Our Man in Havana

Our Man in Havana

Our Man in Havana

A summary of what's in the major U.S. newspapers.
May 15 2002 6:20 AM

Our Man in Havana

Citing anonymous "officials," the Washington Post's lead reports that the FBI is planning to create a "Super Squad" to lead all major terrorism investigations and serve as the clearinghouse for all related classified info. The Post says that the proposal follows "recent criticism on Capitol Hill over an apparent lack of coordination on terrorism cases within the FBI." The New York Times leads with word that, as expected, NATO and Russia announced that they will set up a council to set joint policy on issues ranging from terrorism to peacekeeping operations. The paper emphasizes that Moscow will not have any power in NATO's central decision-making processes. (The WP, meanwhile, covers the agreement with a wire story on page A-19.) The Wall Street Journal  tops its world-wide newsbox with the Senate's vote yesterday to give Congress the power to veto specific provisions in trade pacts. That means that President Bush may not get so-called "fast-track" authority on trade agreements, which is essentially the power to force the Senate to simply approve or reject a whole agreement rather than let them tinker with it. The Los Angeles Times  leads with word that California Gov. Gray Davis has proposed raising taxes on motorists and smokers in order to help cover about a $20 billion state deficit. USA Today leads with news that former President Jimmy Carter addressed Cuba in a live broadcast yesterday and urged the country to "join the community of democracies." He also praised an effort by dissidents to guarantee freedoms in Cuba. The former prez also said that the U.S. should "take the first step" toward improving relations between the two countries and end its embargo of the island.  

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"I want the people of the United States and Cuba to share more than a love of baseball and wonderful music," said Carter.

A piece inside the NYT cites administration officials saying that President Bush plans to "announce measures to strengthen the economic pressure and political isolation of President Fidel Castro's government." The paper says one proposal being considered is tighter enforcement of  travel restrictions  to Cuba. The Times says that Bush will unveil the revised policy at a fund-raiser next week for his bro, Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.

The WP's off-lead begins, "Congress is moving to dramatically increase spending on intelligence." The piece points out that that budget is classified, but cites sources saying that the proposed 2003 budget is about $35 billion, "an increase of $2 billion to $3 billion over this year." That doesn't sound like such a dramatic increase.

The article's 16th paragraph has this intriguing bit: "The bill also envisions the possibility that spy satellites may be used to look down on suspected terrorist activities in the United States—which currently requires a special waiver. It requires the CIA director to detail the changes being considered to lift or streamline the prohibitions on domestic satellite spying." Changes are being considered? More, please.

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The NYT furthers reporting on a FBI memo written last summer that urged bureau headquarters to look into why so many Middle Eastern men were enrolled in flight schools in Arizona. The memo hasn't been released, but the Times says the document mentions Osama Bin Laden by name and ponders whether he might be using the schools as a training ground. (The article, by the way, also briefly mentions that the FBI is planning to start a unit to gather terrorism-related info, the same one the Post leads with. But unlike the WP, the Times stays away from any super-hero-like labels.)

The NYT reports that Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said he won't start peace talks until there is a "different [Palestinian] Authority," which he says is currently "a rotten and dictatorial regime of terror."

The NYT also mentions that according to an Israeli newspaper poll, "an overwhelming majority of members of the [Likud] party disagreed with the decision on Sunday by the party's central committee to rule out creation of a Palestinian state west of the Jordan River." Monday's Post had hinted that this was the case.

Everybody notes that suspected Islamic militants attacked an Indian army base in Kashmir yesterday, killing at least 30 people, including 10 children. The attack came just a few hours after a State Department official arrived in India to try to calm tensions.

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The WSJ says that there's "rising speculation" that India is planning to attack the Pakistani part of Kashmir. "This has the makings of a full-blown crisis," said one analyst.

The WP reports that a former top State Department official says that during an Indian-Pakistani crisis in 1999 the two countries came close to nuclear war. According to the official, who has written a scholarly article about the incident, Pakistan's military actually prepared to launch nukes.

USAT fronts a federal appeals court's ruling that it's constitutional for law schools to consider race when choosing applicants. It's expected that the case will now head to the Supreme Court. According to USAT, the Supremes haven't ruled on this kind of case since 1978.

The WP goes above the fold with word that the GOP threw itself a fantabulous fund-raiser yesterday, raking in a record $33 million, mostly in soft money. That's the kind of dough that the recent campaign-finance reform bill, which is set to take effect this fall, will put the kibosh on.

Everybody says Democrats are complaining that a Republican fund-raising letter exploits 9/11 because it offers to sell donors a "limited edition" photo of President Bush on Air Force One in the hours after the WTC attacks. Former Vice President Al Gore called the 9/11-related fund-raising effort "disgraceful."

The NYT's Maureen Dowd gets worked up about it too. She says the donor pitch has "all the class of a 1:30 a.m. infomercial for an electronic ab stimulator." (Hey, that reminds Today's Papers: It just spent a month taking notes on, and strapped into, one of those puppies.)