A TAL Order

A TAL Order

A TAL Order

A summary of what's in the major U.S. newspapers.
March 9 2004 4:30 AM

A TAL Order

The Los Angeles Times and Washington Post lead with the signing of the interim Iraqi constitution, formally known as the Transitional Administrative Law, or TAL. The event wasn't all cheers as Shiite leaders announced they want to renegotiate portions of the document. Top cleric Grand Ayatollah al-Sistani endorsed the criticisms. USA Today leads with a poll showing Sen. Kerry leading President Bush 50 percent to 44 percent, with Nader at 2 percent. When Nader is taken out of the equation, Bush's number stays the same but Kerry moves up two points. The Post fronts a similar poll. The New York Times leads with a bit of corporate malfeasance: Top officials at oil giant Royal Dutch Shell were told in 2002 that the company had far less proven oil reserves than believed but waited two years to disclose that fact. Yesterday's Journal essentially broke the story, but the Times has memos documenting the cover-up and—bonus points—actually posts one of them.

Twelve of the 13 Shiite members of the Iraqi Governing Council—including former White House favorite Ahmad Chalabi—made a joint statement: "Our signature is linked to our reservations, which must be addressed in the future." The temporary constitution includes a bill of rights that guarantees freedom of speech, assembly, and religion.

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Unlike the papers, the New Republic digs into the constitution's details and concludes that while it does have impressively liberal aspects, it also reinforces sectarian lines since it essentially allows Kurds, and potentially other ethnic groups, to overrule national laws.

The NYT notes that violence continued Iraq: Mortar rounds hit a police station in Baghdad, wounding five. And gunmen attacked two city councilmen in Mosul, killing one and wounding the other. 

A point USAT doesn't mention about its own poll numbers: Kerry does better among "likely voters" than among registered ones. CNN, a co-sponsor of the poll, explains, "Democratic voters are indicating they are more likely to vote than the overall electorate—something that has rarely happened in past elections."

Everybody notes Bush's latest charge against Kerry: He accused the senator of trying to "gut" intelligence funding when in 1995 Kerry proposed cutting $1.5 billion over five years from the intel services. The NYT has the biggest play on the president's accusations—teasing them on Page One—and has the worst coverage. Treating the accusation with all the import of a "your momma" joke, the paper goes back and forth with the two campaigns trading insults and forgets an itty bitty issue: Is Bush on target?

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The Post does a better job. It puts Kerry's proposal in context and, you know, tries to find out the truth. The same year as Kerry's proposal, the Republican-controlled Congress actually cut $900 million from the intel budget to deal with one agency that had created a slush fund and tried to use it to pay for a new HQ. According to one analyst cited recently in Slate, that's the same thing Kerry's proposal was trying to address.

The Wall Street Journal goes high with, and others front, a study showing that lowering cholesterol levels far below what most doctors recommend can substantially reduce the risk of a heart attack. People given high doses of one cholesterol busting drug, Lipitor, did much better than even those given high doses of a less powerful drug, Pravachol. "This is really a big deal," said one professor. "We have in our hands the power to reduce the risk of heart disease by a lot. It's very exciting."

The NYT fronts word that the Air Force said it's going to review how sexual assaults are reported and treated in the service after a study found at least 92 cases of accused rape involving Air Force personnel in the Pacific between 2001 and 2003.

The Post says on Page One that a federal court that oversees independent investigations of presidents has approved more money in legal costs reimbursements for Republican officials than for Democratic ones. The question of whether to reimburse at all is based on a fuzzy rule: You get your money back if you haven't been indicted and can show that career prosecutors wouldn't have gone after you. The Post details various instances in which the judges appear to have applied different standards depending on which administration the target served in. 

A front-page piece in the Post notices that security at tiny airports still blows. Many of them don't even have metal detectors or X-ray machines. Of course, it's ultimately a cost-benefit issue. As one small airline exec put it, "When there are more TSA people than passengers, you have to ask yourself, does that make sense?"

The NYT fronts and others tease discovery of actor-writer Spalding Gray's body in New York's East River. Gray, who long suffered from depression and had threatened to commit suicide, had been missing for two months.

The Post's magazine guy, Peter Carlson, notices that big-time prof Samuel Huntington has started a bit of a controversy by arguing in the latest Foreign Policy that the "most serious challenge to America's traditional identity comes from the immense and continuing immigration from Latin America, especially Mexico, and the fertility rates of these immigrants." Among the reasons these folks shouldn't be let in, Huntington says, is that they stick to themselves and cluster in their own neighborhoods. Carlson says the prof is right:

As we all know, Huntington's beloved Anglo-Protestants were always eager to share their neighborhoods (and their country clubs) with folks of other colors and creeds. In fact, before the Civil War, many Anglo-Protestants were so eager to meet folks from other cultures that they actually purchased them. That's an act of brotherhood that today's Mexican immigrants just can't match.