, his brand of Republicanism was virtually extinguished at the polls.”

The LAT goes inside with a new report by the Iraqi government that says out of 12,320 civilians killed in 2006, half died during the last four months. The WSJ mentions the U.N. count is almost double that number. December was the deadliest month, with 1,927 casualties.

The Post fronts the contents of FBI documents released yesterday revealing that bureau agents witnessed several potential mistreatments of prisoners and the Quran at Guantanamo. In one incident, an interrogator squatted over a copy of the Quran while questioning a prisoner. Another said an interrogator told him how he made a prisoner listen to “Satanic black metal music for hours” and then proceeded to dress as a Catholic priest before “baptizing” him. In the documents, which were turned over as part of a lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union, FBI employees say they saw 26 incidents of possible abuse.

USAT goes inside with a new report by the Homeland Security Department set to be released today that says most emergency responders don’t have the equipment or know-how to communicate with each other during a crisis.

The LAT fronts its own investigation into an ancient statue in the J. Paul Getty Museum that has caused a conflict with the Italian government, which claims the statue was looted. The museum paid $18 million for the Aphrodite statue in 1988 and has stood by its claims that it is legal. But two Times reporters spent four months looking into the story and raise several doubts about the statue’s official history. The paper also says museum officials ignored repeated warnings that the statue could have been looted.

The NYT goes inside with Indonesian officials saying that initial reports claiming they had found the wreckage  and 12 survivors of a passenger plane were wrong. Officials say they will continue to look for the plane, which had 102 people on board, tomorrow.

The WSJ publishes an op-ed by President Bush headlined “What Congress Can Do For America.” In the piece, Bush mentions he will be addressing the nation “in the days ahead” to talk about a new strategy for Iraq. The president also says he will propose a plan to Congress that will balance the budget by 2012. Although the piece is short on specifics, Bush said this could be achieved while keeping his tax cuts. In fact, he emphasizes the new Democratic Congress should not even think about raising taxes. “Our tax cuts have fueled robust economic growth and record revenues,” Bush writes. The president praises Democrats for saying they will refrain from using earmarks and says he will announce his own proposal to end the practice today.