Today's Papers

Cart Before the Course

The Washington Post, New York Times, and Los Angeles Times lead with the conviction by a New York federal jury of four men for their roles in the near-simultaneous 1998 bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania that killed 224 people (12 of them U.S. citizens) and injured 4,600 others. The verdicts represent the biggest results yet against the terrorist organization led by Osama Bin Laden. The Wall Street Journal puts the verdict atop its front-page worldwide news box. USA Today fronts it but leads with the Supreme Court’s ruling yesterday that federal disability law gives pro golfer Casey Martin, who suffers from a circulatory disorder making walking painful, the right to use a cart in tournaments. Everybody else fronts Martin.

The papers report that the four bombing defendants were found guilty on all 302 charges. The LAT says that the jury forewoman’s reading of the verdict, which included individually naming each victim, was a “liturgy of the dead.” Two of the men convicted could get the federal death penalty. Hearings to decide their sentences begin today. The papers remind that six other men are in custody awaiting trial in connection with the blasts and that another 12 who are still at large–including Bin Laden–have been indicted for them. The WSJ has both an academic and the FBI’s top agent in New York City saying it’s not clear if yesterday’s verdicts will help put Bin Laden in a courtroom anytime soon.

The LAT fronts an exclusive on another terrorism development. Law enforcement sources tell the paper that a Bin-Laden-connected Algerian, facing a prison sentence of 140 years after being convicted for driving a car full of explosives into Washington State from Canada, has finally talked: He intended to detonate a large bomb at Los Angeles International Airport.

USAT explains that the Supreme Court’s golf decision had two elements: 1) The Americans With Disabilities Act covers not just spectators at a sporting event but also competitors, and 2) it’s the particulars of the specific sport that must guide how to apply the ADA without producing an unfair advantage in the competition, and in the case of golf, it’s shot-making, not walking, that’s essential. The paper’s headline says, “RULING TO REACH BEYOND GOLF,” referring to what it says could be a resultant “wave of lawsuits” directed against sports organizations across the nation, an impact the other papers don’t foresee. The NYT flatly says, “With the court sticking closely to the facts of Mr. Martin’s case and avoiding a blanket rule, it is unclear how much impact the decision may have.” And an editorial in the LAT says not to worry about anorexics being allowed in the ring with sumo wrestlers or swimmers being allowed to compete wearing floaties.

The NYT and LAT front yesterday’s meeting in California between President Bush and Governor Gray Davis. Bush again refused to institute caps on the prices energy suppliers charge, and Davis said that he will sue the federal government to make it do just that.

The LAT fronts a report (by David Willman, who won a Pulitzer this year for his coverage of governmental drug regulation lapses) that the FDA is planning to bring the bowel disorder drug Lotronex back on the market despite new evidence that it’s even more likely to cause life-threatening complications than was thought when it was withdrawn last year. The story says that when an executive at the company that makes Lotronex expressed concerns about adverse publicity concomitant with reintroduction, an FDA honcho replied that “we can manage” the media.

The NYT’s Paul Krugman masterfully points to a particularly perverse incentive lurking in the just-signed tax bill. The repeal of the estate tax, he notes, won’t kick in until 2010, but the bill’s “sunset clause” will force it to expire in its entirety at the beginning of 2011. In other words, “If your ailing mother passes away on Dec. 30, 2010, you inherit her estate tax-free. But if she makes it to Jan. 1, 2011, half the estate will be taxed away. That creates some interesting incentives. Maybe they should have called it the Throw Momma From the Train Act of 2001.”