Port Noise Complaint

A summary of what's in the major U.S. newspapers.
Feb. 22 2006 3:35 AM

Port Noise Complaint

Everybody leads with President Bush threatening to veto any legislation that would block a deal giving a state-owned company in the United Arab Emirates control over commercial management at some U.S. ports. Among the latest opponents of the deal: Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist and Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert. They joined scads of Democrats and other Republicans in worrying about the possible national security implications (terrorists could use the company to infiltrate ports, presumably). The opponents "ought to look at the facts and understand the consequences of what they're going to do," said Bush, who has yet to veto a single bill.

The Los Angeles Times, USA Today, Wall Street Journal world-wide newsbox, and Washington Postall just about skip one small issue related to the security concerns: Are they legit?

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The New York Timesgives a good hint about the answer: "Opposition to the deal brought expressions of befuddlement from shipping industry and port experts." The UAE has long been an ally in the fight against al-Qaida. More important, the U.S. government would still do the security, the company would only manage some terminals, and the employees would almost certainly be same as before: union guys. Meanwhile, the deal has already been cleared by an interagency review focused on security issues.

"In a weird way, the interagency review allows the US to hold international companies to a higher level of standards and accountability," one policy wonk told the Christian Science Monitor, which has a fine piece that counters some of the fretting. The WP also has a strong editorial on the facts of the case. So does the LAT, which says Congress is currently engaged in a "bipartisan hissy fit." The NYT's editorial page, meanwhile, appears to have a guest editor, Michael Moore: "The ports deal is another decision that has made the corporations involved happy, and has made ordinary Americans worry about whether they are being adequately protected."

TP's nominee for most obvious yet asinine port comment: "Maybe it's corporate racial profiling, but I don't want foreign companies, particularly ones with links to 9/11, running American ports." That's not Bill O'Reilly or Lou Dobbs. It's MoDo. Memo to Maureen: Foreign companies are already managing "the majority of key U.S. ports." And by the way, what exact links did the UAE government have to 9/11?

Everybody fronts the Supreme Court agreeing to consider the constitutionality of a federal ban on so-called partial-birth abortions. The law includes an exemption if a woman's life is in danger but not if her health is threatened. Back when Sandra Day O'Connor was on the court, the justices ruled that any abortion restriction law must have an exemption for a woman's health. Lower courts have struck down the federal ban, and in reconsidering those decisions, the Post says, SCOTUS has "set the stage for its most significant ruling on abortion rights in almost 15 years."

Quoting on-the-record bureaucrats, the Post says on Page One that the Bureau of Land Management, the fed's largest caretaker of public land, "routinely restricts the ability of its own biologists to monitor wildlife damage caused by surging energy drilling on federal land." Wildlife experts at the BLM complain that instead of studying, say, wildlife, they're now spending most of their time processing oil-drilling permits. The LAT has been all over the government's big-time expansion of drilling on public land and its impact on the environment.

Everybody mentions the arrest of three men in Ohio for allegedly conspiring to fight U.S. forces in Iraq. It's not clear how far they got in terms of planning or preparation. "Clearly the folks had the motivation," said Attorney General Gonzales. "And I think that they demonstrated that they had the means."

The papers go inside with a car bomb at a market in a Shiite-dominated neighborhood of Baghdad that killed about two dozen people and wounded about 60 more. It was one of the worst attacks in Baghdad in months.

The NYT goes inside with evidence that Gitmo prisoners on hunger-strike have been given feeding tubes not to keep them alive but as a means of breaking them. "People have been urinating and defecating on themselves in these feedings and vomiting and bleeding," one inmate told his lawyer. "They ask to be allowed to go to the bathroom, but they will not let them go." According to two officers cited by the NYT, of the roughly four dozen detainees who've had feeding tubes inserted "only a few were thought to be in immediate medical danger."

The LAT, NYT, and WP all frontLawrence Summers resigning as president of Harvard. In addition to his penchant for making questionable comments, what was viewed by many as his heavy-handed attempts to centralize power irked faculty. His five-year tenure is the shortest of any Harvard president since 1862.

Clarification … In yesterday's column, TP wrote that he didn't see any of the papers cover TheNew Yorker's scoop about a Pentagon lawyer who resisted detainee policies. Which was correct—in a real technical sort of way: The NYT and WP covered the story Monday. 

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

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