The demand to close America's island prison.

A summary of what's in the major U.S. newspapers.
May 20 2006 5:39 AM

UN: Gitmo's Gotta Go

The New York Times, the Washington Post, and the Wall Street Journallead with a U.N. panel's report calling for the closure of the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The report, released Friday, coincided with American officials' disclosure of several violent prisoner uprisings that took place there Thursday. Predictably, Bush administration officials denounced the U.N.'s conclusions. The Los Angeles Times, which stuffs Guantanamo, leads with the Bush administration's evolving containment strategy for Iran. The paper notes that although the approach is focused on stopping the country from becoming a nuclear power, it also reflects the administration's preparation for such a possibility. Left unsaid is whether this is typical contingency planning or a subtle policy shift from Bush officials who continue to insist publicly that a nuclear-armed Iran is unacceptable.

The Post's account of the U.N. Guantanamo report is the most complete and gives ample play to the administration's less-than-compelling defense. The NYT's story offers a fuller account of Thursday's prisoner revolt, which was both well-organized and fierce; the detainees actually had the upper hand until guards deployed heavier weapons. Nobody fully explains what differentiates this report, issued by the U.N.'s Committee Against Torture, from earlier U.N. critiques of Gitmo, such as one issued by investigators for the Human Rights Commission in February. The NYT suggests that the latest report may be more important than others because the Bush administration actually sent representatives to Geneva to present its case. The LAT's article inside the A section includes the somewhat bizarre claim that the U.N. report could strengthen the president's position in trying to shut the prison.

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The NYT fronts an examination of the Coast Guard's inability to meet its expanded, post-9/11 security role. Although the piece leads with a striking example of institutional confusion—disagreement within the Guard over whether certain ship inspections should be announced in advance—it quickly devolves into a rather conventional review of port security problems. The outline of the story is familiar from countless think tank reports and newsmagazine takeouts.

The Post explores the latest infighting between the Palestinian security services. The article, pegged to rising tensions between Hamas and Fatah, glosses over the back story: the rivalries between competing police factions that were a recurring problem even in the more united days of Arafat.

America is not the only nation that earns the ire of Latin American countries by concerning itself with their affairs. The NYT explains that Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez is increasingly irritating his neighbors with his sweeping vision of a united, Socialist South America. Although this is leading to a backlash against Chávez, support for the American policies he opposes seems to be another matter. The paper does not determine whether he is pushing the continent toward the United States.

The Post checks in on the continuing Republican political meltdown with an examination of increasingly vulnerable GOP House seats. But the story adds little new to the ever-growing stack of similar articles and is limited by its focus on Rep. Thelma D. Drake, R-Va. An accompanying trend piece on the political revival of the religious left is also light on substantive details.

After months of wrangling over a national government for Iraq, local governments—particularly in insurgent strongholds—are proving just as difficult to establish, the WSJ reports. In the Sunni city of Samarra, U.S. troops trying to promote peace effectively rely on one man.

The LAT is the only paper to front the Vatican's move against a popular Mexican priest accused of perpetrating decades of abuse against victims as young as 10. Although the sanctions imposed by the church are mild (the priest will not be prosecuted under canonical law) any punishment at all is significant, given John Paul II's long-standing support of the priest. While still a cardinal, Pope Benedict himself had suspended an investigation of the man.

The devastating after-effects of Hurricane Katrina continue to unfold on the Gulf Coast, the LAT reports. Thousands of people living in FEMA trailers in Mississippi are receiving eviction notices from the agency. Of the 38,000 households in agency trailers, 3,000 are scheduled to be kicked out, and a similar effort is beginning in Louisiana, which has another 68,000 trailers. Some of those facing eviction are clearly ineligible, but others' cases are unclear. The paper offers a compelling account of people facing a daunting legal process with little or no assistance.

The WSJ dives into Federal tax data and reports that the Treasury benefits when the rich get richer. That means messy conclusions for ideologues. Supporters of the Bush tax cuts say that the latest data reinforce their claims that tax cuts fuel economic growth. Opponents of the tax cuts concede that government revenue is up but note that the middle class is not benefiting.