The papers have widely different ideas of what constitutes important news today. For the most part, each lead story doesn’t even make the front page in any of the other papers. The Washington Postleads with a report by the Pentagon’s inspector general that criticizes efforts by former Undersecretary of Defense Douglas J. Feith to provide intelligence that showed links between al-Qaida and Saddam Hussein. The report said Feith and his team were “predisposed to finding a significant relationship between Iraq and Al Qaeda,” but it noted officials did not do anything illegal. An unclassified summary of the report will be released today. The Los Angeles Timesleads with news that Iraqi and American troops arrested the second-highest official in the Iraqi Health Ministry and accused him of funneling money to a Shiite militia believed to be responsible for the kidnapping and killing of civilians and troops.
The New York Timesleads, and the Wall Street Journal tops its world-wide newsbox, with the rival Palestinian factions, Fatah and Hamas, agreeing to form a new government where they will share power in an attempt to put a stop to the violence between them that has killed about 70 Palestinians since December, as well as to end an international boycott. The agreement, signed in Saudi Arabia, doesn’t actually seem to meet all the conditions laid out by the international community. USA Todayleads with a new federal report that says as many as 1 in 150 children has an autism disorder. Previous estimates had put the number at 1 in 166. Although the report offers no new hints at what might actually cause autism, advocates say it shows the extent of the problem and that more resources are needed.
The administration directed Feith’s team to carry out its own analysis out of the belief that the CIA was underplaying the relationship between Iraq and al-Qaida. But in creating the new reports, which were widely disseminated, Feith’s team “included some conclusions that were inconsistent with the consensus of the Intelligence Community.” Creating these reports was “inappropriate” because they were presented as “intelligence products.” Feith insists it wasn’t an “alternative intelligence assessment” but rather a criticism of the CIA’s conclusions. Senate intelligence committee Chairman John D. Rockefeller IV said his committee will look into whether Congress should have been notified.
Deputy Minister Hakim Zamili is accused of filling the Health Ministry with militia members who essentially ran the place. Although some Shiite lawmakers complained about the arrest, Muqtada Sadr and his followers kept pretty quiet, which the LAT sees as a further sign that Sadr is committed to maintaining a low profile for the time being. “This is the first visible big fish … it has to be the beginning of the housecleaning,” said a U.S. adviser to the Iraqi military.
Although the agreement marks the first time the two Palestinian factions express their willingness to share power, the accord fails to explicitly recognize Israel, which is one of the requirements set out by the international community. The Post mentions Hamas leaders said they would not recognize Israel. The accord is filled with vague language, which makes it unclear whether the new government will fulfill other requirements, such as recognizing previous agreements with Israel. The NYT mentions that “perhaps the biggest winner from the deal is Saudi Arabia,” which has moved to become a leader in solving regional issues in order to undercut Iran’s influence.
Everybody goes inside with word that the House of Representatives will begin debate about President Bush’s new plan for Iraq next week. Democratic leaders said the resolution will be “simple and concise,” consisting merely of an expression of support for the troops and opposition to the “surge.”
The military announced four Marines were killed in Anbar province.
Out of 47 economists surveyed by the WSJ, 40 said the government should encourage the development of alternative fuels. The majority of those surveyed also said a tax on fossil fuels would be the best way to encourage alternatives.
Everyone mentions the prosecution rested its case yesterday in the trial of I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby after a second day of testimony by Tim Russert. On Monday the defense will begin to present its case, which is expected to include the testimony of several journalists. It is still not known whether Libby or Cheney will testify.
Yesterday, the LAT put it on Page One, and today, the NYT, WP, and LAT all have stories on the latest insignificant kerfuffle out of Washington that TP was trying to avoid. Basically, this “non-story” (LAT editorial) is all about how House Speaker Nancy Pelosi gets to fly home to California and whether or not she gets to use a big, fancy military plane that would make sure the flight is nonstop. Republicans are accusing her of everything from being an elitist to not actually caring about global warming. Even the White House spokesman characterized it as “a silly story” but, as the NYT points out, the “attention to the dispute illustrates that politicians are acutely aware that a jet-setting image can be dangerous.”
All the papers either front or reefer the death of Anna Nicole Smith, “a postmodern pinup for a tabloid age,” as the WP describes her. She was 39 and the cause of death is still unknown. Among the many things she did with her life, Smith was a Guess jeans model, a Playboy Playmate of the Year, an actress, a TV personality, and a spokeswoman for a diet supplement. But most of all, she was famous. She “had the quintessential train-wreck life: intriguing, eye-popping, tragic,” says USAT. At 26, Smith married an 89-year-old billionaire, and she later found herself embroiled in a legal battle with his family over the inheritance that reached the Supreme Court (Slate’s Dahlia Lithwick covered the case). The legal battle will continue despite her death. Smith always said she wanted to be the next Marilyn Monroe, and “though she never gained the acting credibility of Monroe, her death … poignantly echoes that of her idol,” says the LAT.