Moussaoui gets life.

Moussaoui gets life.

Moussaoui gets life.

A summary of what's in the major U.S. newspapers.
May 4 2006 3:22 AM

"Heaven" Can Wait

The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Wall Street Journal's world-wide newsbox, and Washington Postall lead with a jury sparing Zacarias Moussaoui the death penalty and instead giving him a life sentence. Basically, the jurors were not convinced by the government's argument that Moussaoui—who was in jail on Sept. 11—was connected to, and thus responsible for, the 9/11 attacks. USA Todayhas a Moussaoui headline above the fold, but in the traditional lead spot on the right, the paper goes with in-house analysis showing that in the last five years, personal income has grown the most in energy-producing states. An interesting, but buried, bit at the end: Income in Louisiana dropped 14 percent, making it, for the first time, the nation's poorest state.

As the LAT emphasizes, the jury didn't come to a consensus, which is required for the death penalty to be imposed. The Post highlights that three jurors concluded that Moussaoui, as they put it, had "limited knowledge of the 9/11 attack plans." Prosecutors can't appeal, and Moussaoui has no chance for parole.

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There has never been significant evidence that Moussaoui was in on the 9/11 plot. Alleged 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohamed told investigators Moussaoui was too nuts to be included. In an apparent bid at martyrdom, Moussaoui testified he had been planning to fly a fifth plane that day. But the government later acknowledged there was no evidence of that and that Moussaoui was probably full of it.

Slate's Dahlia Lithwick celebrates the jurors, who "understood that for this country to kill a terrorist for his ideas, hopes, and dreams is not much different than the terrorist's desire to come here and kill us for ours."

The WP has some legal analysts knocking the government for overreaching with a shaky case when instead "prosecutors could have settled for a life sentence several years ago."

A front-page analysis in the LAT flags a "central contradiction" in the administration's moves against terror suspects: "Bit players often have been put on trial, while those thought to have orchestrated the plots have been held in secret for questioning." The administration says that in order to guard against future attacks it needs to interrogate the top planners. And, the logic goes, if those suspects get into the legal system, they'll lawyer up and shut up.

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The WP fronts and others go inside with the House narrowly passing an ethics bill that will require more disclosure from lobbyists. The NYT says the bill "falls short" of what Republican leaders once promised. The Times' next lines:

The chief Republican architect of the bill, Representative David Dreier of California, the House Rules Committee chairman, conceded that he wished that the measure "were stronger than it is."

But Mr. Dreier also called it a "very, very strong package," and promised that it was just the beginning of Republican efforts to clean up Congress."

"Our aim, our goal, is a Congress that is effective, a Congress that is ethical and a Congress that is worthy of the public trust," Mr. Dreier told colleagues on the House floor.

What's the point of the copious quoting? Are we supposed to be more informed after learning that the bill's author thinks the bill is very strong? Another approach would be to skip that, write with authority, and just say what's known. From the WP:

Senate and House leaders watered down their legislation and have endorsed bills that would rely mostly on enhancing disclosure requirements, rather than beefing up enforcement of lobbying rules or proscribing lawmakers' behavior.

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Everybody reviews the administration's now-released bird-flu pandemic plan, and all come to a similar conclusion. As USAT puts it, the plan is "missing a key element: how to pay for it."

The papers all go inside with a big day of violence in Iraq. About 16 police recruits were killed by a suicide bomber in Fallujah. Also about three dozen men were found around Baghdad "all of them handcuffed, blindfolded and shot dead." It's usually been Sunnis executed like that. The Post says this time "several" bodies were at least found in Shiite neighborhoods.

The WP fronts the Postal Service's plan to sell "forever" stamps. They would be priced the same as regular stamps, and, as one official explained, "If you buy it, it can be used forever on single-piece first-class letters," regardless of future rate increases. Of course that seems to raise a few small questions, namely, as the Post wonders, "Why anyone would ever buy a regular first-class stamp again?" (Actually, there might be a  good answer to that: Stamps are basically a loan to the post office, and an interest-free one, at that.)

Because they had so little time to prepare … From the NYT:

An obituary on Monday and in late editions on Sunday about the economist and diplomat John Kenneth Galbraith referred incorrectly to his family at several points. He had a younger brother, William, who died several years ago; he was not an only son. A sister, Catherine Denholm, also died several years ago; she was not among his survivors. Mr. Galbraith had 10 grandchildren, not 6. Because of an editing error, the term for his wife's vocation was truncated in some copies. She is a linguist. A caption misstated the date of a photograph of the Galbraiths taken at their home in New Delhi while he was an ambassador. It was in 1956, not 1966.