Today's Papers

Death and Tax Cuts

The New York Times leads with the apparent victory in Italy’s national election of a center-right coalition led by Silvio Berlusconi, according to partial returns. The election brings an end to five years of center-left government in Italy. The Washington Post leads with news that pro-business organizations are pushing for a second major tax bill this year. The bill would include “a broad array of tax reductions and other incentives for business.” Lobbyists are hoping to convince Democrats to swallow the special-interest tax cuts by pairing them with an increase in the minimum wage. The Los Angeles Times, online at least, leads with the likely decision by Timothy McVeigh’s attorneys to seek another postponement in McVeigh’s execution date so that they can complete their investigation into newly disclosed FBI files. Attorney General John Ashcroft says he will not grant another delay, so the case stands to return to federal court. USA Today leads with the same story. The top story in the Wall Street Journal’s worldwide news box is an interview with Vice President Dick Cheney, in which he outlines the Bush administration’s new energy policy. Cheney said the plan, to be announced Thursday, will rely mostly on production by private industry, rather than government-imposed efficiency mandates. The administration hopes to remove regulations that serve as obstacles to greater energy production. Nuclear power also stands to make a “major comeback” if the administration gets its way.

The WP off-leads the controversy at the Justice Department over Ashcroft’s daily Bible study sessions. A Bush administration spokeswoman says Ashcroft is simply exercising “his constitutional right to express his religious faith” and that employees are welcome but not required to attend. Some unnamed employees don’t agree. “The purpose of the Department of Justice is to do the business of the government, not to establish a religion,” says one. “It strikes me and a lot of others as offensive, disrespectful and unconstitutional. … It at least blurs the line, and it probably crosses it.” Another employee calls the sessions “alienating”: “He’s using public spaces to have a personally meaningful event to which I would not be welcome, nor would I feel welcome.” Ashcroft wouldn’t comment on the meetings, and reporters have been barred from attending. The Bush spokeswoman said the meetings consist of discussion of a Bible verse or passage, memorization of a psalm or Bible story, and a prayer. The story quotes an Orthodox Jew (and former Ashcroft Senate staffer) who approves of the meetings: “He’s made every effort to make everyone and everything feel comfortable.”

The LAT   fronts word that “many congressional Republicans” fear that the Bush administration’s focus on long-term issues such as missile defense and energy could cost the GOP in the short term and tip the House of Representatives to the Democrats in 2002.

So long, and thanks for all the books: The WSJ passes along the underreported news that Douglas Adams, author of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy books, died Friday in California of a heart attack. He was 49.