Today's Papers

Sleeping Rats and Ashcroft: Amazing

USA Today leads with Alan Greenspan’s likely endorsement of tax cuts in his Senate testimony today. The paper says that the Fed chairman now believes the surplus is big enough to support both the cuts and paying down the national debt and adds that although it is not known if Greenspan will endorse President Bush’s $1.6 trillion/10-year cut, his testimony is likely to “hearten the White House and add major momentum to passage of a tax cut this year.” The Los Angeles Times leads with, and everybody else stuffs, a Senate committee’s approval of Bush Interior Secretary-nominee Gale Norton, which, the paper says, signals her “sure nomination” next week. Although Norton had figured to be hotly opposed by Democrats, the LAT says she defused most of her critics with conciliatory answers about environmental protection. The Washington Post leads with a surprise priority agreed to at a White House meeting between President Bush and Republican and Democratic congressional leaders: voting reform. As a result, congressional hearings on such topics as uniform poll closing times, weekend voting, and doing away with punch-card ballots will start soon. The paper calls Bush’s support in this area “an unusual deviation” from his campaign agenda and views it as part of his effort to win over Democrats still skeptical about the presidential election outcome. The New York Times leads with California’s first-ever power auction, under which electricity generators proposed rates at which they would sell power to the state over long periods of time. The rates would be a key part of an emerging plan under which the state government would go into the power business temporarily in place of California’s two suddenly uncredit-worthy private utilities. The state would also, by issuing bonds and using part of consumers’ monthly bills, help those utilities get their finances back in shape. (In the meantime, the utilities would merely act as electricity distributors and fee collectors.) But the key to the scheme would be for the state to be able to lock in favorable electricity purchase prices, and, says the NYT (and the LAT’s fronter on the topic), while the auction prices came in higher than was originally deemed acceptable, they were viewed as encouraging by state officials, including the governor.

The Wall Street Journal reports that the Bush administration, although it continues to emphasize that solutions to the California energy crisis will mainly come from within the state, is considering easing federal clean air standards to spur the construction of power plants there.

Although the NYT inside says that the Senate’s top Democrat has reassured President Bush that all his Cabinet nominees will be confirmed, the WP goes inside to contrast the Norton nomination’s excellent Senate chances with those of Attorney General-designate John Ashcroft, whom the paper sees as facing a “battle.” The Senate Judiciary Committee has delayed its vote on Ashcroft for at least a week. And on the same page (and reefered on the front), the Post runs a story sure to be part of the combat: A health care expert, who applied for a top Missouri government position in 1985 and was turned down, says that right at the beginning of the job interview, then-Gov. Ashcroft asked him about his sexual orientation “in a way that indicated that he would not be hired if he were gay.” The paper quotes Ashcroft saying he “cannot imagine” asking such a question, although it adds that it would not (!) have violated Missouri law. The paper says the applicant told several friends and colleagues about Ashcroft’s question shortly after the interview and quotes one of them by name remembering this.

The NYT fronts and the WP stuffs ground-breaking research coming out today in Neuron (Damn, the subscription lapsed again!) that seems to show that animals dream and dream about their waking experiences, or at least that lab rats dream and when they do, it’s about their mazes.

The NYT has quite a bit of detail on what’s briefly noted elsewhere about Al Gore’s next move: college teaching. The paper says that Gore will teach something called “community building” at Middle Tennessee State and Fisk and something called “journalism” at Columbia. Gore will also write a book about families with his wife, and the two will also deliver some speeches, some for pay and some for free.

On its “Money” front, USAT reports that the Super Bowl viewing demographic has undergone a big shift toward women. Nowadays, the game is a far bigger draw for women (40 million) than the Oscars (27 million), and the paper says this year the programming and advertising will as never before reflect the change. Hence the recent Anheuser-Busch beer ads featuring puppies and a Clydesdale foal. And look for the Lifetime TV pre-Super Bowl special with the vignette about the deaf Oakland Raiders cheerleader. And during the game, there’ll be an NFL spot showing a father playing backyard catch with his daughter. The story quotes one SB advertiser on why so many of the ads will target women: During the commercials, the guys go to the bathroom.

The LAT is alone in fronting the Georgia House’s approval of a new state flag that shrinks down but does not eliminate the Confederate battle flag that currently waves on official flagpoles. The paper says the new design is likely to end Georgia’s flag controversy. Today’s Papers can only ask: why? The story is accompanied by a photo of the new design, which shows the irksome symbol the same size as some other flags, including two early American flags. Now, if Germany proposed a new flag that paid heed to its history by including just a teeny-tiny little swastika on its bottom edge, would that be OK, too?