Duke Nuked

A summary of what's in the major U.S. newspapers.
March 4 2006 5:34 AM

Duke Nuked

The Los Angeles Times and the Washington Postlead with the eight-year, four-month sentence handed down to former Congressman Randy "Duke" Cunningham. The California Republican also must pay more than $3.5 million in back taxes, penalties, and restitution. (Although the Post dryly concludes its story with the observation that Cunningham's 15 years in the House and 21 in the Navy make him eligible for an annual government pension of about $64,400.) According to the New York Times,which relegates the Duke to its off-lead, the sentence is the harshest ever handed down to a member of Congress in a federal corruption case. Notably, only the Post refers to the latest twist in the Cunningham scandal, which threatens to ensnare the No. 3 official at the CIA, Kyle "Dusty" Foggo. As first reported by Newsweek, the agency's inspector general has opened an investigation into contracts Foggo may have awarded to a contractor prosecutors have tied to Cunningham. The paper doesn't offer any new information on the investigation's direction, however.

The NYT leads with President Bush's arrival in Islamabad. The paper observes that Bush's decision to fly directly to the Pakistani capital on Air Force One stands in marked contrast to Clinton's visit six years ago, when a decoy plane distracted from the unmarked jet carrying the president. (However, the Wall Street Journal does report that Bush used decoy ground transportation after landing.) That symbolic vote of confidence aside, the U.S. relationship with Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf remains cloudy. The Post, which stuffs its story on the president's visit in the middle of the A section, skillfully dissects the administration debate over Musharraf's commitment to promoting democracy and fighting terrorism. Although the LAT doesn't front Bush's arrival, it offers an analysis of the nuclear pact with India that was the most significant development in his visit to Pakistan's neighbor. The deal, which calls for U.S.-Indian cooperation on civilian nuclear energy, is designed to counterbalance China, the paper asserts. Oddly, the piece does not discuss how the deal might undermine efforts to contain Iran's nuclear program; as the LAT itself notes inside, a Security Council confrontation with Tehran is less than two weeks away.

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Surprisingly, only the LAT fronts the release of more than 5,000 pages of documents on the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay. The Pentagon records, made public Friday in response to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed by the AP, offer a rare glimpse inside the prison. Although the paper pulls a few choice quotes that call into question some of the detentions, it's too early to tell what the records will reveal about the bulk of the military's prisoners.

Everyone stuffs reports on Hamas' Russia visit. Representatives of the radical Palestinian group faced a stern warning from Russia's foreign minister that they must embrace the political process or face irrelevance; the LAT files the best details on the encounter. The NYT does front a lengthy piece on the Gaza border crossings, which offers a good insight into the Palestinian frustration that Hamas so successfully tapped in the January elections. Meanwhile, the Post fronts an admiring profile of a Lebanese politician, Ghassan Tueni, working to help his country resist the sort of extremist religious politics Hamas represents.

BlackBerry addicts from Wall Street to K Street learned Friday that their wireless e-mail fix is no longer in danger of being taken away. But only the WSJ and the Post front details of the $612.5 million settlement between Research In Motion, maker of the popular e-mail hand-held, and NTP, the holding company that sued RIM for patent infringement. The WSJ's report outlines the financial losses that RIM faces despite the settlement, while the Post focuses on the wrangling leading up to the deal. Although the out-of-court settlement puts an end to the case, it does not resolve the larger problem of patent trolls.

The LAT investigates how the AARP may profit from the Medicare drug benefit, which passed Congress thanks in part to the organization's support. A drug insurance plan using the AARP name stands to make the group tens of millions of dollars. Whether this should be controversial remains unclear, since the seniors group has offered other insurance plans for some time and potential profits remain uncertain.

The Post looks ahead to the sentencing of Zacarias Moussaoui. Jury selection begins Monday for hearings on whether the 9/11 plotter should face the death penalty. The Post analyzes the challenges both the prosecution and the defense face, concluding that a significant problem for Moussaoui's lawyers may be their unpredictable client, who has indicated he intends to testify.

Finally, the WSJ fronts more bad news for the American auto industry: Car parts manufacturer Dana, which makes truck frames, axles, and brakes, filed for bankruptcy protection, becoming the fourth parts supplier to do so in a little more than a year. The paper notes that with suppliers in such a dire financial situation, automakers will have a harder time streamlining their own businesses.

Alexander Dryer works for The New Yorker in Washington, D.C.

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