The Skinny: From Iran To The Grammys

The Skinny is Joel Roberts' take on the top news of the day and the best of the Internet.

The U.S. military's claim that Iran has been supplying arms to Shiite groups in Iraq was front-page news in most of the major papers Monday.

At a briefing "held under unusually secretive circumstances" in Baghdad's fortified Green Zone, the Washington Post said officials "displayed mortar shells, rocket-propelled grenades and a powerful cylindrical bomb, capable of blasting through an armored Humvee, that they said were manufactured in Iran and supplied to Shiite militias in Iraq for attacks on U.S. and Iraqi troops."

In its story, The New York Times said that "After weeks of internal debate, senior United States military officials … literally put on the table their first public evidence" of the claim that Iran had given weapons to Iraqi insurgents that had been used "to kill more than 170 Americans in the past three years."

But The Times said the way the military presented its case could raise flags for some White House critics.

The Times said the military "asserted, without providing direct evidence, that Iranian leaders had authorized smuggling those weapons into Iraq for use against the Americans."

Those assertions, and the "anonymity of the officials" who made them, "seemed likely to generate skepticism among those suspicious that the Bush administration is trying to find a scapegoat for its problems in Iraq, and perhaps even trying to lay the groundwork for war with Iran."

Campaign Update

There was plenty of Monday morning political quarterbacking following a busy weekend on the presidential campaign field.

The New York Times compared how Democrats Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama handled the campaign's key question – the war in Iraq – during their weekend sojourns in New Hampshire and Iowa, respectively.

While Obama "drew cheers" for his opposition to the war, The Times said Clinton was "greeted warmly," but faced continued scrutiny over what some see as her failure to fully explain her 2002 Senate vote authoring the invasion of Iraq.

Her "refusal to use clear, categorical phrases – 'I'm sorry' or 'I made a mistake' – has created an opening for Mr. Obama and another rival, former Senator John Edwards of North Carolina, who has openly apologized for his identical 2002 vote," The Times said.

Obama's much-heralded Saturday entrance into the campaign was still being talked about in Monday's Wall Street Journal, in an article teased in the Journal's News Box. The Illinois senator was also the subject of a profile by Steve Kroft Sunday night.

Grammy Politics

Politics was also front and center at last night's Grammy Awards. The Los Angeles Times highlighted the big night for the Dixie Chicks, the controversial country trio, who brought home five Grammys after being snubbed at the Country Music Association Awards.

The Times said the group found "blue state redemption" after "country radio banned them and country fans shunned them" for some stinging comments about President Bush.

"I think people are using their freedom of speech here at this awards," said lead singer Natalie Maines, as she accepted the album of the year award.

"Jackpot Fatigue"

Apparently $100 million "ain't what it used to be."

That's according to a front-page story in USA Today on a decline in lottery ticket sales of more than 30 percent in some states following a seven-month stretch of what it calls "big, but not gigantic" payoffs.

Lottery officials say consumers are suffering from "jackpot fatigue," after a wave of prizes topping $200 million –including one for $315 million – finally ended. In recent months, payoffs as high as $125 million and $163 million in the Mega Millions lottery "have stirred little excitement or coverage," the article says.

"There was a time when $50 million created a stir. Then we needed $100 million," says Bobby Heith of the Texas Lottery. "Now even that's not good enough."

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