Today's Papers

Alaskan Pipe Dreams

Both USA Today and the Washington Post lead with–and everybody else fronts–situation reports on the 7.9-magnitude Indian earthquake. Most of the reporting focuses on the biggest city affected, Bhuj, where over the weekend only a few survivors but some 6,000 bodies were found, a death toll expected to rise considerably. USAT fronts a list of the past century’s four deadliest quakes–three in China, one in Japan. Each was at least an 8.0, and the deadliest killed 255,000 people. The New York Times leads with the White House’s likely opening today of the first-ever federal office promoting the involvement of religious groups with government-funded social service programs. The paper says the head of the office will be John DiIulio, who it describes as an expert on juvenile crime with impressive academic credentials. The story reports that Stephen Goldsmith, the Bush election campaign’s domestic policy chief, will also advise the project. The Los Angeles Times lead says that the California electricity crisis is energizing President George W. Bush’s push to drill for oil and natural gas in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, where drilling has been banned since 1980. The paper says a high-level White House meeting today about energy policy in light of the West’s power crunch will have Alaskan energy exploration near the top of the list.

The NYT lead says that the Bush administration views the appointment of DiIulio, who one administration adviser describes to the paper as emphasizing empirical evidence, as a way of blunting any impression that the new social program is evangelism or even just too driven by religion. The Times says Bush’s goal is to find new ways for the government to encourage more social involvement by all private charities, not just religious ones. And leaders of nonreligious not-for-profits, including Habitat for Humanity, will be present at today’s White House kick-off event.

The LAT lead starts out its 23rd paragraph saying, “The potential oil reserves are vast.” And at first it sounds that way–between 4.3 billion and 11.8 billion barrels of oil could be gotten out of the Arctic preserve. But then the paper adds that the U.S. uses about 7 billion barrels a year. Why doesn’t the paper then do the math and also put the resulting information higher? In other words, why doesn’t the headline include something like, “BUT DEBATE IS ONLY OVER ONE YEAR’S WORTH OF ENERGY”? Also, the story spends itself mostly on the issue’s politics, waiting until the last two paragraphs to even mention the possible environmental impact of the proposed exploration. The story’s last sentence is the first to evoke the concept of damage. It says merely, “Environmentalists warn that exploration could harm the tundra,” without saying why that might be a bad thing.

The NYT and WP go inside to report that just one day after Palestinian and Israeli negotiators issued a hopeful-sounding statement, Yasser Arafat, speaking to the international Davos conference, angrily denounced Israel, calling it “savage,” “barbaric,” and “fascist.”

The WP goes inside with its sister publication Newsweek’s report that Bush Justice Department lawyers think they may have found a way to undo Bill Clinton’s pardon of Marc Rich based on some 19th-century case law suggesting that to be valid, a pardon must be delivered to the person pardoned or his lawyer. The story says Rich’s was not delivered.

Yesterday’s WP reports on and today’s WP editorializes against the ever lusher money rake-in being engaged in by members of Congress. The paper makes it clear that the main reason is an unprecedentedly closely divided House and Senate, and it quotes a Senate Democratic fund-raiser saying, “The fifty-fifty split [in the Senate] means something. People want to play, for sure.” The story says that in 2001, Rep. J.C. Watts has already taken in nearly $300,000 and that House Democrats feel they are on track to raise at least as much as the record $94 million they did for the just-concluded election.

If you are one of the dozens of people in the country who want to replay every single moment of the presidential election aftermath, to wallow in Halberstamian reconstructions of all those meetings and phone calls, then by all means, get thee to the WP’s gazillion word series, fronted again today. Today’s thrilling installment ends with the unbearable drama of the following sentence: “The Democrats weren’t at all eager for the secretary of state to weigh in. They were pretty sure they wouldn’t like what Harris had to say.”

USAT, the NYT, and the WP front the Baltimore Ravens’ Super Bowl victory, and all of these papers go high with Ray Lewis winning the game MVP award just a year after he was charged with murder in connection with two fatal street stabbings. The charges were later dropped when Lewis pleaded guilty to lying to the police when they questioned him about the deaths. But, notes an LAT sports section story, Disneyland broke tradition by not asking the star of the game to be in this year’s version of its famous “Where Are You Going Now?” ad.