Today's Papers

Syrious Suspicions

The Washington Postleads with a few new details about the mysterious Israeli airstrike in Syria on Sept. 6, revealing that the Israeli government told the Bush administration this summer about the presence of North Korean nuclear experts in Syria. It seems the United States confirmed some of the Israeli intelligence before the bombing, which targeted a “suspected nuclear site set up in apparent collaboration with North Korea” and was carried out in extreme secrecy in the middle of the night. The New York Timesand Los Angeles Timeslead with federal prosecutors charging disgraced Democratic fund-raiser Norman Hsu with defrauding investors out of millions of dollars in a massive Ponzi scheme and violating campaign-finance laws by pressuring them to donate to several politicians and even offering to reimburse some of the contributions.

USA Todayleads with news that 20 of the 25 major tribes in Diyala have signed agreements with U.S. and Iraqi troops. In some ways these agreements are seen as more important than they were in the much-touted case of Anbar province because Diyala is a mixed community and the tribes that signed on are not only Sunni, but also Shiite and Kurdish. The Wall Street Journal leads its world-wide newsbox with the Senate’s rejection of a bill that would have cut off funding for combat operations in Iraq by June. The paper also notes the Congressional Budget Office said that keeping a peace-keeping presence in Iraq would cost between $10 billion and $25 billion a year.

The one thing that is clear about the bombing in Syria is that very few people seem to know all the details. All this secrecy means that “a daring and apparently successful attack to eliminate a potential nuclear threat has been shrouded in mystery,” says the Post. Some are skeptical and note that although Syria has been interested in chemical and biological weapons, it has never crossed the line into nuclear. It’s also not clear why North Korea would risk compromising the ongoing talks. The Post had previously cited claims the attacks were linked to the arrival of a North Korean ship, but today the paper emphasizes that the “ship’s role remains obscure” and there’s disagreement about what it was carrying.

While Bush refused to comment on the raid, the NYT notes former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “became the first public figure in Israel to acknowledge that an attack even took place” when he mentioned it in a television interview on Wednesday, which apparently angered members of the Israeli government.

The U.S. attorney in Manhattan unsealed a three-count complaint against Hsu, who is charged with mail fraud, wire fraud, and violating federal election laws. The LAT notes the case “came together with surprising speed.” This may have been at least partly because of Hsu’s confession that he made “phony” investment deals and warned investors they would be cut out of future deals if they didn’t contribute to political campaigns. Prosecutors were quick to emphasize that Hsu’s scheme, which defrauded people across the country out of at least $60 million, wasn’t created to fund campaign contributions, but he used his cachet in the political world to gain more investors. As is common in these types of schemes, investors kept on giving money to Hsu because in the beginning they received the promised returns.

USAT notes that the second-ranking U.S. commander in Iraq said suicide attacks and car bombings in Baghdad are at the lowest level in a year, although he “cited few specific numbers to back up his report.” Meanwhile, the Post fronts an interesting look at the real estate market in Baghdad, noting most have to sell their houses for much less than they were worth only a few years ago. Housing prices skyrocketed after the invasion but “right now the only people in Baghdad are the ones who can’t afford to go somewhere else,” a real estate agent said. And, in another troubling sign of how poor the living conditions are in Iraq’s capital, the NYT reefers news that cholera appears to have reached Baghdad.

The NYT got its hands on the Iraqi Ministry of Interior’s report of Sunday’s shootout involving Blackwater, which concludes that foreign security companies should be replaced by Iraqi firms. The ministry says Blackwater guards began shooting without provocation and the “company is considered 100 percent guilty through this investigation.” The Interior Ministry also said private security companies shouldn’t have immunity from the law and that Blackwater should pay compensation to the families of the victims. American officials were quick to emphasize that no conclusions should be reached until they release their own analysis.

All the papers front yesterday’s protest in Jena, La., where tens of thousands of people descended on the 3,000-person town to protest the unfair prosecution of six black teenagers who beat up a white schoolmate. Everyone notes the march was reminiscent of the civil rights era and brought people from many parts of the country that have been following the case for months on the Internet and talk radio. USAT emphasizes that the one member of the “Jena six” who had a trial may be released soon.

While senators can’t seem to agree on anything about Iraq, they did manage to approve a resolution denouncing the anti-war group for an ad published in the NYT that questioned the credibility of Gen. David Petraeus. The Post fronts a look at how MoveOn might have alienated a significant base of support by angering Democrats who claim the group gave Republicans an easy way to change the subject. Some think the controversy, and especially Bush’s condemnation of the ad, will only help the group raise more money, but the LAT notes that many in Hollywood are questioning the move. “We just handed the Republicans a gift. It’s like MoveOn has become tone-deaf,” a “Hollywod insider” said.