Thursday, May 26, 2005


Slate: Iran stops nukes?

By Eric Umansky, Posted Thursday, at 1:10 AM PT

The Los Angeles Times and New York Times lead with Iranian officials saying they'll extend the freeze on their nuclear program for a more few months, heading off a Security Council showdown for now. Iran had been talking big about putting its program back into gear but decided to play nice after European negotiators promised to offer a detailed list of incentives. Nobody is putting much hope in the extension, especially since Iran's chief negotiator said he still needs the OK from his bosses. The Washington Post is particularly skeptical, stuffing Iran and instead leading with FBI memos showing that about a dozen Gitmo detainees complained that guards mistreated the Quran; one prisoner charged that the holy book was flushed down the toilet. There have been plenty of previous reports of similar detainee allegations. The documents--which were mostly written in 2002 and 2003 and released per an ACLU lawsuit--add in quantity to the charges but not quality. That is, they're still allegations--which makes TP wonder why the Post is leading with them.

The Wall Street Journal tops its world-wide newsbox (online, at least) with the Senate confirming, as expected, Priscilla Owen as a federal appellate judge. USA Today leads with state government coffers filling up again. Tax revenues rose to a record $600 billion last year, about 7 percent more than in 2003. (A couple of years ago, Slate's Jack Shafer got huffy about credulous stories that states were heading toward the fiscal abyss.)

As has been previously reported, the Red Cross once told the military about the detainees' allegations. Soon after, the prisoners' complaints apparently stopped. (Here's an interview with a former translator at Gitmo who attributed some of the abuse to a lack of cultural training. At least initially, guards didn't know they weren't supposed to handle the Quran.) The latest FBI docs also include 19 separate allegations of beatings, as well as complaints about sexually humiliating interrogation tactics. TP doesn't see it flagged in this morning's papers, but when the Newsweek toilet story first hit it big, the Pentagon's top spokesman was asked whether the military has ever investigated charges that the Quran was disrespected at Gitmo. He answered no, explaining, "There haven't been credible allegations to that effect."

In the name-calling wars: Everybody notes that Amnesty International launched a big broadside against the U.S., calling the treatment of detainees "atrocious" and dubbing Gitmo a "gulag." The Journal's editorial page, never one to get riled, in turn proclaims that Amnesty's take "amounts to pro-al Qaeda propaganda."

A Page One WP piece looks at the myriad ways in which President Bush and congressional leaders have centralized power. Nothing really new here: Cabinet members have no freedom, committee chairmanships are no longer decided by seniority, etc. But the Post certainly comes out swinging: The president "has constructed what many scholars said amounts to a virtual oligarchy with Cheney, Karl Rove, Andrew H. Card Jr., Joshua Bolton, himself and only a few others setting policy."

Rest of the Slate article.

Eric Umansky writes "Today's Papers" for Slate. He can be reached at todayspapers@slate.com.

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