The Los Angeles Times and Washington Postlead with Iraq's national assembly formally naming the country's president, a Kurd, along with two vice presidents, who in turn promised to name Shiite Ibrahim al-Jaafari as prime minister, the position with the most power. Saddam and other top regime men were reportedly allowed to watch the proceedings on TV. "According to witnesses, he was unhappy and playing with his beard," said one Kurdish politician.
The New York Timesand USA Todaylead with overwhelmed authorities last night cutting off the line for the viewing of the pope's body after an estimated million people showed up yesterday. The church also announced that the closed-door conclave to elect a new pope will start April 18.The Wall Street Journal tops its world-wide newsbox with a poll suggesting many Republicans aren't thrilled with recent moves by the White House and Congress, and not only around Terri Schiavo. There were also significant chunks of dissent around gay marriage, Social Security, and immigration. A third of party members polled said Democrats should prevent Republicans from "going too far in pushing their agenda."
With yesterday's NYT having led with the picks in Iraq, the Times gives a different angle. Along with the WSJ, it emphasizes that right after the top pols were named, a small shouting match ensued when Shiite members demanded a renewed dedication to de-Baathification. Sunni politicians are suspicious. "De-Baathification is just an excuse that our Shiite brothers are using to remove Sunnis from positions of power," one Sunni pol told the Journal.
A front-page piece in the Post says the U.S. is handing over responsibility to Iraqi forces "much more rapidly than U.S. commanders have previously acknowledged." That seems a bit overwrought: Besides a well-reported section in Baghdad, Iraqi forces have been given control only of a 2-square-mile area in Mosul. Meanwhile, the Post buries the lead: Some U.S. advisers don't think the Iraqi forces are ready even for the small-scale responsibilities. "It's all about perception, to convince the American public that everything is going as planned and we're right on schedule to be out of here," said one named adviser. "I mean, they can [mislead] the American people, but they can't [mislead] us. These guys are not ready." (For the record, it's the Post and not TP that FCC'd the above quote.)
The NYT floats the possibility that John Bolton's nomination as ambassador to the U.N. won't make it out of the Senate. If all eight Democrats on the Foreign Relations Committee go thumbs down, only one committee Republican needs to abandon Bolton, and though Sen. Lincoln Chafee says he's "inclined" to vote aye, he says he hasn't decided yet. At least one intelligence official plans to testify that Bolton tried to get him fired after he pooh-poohed some of Bolton's wacky WMD assertions about Cuba.
As everybody mentions, a U.S. transport helicopter crashed in Afghanistan, with 16 aboard confirmed dead.
A piece inside the Journal points out that right after World War II, U.S. war-crimes tribunals prosecuted Japanese guards not only for torture but also for merely humiliating American prisoners. One guard who mainly forced POWs to salute non-stop for 30 minutes was sentenced to 12 years. "Extreme brutality or serious injury to the victim is not a necessary element" for conviction, wrote one judge. Defense lawyers for Gitmo detainees—and human-rights lawyers—are gleefully pointing to the convictions. But the military argues there's no parallel, since the detainees now are "unlawful combatants." (The WSJ adds some background in Web-only sidebars.)
He has a knack for being a hack ... The NYT checks in on Britain's poet laureate, who's been tasked with writing a bit of beautiful verse about Charles and Camilla joining as one. He's not letting anybody peek. But he's turned out to fine lines before, such as on the occasion of Prince William's 21st birthday:
It's a threshold, a gateway
A landmark birthday;
It's a turning of the page,
A coming of age.