Today's Papers

Domestic Disputes

The Washington Postleads with a look at how lawmakers are preparing to fight over bread-and-butter issues like tax policy and health care  as Congress goes back to focusing on domestic policy. The Wall Street Journal tops its world-wide newsbox with the latest from Myanmar, where the U.N. envoy met with detained opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi as well as several members of the military junta, but not the top two leaders. The New York Timesleads with the way in which several states across the country are implementing, or at least considering, changes to aspects of their criminal justice system because of the large number of convicts who have been exonerated using DNA evidence. A particular target for state lawmakers has been changing the way witnesses are handled, since misidentification is by far the most common reason behind most exonerations. Many are also stepping up efforts to improve oversight at crime labs to decrease errors.

USA Todayleads with word that a record number of minorities have been offered jobs as undercover spies for the CIA. Approximately 27 percent of this year’s recruits are minorities, compared with 13 percent in 2006. The outgoing leader of the National Clandestine Service acknowledged the agency will fall at least three years short of President Bush’s goal of a 50 percent increase in undercover agents by 2010. The Los Angeles Timesleads locally but goes high with a look at the environmental problems that are plaguing Darfur, which are only going to get worse as the conflict continues. Although the international community has been focused mostly on Darfur’s humanitarian crisis, attention is turning to the severe shortage of basic resources in the region as it’s becoming clear that ensuring access to water and land must be an essential part of aid efforts.

Lawmakers from both parties seem eager to get back to discussing domestic issues after extensive debate on the Iraq war “has only shown Democrats to be ineffectual and Republicans to be intransigent,” says the PostAlthough Republican leaders seem to hope that tackling domestic priorities will help unite their party, there are signs that several lawmakers are more open to siding with the Democrats, such as with the state children’s health insurance program. The problem for Republicans appears to be that while their base still supports the idea of a more hands-off government, the rest of the country seems to be moving toward the idea that government should be more involved.

The WSJ says “at least 700 monks and 500 other people” have been arrested in Myanmar, and the NYT notesthat at least four local journalists were arrested while approximately 10 “have been physically attacked or prevented from working.” But by all accounts, yesterday was a relatively quiet day in the major cities. “The crackdown appears to have terrified people enough to stay out of the streets,” the chief representative of the United States in Myanmar tells the NYT. The LAT gets word from activists who say the next step in the protests will be a countrywide strike.

The WSJ takes a look inside at how the protests in Myanmar have become the rare issue in Washington where everyone seems to agree. But some worry the administration might take this support too far and impose economic sanctions that will actually end up hurting the people and helping the military junta. For example, the junta will probably be able to benefit economically if Chevron is forced to give up its stake in a Myanmar energy project. Meanwhile, an activist who spent 15 years in a Myanmar prison writes an op-ed for the WSJ saying he has no doubt that the leaders of the movement who were arrested are now being tortured.

The WP fronts the second part of Rick Atkinson’s look at the fight against improvised explosive devices in Iraq, which focuses on the frustrating search for an effective method to detect the bombs. At first officials thought they could detect where they had been placed through aerial images, but that proved to be ineffective. U.S. officials continued searching for a one-stop solution but everything was either inefficient or insurgents were able to quickly adapt to any new techniques, while it took the Pentagon months (if not years) to change strategies.

The declining circulation of newspapers is often seen as a sign of the problems plaguing the industry. But the NYT notesthat in big papers much of the decrease  has been intentional. With definite exceptions, newspapers are less willing to devote all the money it takes to get new subscribers, and instead are focusing on promising advertisers a core audience of devout readers. “It’s a rational business decision of newspapers focusing on quality circulation rather than quantity,” the president of a media research firm said.

The Post fronts the story of Charles Riechers, a man who was hired by an intelligence contractor while the Air Force waited for the White House to confirm him for a post as a senior acquisition official. Nothing out of the ordinary there, until you consider that Riechers wasn’t required to do any actual work for the company, Commonwealth Research Institute, and reported directly to the Air Force during that time. The Post also notes CRI has a strange status as a contractor since it’s officially a charity, even though it has received millions in contracts and does much of the same work as regular companies.
Meanwhile, the Post’s Walter Pincus takes a look at how complicated (and expensive) war-time contracting can be. In a contract to provide a 34-person security team, Blackwater was actually a subcontractor to a subcontractor of another subcontractor. Of course, each company has to make some sort of profit so the costs kept getting inflated. Although it could be considered a simplistic way to look at things, it is still interesting to note that Gen. David Petraeus’ daily salary “comes out to less than half the fee charged by Blackwater for its senior manager of a 34-man security team.”