The Los Angeles Times breaks the news that German intelligence officials are claiming the FBI and CIA misrepresented pre-war intelligence provided by "an Iraqi defector code-named Curveball," regarding Iraqi WMD programs. The New York Times leads with an assessment of President Bush's visit to China, concluding there's precious little he can do to exert pressure on the Chinese government, despite increasing urgent concerns over trade and human rights. The Washington Post leads with discrepancies between the number of crimes committed on the city's subway system as reported by system administrators and those figures released by local police.
German intelligence officials who handled the ironically codenamed "Curveball," claim that the CIA and FBI knew that Curveball's statements about Iraqi biological weapons programs were vague and impossible to verify, the LAT reports. The German officials, who handled Curveball over a period of six years, warned the U.S. agencies that Curveball was emotionally and psychologically unstable. Nevertheless, Curveball's unsubstantiated claims about Iraqi biological weapons programs formed the backbone of the Bush administration's case for war. The LAT story tells the story of an Iraqi who'd say anything to get a German visa and the intelligence community that ate it all up with a spoon.
The NYT is bearish on Bush's visit to China. Chinese President Hu declined to hold a joint press conference with Bush and the state-run media refused to cover much of Bush's visit. The NYT reports the administration has said it's not expecting to bring home any diplomatic trophies, which is good because the Chinese government isn't about to make concessions on monetary policy, releasing dissidents or any number of other issues. If there's a silver lining here, the NYT argues it's that the two leaders are seeing eye to eye more often than they used to: The two nations agree in principle about North Korean nukes and the Chinese have taken the yuan off its hard peg to the U.S. dollar, even if they won't allow it to float freely on the open market.
The WP reports that when the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority says that there have been 10 muggings at a given metro stop in the last year, they really mean WMATA's own Transit Police have reported 10 muggings, ignoring any reports coming from D.C., Maryland, or Virginia police. The discrepancies can throw crime figures for individual stops off by as much as 60 percent, the WP finds. Officials up and down the line feign ignorance of the practice, with one going so far as to call the cooked statistics a misleading "kubuki dance," an unsavory Washington metaphor of the worst sort.
The NYT and WP each front (while the LAT runs inside with) analysis of what Friday's shouting match over the ongoing Iraq occupation means for both parties. The WP characterizes it as a long-avoided issue that has bubbled to the top of the national consciousness and which the GOP-led Congress will have to cope with if it wants to get anything else done. The NYT looks at how the issue has fractured the GOP's previously lockstep party mechanism, leaving it unable to move forward on any issue. Meanwhile the LAT reminds Democrats that it's not enough for the other guys to screw up: They'll need to come up with alternatives of their own if they want to make any political gains stick.
The NYT reports that in Jackson, Miss., the wind might not have blow that hard, but residents were only too happy to reap the windfall of Hurricane Katrina relief money. Residents who experienced sub-hurricane force winds and whose only loss during the storm was spoiled food from refrigerators that lost power still qualified for hundreds, even thousands of dollars in relief funds from FEMA and the Red Cross. The NYT reports that much of the money was spent on firearms, electronics, and other luxury items.
The LAT off-leads with a feature on the controversy over oil-shale development in Western Colorado. The procedure for pressing oil out of undeveloped shale is being touted by the White House as the answer to America's energy crisis; however, some experts think the extracting process could use up more energy than it produces. If the most bullish analysts turn out to be right, though, the region could produce more barrels of oil than the remaining reserves of Saudi Arabia, but, the LAT points out, that could be a mighty big "if."
The WP off-leads with a reminder that for all the negative attention the Iraq occupation receives, Afghanistan isn't doing too hot, either. As the deadline for finishing a massive clinic- and school-building initiative draws to a close, contractors have built far fewer structures than they'd been ordered to complete and those that have been finished show signs of shoddy workmanship. The WP does a good job of breaking down the various factors impeding the building effort, stressing that a combination of security concerns, logical problems, corruption, and exaggerated expectations have combined to prevent the project from being completed. The story points out, however, that no amount of explanation will buy any goodwill from exasperated Afghanis who have been waiting for years for the schools and medical facilities they were promised.
A recently passed bill disguised as a routine modification of mining regulations would actually allow private developers to snatch up huge tracts of federal land, reports the NYT under the fold.
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is kicking about 200 U.S. missionaries out of the country, reports the LAT, on suspicions that they're committing acts of espionage and "imperialist penetration."
Nothing Says "Mazel Tov" Quite Like Ja Rule …
Instead of hiring Mordecai the Dancing Yiddish Clown, well-to-do parents are splurging on more opulent entertainment for their kids' bar mitzvahs or birthday parties, hiring top-tier performers like Beyonce or Christina Aguilera, reports the NYT. Even more venerable acts like the Rolling Stones and Elton John will play a wedding reception if the price is right—and the guests promise not to tell anyone.