Trouble reported for New Orleans' levees and a lawmaker.

Trouble reported for New Orleans' levees and a lawmaker.

Trouble reported for New Orleans' levees and a lawmaker.

A summary of what's in the major U.S. newspapers.
May 22 2006 5:41 AM

Frozen Assets

The Los Angeles Times leads with revelations of construction and design flaws in New Orleans' levees that raise doubts about the structures' ability to withstand another hurricane the size of Katrina—even after repairs totaling more than $3 billion are completed. The findings—by a team of independent civil engineers—highlight mistakes by the Army Corps of Engineers and challenge pledges by the White House that the levee repairs will make New Orleans safer. The New York Timesleads with news that four large European banks have reduced their activities in Iran because of pressure by the United States; it's unclear how damaging the lost business will actually be to Iran since the country earns so much money from petroleum profits. USA Today leads—and the Wall Street Journal tops its world-wide newsbox—with the wave of violence that swept over Baghdad Sunday, killing at least 18. Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki pledged to use "maximum force" if needed to end the mayhem. The day's violence included a suicide bomb detonated at a downtown restaurant, mortar rounds that killed a 4-year-old, two roadside bombs that went off in a fruit market, and a car bomb. The Washington Post leads with a look at a not-so-surprising GOP strategy: Focus on the fall midterm elections. The Bush team believes it's the only way to salvage his presidency. (The LAT fronts a story about rank-and-file disillusionment with Republican strategy, including an anonymous GOP congressman who says his party will be better off if they lose control of Congress.)

In a 600-page report, investigators question the Army Corps of Engineers' competence, saying the corps missed evidence and reached incorrect conclusions, failing to understand why New Orleans' levees were breached in the first place. "They got it wrong. When the entire world is watching and a city has been destroyed, you want to get it right," said Raymond Seed, a U.C. Berkeley civil engineering professor and the leader of the investigation.

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The NYT and WP front new, juicy details in the federal investigation of Rep. William J. Jefferson, D-La. Hours after 15 FBI agents spent all night Saturday searching Jefferson's Capitol Hill office, the search warrant and other court documents were made public, revealing accusations that Jefferson took hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes—including $90,000 he hid in the freezer of his Washington home. The FBI said they found the money there in a raid after taping his alleged acceptance of it. Jefferson is being accused of taking bribes to help a small technology business get contracts with federal agencies and West African governments and companies, and the court papers released Sunday were the first to directly link his name to bribery charges.

The NYT fronts a U.S. proposal for the installation of 10 anti-missile interceptors somewhere in Europe by 2011 that could stop attacks by Iran on the U.S. and its European allies. Sites under consideration include those in Poland and the Czech Republic, and the cost is projected around $1.6 billion.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's two senior Cabinet ministers met Sunday with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas—the first meeting by top officials of the two sides in nearly a year. Everyone emerged with optimistic assessments.

Everybody stuffs early results from the referendum in the Balkan state of Montenegro, where voters narrowly declared their independence from Serbia Sunday. Official counts are expected Monday, but the initial figures are from two independent monitoring groups. If it cuts ties, Montenegro will be the final Yugoslav republic to sever its union with Serbia.

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The WSJ examines previous attempts to stem the tide of illegal immigration by tightening borders. The results? Smarter, more adaptive smugglers.

The Post reports that the fact that former CIA operative Valerie Plame's status was classified will be a focus of the trial of I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby. According to Patrick Fitzgerald, the trial will show that Libby knew Plame's identity was classified and that he lied to a grand jury about learning her job from NBC's Tim Russert.

Appearing on ABC's This Week Sunday, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said that NYT journalists could possibly be prosecuted for publishing classified information when they reported on the NSA's surveillance of terrorist-related phone calls.

Howard Kurtz tackles the issue of Jason Leopold, who reported on Truthout.org more than a week ago that Karl Rove had been indicted in the CIA leak investigation. Bloggers have been buzzing about the story, but no other news organizations have reported on the supposed indictment. Kurtz interviews Robert Luskin, Rove's attorney, who has denied the reports to more than 35 journalists. Kurtz also recounts Leopold's murky past, which includes a canceled book contract, a retracted story, and acknowledgements of previous lies, crime, and drug addiction.