Today's Papers

Some Doubt

The New York Timesleads with news that American intelligence officials are somewhat backing away from their claims that North Korea has an active program to enrich uranium. This has led to concern that perhaps the Bush administration shouldn’t have sounded so certain in 2002, when it accused Pyongyang of running a secret program, and maybe, the nuclear test that it carried out a few months ago could have been avoided. The Washington Postleads with word that despite what they might say, top officials at Walter Reed Army Medical Center have been aware of problems at the medical facility for more than three years. Many top officials expressed surprise when the living conditions of wounded soldiers were exposed by a series of WP stories.

USA Todayleads with a look at how four years after the American invasion, Iraq is still “awash in Saddam-era munitions” that are often used to make bombs that target U.S. troops. So far, more than $1 billion has been spent on clearing more than 15,000 sites, and new ones are found every day. Some believe more attention should have been paid to clearing these sites earlier. The Wall Street Journal tops its world-wide newsbox with word that the Iraqi government has set March 10 as the date for talks on the future of the war-torn country, which will include representatives from Iran, Syria, and the United States. The Los Angeles Timesleads with a look at how Tuesday’s stock plunge showed China’s increasing influence on economic markets around the world. Analysts said that this is just the beginning, and investors are going to have to start learning how “to better read and respond” to changes in an often unpredictable market.

On Page One, the Post explains that under a 1994 agreement, the United States agreed to provide North Korea with oil, and in return North Korea would stop work on a plutonium facility. But when all that collapsed in 2002 it allowed North Korea to continue its work with plutonium, which led to the nuclear test. According to testimony before Congress, the intelligence community is almost certain North Korea bought materials that could be used in a uranium program, but there are conflicting views on whether it is actually running or how far it has gotten in the process. Why is all this being released now? The NYT says some believe that since North Korea has recently agreed to allow inspections, there is growing concern that they won’t find anything, and intelligence agencies would be confronted with a similar situation to that of a few years ago with Iraq.

According to the Post’s interviews, the commander of Walter Reed, who is now the Army’s top medical officer, was told in 2003 that wounded soldiers were often neglected at the medical facility. And this wasn’t a one-time thing since they heard complaints at several meetings and in a few inspector-general reports. Even former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld’s wife knew about the problems. Officials also heard from Rep. C.W. Bill Young, R-Fla., who said he and his wife stopped visiting Walter Reed because they were so frustrated that their complaints were ignored. TP wonders why Rep. Young didn’t tell his colleagues in Congress about these frustrations. If he did, why didn’t they do anything? And, perhaps unrelated but still telling, was Young really the only lawmaker that regularly visited Walter Reed?

The Post fronts the Federal Reserve chairman telling Congress yesterday that the U.S. economy is “working well” and he sees no reason to worry about the decline in the stock market on Tuesday. Yesterday, the Dow Jones industrial average recovered 52 of the 416 points it lost Tuesday. But as the LAT details in its Business section, some analysts are concerned because the rebound wasn’t as strong as they expected.

Everyone goes inside with news that a federal judge ruled that Jose Padilla is competent to stand trial on terrorism charges. Defense lawyers alleged that Padilla is suffering from psychological problems caused by the more than three years that he was held in a Navy brig. The judge made clear that she wasn’t making a determination on whether Padilla was abused, but rather that he is capable of understanding the charges against him.

The WP and NYT both stuff the latest in the firings of eight United States attorneys. The departing prosecutor in New Mexico says he thinks he was fired from his post because of politics. Yesterday, David C. Iglesias said he received pressure from two members of Congress to bring corruption charges against a Democrat in New Mexico before the November elections. He declined to name who pressured him, and the Post managed to get a denial from all of New Mexico’s lawmakers except two Republicans: Sen. Pete Domenici and Rep. Heather Wilson. Justice Department officials strongly denied the accusation. The House and Senate judiciary committees said they would issue subpoenas to get testimony from the fired prosecutors. The Post had the story on Page One in its early edition, but then moved it to A10.

The NYT and LAT front, while USAT reefers, the late-breaking news that historian Arthur Schlesinger Jr.  died last night after suffering a heart attack at a restaurant in New York. He won his first Pulitzer Prize at 28 with an examination of Andrew Jackson’s presidency and he received the award a second time for a book on the Kennedy administration. Schlesinger was also the author of a highly acclaimed three-volume history of the New Deal titled The Age of Roosevelt. Schlesinger, a staunch liberal, was also involved in politics, most famously as an aide to President Kennedy. He was 89.