Weekday at Bernie's

Weekday at Bernie's

Weekday at Bernie's

A summary of what's in the major U.S. newspapers.
Dec. 15 2004 4:03 AM

Weekday at Bernie's

The Los Angeles Times' top non-local story goes with about a dozen instances of Marines torturing Iraqi detainees, including setting one prisoner's hands on fire and using electric shocks on another. There have been about 10 courts martial in the cases, which were unveiled by the ACLU via another Freedom of Information Act lawsuit. The Washington Postalso fronts the revelations, saying the incidents were spread over the past two years: "DETAINEE ABUSE BY MARINES IS DETAILED." The NYT takes a different angle, going inside and headlining: "MARINES FOUND GUILTY OF ABUSING IRAQIS, FILES SHOW."

The Post'stop non-local spot goes to interim Iraqi Prime Minister Allawi's surprise announcement that pre-trial hearings for many former regime officials will began next week. Saddam isn't expected to be included. USA Today leads with new EPA numbers showing that the level of soot in the air dropped 10 percent from 1999 to 2003. Still, about 62 million people live in counties where particulate pollution exceeds federal standards. USAT says such pollution kills "tens of thousands" annually. The New York Timesleads with an attempted reconstruction of how the White House failed to find the cemetery's worth of skeletons in Bernie Kerik's past—and present.

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The NY Times' lead points out that back when he was police chief, Kerik hadn't filled out paperwork for an FBI background check, which would have given him top security clearance. He also never turned in a required financial disclosure form when he went to Iraq. Eventually, the Times gets around to the administration's issues: The White House had fallen into the Clinton-era habit of making nomination announcements before thorough vetting, a tendency that was particularly appealing in this case:"Throughout the process, the Republican close to the administration said, everyone at the White House knew that Mr. Bush liked Mr. Kerik, placing him in the special category of 'this guy's our guy.'  "

The Times hides the fun stuff inside: Apparently Kerik had at least one affair (the Daily News says two simultaneous ones) in an apartment that was originally donated by a wealthy sort-of- police-groupie for use by weary Ground Zero workers. Kerik later requested to rent the apartment, though it's not clear for how much, or at which stage he started using it for his tryst(s). One building resident recalled seeing the former chief, "I said to myself, 'Hey, that's Bernie Kerik!' It was surprising. But then I thought, well, maybe he keeps a place down here because he's involved with security and 9/11."

The LAT and NYT go inside with the military saying it's ramping up its airlift operation inside Iraq. "Taking the trucks off the most dangerous routes where we have most of the trouble has become a goal," said the Air Force's top general. "There'll be increased [missile] threats to C-130s, but we've also got 100 casualties a month in convoys." Sunday's Postbroke word of the change (on page A28).

The WPmentions that the Pentagon's top general acknowledged that in Fallujah there are "still pockets of people that are resisting."

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The NYT off-leadswith a reprise of the contention that Iran is the prime-mover behind Iraq's Shiite parties. The story's take is pretty clear: "Many Iraqis and American experts on Iraq believe those fears are overstated." One "Bush administration official" played therapist, saying that what those talking up Iranian influence are "really voicing is their angst over the transition from a Sunni-led state to a Shiite-led state." Maybe the NYT's headline writers should get on the couch: "IRAQI CAMPAIGN RAISES QUESTION OF IRAN'S SWAY."

The papers all flag Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas saying that attacks against Israelis are "a mistake" and opposition to the occupation should be peaceful. The NYT notices that overall Palestinian rhetoric has mellowed since Arafat's death.

The NYT says on Page One that the FDA is flailing at regulating new medical devices, such as home-use defibrillators. For one thing, the agency requires hospitals to report deaths that result from defective ones. But consumers (obviously) and "even many emergency units" (Times) aren't required to do so.

The NYT teasesword that the Inuit plan to file claims that the U.S. is threatening their existence by contributing to and effectively ignoring global warming. The case will be filed to the Organization of American States, which doesn't have enforcement powers. But the suit could serve as the basis for later ones, and a black eye.

On Monday, USAT's lead say Army National Guardsman in Iraq were a third more likely to be killed than their active-duty brethren. Yesterday, USAT said—again on Page One—that the military gave the paper the wrong numbers and couldn't provide new ones. This morning's USAT does have the revised numbers, which show that Army National Guardsmen are less likely to be killed than active duty GIs. That walk-back is stuffed on Page 2.

An op-ed in the Post whales on SecDef Rumsfeld, pointing out that Rummy's facile response to the armor question wasn't just a mistake, it's part of a habit: "All defense secretaries in wartime have, needless to say, made misjudgments. Some have stubbornly persisted in their misjudgments. But have any so breezily dodged responsibility and so glibly passed the buck?" The writer: Bill Kristol.