Today's Papers

The Burden of Proof

The New York Timesleads with a look at how the debate over laws requiring voters to show photo identification is likely to get more complicated as more states consider demanding proof of citizenship from anyone who wants to cast a ballot. Missouri lawmakers are likely to back a constitutional amendment this week that would require such proof. USA Todayleads with word that the more than 20 deaths caused by tornadoes in the United States this weekend pushed an already bad year into record-breaking territory. So far, 98 people have been killed by tornadoes since the beginning of 2008, which makes it the deadliest year thus far since 1998 and the seventh-deadliest since 1950. The Wall Street Journal leads its world-wide newsbox with aid workers saying that it could take weeks to reach many of the victims of Burma’s devastating cyclone that are in some of the country’s worst-hit areas. The official death toll from Cyclone Nargis is now 28,458, and everyone expects that number to keep rising.

The Los Angeles Timesleads with a look at how the government has been increasing the use of its domestic spying powers while the number of terrorism-related prosecutions that end up in court has been steadily decreasing. This disparity has led many to question whether the heightened surveillance is worth it, and some lawmakers are wondering whether the added emphasis on anti-terrorism programs has come “at the expense of traditional crime-fighting.” The Washington Postleads with a look at how the growing number of countries that want to start nuclear power programs is raising concerns about the proliferation of nuclear weapons. At least 40 developing countries have told the United Nations they’re interested in nuclear power programs, and at least six have said they want to enrich or reprocess nuclear fuel, which “could dramatically expand the global supply of plutonium and enriched uranium.”

At least 19 state legislatures are currently considering whether they should require voters to show proof of citizenship, but the Missouri measure is the only one that could be implemented before the November elections. Voters would still have to approve the amendment before it can be implemented, but, even if they do, Missouri wouldn’t be the first state with a citizenship requirement. Arizona currently demands proof of citizenship from potential voters, and since the requirement was implemented in 2004, “more than 38,000 voter registration applications have been thrown out,” reports the NYT. Democrats have long opposed any kind of ID requirement and are likely to fight even more strongly against these expanded measures since they would further limit the types of documents that would be acceptable and therefore risk disenfranchising even more people. Raising the stakes is the fact that Missouri is a swing state where winners are often decided by small margins.

The papers report that epidemics of several potential life-threatening diseases, including cholera, could break out among as many as 1.5 million survivors of Cyclone Nargis. The charity group Oxfam warned yesterday of a potential “massive public health catastrophe” as aid continues to trickle into Burma more than a week after the cyclone hit. “The ponds are full of dead bodies, the wells have saline water, and even things like a bucket are in scarce supply,” Oxfam’s regional director said. Although there have been no confirmed reports of political strife, aid workers warn that chaos could easily break out as people grow more desperate.

The LAT and NYT both front dispatches from inside Burma that illustrate the gravity of the situation and how the Burmese military government is standing in the way of relief. The NYT reports that even when Burma’s wealthy citizens want to donate supplies they’re often stopped by officials who say all aid must go through the military government. Meanwhile, there are complaints that the military leaders are handing out substandard food and keeping much of the international aid for themselves. And while people continue to die, the government is still only handing out a fraction of the visas that relief organizations have requested for their workers. The LAT notes that many in southern Burma have stopped waiting for help and are doing their best to rebuild on their own as heavy rains that are predicted for this week threaten to make a dire situation even worse.

Although law experts agree with government officials that increasing surveillance shouldn’t necessarily directly correlate with the number of prosecutions, they also say there aren’t that many other ways to check on progress. And solely judging by these numbers, the government doesn’t have much to show for its increased surveillance. While the number of Justice Department warrant requests granted by the nation’s spy court increased 9 percent last year, the number of cases brought by the department declined 19 percent.

Much of the increased interest in nuclear fuel is due to the rising prices of fossil fuels, which is leading countries to seek alternatives. But the Post points out that several of the countries that are pursuing nuclear power are in the Middle East and have plenty of oil or natural gas. In this case, their interest in nuclear power seems at least partly due to an overall concern about a future regional arms race that could be fueled by what many see as Iran’s obvious desire for nuclear weapons. “This is not primarily about nuclear energy. It’s a hedge against Iran,” one expert said. Of course, there’s a big step between a commercial nuclear power program and weapons, but a civilian program can give a country expertise and a base from which to expand in the future. Experience has also shown that having a commercial plant makes it easier to hide a covert weapons program.

The NYT points out that while Sens. Barack Obama and John McCain took Sunday off, Sen. Hillary Clinton spent Mother’s Day on the campaign trail in West Virginia. And while she vowed to soldier on despite the general view that she has no chance of winning the nomination, the Post notes that Clinton’s campaign acknowledged yesterday that it is $20 million in debt. Even though Clinton is still campaigning, the tone of the two Democratic contenders has changed lately, reports the WSJ. Both Clinton and Obama are avoiding direct references to each other while increasing their criticism of McCain. For his part, McCain is now preparing to shift the conversation to the environment with the hope that he can appeal to Democrats and independents by highlighting how he’s different from President Bush on the issue. But while McCain is trying to paint himself as a friend of green policies, his overall “environmental voting record is more complicated than he portrays it,” notes the WSJ. The WP devotes a front-page story to the issue and says McCain’s record “shows an inconsistent approach to the environment.”

In the NYT’s op-ed page, Edward Luttwak says that “one danger” of Obama’s “charisma … is that it can evoke unrealistic hopes of what a candidate could actually accomplish in office regardless of his own personal abilities.” One often-stated claim that Muslim countries would welcome an Obama presidency, which could do wonders for U.S. foreign policy. But under Muslim law, Obama was born a Muslim and committed “the worst of all crimes that a Muslim can commit, worse than murder” when he converted. This would not only complicate the security situation if he were ever to visit a Muslim country, but once this fact is widely known, “most citizens of the Islamic world would be horrified.” Luttwak isn’t suggesting that Americans should weigh this into their decision, “but of all the well-meaning desires projected on Senator Obama, the hope that he would decisively improve relations with the world’s Muslims is the least realistic.”