Jill Carroll released unharmed by Iraqi captors.

A summary of what's in the major U.S. newspapers.
March 31 2006 4:59 AM

Free at Last

The New York Times and the Wall Street Journal's world-wide newsbox lead and everybody else fronts the release of journalist Jill Carroll, who had been held captive by Iraqi militants for the last three months. Carroll said she had been physically unharmed by her captors. The Los Angeles Times leads the U.N. atomic energy czar's plea for the West to "lower the pitch" of the rhetoric surrounding Iran's uranium-enrichment program. Mohammed ElBaradei also came out against the possibility of future sanctions.

The Washington Post leads news that a complete rehab of New Orleans' levees will cost $10 billion, three times more than originally anticipated. The unforeseen cost increase may mean that some Gulf Coast towns won't be fully protected when hurricane season hits in two months. USA Today leads Major League Baseball's decision to initiate an official investigation into the steroid allegations that have rocked the sport. Former Sen. George Mitchell was selected to direct the probe.

The 28-year-old Carroll, a freelancer for the Christian Science Monitor, appeared shaken but healthy during debriefing at the American-controlled Green Zone in Baghdad. Although she appeared distraught in videos released during her captivity, Carroll emphasized that she had been well-treated by her kidnappers. The exhaustive USAT story focuses on the unclear reasons behind her release, given that no ransom had been paid and no negotiations had been initiated.

Only the NYT veers away from the widespread hooraying to hint at the darker side of Carroll's release. A video was uploaded to the Internet on Thursday in which Carroll professed solidarity with Iraqi insurgents and predicted America's eventual defeat, and the NYT wonders if she was suffering from Stockholm syndrome.

As the Security Council's veto-holders met in Berlin, IAEA chief Mohammed ElBaradei urged the West to seek diplomatic solutions to its problems with Iran's nuclear program. Nations like Russia and China fear that the U.S. plans to use tenuous evidence of weapons programs as a pretext for an Iraq-style invasion. Noting that Iran's program poses no clear and present danger to anybody, ElBaradei maintained that the "only durable solution is a negotiated solution." Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice floated the sanctions trial balloon anyway.

"Now all of a sudden they say they made a $6 billion mistake?" fumed Rep. Charlie Melancon, D-La., speaking for a host of Louisiana officials who were furious at the feds' revised cost estimate for levee repair. Really, though, should federal mismanagement be all that surprising to Gulf Coasters by now? USAT goes inside with the administration's estimate that it might take 25 years for New Orleans to fully recover from the hurricane damage.

President Bush met with Mexican President Vicente Fox to assure him of his complete commitment to comprehensive immigration reform, despite the rumblings of mutiny from Congressional Republicans, the NYT and others report. Great photo of Bush, Fox, and the dopey-looking Canadian prime minister standing in front of the Mayan ruins at Chichén Itzá.

The LAT fronts a feature on the children of Latino immigrants who've been instrumental in leading California's weeklong massive student walkouts in protest over immigration policy. One poli-sci professor called the student activism "the foundation for a new kind of Hispanic politics."

On the other side of the issue, the Post fronts a feature on neo-nativist Rep. Tom Tancredo, R-Colo., who has built his career on his unyielding opposition to immigration and is perhaps best-known for his desire to build a 700-mile wall on the Mexican-American border. Tancredo, a second-generation American, enjoys enough national support to be mulling a 2008 presidential bid.

Massachusetts' highest court ruled that nonresident homosexual couples can't marry in Massachusetts if their home state wouldn't recognize the union. The court voted 6-1 to uphold a 1913 statute originally intended to bar interracial marriage; instead of pursuing an appeal, gay-marriage activists plan to lobby the state legislature to overturn the statute.

USAT goes inside with news that the Army will prohibit its soldiers from using privately purchased body armor. Military officials say the directive will protect soldiers from using substandard equipment; GIs who've waited months to be outfitted counter that substandard armor is better than none at all. You go to war with the equipment you're assigned, not the equipment you order off the Internet.

The New York Times off-leads a feature that draws on documents made public in the Zacarias Moussaoui trial to compare al-Qaida and the federal government's respective management techniques. Al-Qaida is simply organized and relies on actively involved managers, while America's "large and lumbering bureaucracy," with its employees focused on not making mistakes, isn't built for rapid response. "It's like the elephant fighting the snake," one member of the Sept. 11 commission said.

Former Liberian President Charles Taylor's war-crimes trial might take place at the International Criminal Court in The Hague instead of in Sierra Leone, everyone notes. Regional officials hope that a change of venue would preserve stability in the region while sparing Sierra Leonians the need to relive their painful recent history.

France's Constitutional Council upheld the proposed youth labor law that has provoked heavy protesting across the country. The bill now goes to President Jacques Chirac, who can theoretically send it back to Parliament—a move that would completely undermine Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin.

USAT teases a piece on 32 Wisconsin towns whose residents will vote next week on referendums calling for the removal of U.S. troops from Iraq. Although the measures are entirely symbolic, many still feel compelled to take a stand. "The people have to lead the leaders out of this war," said one man.

A Matter of Faith: The NYT fronts and the WP and LAT go inside with a study finding that prayer doesn't materially affect the rate of healing in sick people. In fact, those people who were told they were being prayed for actually got worse. Next on the agenda: examining the truth behind the contention that the family that prays together stays together.

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