Clean coal faces an uncertain future; CIA director sees progress in fight against al-Qaida.

Clean coal faces an uncertain future; CIA director sees progress in fight against al-Qaida.

Clean coal faces an uncertain future; CIA director sees progress in fight against al-Qaida.

A summary of what's in the major U.S. newspapers.
May 30 2008 6:18 AM

Clean Break

The New York Timesleads with a look at how one of the most important projects that was supposed to help in the fight against global warming faces an uncertain future. The promise of "clean coal," which involves burying carbon dioxide emitted from coal-burning power plants, has excited many politicians and environmentalists, but developing the technology to turn the dream into a reality has turned out to be more complicated than initially imagined. The Washington Postleads with an interview with CIA Director Michael Hayden, who provided a "strikingly upbeat assessment" on the fight against al-Qaida. Even though the CIA had previously warned that the Iraq war had provided an opportunity for al-Qaida to grow, Hayden now says great progress has been made, and al-Qaida is struggling to survive in Iraq and Saudi Arabia.

The Los Angeles Timesleads with word that the UCLA Medical Center performed a liver transplant on the leader of one of Japan's most violent gangs. The surgery was performed by UCLA's "most accomplished liver surgeon," who also performed transplants on three other men who are now forbidden from entering the country because of their ties to criminal activities. Meanwhile, more than 100 people died in the Los Angeles area waiting for a transplant. The Wall Street Journal'sworld-wide newsbox leads with the Texas Supreme Court's agreeing that state officials acted illegally when they seized hundreds of children from the compound of a polygamist sect. USA Todayleads with an analysis that shows there are fewer people living in hurricane high-risk areas, which had experienced huge growth in previous years. Experts say this trend has more to do with the decline of the housing market rather than a growing trepidation of settling down in disaster-prone areas. "Memories are short, and when the economy does recover, you'll see people snap up those properties in coastal areas again," the president of the Insurance Information Institute said.

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No one thinks coal is going away anytime soon, because it's "abundant and cheap," so there were once high hopes that burying the emissions from coal-burning power plants would provide an effective way to control global warming. But recently, many projects that were supposed to be the jumping-off point to create "clean coal" have been canceled because of high costs and regulatory problems. There was a huge setback when increased costs led the government to pull out of subsidizing one of the most promising projects to build a plant in Illinois that could have been a test-study on how to build a new type of power plant. Now the fear is that companies are so frustrated with the slow pace of development that the next generation of power plants will be built using existing technology.

In his interview with the Post,Hayden was sure to emphasize that al-Qaida is still a threat that must be taken seriously but that "on balance, we are doing pretty well." Not only has the United States been successful in its attacks against some of al-Qaida's core leadership, the "Islamic world" has also been increasingly rejecting "their form of Islam," Hayden said. Many terrorism experts agree that there have been recent gains, but they also caution that it's too early to know whether they will last. Al-Qaida's "obituary has been written far too often in the past few years for anyone to declare victory," one analyst said. And while experts are sure to credit the intelligence community for some of the gains, they also point out that al-Qaida may ultimately be responsible for its own downfall. "One of the lessons we can draw from the past two years is that al-Qaida is its own worst enemy," a former CIA counterterrorism official said. Now Hayden says one of his biggest concerns is that recent gains will turn into complacency among government officials and the general population.

The LAT reveals that the FBI helped the Japanese gang leader get a visa to enter the United States in exchange for information. But officials say he left after the transplant without providing any useful information. He was then forbidden from entering the United States again, so the UCLA surgeon traveled to Japan to examine the gang leader. Although the surgeon insists it's not his job to pass judgment on those who need his help, some bioethicists and transplant experts said the news is troubling, particularly because there are so few livers to go around. "If you want to destroy public support for organ donation on the part of Americans, you'd be hard pressed to think of a practice that would be better suited," one bioethicist said.

Everybody reports that the two top Democrats in Congress publicly predicted the primary race will come to an end soon after the last two contests on Tuesday. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi both emphasized in separate public appearances that they're determined not to allow the race to continue until the convention. To that end, the two leaders have been contacting uncommitted superdelegates to push them to make up their minds after voters in South Dakota and Montana go to the polls on Tuesday. "By this time next week, it'll be all over, give or take a day," Reid said.

Scott McClellan went on a media tour yesterday to push back against criticism from former colleagues for his memoir that takes a critical look at the Bush administration. "The White House clearly did not want me out talking candidly about these events," the former White House spokesman told USAT. The WP fronts an interview with McClellan, who says he didn't set out to write such a critical book, but his feelings hardened after he started to seriously look back on his years in Washington. "Over time, as you leave the White House and leave the bubble, you're able to take off your partisan hat and take a clear-eyed look at things," he said. Indeed, a "publishing industry insider" said that McClellan's initial idea for a memoir made it seem like he would write "a not-very-interesting, typical press secretary book." In his interviews, McClellan said there were "two defining moments" that really led to his disillusionment with the Bush administration. One had to do with how he was "deceived into unknowingly passing along a falsehood" relating to the outing of Valerie Plame, and the other was when the president admitted he had authorized the leak of classified information.

The NYT reveals the State Department has canceled all Fulbright grants awarded to Palestinian students in Gaza because Israel hasn't given them permission to leave the coastal strip. Many Israeli officials say the policy of isolating Gaza is having the desired effect, since Palestinians are losing faith in the Hamas government. But some say the policy has gone too far if it doesn't allow students to leave and pursue educational opportunities around the world. "This policy is not in keeping with international standards or with the moral standards of Jews," said the leader of the Israeli Parliament's education committee.

The WP fronts, and everyone mentions, news that at least part of the mystery surrounding Stonehenge appears to have been solved. Researchers used radiocarbon dating to determine that the site was used as a burial ground for what archaeologists think may have been a single family that ruled the area for a long time. "Stonehenge was a place of burial from its beginning to its zenith in the mid-third millennium B.C," the archeologist who led the project said.

Will there be slides? The WP's Reliable Source notes La Scala officials announced that they have commissioned a composer to turn Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth into an opera. The Milan opera house plans to debut the show in its 2011 season. "We were hoping for interpretive dance, but whatever," the Reliable Source said.

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