Iran proves it can enrich uranium; another senior Justice official resigns.

Iran proves it can enrich uranium; another senior Justice official resigns.

Iran proves it can enrich uranium; another senior Justice official resigns.

A summary of what's in the major U.S. newspapers.
May 15 2007 6:08 AM

Enriched Knowledge

The New York Times leads with inspectors for the International Atomic Energy Agency reporting that Iran has figured out how to enrich larger quantities of uranium. Inspectors discovered Sunday that Iran's main nuclear facility had 1,300 centrifuges producing uranium that could be used for nuclear reactors, when only recently it seemed the Iranians didn't know how to get them to work properly. The Washington Postleads with news that Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty became the fourth senior Justice Department official to resign since the scandal over the fired U.S. attorneys blew up earlier this year. Of course, he doesn't mention the scandal in his resignation letter and says he's leaving because of "the financial realities of college-age children and two decades of public service."

The Wall Street Journal tops its world-wide newsbox with Iraqi insurgents warning the U.S. military to stop searching for the three missing American soldiers, calling it "a venture in vain." The group that claimed responsibility for capturing the soldiers said their "safety" would suffer if the search continued. USA Todayleads with a look at how an ongoing investigation in Texas into the possible use of abusive tactics by guards at state juvenile-detention facilities comes at a time of growing concern about the way teenage inmates are treated across the country. In Texas, four system superintendents were suspended, and in the past few months eight staff members have been arrested. The Los Angeles Timesleads with news that gunmen in Mexico City shot and killed the recently appointed head of a drug intelligence unit. Although drug-related killings have become common in Mexico, it's rare for these types of brazen assassinations to take place in the capital.

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So far, one of the main goals in European and American efforts to get Iran to suspend its enrichment programs has been to prevent the country from gaining the enriching know-how. Now, the IAEA's latest finding suggests that point has already been reached. Although the purity of the uranium currently being produced is nowhere near what is necessary for a nuclear weapon, if Tehran wanted to, the purity could probably be increased to the necessary levels in a couple of months. It's unclear whether the production can be maintained, and, as the NYT points out, "major setbacks are common in uranium enrichment," but this new information is likely to put pressure on European and American negotiators to rethink their strategy for dealing with Iran. 

The NYT says McNulty's testimony before Congress in February, "provided a spark that turned a smoldering issue over the firings of federal prosecutors into a raging inferno." Besides raising more questions than he answered about the White House's involvement in the dismissals, McNulty also said the U.S. attorneys were fired for "performance-related" reasons, which led to several of the prosecutors speaking out to defend their reputations. On a separate note, the WP is the only paper that says the controversy has to do with the firing of nine U.S. attorneys. The rest of the papers continue to go with eight (the NYT doesn't mention a number), even though last week the former U.S. attorney in Kansas City, Mo., said he was asked to resign in early 2006.

The LAT off-leads, the NYT fronts, and everyone else mentions the World Bank committee has concluded that Paul Wolfowitz broke ethics and governance rules when he arranged a promotion and raise package for his companion, Shaha Ali Riza. The report, which was publicly released last night, also says Wolfowitz tried to hide the package from bank officials and ultimately "saw himself as the outsider to whom the established rules and standards did not apply." Wolfowitz is set to defend himself to the bank's board today.

In his response to the findings, Wolfowitz says the ethics committee was afraid to confront the "extremely angry and upset" Riza and forced him to deal with the issue. Wolfowitz added that Riza demanded financial compensation for the disruption to her career and threatened to sue. Meanwhile, the Bush administration continued to speak up for Wolfowitz as Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson made calls to finance ministers to emphasize the findings don't warrant a dismissal. Slate contributor Christopher Hitchens says that Riza is a victim of "the nastiest and dirtiest and cheapest campaign of character assassination I have ever seen."

The WP fronts, and the WSJ goes high with, the Pentagon announcing yesterday that its computers will no longer be able to access popular sites such as YouTube, MySpace, Photobucket, and 10 others. Those blocked  include some of the most popular sites for social networking, photo, and video, which are widely used among soldiers and their families. The Pentagon insists these sites have slowed down the department's network, although some believe the ban has more to do with trying to control the flow of information out of war zones. Service members can still access the sites, as long as it's not from a military computer. Yesterday, the military announced the deaths of six more U.S. troops in Iraq, and a Danish soldier was killed.

The LAT fronts a look at the Internet-based reality series Hometown Baghdad, which the paper says is "part documentary, part The Real World–Baghdad." The show is shot by Iraqis and follows the lives of three upper-middle-class young men. U.S. networks weren't interested in the show, and now the short episodes have become a hit on sites such as YouTube, although most in Iraq probably haven't seen it since Internet connections are frustratingly slow. "I hope the show gets a lot more attention," Adel, who is characterized as the "breakout star" of the show, said. "But not here. In Iraq you can get killed for the stupidest of reasons." 

Daniel Politi has been contributing to Slate since 2004 and wrote the Today’s Papers column from 2006 to 2009. Follow him on Twitter.