Flunking Iraq

A summary of what's in the major U.S. newspapers.
Sept. 5 2007 5:30 AM

Flunking Iraq

The Wall Street Journal heads its world-wide newsbox, and everyone fronts, a bleak assessment from the Government Accountability Office stating that Baghdad failed to meet 11 of the 18 benchmarks set by Congress. The report was redrafted after last-minute objections from the White House; the original version gave Iraq a failing grade on 15 of the targets. The Washington Post leads on news that D.C. will ask the Supreme Court to restore its citywide handgun ban, paving the way for the court to settle once and for all the thorny issue of whether the Second Amendment protects private gun ownership or merely the civic right to maintain a state militia.

The New York Times leads with word from Iran, where economic mismanagement and international opprobrium have so far served only to strengthen the country's Islamic regime as it continues to crack down on social freedoms. USA Today leads with a look at the $257 billion public construction boom, as local governments borrow heavily to build new sewers, schools, and other public facilities. The Los Angeles Times leads on a rash of fatalities in Southern California, where an eight-day heat wave has overloaded transformers and left up to 64,000 homes without power.

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With violence continuing in Iraq, the GAO gave the country a failing grade yesterday, in the first of several reports this week on the progress of the war. The Post reports that the study's findings were diluted after last-minute objections but still met with heavy criticism from military officials. The NYT suggests that Bush will now seek to counter Democratic criticism of Iraq's central government by focusing on America's new alliances with local tribes. In an editorial, the NYT blasts Bush's failure to find real solutions: "Mr. Bush clearly has no strategy to end this conflict, which has no end in sight. … Congress needs to insist on a prudent formula that will withdraw American forces and limit the hemorrhaging."

This March, an appeals court struck down D.C.'s handgun ban, arguing that ownership of handguns was protected by the Constitution; with courts across the country split about how to interpret the Second Amendment, it now seems likely that the SCOTUS will rule on the case. In the city's petition, D.C.'s attorney general argues that the handgun ban should stand whether the court backs an individual or collectivist interpretation of the Constitution: "Whatever right the Second Amendment guarantees, it does not require the District to stand by while its citizens die."

Iran appears increasingly isolated, getting the cold shoulder from both Western governments and foreign investors; so far, though, high oil prices have helped shore up the regime while President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad rolls back reforms Tehran once feared would usher in a velvet revolution. Still, Iranian moderates got a boost yesterday, as pragmatic former president Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani won control of a key religious council; the LAT suggests the victory was designed to appease Tehran's international critics. The NYT notes, however, that Rafsanjani's influence is waning; he may simply drag the council down with him.

The LAT goes above the fold, and the Post and the NYT report inside, on an Israeli court's ruling that the security barrier must be rerouted to return land to the West Bank village of Bilin. The rare legal victory follows weeks of rowdy demonstrations on the Palestinian side of the 24-foot-high wall.

Both the Post and USAT give plenty of space above the fold to photos from Honduras, where Hurricane Felix dumped 25 inches of rain yesterday after coming ashore in northern Nicaragua. The NYT notes this year is the first in which two Category 5 hurricanes have made landfall.

The LAT fronts, the NYT and USAT both reefer, and the Post stuffs news of the disappearance of tycoon-turned-adventurer Steve Fossett, whose single-engine plane vanished over the Nevada desert yesterday. More than a dozen rescue planes were sweeping the area last night.

Scandal-stricken Sen. Larry Craig may stay in office after all, a spokesman said yesterday, despite his previous announcement that he would quit at the end of the month. Craig is seeking to reverse his guilty plea and fight charges that he solicited sex from an undercover cop. "Like a fish out of water, he is gasping for his last breath of political air," a Senate aide told the NYT.

The NYT fronts a look at Hillary's summer of love, arguing that amid the social upheaval of the late 1960s the young Wellesley College undergraduate underwent a sweeping intellectual reformation.

The WSJ looks at Barack Obama's foreign policy brain trust: a team of 150 A-grade wonks, many former advisers to Bill Clinton. Meanwhile, the Post reports, Oprah Winfrey is in talks with Obama's camp about how best to sprinkle stardust on the Democratic hopeful; she'll kick things off this Saturday with a fund-raiser at her California estate.

Toy manufacturer Mattel yesterday issued another major recall, reports the WSJ, after discovering that 775,000 Chinese-made toys had unsafe levels of lead paint. Meanwhile, the Post fronts word that Beijing is seeking to bully customers in the developing world into lowering their safety standards.

The NYT reports that police are cracking down on prostitutes who use Craigslist to sell their wares; online stings have led to hundreds of arrests. "Technology has worked its way into every profession, including the oldest," sighed one detective.

Ben Whitford writes for the Guardian, Mother Jones and Newsweek.

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