Today's Papers

Carrying the Weight

The Washington Post, New York Times, and Los Angeles Times lead with the Army  firing the commander of Walter Reed Army Medical Center. The Army said it had “lost trust and confidence” in Maj. Gen. George W. Weightman’s ability to fix the problems plaguing wounded soldiers at outpatient facilities. But news that Lt. Gen. Kevin C. Kiley was chosen to temporarily replace Weightman raised more than a few eyebrows, a fact the NYT fails to mention. Kiley was commander of Walter Reed until 2004, and many claim he was aware of the problems at the medical center but did nothing to improve the situation.

The WSJ tops its world-wide newsbox with word that North Korea’s No. 2 leader reiterated his country’s pledge to denuclearize. The statements came out of high-level talks with South Korea, where North Korea was seeking a resumption of aid. USA Today leads with a look at colleges that are banning smoking all over campus, including outdoor areas. So far, at least 43 colleges across the country have instituted the ban, and some think it is a rising trend. “Smokers still have rights, but just not on our campus,” said the president of one of the universities.

A WP story yesterday said Kiley was told in 2003 that wounded soldiers were often neglected at Walter Reed, and he, along with many others, ignored the complaints. His successor in 2004 was retired Maj. Gen. Kenneth L. Farmer Jr., who said he was aware of outpatient problems and claims he informed Kiley of the issues. Weightman took over in August.

After the WP series came out, Kiley vehemently disputed the “one-sided representation” of the situation at Walter Reed. “While we have some issues here, this is not a horrific, catastrophic failure at Walter Reed,” he said. Appointing Kiley “indicates that the Army’s reshuffle is really about projecting the appearance of accountability, not punishing those most responsible,” says a WP editorial. According to military officials, there have been others reassigned from their duties at Walter Reed, including a captain and four noncommissioned officers.

The WP fronts a preliminary report by a congressional commission that says almost 90 percent of Army National Guard units in the United States are rated “not ready.” The rating is mostly a result of a great shortage in equipment. “The Department of Defense is not adequately equipping the National Guard for its domestic missions,” says the commission’s report.

USAT fronts the results of a Justice Department investigation that concluded a U.S. Marshals Service official inappropriately spent $4.3 million to pay for fitness centers and firing ranges even though the money was supposed to be for courthouse security and witness protection. David Barnes was repeatedly warned not to use the money for those purposes, but he did anyway and hid the spending from his supervisors.  

The NYT fronts a new poll that reveals a majority of Americans say the federal government should guarantee health insurance for everyone, and most agreed they’d be willing to pay higher taxes to make it happen. A majority of Americans ranked affordable health care as the most important policy issue that the president and Congress should be concentrating on right now. Less than a quarter of Americans are satisfied with the way President Bush has handled the health insurance issue.

The NYT fronts, and the LAT goes inside with, news that Pakistani authorities arrested the former Taliban defense minister on Monday, the day of Vice President Cheney’s visit. Mullah Obaidullah is the most senior Taliban leader to be captured since the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001.

The Post and LAT mention that a House subcommittee voted to subpoena four of the recently fired U.S. attorneys. The Senate judiciary committee said it also plans to hold hearings on the same day. Republicans boycotted the vote, and it marks the first major use of subpoena power by Democrats since they took over Congress.

McClatchy gets two sources to confirm that it was Sen. Pete Domenici and Rep. Heather Wilson of New Mexico who contacted the U.S. attorney in their state to get him to speed up charges against at least one Democrat before the November elections. The Post has been reporting that Domenici and Wilson are the only two New Mexico lawmakers that have not denied they were the ones that contacted the fired prosecutor, David Iglesias.

The WP and LAT front, and everyone else mentions, federal authorities claiming they have exposed one of the biggest insider-trading scandals in years. The whole scam has the makings of a movie involving 13 individuals, disposable cell phones, communications in code, some of the most elite firms, and more than $15 million in illicit profits. It started out in 2001 with a meeting between two friends at a restaurant and soon escalated. 

The NYT reefers news that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will go to Saudi Arabia Saturday for a meeting with King Abdullah to discuss the growing political and sectarian crises in the Middle East.

Oops, he did it again … The NYT says Alan Greenspan was able to play his part in shaking up the markets for a second time this week when he once again mentioned the dreaded “R-word” to a group that paid about $150,000 to hear his views. In his latest statement, Greenspan didn’t even say that a recession was likely but rather that “it is possible.” Merely uttering the word helped bring down the Dow Jones industrial average by approximately 200 points yesterday morning, which it mostly recovered by the end of the day.