Serving Time With Martha

Serving Time With Martha

Serving Time With Martha

A summary of what's in the major U.S. newspapers.
July 17 2004 6:46 AM

Serving Time With Martha

The New York Times leads with an exclusive tease of the final report from the 9/11 commission, which will be released later this week. The panel is expected to recommend the creation of a Cabinet-level post to oversee all of the government's 15 intelligence agencies. The Washington Postlead, and the top non-local story in the Los Angeles Times, is the sentencing of Martha Stewart, who was given five months in prison as well as five months house arrest, two years probation, and a $30,000 fine. Stewart received the minimum sentence possible under federal guidelines for lying to investigators about her sale of ImClone stock.

According to the NYT, the appointment of a national intelligence director will likely be strongly contested by the Pentagon and the CIA, since both would have "to cede significant authority over the government's estimated $40 billion annual intelligence budget and other policy matters." Under the proposed system, the head of the CIA would no longer report directly to the White House but would instead go through the new director. The Times notes that the commission's recommendation is really not that unexpected or radical—various politicians and the president's own advisory panel on intelligence have been calling for such a change for the last two years. The final commission report, which is expected to be over 500 pages, will supposedly also propose restructuring the FBI and reorganizing the way Congress oversees intelligence agencies, though the Times teases this information without offering any specific details.

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A front-page WP story says there has been a recent increase in FBI interrogations of Arab-Americans. Fearful of a possible election-timed terrorist attack, the FBI has been interviewing a large number of Arab immigrants and even some American citizens. Subjects have been questioned on a variety of topics, from their opinion of the Iraq war to their knowledge of a particular mosque in Syria. While Arab groups and activists complain that the selection of many interviewees has been arbitrary, everyone agrees that the bureau is treading more carefully than it did in the aftermath of 9/11.

The NYT runs the results from its first poll since John Edwards was selected as John Kerry's running mate and finds "NO POLL BOOST FROM EDWARDS." The presidential candidates remain statistically deadlocked, and most of the typical measures, like the president's approval rating and popular opinion of the Iraq war, showed little change from last month. However, the poll did indicate that the Democrats are making up ground on national security issues, with 45 percent saying that Dems would make better decisions about the war and 41 percent saying the same about Republicans.

The NYT fronts, and the other papers stuff, an elementary school fire in southern India that killed 81 children. Government officials are accusing school owners and faculty of negligence since the school lacked a fire escape and had only one narrow staircase to use for evacuating students. Moreover, none of the teachers perished in the fire, and some officials have charged that faculty members abandoned their students during the blaze.

The WP goes above the fold with news that PNC Financial is buying the beleaguered Riggs Bank for about $700 million. The deal won't be made final for another six months, however, and PNC can back out if Riggs is brought up on more charges. A federal investigation found that Riggs failed to guard against money laundering and helped hide money for foreign dictators and presidents.

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The NYT reefers a follow-up on last week's news that the Pentagon is trying to avoid an avalanche of federal court cases by holding special military hearings for the Guantanamo detainees. The first military tribunals may be held as early as next week and will likely result in a significant reduction in the numbers of those detained. Not surprisingly, most civil-liberties groups are skeptical of the neutrality of the military hearings and are rushing to file federal court petitions on behalf of the 594 detainees.

The LAT fronts a piece that tries very hard to make its stale conceit, the supposed disillusionment of the conservative base with President Bush, seem fresh. Social conservatives are reportedly annoyed (again) that Bush has not expressed strong enough support for the Federal Marriage Amendment and has stuffed the lineup of GOP convention speakers with moderate Republicans. But it's hard to take all this griping seriously when, as the Times states, "the president remains enormously popular among social conservatives and other elements of the Republican Party base, and can expect overwhelming backing from them."

On a related note, a front-page NYT piece uses the upcoming retirement of National Review founder William F. Buckley as reason to look at the new generation of conservative leaders and activists. The article claims that the "young Right" is caught in an identity crisis, but it's never clear how the debate amongst young conservatives is significantly different from the libertarian-social conservative split that is readily apparent in older generations as well.

Jailhouse Martha … An article in the NYT business section analyzes what prison will be like for Martha Stewart. The Danbury, Conn., prison camp where she requested to be placed offers a gym, table tennis, and foosball, along with vocational training to be a carpenter, dental assistant, or machine operator. But Stewart will probably take most advantage of the hobby craft table, which features such activities as quilt-making and ceramics.