The New York Timesleads with a new report that reveals the police force in Afghanistan is in poor shape, and much of it is due to a lack of training and oversight. The joint report, which was carried out by the Pentagon and the State Department, says the local police force is incapable of performing day-to-day work, and managers can't even keep track of officers or equipment. USA Todayleads with Pfizer's sudden decision to end clinical trials for a drug they had hoped would be the next blockbuster to fight heart disease. High expectations had been placed on torcetrapib, which increases what is commonly known as good cholesterol, but trials were canceled when researchers realized those taking the drug were dying at higher rates.
The Wall Street Journal tops its worldwide newsbox with an Iraq roundup that says some top Iraqi officials, including President Jalal Talabani, are against an international conference to solve the country's problems, saying it infringes on their sovereignty. On the Sunday talk shows, national security adviser Stephen Hadley said Bush will be announcing his plan for Iraq in the coming weeks. The Washington Postleads with news that two of the largest Episcopal congregations will vote next week on whether to leave the U.S. church and affiliate with a Nigerian bishop, who has advocated the imprisonment of gays. The decision of the two Fairfax County congregations could pave the way for more congregations, who feel the U.S. church went against their ideals by electing a gay bishop, to leave. * It could also lead to lengthy court battles over property and clergy pensions, among other issues. The Los Angeles Timesleads locally but mentions on Page One Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez's landslide re-election victory. With approximately 80 percent of the votes counted, Chávez had won 61 percent of the vote, compared to 38 percent for Manuel Rosales.
Much of the failure of the police officers in Afghanistan seems to be due to the lack of an effective field-training program. Although claiming the gist of the report is accurate, experts who have knowledge of the police force in Afghanistan criticized that the report failed to take a hard look at the role of private contractors in the training. DynCorp International has received most of the $1.1 billion the United States has spent on training in Afghanistan. As an interesting side note, the article mentions in passing that approximately twice as many police advisers have been deployed in Afghanistan as in Iraq.
Pfizer announced the end of clinical trials late on Saturday, and some of the papers carried wire reports with the news yesterday, but today everybody mentions (and the NYT and WSJ front) how the news is devastating for the company, as well as those suffering from heart disease. Although drugs like Pfizer's Lipitor prevent the production of bad cholesterol, it was hoped that the release of torcetrapib would mark the beginning of new medications that could actually increase good cholesterol. There seems to have been little question on canceling the drug trials when investigators saw that 82 people who had been part of the experimental group died, compared to 51 people who were not taking torcetrapib. The NYT says in an analysis piece that Pfizer's clinical-trial problems mean similar drugs currently in the works will face more scrutiny, as well as delays, before they are approved.
The WSJ says that as momentum outside the Pentagon mounts to decrease troop levels in Iraq, more senior military officials are saying there should actually be an increase in U.S. forces.
The WSJ is alone in going high with news that nine U.S. troops died over the weekend in Iraq. The pilot of an F-16 that crashed last Monday was also declared dead.
The LAT fronts a good story on how a military operation last Friday that was initially praised as an example of how U.S. troops could work with Iraqi forces, truly illustrates how much reliance there still exists on the American military. The Iraqis were supposed to lead the operation, but U.S. troops had to quickly take over when they realized the local forces didn't know what they were doing.
Meanwhile, McClatchy reported over the weekend that while the U.S. military has praised the Iraqi army's 5th division for its recent offensive to catch suspected terrorists, the Sunni locals tell a different story. The division has been accused of arresting hundreds of Sunni men with little evidence and in one hard-hitting case even threatened to rape a suspect's wife in order to get a confession.
As the Senate prepares for the confirmation of Robert Gates as defense secretary, both the WP and LAT front looks into his previous tenure at the CIA. Both of the articles focus on the previously reported accusations that Gates was responsible for tailoring intelligence reports to fit his political ideologies. These accusations are unlikely to prevent his confirmation, particularly because many say he has since changed his management style.
Everybody mentions Democratic Sen. Evan Bayh of Indiana announced he is forming an exploratory committee that will allow him to take the first steps to begin running for president.
The NYT fronts word from New Orleans that after a quick initial phase, the effort to strengthen the city's protection against potential floods has slowed down considerably. The Times waits until almost the end of the story to mention that in order to save money, the Army Corps of Engineers will focus on long-term protection in some projects, which critics contend could leave the city vulnerable until 2010.
Everybody mentions that composer Andrew Lloyd Webber, conductor Zubin Mehta, singer/songwriters Dolly Parton and William "Smokey" Robinson, and movie director Steven Spielberg were recognized for their lifetime contributions to the arts at the Kennedy Center Honors in Washington yesterday.