Today's Papers

Deadly Bait

The Washington Postleads with word that at least some U.S. snipers in Iraq have been encouraged to set out “bait” to lure and kill suspected insurgents. The classified program calls on snipers to set out an object that they suspect an insurgent would use against U.S. or Iraqi troops, such as ammunition or plastic explosives, and then kill whoever tries to take the item. The New York Timesleads with a look at the case of Army Maj. John Cockerham, who is accused of carrying out the largest bribery case involving U.S. contracts in Iraq with the help of his wife and sister. So far, at least 29 civilians and soldiers have been charged with corruption relating to war-zone contracts, and “much of the scrutiny” has focused on the contracting office where Cockerham worked in Kuwait.

The Wall Street Journal tops its world-wide newsbox with the way in which the Iraqi government has been able to bring disparate factions together to oppose the order that gives immunity to private contractors as well as troops and diplomats. But, at the same time, an official said the government is in no rush to expel Blackwater because it would create a “security vacuum” in Baghdad. USA Todayleads with a look at how more federal judges left the bench in the last few years than at any other time in history, which many blame on the fact that they could earn more in the private sector and education. Out of 875 federal judges serving lifetime appointments, 22 have resigned or retired since 2005. Although federal judges earn a nice amount of money ($165,200), there’s concern that the bench won’t attract the best in the field or that it will simply be seen as a stepping stone. The Los Angeles Timesleads locally with word the Los Angeles school district continues to build schools close to freeways, even though there’s a law against it and studies have shown this type of location can cause health problems for children.

The Post got word of the classified “baiting” program through court documents relating to murder charges that were filed “against three snipers who are accused of planting evidence on Iraqis they killed.” The three shootings don’t seem to be directly related to the program but defense attorneys contend that the whole concept of baiting “blurred the legal lines of killing in a complex war zone,” says the WP. It’s not known how many people were officially told of the program but it seems clear more knew about the items used in the “baiting” and at least some were under the impression that their purpose was to plant evidence on Iraqis they had killed. 

Many of the details about Cockerham’s case were already known (grew up in poverty with 17 siblings and went on to become a major only to be accused of hiding almost $10 million in bribes), but the NYT takes a closer look at how conditions at Camp Arifjan in Kuwait left plenty of opportunities for corrupt dealings and there are suspicions that several accused officers worked together in a sort of network. The camp was a “tiny outpost” until it saw its responsibilities explode with the Iraq war and people with little experience were suddenly in charge of handling huge contracts. “Oversight was virtually nonexistent by design,” says the NYT.

Although much has been made of the continuing rise in six-figure starting salaries at big law firms, not everyone who graduates with a Juris Doctor degree can expect to earn a six-figure salary, reports the WSJ. Many who don’t go to the best schools are finding it difficult to even find a job, much less a high-paying one, and are beginning to complain their law schools didn’t prepare them for the reality of the job market.

The NYT fronts a look at comments that Judge Michael Mukasey, who has been nominated to be the next attorney general, made at a hearing of a 21-year-old Jordanian immigrant, Osama Awadallah,  shortly after 9/11. When Awadallah’s lawyer told Mukasey his client had been beaten in a detention center, the judge answered that “he looks fine to me” and added that “you can file a civil lawsuit.” The LAT mentioned this exchange yesterday, but the NYT quotes the transcript of the hearing rather than Awadallah’s lawyer. Some say Mukasey was one of the federal judges who quickly deferred to the administration’s reasoning for holding Arab men after the 9/11 attacks.

The NYT also fronts the continuing protests in Myanmar, where thousands of Buddhist monks have been taking part in marches against the country’s military junta and in support of detained pro-democracy leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. They are the largest protests since 1988, when approximately 3,000 civilians were killed. But the NYT points out that this time around more information about the protests is getting to the outside world via the Internet. Early morning wire reports say the number of protesters swelled to 100,000 today.

Meanwhile, as world leaders prepare to meet at the United Nations this week, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told 60 Minutes that his country doesn’t need a nuclear weapon and denied that Tehran is  arming Iraqi insurgents. The NYT has a piece from Tehran that notes how many in Iran don’t understand why the West focuses so much on their president when the country’s supreme leader holds more power. In fact, the attention only helps Ahmadinejad increase his power and popularity. The LAT fronts a dispatch from Egypt that points out how the “leader of a non-Arab Shiite nation” has become a hero among the mostly Sunni Arab population of the Middle East.

Everybody notes Marcel Marceau, the revered French mime, died on Saturday at the age of 84. Marceau was widely credited with bringing “new life to an ancient art form,” says the LAT, and gave more than 15,000 performances over more than 50 years. French Prime Minister Francois Fillon praised Marceau for being “able to communicate with each and every one beyond the barriers of language.”