Democrats pull the defense authorization bill.

Democrats pull the defense authorization bill.

Democrats pull the defense authorization bill.

A summary of what's in the major U.S. newspapers.
July 19 2007 5:59 AM

Waiting for September

The New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, and the Wall Street Journal world-wide newsbox lead with news that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid pulled the defense authorization bill after Democrats failed to get the 60 votes necessary to break a Republican filibuster on an Iraq withdrawal plan. The move makes it likely that the Senate won't discuss any Iraq-related legislation until September, just like President Bush wanted.

USA Todayleads with the creation of a new Cabinet-level committee that has 60 days to come up with a plan to ensure the quality and safety of imported food and other products. The administration emphasized that the Interagency Working Group on Import Safety won't focus only on Chinese products, as White House spokesman Tony Snow emphasized that "we get food imports from 150 countries around the world." Some expressed skepticism that the new group could really be effective since it will focus on ways to improve safety "within existing resources."

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Several Republican lawmakers expressed disappointment at Reid's decision to cut off the Iraq debate since several other amendments were going to be considered, such as the one that would have implemented the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group. They also accused Democrats of delaying other measures in the defense authorization bill, such as a military pay raise and equipment for troops in Iraq, for political purposes. Everyone notes that Reid's decision surprised lawmakers, but the NYT reveals that the majority leader had come to the decision on Monday out of concern that Republicans who voted against the withdrawal plan could gain "political cover" by voting for other, less extreme, Iraq-related measures.

The Post notes anti-war groups expressed support for Reid's strategy. "Ultimately, we end the war by creating a toxic political environment for war supporters like the Republicans in the Senate," a strategist for MoveOn.org tells the paper.

USAT fronts, and the rest of the papers go inside with, the U.S. military announcing that Abu Omar Baghdadi, the purported leader of the Islamic State in Iraq, never existed. The terrorist group had been described as an umbrella organization of several insurgent factions, including al-Qaida in Iraq, but now officials say it's just a "virtual organization." Baghdadi, it turns out, was an actor used by al-Qaida in Iraq to mask how the terrorist group is led by foreigners. This was all apparently revealed by Khalid al-Mashadani, an insurgent leader who was supposedly responsible for passing on messages between Osama Bin Laden and Iraqi militants. The Post focuses on al-Mashadani's arrest and reports that military officials say they've been learning of new connections between al-Qaida's leadership and insurgent groups in Iraq.

But it's clear from the stories that the papers simply don't know whether to believe these claims, particularly because they come at a very convenient time when the White House is desperately trying to connect Osama Bin Laden with al-Qaida in Iraq. The LAT talks to some Iraqi politicians who said the revelations were nonsense. Meanwhile, the NYT points out that although there were always suspicions that Baghdadi may not have been real, it goes to show how the intelligence on insurgent groups in Iraq is, simply, not very good. And there's also the chance that al-Mashadani is just covering for someone else. Some speculate the message was meant to convince Iraqis that if they listen to al-Qaida in Iraq, they are actually taking orders from foreigners.

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The NYT fronts a look at how Shiite cleric Muqtada Sadr has been changing his ways to gain the support of Iraqis. Sadr has kept his distance from the Iraqi government and has been busy opening up offices to supply services that the government has failed to provide. By doing this, it would seem that Sadr has taken a cue from Hezbollah and Hamas "with entwined social and military wings that serve as a parallel government," the NYT says.

The NYT fronts, and the LAT and USAT front above-the-fold pictures of, a steam pipe that exploded in midtown Manhattan during rush hour yesterday. One person died of an apparent heart attack, and 30 were injured by the mixture of hot steam, mud, and rubble. There was initial panic that it was a terrorist attack but the fear was quickly dismissed by city officials. Now the main concern is that the explosion may have spread asbestos.

Everybody goes inside with the latest from Tuesday's airplane crash in Brazil, which killed at least 189 people in what the Post calls "the world's worst air crash in five years." USAT says that a plane speeding off the runway is "the most common type of aviation accident around the world." The WSJ takes a broader view of the crash and says that although, as everyone notes, the crash once again raises concerns about the safety of air travel in Brazil, it is "also a cautionary tale for a global aviation industry that is experiencing a surge in traffic without an accompanying increase in attention to safety issues."

The WSJ has an interesting article that looks at the way hackers are increasingly using Internet ads to spread viruses. The system is effective because a user's computer can get infected merely by visiting a Web page. There are growing concerns that if the problem gets worse it could "threaten the explosive growth of online advertising."

The NYT reefers a review of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. The book's publisher is suing an online retailer that sent out copies of the book early, but the NYT was apparently able to get its hands on a copy by simply buying it from a New York store yesterday (the Baltimore Sun also published a review last night). The NYT's Michiko Kakutani obviously doesn't really give anything away but says the book doesn't end "with modernist, Soprano-esque equivocation, but with good old-fashioned closure: a big-screen, heart-racing, bone-chilling confrontation and an epilogue that clearly lays out people's fates."

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