Three feet higher: The plan to rebuild New Orleans.

Three feet higher: The plan to rebuild New Orleans.

Three feet higher: The plan to rebuild New Orleans.

A summary of what's in the major U.S. newspapers.
April 13 2006 5:32 AM

Three Feet Higher

The Washington Post leads with the release of the long-awaited federal government guidelines for rebuilding New Orleans and a $2.5 billion plan for levee reconstruction. Under the plans, 98 percent of the population in the New Orleans area would be able to return to their homes. The top nonlocal New York Times story is the Zacarias Moussaoui trial and the first public playing of the cockpit recording of United Flight 93. That story also led the Wall Street Journal's world-wide newsbox and was fronted by USA Today. The Los Angeles Times leads, at least online, with a follow-up to its amazing stories of flash memory drives with highly sensitive U.S. military data being sold in bazaars in Afghanistan.

USA Today leads with the FBI's caseload of white-collar and drug crimes dropping dramatically. Since 2001, when the bureau started focusing more on terrorism, the overall number of FBI-led prosecutions has declined 25 percent. At the same time the number of terrorism-related cases and convictions—still a small portion of the FBI's total workload—has risen rapidly. But the paper notes that the average prison sentence for the terrorism cases is half that for drug convictions. One analyst suggests the bureau may be padding its numbers by labeling immigration violations as terrorism.

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The post-Katrina New Orleans plan would require most homeowners to raise the levels of their houses to 3 feet above the ground—a curious figure, given that the water was so much higher than that in so much of the city. One expert calls the 3-foot requirement "wacky." Less wacky is the cost of raising a house that much—about $60,000, according to USA Today. The NYT emphasizes the relative lenience of the rebuilding guidelines, given many residents' worries that parts of the city would be abandoned. The WP focuses instead on the possibility that Louisiana may have to pay as much as $900 million of the levee-reconstruction costs.

The tape of Flight 93—which was played as the culmination of the prosecution's case that Moussaoui should get the death penalty—depicted an "animalistic" struggle in the cockpit as passengers tried to break in to thwart the hijacking plot. The descriptions of the tape are riveting, so those of us not in the courtroom can only imagine how it was to actually hear it. Still, none of the papers really address what relevance the tape had to the Moussaoui case. As the Post puts it, "The trial seemed an afterthought yesterday amid the drama of the recording."

In the latest episode in the flash drive series, the Times reporter buys a drive for $40 containing detailed information about Afghan spies employed by the United States. Intelligence seems to be one of the few things the military doesn't overpay for—one Afghan spying on al-Qaida gets $15 for every successful mission. Among other helpful information on the drive: the layout and defense plans of a (formerly) "low-visibility" special operations base in southern Afghanistan. The top U.S. commander in the country has ordered a review of how soldiers keep track of computer hardware.

The LAT also fronts a poll showing that a large majority of Americans supports an immigration plan that would both tighten enforcement of the border and create a guest-worker program, rather than an enforcement-only approach. Any plan containing amnesty seems not to have been polled. The same survey showed 49 percent of Americans planned to vote for a Democrat in the Congressional elections this fall, and 35 percent for Republicans.  It also showed that 40 percent of Americans don't support military action against Iran even if Tehran continues to get closer to having nuclear weapons, as opposed to 48 percent who would support an attack. * If the U.S. attacks, a fearless 25 percent favor sending in ground troops.

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The Post fronts, and LAT stuffs, another general piling on the criticism of Donald Rumsfeld. This time it's a former division commander in Iraq.

The conflict in Darfur could be spreading: Early-morning wire reports say there has been heavy fighting inside Chad's capitol. Chadian rebels based in Darfur are clashing with government forces and appear to be intent on taking the capital. France is bolstering the contingent of 1,200 troops it maintains in Chad.

Michael Jackson is close to a deal that would involve him selling one of his prized assets—his share in a catalog of 4,000 songs including most of the Beatles' hits, the NYT reports. Jackson bought the publishing rights to the songs for $47.5 million in 1984 but is in "a lengthy slide toward insolvency," as the Times puts it, and is trying to stave off bankruptcy by refinancing hundreds of millions in loans. The catalog also includes songs by Bob Dylan, Neil Diamond, and Garth Brooks.

Correction, April 13, 2006: This article originally and incorrectly stated that a Los Angeles Times poll found that 48 percent of respondents would not support military action against Iran if the country continued to develop nuclear weapons materials, while 40 percent of respondents would support military action. In fact, 48 percent of respondents stated that they would support military action, while 40 percent would not. (Return to the corrected sentence.)