It's "the political equivalent of the Oscar." That's how the Los Angeles Times describes Sen. Hillary Clinton's snagging of an endorsement from Hollywood heavy hitter Steven Spielberg.
Spielberg had "flirted" with the possibility of backing Clinton's chief rival for the Democratic presidential nomination, Sen. Barack Obama, but announced Wednesday that he was supporting Clinton.
Does it matter? Who knows. But the Times says it underscores something "Hollywood politicos have been saying for several weeks" – that "members of the largely Democratic entertainment industry are getting over their crush on Obama and are now looking at Clinton as a more likely presidential prospect."
But while Hollywood's fancy may be turning from Obama to Clinton, the Illinois senator is picking up strengthened support from another key constituency – upper-income blacks.
An analysis by USA Today shows Obama has received more than double the number of campaign donations from areas with large concentrations of upper-income blacks than Clinton.
Mosque Bombing Aftershock
The morning papers were grappling with the fallout from Wednesday's bombing of one of Iraq's most revered Shiite shrines – the same holy site that was heavily damaged in an al Qaeda attack last year, leading to a wave of bloody reprisals.
The Los Angeles Times called the latest attack on Samarra's Golden Mosque "a powerful blow to the U.S.-led security plan," and quoted the top U.S. commander in Iraq, Gen. David Petraues, as saying he had "a terrible sinking feeling" after hearing about it.
In an interview with USA Today, Petraeus warned that the attack could unleash a new wave of sectarian bloodletting. Petraeus said that while Sunni vs. Shiite violence in Baghdad had been "trending down" recently, "we're going to have to see what the impact of this tragedy in Samarra is on that."
Although some retaliatory attacks on Sunni mosques have been reported, The New York Times said appeals for calm by Shiite and moderate Sunni leaders, as well as U.S. officials, "appeared to have headed off the risk of a new sectarian convulsion, at least for now."
But in more bleak news on the war front, the Wall Street Journal and other papers also note a new Pentagon report "casting doubt on the effectiveness" of the U.S. military's three-month-old troop surge in Baghdad.
The Pentagon assessment, says the Washington Post, shows no drop in overall levels of violence in Iraq since the start of the troop buildup, "as attacks have shifted away from Baghdad and Anbar, where American forces are concentrated, only to rise in most other provinces."
FBI: Snooping Crossed Lines
An FBI audit reveals that the bureau broke rules and potentially laws while collecting personal information during national security investigations far more often than previously acknowledged.
The Washington Post, citing an internal FBI audit, said the agency "potentially violated the law or agency rules more than 1,000 times while collecting data about domestic phone calls, e-mails and financial transactions in recent years." The audit looked at just 10 percent of the bureau's national security investigations since 2002, so the actual number of violations is likely to be much higher.
The vast majority of the cases involved FBI agents holding onto records they received from telephone companies and Internet providers which the agents "did not request and were not authorized to collect." But in more than two-dozens cases, agents requested information that "U.S. law did not allow them to have."
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