The papers take stock of Iran, national security, and the death of the King.

A summary of what's in the major U.S. newspapers.
June 28 2009 4:29 AM

Day of Rest

The New York Times leads with a look at the push-and-pull between the United States and Russia over how to regulate cyberspace, an increasingly perilous frontier as governments rely more on computer networks and hackers get better at destroying them. The Washington Post leads with news that left-wing groups—Moveon, the SEIU, and others—are trying to whip moderate Democrats into line behind a strong health care reform package by targeting ads against them in their home states. The legislators, though, don't seem to be listening, and some in the advocacy community think high-profile finger-shaking isn't the best use of money. The Los Angeles Timesleads with a snapshot of crunch time in Sacramento, Calif., where Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has vowed to veto any budget plan that doesn't close the deficit, a do-or-die move that could force the complete shutdown of state government.

On the cybersecurity question: Russia wants an international treaty that would prevent governments from embedding malicious code that could be activated in the event of war. The United States, leery of internet censorship, would rather focus on law enforcement, cracking down on the thousands of nongovernmental cybercriminals, many of whom are based in Russia and China. Either way, experts fear that the two countries are in danger of touching off a next-generation arms race, building ever-more-dangerous code, rather than missiles. The Post also fronts a spat over a more tangible security issue, this one within the American government: whether to send National Guard troops to police drug activity on the border with Mexico, as several Southern governors have requested. Homeland Security secretary Janet Napolitano, herself a former border governor, favors sending the troops, while Defense Secretary Robert Gates views it as an unsustainable expansion of the military's zone of responsibility.

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On Page Two, the Post peeks inside the political parties' baby-step progress toward reforming their presidential nominating processes, which no one really likes but which no one can yet agree how to overhaul. Proposals include moving the start date of primaries back a month and helping states that fall later on the calendar to remain politically relevant, as well as scrapping delegates altogether—2012 could look a lot different, depending on what the national committees ultimately decide. For what it's worth, 62 percent of Americans think Sonia Sotomayor should be confirmed to the Supreme Court, according to a Washington Post/ABC News poll. The poll also asked Americans other things, like what they thought of the fact that she is female and Hispanic; most people don't mind, though there's a deep split between Republican and Democratic approval.

In advance of Monday's 40th anniversary of the Stonewall riot, the NYT highlights the gap between President Obama's action on gay rights and a culture that is rapidly progressing toward greater acceptance. Part of the problem are Democratic memories of having action on issues like same-sex marriage turned against them, as well as the administration's already-full plate. Gay leaders, after all of Obama's campaign promises, are disillousioned with the slow pace of change.

The papers all have big Sunday feature leads, including the NYT's damning dissection of the grantmaking process for cancer research, which has become diseased itself by old patterns of distributing money—the National Cancer Institute, which has distributed $105 billion since it was founded in the 1970s, now functions more as a "jobs program" to keep labs in business rather than a source of funding for innovative research. The Post runs an eye-level blow-by-blow of last Monday's red-line Metro crash, while the LAT continues its excellent gang coverage with a look at the dangerous role of gang interventionist, a community figure who acts as a liaison between the police and gang leaders—a dicey job in South L.A.

In Middle East news, the NYT characterizes the true nature of the Taliban's disappearance from the Swat Valley, which seems more like a calculated withdrawal than a rout, suggesting the militia has relocated to gather strength elsewhere. Iraq has reached a landmark in its drive to re-enter the world economy with the first auction of rights to drill in its vast oil fields.  Thirty-five foreign companies were picked to bid for eight contracts, in a politically fraught process that Iraqi parliamentarians call too friendly to the oil investors and that the companies call too demanding, though they have been willing to accept strict terms in the service of gaining a toehold in the country.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is not happy about President Barack Obama's harsh criticism of his government's conduct in post-election violence, which has so far claimed 17 lives. The other candidates have rejected the idea of a recount, saying that the results would inevitably be biased, and Tehranians are getting depressed. Back in Week in Review, the NYT asks the question: Could Ahmadinejad, by following the many repressive regimes before him, actually pull it off? More cheerily, the Post presents an optimistic view of womens' role in Iran's post-election tumult, saying that they've become media heroines and outspoken voices on their own behalf, inspiring those in even more repressive neighboring countries.

The Michael Jackson coverage continues, as investigators conducted a three-hour interview with the doctor who was with the pop star when he expired. The doctor is not suspected of wrongdoing but is considered a witness in a case where nothing has yet been ruled out. Meanwhile, Jackson's body has undergone a second autopsy, an expensive procedure that can deliver results much faster than one done by law enforcement officials; fans could know the cause of Jackson's death within days. The NYT wonders whether fame will ever be the same again. The Post runs the reminiscence of a former reporter in Korea who ran into Jackson in a fancy Seoul hotel, which might also help explain this baffling phenomenon. The LAT takes a critical look at TMZ, which takes a no-holds-barred approach to breaking news and trumpets itself as the only truly independent celebrity gossip outlet in Hollywood. And, a day after devoting almost its entire front page to the story, the paper runs a column questioning whether the media may have gone overboard with this one.

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