Today's Papers

Korean Future Tense

The Washington Post leads with an 11-senator Democratic-Republican bloc’s endorsement of the idea of a “trigger,” that is, of making tax cuts contingent on specified levels of debt reduction. The paper says the development throws “a significant complication in the path” of President George W. Bush’s tax cut proposal because “it has become increasingly clear that the final bill will be largely negotiated in the Senate.” The top story in the Wall Street Journal’s front-page worldwide news box also attends to the emergence of trigger-happy legislators. The Los Angeles Times leads with fresh polling it says shows Americans giving Bush high marks personally and professionally, supporting him on national missile defense, education reform, and government cooperation with faith-based social service programs, but much more divided on the wisdom of the president’s tax cut. The paper finds 52 percent of respondents supporting the Bush plan, but 55 percent preferring the smaller Democratic cut. The New York Times lead reports that at a Washington meeting yesterday, President Bush told the president of South Korea that the U.S. would not soon resume talks with North Korea aimed at reducing the latter’s weapons programs. The paper sees this comment as “putting aside the Clinton administration’s two-year campaign for a deal and the eventual normalization of relations with the reclusive Communist state.” USA Today leads with something nobody else fronts but that’s been percolating in the financial pages: United Airlines’ bid to purchase US Airways may be in jeopardy because of the Justice’s Department’s concerns that the deal would leave United and American (which would buy 20 percent of US Airways under the deal) dominating East Coast air travel.

The NYT lead gives a thorough parsing to the reason President Bush gave for his North Korea switch, “We’re not certain as to whether or not they’re keeping all terms of all agreements,” with the paper noting that in fact, the U.S. only has one agreement with North Korea–which froze weapons-grade plutonium processing–and reporting that later, two unnamed senior administration officials admitted there’s no evidence it’s being violated. The Times adds that later still, an also unnamed White House spokesman said Bush was expressing his concern about whether North Korea would comply with future accords, even though he did not use the future tense, and quotes the official saying, “That’s how the president speaks.”

The Times, which has already picked up on administration rifts on Iraq policy, also notes in its lead that yesterday Colin Powell appeared to back away from his earlier statements suggesting he might be pursuing the Clinton North Korea line of continued negotiations. A WP fronter notices this also, as does a USAT fronter under a headline referring to a possible “CABINET RIFT.”

The WP fronts and the NYT reefers the House’s repeal yesterday of Clinton-engineered rules designed to protect employees from workplace repetitive motion injuries. The Post says the move, given the Senate’s repeal the day before, is a “big win for business” and illustrates that “no matter how close the November election was, the balance of power has shifted dramatically in Washington.”

Both the NYT and WP fronts pick up on a story first reported in yesterday’s WSJ: that Merck, a leading maker of anti-AIDS drugs, has offered to deeply cut its prices on two of them in South Africa and other AIDS-stricken poor countries. And both also report that an Indian maker of generic drugs has asked South Africa for permission to sell numerous AIDS-fighting drugs at well below the prices charged by the companies that hold the patents on them, if a legal basis for doing so can be secured.

The LAT front breaks a new pardon story: that New York feds already investigating the Marc Rich pardon are now also looking into allegations that Roger Clinton solicited a payment to help an Arkansas man obtain a presidential pardon. The man, convicted of illegally transporting game fish, apparently turned down the offer and was in fact pardoned by Bill Clinton on his last day in office. The man’s lawyer claims that Roger Clinton said he “could make it happen, but that it would cost $15,000.” The NYT doesn’t spare Rodham inside, where it reports that Bill Clinton made a video that’s been submitted to an arbitration panel by a group of lawyers, including his brother-in-law Hugh Rodham, to support their request for billions in disputed tobacco lawsuit fees. The story has Bill Clinton’s spokeswoman saying that Rodham “facilitated” the video but that the former president was unaware his taped remarks were being used in an effort to gain fees.

The NYT is alone in fronting the results of a controlled study, coming out today in the New England Journal of Medicine, apparently showing that the attempt to treat Parkinson’s disease by implanting cells from aborted fetuses directly into patients’ brains not only doesn’t work but also creates a “disastrous” side effect in some patients: the irreversible creation of further uncontrollable movements, sometimes making speech unintelligible and eating impossible.

USAT does a front-cover story on the U.S. Marines’ decision to teach all its troops some martial arts. (Until now, only elite commando units in the various service branches have done so.) The main goals: to give Marines on peacekeeping missions more nonlethal ways to respond to provocations posed by angry or upset civilians, and cutting down on bar fights and other undisciplined displays of aggressive behavior.

When the facts are against you, argue the law. The WP reports that Stephen Glass, a one-time New Republic writer whose nonfiction reporting turned out to be so phenomenal because it turned out to be so fictional, has surfaced–after graduating from law school magna cum laude (did the Post check that?)–as a law clerk for a Washington, D.C., judge.