Bitter Kofi

Bitter Kofi

Bitter Kofi

A summary of what's in the major U.S. newspapers.
March 30 2005 3:49 AM

Bitter Kofi

The New York Timesand Los Angeles Timeslead with a U.N.-appointed commission finding no evidence that Secretary-General Kofi Annan influenced the United Nations' decision to award a multimillion-dollar contract to a company that employed his son. But the report also criticizes Annan for having initially blown-off questions about the conflict of interest. The Wall Street Journal, which previewed the report yesterday, tops its world-wide newsbox with Annan's response to questions about whether he will resign, as some Republican congressional critics have called for. "Hell no," he said.

The Washington Postleads with another sneak peek at the report from the presidential commission tasked with delving into U.S. intel snafus. The Post highlights the report's focus on the need to encourage dissent and divergent opinions. Among the brainstorms floated: creating an ombudsman to hear from disgruntled analysts and keeping overlapping specialists at disparate agencies. USA Today's lead looks at the beating the Abrams battle tank is taking in Iraq. Built for tank-to-tank combat, about 80 have been effectively knocked out (compared with 17 in the first Gulf War). And then there's this stat: Of the roughly 1,000 Abramses in Iraq, about 70 percent have been hit by enemy fire. (Most sustained only minor damage.) The military is designing an add-on kit to help the tank operate in urban areas.

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The LAT and NYT front the Iraqi national assembly again meeting and again breaking up without naming a government. With Kurdish and Shiite leaders still fighting over control of ministries and no Sunnis biting on the ceremonial leadership positions, the meeting degenerated within minutes into a shouting session. Then officials told the media to skedaddle. At that, says the Post, the local stations that had been carrying the meeting live dutifully switched to an Iraqi singer belting out, "My Homeland, My Homeland."

In a Page One piece, the NYT says flight records match up nearly perfectly with the recollections of a Canadian engineer, Maher Arar, who says he was grabbed by U.S. officials, tossed on a plane, and sent to Syria, where he was tortured. "I think that's it," he said, looking at a photo of the jet. "I think you've found the plane that took me."

The LAT fronts the case of a Yemeni who apparently faced reserve-rendition: He was somehow nabbed off the streets in Egypt in 2002—after which his family didn't hear from him for 19 months—and then turned up at a U.S. prison in Afghanistan. According to his latest letter, he's now at Gitmo.

The WP off-leads and NYT fronts the Supreme Court decision strengthening the Title IX law. By a 5-4 vote, the Justices ruled that the law prohibits not only unequal treatment of girls and women in federally funded education programs but also prohibits retaliation against whistle-blowers, whatever their sex.

Reports are still sketchy from the islands closest to Monday's quake. But Indonesian officials now estimate at least 1,000 people died.

Penning a NYT op-ed, former Republican senator and recent ambassador to the United Nations John Danforth, goes after his own party, big-time: The GOP "has gone so far in adopting a sectarian agenda that it has become the political extension of a religious movement."

The LAT and WP front the death of superstar lawyer Johnnie Cochran. Cochran had long said his top moment came when he convinced a court to overturn the murder conviction of former Black Panther Geronimo Pratt. Of course, Cochran knew what his enduring legacy would be: "If the glove doesn't fit, you must acquit." The twist: The phrase wasn't really Cochran's. One of his colleagues suggested it. Cochran was 67; he died of a brain tumor.

Eric Umansky, previously the "Today's Papers" columnist for Slate, is currently a Gordon Grey Fellow at Columbia University's School of Journalism.