Iraq Attacks Recall Dark Days
The New York Timesleads with, and the Washington Postand Los Angeles Timesfront, two deadly bombings in Iraq yesterday that put the country's two-day death toll at more than 150. Sunni insurgent groups took responsibility for the attacks, which fueled worry that the country might explode into sectarian violence as the United States withdraws. The Washington Post leads with a 2002 document from the military agency that advised on harsh interrogation techniques. The memo, which the paper obtained, refers to "extreme duress" techniques as "torture" and warns that such methods will produce "unreliable information." The Wall Street Journal leads with federal officials pressuring banks to bolster capital reserves after being subjected to "stress tests." The Los Angeles Times leads with (and the WP fronts) an outbreak of deadly swine flu in Mexico that has infected at least 1,000 people, including a few in California and Texas.
Double attacks in Iraq yesterday appear to have effectively spread alarm that sectarian violence might again destabilize the country. The twin suicide bombings hit outside Baghdad's most revered Shiite shrine; a loose Sunni coalition called the Islamic State of Iraq, according to the NYT, claimed responsibility. Iraq's prime minister ordered an unusual investigatory committee to identify the perpetrators and lapses in security that allowed the attacks to happen. The WP adds that many Iraqis see the attacks as a sign that insurgent groups have been lying low until the United States withdraws. The LAT doubts the violence will interfere with President Obama's plans to remove U.S. troops from the city by the end of June.
It is unclear whether high-ranking Bush administration officials ever saw an unsigned, two-page attachment to a 2002 memo prepared by the Joint Personnel Recovery Agency, which advised the military on harsh interrogation methods. The WP reports that the memo, originally sent to the Pentagon's top lawyer, warned that "the unintended consequence of a U.S. policy that provides for the torture of prisoners is that it could be used by our adversaries as justification for the torture of captured U.S. personnel." A related WP story reveals that 9th Circuit appellate Judge John S. Bybee, a former Bush administration lawyer, says he regrets signing the now-infamous "torture memos."
The federal government is pressuring "at least three banks," the identities of which couldn't be determined, to bolster their capital reserves, reports the WSJ's top story. The paper's anonymous sources "believe [the banks in question] likely include regional banks with large exposures to commercial real estate in the Midwest and Southeast." Nineteen banking institutions underwent "stress tests"—examinations by 150 federal regulators to determine potential losses from "complex security products."
A deadly swine flu, which lands on several front pages, has killed several—the WSJsays 20; the LAT, 60; the WP, 68—and may have infected as many as 1,000 in Mexico during the past several weeks. Most of the documented cases and all of the confirmed deaths have happened near Mexico City, where all schools, universities, and libraries were closed and residents warned to stay in their homes. The U.S. State Department has not issued a travel advisory, but some airlines say they will waive penalties for travelers who wish to cancel their trips.
The WSJ reports that Chrysler has softened its stance toward a debt restructuring plan that it previously opposed. Lenders agreed to trim their secured debt by $750 million, but they're still far from an agreement with the government. (Lenders are demanding, for example, 40 percent of the revamped company, while the government wants them to keep only about 5 percent.) The lenders complain that their concessions are helping out the ailing Italian automaker Fiat, which will be getting a 20 percent stake in Chrysler "without putting a dollar of its own capital at risk."
Movie critics hand all-around pans to Obsessed, which the NYT calls a cheap imitation of Fatal Attraction with lead actors that look creepily like O.J. and Nicole Brown Simpson. Not that the jury was still out, but the WP's verdict is that Beyoncé"cannot act. … Neither can Sasha Fierce."
A front-page WSJ profile interviews various members of Bill Gates' family to dig up details about his childhood and relationship with his parents. Bill Jr. became a strong-willed, independent child around age 11, devouring books voraciously and frequently getting into bitter verbal disputes with his mother. His father, Bill Gates Sr., took the role of peacemaker, only once losing his cool enough to douse Gates with a glass of cold water during an intense argument. Gates' parents have been active in his professional pursuits since day one—his father became Microsoft's lawyer in its early years, and his mother urged him to put his wealth toward philanthropy. Gates Sr., who says he never imagined his sarcastic, rebellious son becoming his employer, now heads the $30 billion Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
The WP editorial page admits that it found last week's Twitter race between Ashton Kutcher and CNN frivolous until the showdown resulted in 10,000 mosquito nets being sent to Africa to help fight malaria. "On this World Malaria Day, such efforts by private citizens and businesses … are to be applauded."
David Sessions is a former Slate intern. He is currently a blogger at Politics Daily.