All-Inclusive Facility for Guantanamo Detainees
The Washington Postleads with word that the White House is considering transferring some Guantanamo detainees to a maximum-security prison in the United States that would also have courtrooms for civilian and military trials. Officials are looking at a military prison in Kansas and a maximum-security prison in Michigan that will be shut down soon as possible spots for the new detention facility. The Wall Street Journalleads its world-wide newsbox with the nine foreign soldiers killed in Afghanistan over the weekend. The nine deaths, including six Americans, in the first two days of August followed the deadliest month for the coalition since the beginning of the war in Afghanistan. USA Todayleads with new data that show how federal stimulus money has helped state and local governments make up for the sharp decrease in tax collections. The injection of taxpayer money helped increase state and local government expenditures 4.8 percent in the second quarter after six months of spending declines. Money from the federal government now surpasses taxes as the top source of revenue for state and local governments.
The New York Timesleads with a look at how Republicans and Democrats are planning to take the fight for and against health care reform across the country this month. Democrats will begin an ad campaign to accompany town-hall-style meetings, featuring lawmakers and the president, to convince the public about the urgency of what they're now calling health-insurance reform. For their part, Republicans are also setting up an advertising campaign as well as meetings to convince Americans that the plan Democrats want to pursue would cost too much and fail to improve care. They'll get some help from the insurance industry, which is planning to confront Democrats at public forums. The Los Angeles Timesleads with news that Episcopal Church leaders in Los Angeles nominated two openly gay priests as bishops. The move came a day after the Diocese of Minnesota announced that one of its three candidates for bishop is a lesbian. The church lifted a de facto ban on gay bishops mere weeks ago, and these nominations are sure to spark outrage among conservative members of the Episcopal Church as well as within the Anglican Communion around the world.
Word of the possibility of a new detention facility, to be set up inside the United States to house Guantanamo detainees, was first reported by the Associated Press. The Post emphasizes that while the administration is looking at the idea, nothing is set in stone yet. Officials say that by creating one dedicated facility, they could avoid sprinkling Guantanamo detainees all over the country. The hybrid facility, which would be jointly run by the departments of Defense, Justice, and Homeland Security, could also have a low-security section to house detainees who have been cleared for release but have nowhere to go.
Any talk of transferring detainees to the United States has been controversial, and this isn't likely to be any different. But officials hope that by placing all the detainees in one facility, they can minimize opposition and perhaps even get some political backing, which would appear to be the case with the Michigan option. The LAT hears word that the idea of creating a facility that would contain a courtroom and a prison "was floated in May by Michigan Republicans, including former Gov. John Engler, suggesting a site in their state." The LAT also says that while the Pentagon has also considered detention facilities at Ft. Leavenworth, Kan.; Camp Pendleton; and the naval brig in Charleston, S.C., none are considered "ideal options," as one official put it. The American Civil Liberties Union said it would be against the creation of this new facility, particularly if it would be designed to hold some detainees indefinitely without trial.
USAT fronts a dispatch from Afghanistan's Helmand Province that looks into the way Marines are trying to win the trust of the local population by setting up small patrol bases in areas that had long been neglected by coalition forces. The paper points out that dangerous spots can be difficult to identify because "they often co-exist with relatively peaceful areas." A counterinsurgency expert explains that "every village has its own microclimate."
The NYT fronts word that Venezuelan officials are still assisting members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, despite repeated denials. According to "computer material" captured from Colombia's largest rebel group, being analyzed by Western intelligence agencies, Venezuelan officials have assisted guerrillas as recently as several weeks ago. The high-ranking intelligence and military officials helped the FARC arrange weapons deals in Venezuela while also providing them with identity cards so they could travel freely within Venezuela. The fresh allegations of cooperation could lead to problems for Obama, who has been trying to improve relations with Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez.
The LAT and WP front, and everyone covers, news that Marines in western Iraq have recovered the remains of a Navy pilot shot down at the beginning of the Persian Gulf War. When Navy Capt. Michael Scott Speicher's plane was shot down on Jan. 17, 1991, he was described as the first U.S. fatality of the war; but the fact that his body was never found gave rise to a number of rumors and conspiracy theories that he'd been captured. But now it seems Bedouin tribesmen had buried Speicher's remains. The Post talks to a 53-year-old tribal leader who claims Iraqi army officers asked for guidance about whether they could bury the pilot the same way as a Muslim. "I told them that regardless of religion, any person should be properly buried," he said.
The NYT fronts a dispatch from Mingora, a city in Pakistan's Swat Valley, where signs abound that the conflict with the Taliban is far from over. Thousands of refugees have returned, but many are convinced it's only a matter of time before the Taliban will come back in full force, particularly since militant leaders are still on the loose. Schools may have officially reopened but the "many requirements to secure the peace … seem months away." Foreign donors are beginning to develop plans to help with reconstruction, but whether these projects "can be done fast enough to satisfy the people who are most vulnerable to the lure of the militants is a pressing concern," reports the paper.
The Post fronts the second excerpt from the Battle for America 2008 by Dan Balz and Haynes Johnson, focusing on the selection of Sarah Palin as John McCain's running mate. But the more interesting information is in a separate brief excerpt inside, where the authors write about how a front-page NYT article on Obama's relationship with Bill Ayers led McCain's campaign to push up that line of attack, which was already in the works. The same day the article came out, an important McCain staffer sent an e-mail to Sarah Palin's traveling party suggesting a line of attack that included a line about how Obama "is someone who sees America as imperfect enough to pal around with terrorists." Palin took on the assignment enthusiastically. "Yes yes yes," she wrote in an e-mail response. "Pls let me say this!!!" After she delivered the lines, she sent another e-mail: "It was awesome."
In the WP's Style section, Ruth McCann tackles one of the most confounding issues of electronic life: What's the best way to sign off in an e-mail? At the very least, TP is relieved he's not the only one who is perplexed by the issue. Best? Cheers? Sincerely? XOXO? No one knows, really. But be very careful, because if you choose incorrectly people might think you're being cold or even get offended.
To all those who bemoan text-messaging language as completely unintelligible, the NYT's Ben Schott notes there's nothing new about abbreviating words. When people sent telegrams, they were often forced to cut words because carriers charged extra for long words and messages, which gave rise to a "boom in telegraphic code books that reduced both common and complex phrases into single words." In an excerpt from one of these books we learn that Flank stood for: "A fire is raging here. Please send engine." Just a tad more difficult to decipher than l8r.
Daniel Politi has been contributing to Slate since 2004 and wrote the "Today's Papers" column from 2006 to 2009. You can follow him on Twitter @dpoliti.