The New York Times leads with the unsuccessful conclusion of a monthlong U.N. conference on strengthening the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. The conference was hampered by American intransigence on disarmament and international disagreement on a response to North Korean and Iranian nuclear programs. Talks went so poorly that some officials are speculating that the treaty itself may have been damaged. The Los Angeles Times also leads with nuke talks (at least online). Its story emphasizes the extent to which the United States alienated the other participants. While the meeting was under way, for example, the Bush administration was pushing Congress to fund a new "bunker buster" nuke. The Washington Post's top nonlocal story reveals that two Army analysts responsible for a deeply flawed evaluation of Iraq's weapons capability have received performance bonuses for the last three years. President Bush's panel on intelligence failures concluded that the analysts' work on aluminum tubes at the Army's National Ground Intelligence Center represented a "serious lapse in analytic tradecraft"; the article links the bonuses to other examples of the administration's refusal to hold anyone accountable for pre-war mistakes.
The LAT fronts a good summary of new moves by the United States to further isolate North Korea. Even seemingly innocuous programs, such as an effort to recover remains from the Korean War, are being canceled. The piece is an excellent companion to the nonproliferation story—it offers compelling evidence that Washington may be headed for a showdown with Pyongyang over the question of nuclear weapons on the Korean peninsula.
Whether any military confrontation is possible while U.S. troops remain in Iraq is an open question, of course. But another LAT piece suggests that the insurgency may suffer a major setback if reports that insurgent leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi has been seriously wounded pan out. (TP profiled Zarqawi back in June.)
The NYT fronts mostly domestic news today. The paper has an excellent report on the latest scandal to hit the GOP. Tom DeLay may get all the national attention as the poster boy for ethical problems in the party, but at least in Ohio, fund-raiser * Thomas Noe is a much more controversial figure. Noe, a congressman and prolific fund-raiser, has connections to nearly every figure in the Buckeye State's Republican Party. He's also at the center of a growing controversy stemming from a $50 million investment the state pension group made into a rare-coin fund he controls. Up to $13 million of that money may be missing, and Noe's former allies are turning on him. The investigations of Noe are multiplying, but it remains to be seen whether he is guilty of any wrongdoing.
Another financial scandal—one that will be of far more interest to the society set—also makes the front page of the NYT. The paper has all the details on the apparent downfall of arts patron Alberto Vilar, who was arrested on Thursday. Vilar is charged with defrauding a client of $5 million; he allegedly used the cash to meet some of his charitable pledges and to pay for some basic needs ($255.56 went to repair his dishwasher). The story seems destined for cinematic treatment in the pages of New York magazine.
A compelling profile in the Post examines the lives and work of a group of volunteers helping a Sri Lankan village recover from the tsunami. Derided as "tsunami tourists" by professional relief workers, thousands of volunteers have headed to South Asia since December and despite their inexperience are managing to help recovery efforts in small yet important ways.
The Post digs into the increasingly popular "interest-only" mortgages. The mortgages, which are especially common in areas with sharply rising housing prices, allow individuals to save money by delaying paying back the principal on their loans for several years. Unfortunately, the loans are only a safe bet in a market with appreciating prices; economists are getting worried about a down market's impact on the loans.
The LAT has some potentially bad news for the 30 million men who have taken Viagra or other similar drugs. The FDA is investigating reports that the impotence pills may cause eye damage. No definitive relationship between the drugs and eye problems has been established, however, and doctors report that many men are happy to accept the risk.