The New York Timesleads with a new report issued by the International Atomic Energy Agency that accuses Iran of failing to answer questions about its nuclear program. In what the NYT characterizes as “an unusually blunt and detailed report,” the United Nations nuclear watchdog calls on Tehran to counter allegations of military involvement in its nuclear program. The Los Angeles Timesleads with a look at how the two top presidential contenders campaigned in New Mexico yesterday in a poignant sign of how important a few Western states will be in the November election. President Bush won Colorado, Nevada, and New Mexico by a very slim margin four years ago, and the three swing states are an important part of Obama’s strategy to redraw the electoral map.
The Washington Postleads with word that the Howard Hughes Medical Institute will give $600 million to 56 scientists in the United States so they can pursue risky, but potentially groundbreaking, medical research. This is the latest example of how private philanthropies are swooping in to try to make up for the ongoing decline in federal research funding. The Wall Street Journal leads its world-wide newsbox with aid groups pushing the Burmese government to allow a larger international relief effort in the country to assist the 2.4 million survivors of Cyclone Nargis who are in desperate need of help. USA Todayleads with NASA’s Phoenix spacecraft that landed on Mars on Sunday night. Investigators will spend the next few days testing the equipment and expect the Phoenix to begin digging into the surface of the Red Planet on Monday.
Besides the NYT, none of the other papers give much play to the IAEA report and emphasize the agency said it has no evidence that Iran’s military has gotten involved in the country’s nuclear program. For its part, the NYT specifies that 18 documents were included in the report that claim “Iranians have ventured into explosives, uranium processing and a missile warhead design,” which could suggest that nuclear weapons are being developed. The nuclear watchdog agency also says Iran has failed to disclose advancements in its nuclear program and suggests the country could be producing enriched uranium. David Albright, a former weapons inspector who is the go-to guy for these kinds of stories, tells the NYT that the “Iranians are being confronted with some pretty strong evidence of a nuclear weapons program” and the report “is very damning.” But Albright also tells the LAT there are some key components missing from the report that one would expect to find in a weapons program. Iran insists the documents are fakes but has failed to release evidence and provide access to international inspectors that could verify Tehran’s claims.
There are signs that, just like much of the country, Colorado, Nevada, and New Mexico are turning away from Republicans. This trend could work in Obama’s favor, particularly when it’s added to the fact that a hard-fought primary campaign has resulted in tens of thousands of new registered Democratic voters. But McCain is a westerner in a region where voters have often turned away from politicians who are seen as big-city liberals and members of the party establishment. Obama has also had trouble wooing Latino voters, who make up a significant part of the population and who could determine who wins the three Western battleground states. It’s therefore no surprise that, as the WP notes, New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson stuck close to Obama yesterday.
More than three weeks have passed since Cyclone Nargis devastated large parts of Burma and left at least 134,000 people dead or missing, but the vast majority of survivors in some of the worst-hit areas still haven’t received any aid. The United Nations said yesterday that it could reach all the survivors by the end of the week if it gets permission from the military junta to carry out operations in the Irrawaddy region. The NYT goes inside with another heartwrenching dispatch from an isolated village in the Irrawaddy delta and tells the story of a woman who lost 15 members of her family to the cyclone. But the survivors have little time to deal with the psychological toll of such huge losses as they struggle to stay alive without help from the government or international aid.
The LAT fronts the latest from China, where the government said that as many as 1.2 million people could be forced to evacuate because a “barrier lake” formed by the earthquake could overflow and cause a new disaster. Chinese soldiers, with the help of international relief efforts, are feverishly working to prevent the flooding, but some have decided not to wait for official word and are already moving to higher ground. Early-morning wire stories report that emergency workers will evacuate 80,000 people.
The WP fronts a look at another example of how the Bush administration doesn’t always follow the president’s rhetoric on not holding talks with tyrannical leaders and dictators. A special envoy from the administration is set to meet with the Sudanese president “sometime in the next few weeks,” in the latest overture to a government that has been accused of perpetuating the Darfur genocide and providing a safe haven for terrorists, including Osama Bin Laden. Several high-level officials, including secretaries of state, have also had direct contacts with the Sudanese president throughout Bush’s presidency. “Bush’s Sudan policy has relied more heavily on diplomacy than that of the Clinton administration,” notes the WP.
The LAT fronts news that Sydney Pollack died of cancer yesterday. The director, producer, and actor worked with some of Hollywood’s biggest stars throughout his career and was behind several of the most memorable films from the ‘70s and ‘80s, including They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?, Tootsie, The Way We Were, and Out of Africa, for which he received an Academy Award. More recently, Pollack was a producer and actor in Michael Clayton and was credited as an executive producer for HBO’s Recount, which premiered on Sunday. He was 73.
In the WP’s op-ed page, Zbigniew Brzezinski and William Odom write that the Bush administration’s policy of dealing with Iran by offering “sticks” and “carrots” is a strategy that “may work with donkeys but not with serious countries.” The administration could be more successful if it simply stopped threatening a military invasion as well as all calls for regime change in Tehran. “Imagine if China … threatened to change the American regime if it did not begin a steady destruction of its nuclear arsenal.”