The Washington Post and the New York Timeslead with the huge effort under way to secure the perimeter of Baghdad with trenches and checkpoints, an attempt by the American military and Iraqi government to quell the surging violence there. The Los Angeles Timesleads with—and the others front—the widening bacterial outbreak linked to fresh bagged spinach produced by a California organic produce company.
The Wall Street Journal tops its world-wide newsbox with—and the LAT and Post front—President Bush lashing out at Senate Republicans who continue to oppose his proposal for harsh interrogation for terrorism prisoners. During a White House press conference, the president threatened to shut down a CIA interrogation program he said has prevented terrorist attacks if the Senate passes a proposal regulating the imprisonment of enemy combatants. Bush also accused Colin Powell (who expressed his solidarity with the defiant senators in a letter to Sen. McCain) of equating U.S. strategy with those of terrorists—in spite of the fact that Powell's letter had not made any such comparison. Meanwhile, the dissenting Republican senators stood firm, with Sen. Olympia Snowe of Maine joining their ranks.
The papers note a few barriers in constructing the, um, barrier around Baghdad. The city's size makes it difficult to seal—its circumference is around 60 miles, and insurgents may be able to enter through areas unconstrained by trenches. The traffic in and out of the city (already a snarled mess) could turn into a nightmare, especially during Ramadan, which starts next month.
There's no definitive evidence that the E. coli outbreak that caused 95 illnesses and one death was caused by the fresh bagged spinach, but those who are ill have eaten the greens. Natural Selections Foods—which calls itself the largest grower and shipper of organic produce in North America—has issued a voluntary recall of all its packaged products containing fresh spinach. A list of recalled brands is here.
The Post fronts Republican Congressman Bob Ney agreeing Friday to plead guilty to corruption charges connected to dealings with Jack Abramoff. Prosecutors plan to seek a prison sentence of 27 months, and Ney could also face up to $500,000 in fines. In a statement apologizing for his "serious mistakes," Ney noted that he is seeking treatment for alcoholism.
In an editorial, the WP notes that despite big talk of lobbying reform, this Congress has failed to make real progress in that area. As the paper notes, in this session, "there will be no action to limit the free trips that lawmakers and staff members can take, beef up the broken system of ethics enforcement, slow the revolving door between public service and K Street riches, or improve disclosure of lobbying activities. ... At least not from this Congress."
The furor continues to grow over comments by Pope Benedict XVI, during which he quoted a 14th-century emperor describing Islam as "evil and inhuman." The Post reports on its front page that officials in Pakistan and Turkey have condemned the pope; Islamic activist groups are leading protests; and one of the world's leading Shiite Muslim clerics has demanded a personal apology. Benedict's scheduled visit to Turkey in November is jeopardized, and a leader there told state media that the pope "has a dark mentality that comes from the darkness of the Middle Ages. He is a poor thing that has not benefited from the spirit of reform in the Christian world."
A Page-One LAT story examines U.S. officials' growing frustration with the slow pace of change by Iraq leaders. Officials in Baghdad need to move more swiftly toward suppressing violence and improving the economy and government services, say Americans. "The rhetoric has to be matched by concrete action," an anonymous senior U.S. official told the Times. But some cautioned that U.S. officials may have ulterior motives for urging fast action: "The goal here may be, 'Don't blame us—blame them,' " said Juan Cole, veteran Iraq watcher and blogger.
In Iraq Friday, five American soldiers were reported killed, including two who died Thursday in a suicide bombing. Nine civilians were killed yesterday when a car bomb went off in Mosul.
The Post reports that FEMA would be expanded and its head would have direct access to the president in times of crisis, according to terms announced by congressional negotiators last night who are hammering out a plan for an overhaul of the agency. It is not clear if FEMA gets more money under the new deal.
Was the title confusing to you, too? A correction from today's Post: "The Sept. 15 Weekend section incorrectly indicated that the movie 'This Film is Not Yet Rated' is rated NC-17. It is unrated."