Today's Papers

Brat Pak

The Los Angeles Times leads with the Pentagon trying to inject accountability into the way it gives over $1 billion a year in military aid to Pakistan. The U.S. currently reimburses Pakistan automatically, with little or no oversight, for GWOT-related expenses. The New York Timesleads with details about secret U.S. efforts to upgrade Pakistan’s nuclear security—efforts that have had some success, yet faltered because of Pakistani and U.S. secrecy, plus fears the upgrades might violate the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. The Washington Postleads with news that hundreds of criminal defendants have been convicted based on evidence from a forensic test that the FBI has rejected as faulty and even “misleading.”

Pakistan currently sends the U.S. embassy invoices for vague expenses like “support … provided to U.S. military operations during January through March related to the global war on terrorism” and receives cash—payments that made up three fourths of all U.S. military aid over the past six years. Now, the Pentagon wants detailed proof its money is going to fight terrorists; a move that would “fundamentally change” the U.S.-Pakistan relationship. The LAT says this has nothing to do with Musharraf’s coup. But that’s hard to square with the LAT’s own suggestion that the U.S. is building bridges with other Pakistani generals, hoping the threat of reduced military aid will convince them cooperate.

The NYT has been sitting on details about U.S.-Pakistani nuclear cooperation for three years at the request of the Bush administration, who worried the NYT might compromise the prgoram. But given the coup and leaks by the Pakistani press (and government), the NYT decided to go ahead and publish what they know. The U.S. has been paying for physical security upgrades at Pakistan’s nuclear sites and training guards to protect reactors, warheads, and nuclear material—even building an (unfinished) nuclear security academy in Pakistan.

Experts think Pakistan’s nukes are secure, but they can’t be sure. Pakistan won’t let us inspect their nuclear facilities because they don’t trust us, and we won’t give them technology for advanced nuclear safeguards because that would help them improve their nuclear warheads—an act that’s illegal under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.

In 2005, the FBI declared it would no longer use “comparative bullet-lead analysis,” (or CBLA; pronounced led, not lede) a process meant to link bullets with their original owners, after the National Academy of Sciences showed it could produce legally “misleading” results. But the FBI didn’t inform hundreds of defendants who might have been wrongly convicted, and it continued to back the science behind CBLA in support of state prosecutors. Because of a joint WP-60 Minutes investigation, the FBI says it is “initiating corrective actions.”

Everyone says John Negroponte pushed Musharraf to declare a date for the end of emergency rule, but Musharraf declined to do so.

The NYTand WPboth go deeper into the awkwardness of Bush’s relationship with Musharraf, who seduced Bush with his command of English and tough stance against terrorism during a meeting in 2001. The NYT makes the obvious comparisons to Bush looking into Putin’s soul and Bush backing Rumsfeld and Gonzales long after they became unpopular.

The NYT fronts news the housing crisis is hurting even those who don’t own homes: renters. Banks are kicking them out when they foreclose on landlords’ overleveraged houses and apartment buildings, sometimes with just 72 hours’ notice. As one displaced Las Vegan puts it, “these folks gambled on interest rates and lost. And now I lost too.”

The WP fronts news that a No Child Left Behind mandate to classify violent schools as “persistently dangerous” has been applied unevenly across different states. D.C. and California, for example, have no “persistently dangerous” schools despite a lot of persistent violence, while Maryland has six. Among other remedies, Congress is considering giving the classification a less ominous name.

The NYT fronts new studies showing a correlation between death penalty usage and reduced murder rates. The studies set off a flurry of criticism, but several authoritative legal commentators seem to think the evidence is convincing. Apparently the death penalty has the greatest deterrent effect when used early and often, as in Texas.

Today’s papers also serve up a healthy dose of campaign news. The WP fronts Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.’s decision to make a last stand in New Hampshire, essentially reprising the message that helped him win there in 2000–but talking a lot more about his military experience.

The NYT fronts news that Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., is dumping resources into Iowa in order to “prevent the emergence of a rival superpower”—sorry that’s Paul Wolfowitz’s Defense Planning Guidance document—Hillary wants to “prevent Democrats from coalescing around a single alternative to her candidacy.”

Meanwhile, the NYT says, Mayor Rudolph Giuliani is mounting a “stealth” campaign in Iowa, acting like he’s ceded the state to Gov. Mike Huckabee, R-Ark., and Gov. Mitt Romney, R-Mass., while quietly waging a direct-mail and radio war over immigration—e.g. painting Huckabee as “John Edwards in a Republican suit.”

The LAT says Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., is appealing to senior citizens in Iowa, since most of his supporters are young people who (statistically) just don’t caucus like fogeys do. That’s what his recent social security proposal was about—but he has a lot of pandering to do if he wants to overcome the ire of the AARP, who he deliberately snubbed in September.

The WP also fronts a massive increase in civilian defections from North Korea, as well-connected former North Korean officers have taken over the “coyote” business, smuggling people out of the DPRK for cash. It’s surprisingly easy to get one’s relatives out of the country for the right amount of money, though it’s still extremely dangerous.

Department of Unintended Consequences: Barack Obama’s proposal to give everybody wireless internet may not be as benign as it seems.

Apparently, “compulsive internet use has been identified as a mental health issue in many countries … however it may be a particularly acute problem in South Korea because of the country’s nearly universal internet access.” The NYT fronts a look at South Korea’s network of internet addiction treatment centers, including an exclusive government-funded remedial camp for the country’s most afflicted children. Check out the hilarious picture and the slide show here.