Today's Papers

To Air Is Human

The New York Times leads with the House’s passage yesterday, on a nearly party-line vote, of a budget bill allowing for $1.35 trillion in tax cuts over the next 11 years, which is also the top story in the Wall Street Journal front-page worldwide news box. USA Today leads with the discovery yesterday in the West Bank of the bodies of two teen-age Israeli boys, one also an American, found bound, stabbed, and beaten to death with rocks, also the Los Angeles Times’ top nonlocal story. The top nonlocal story at the Washington Post is yet another wash-up from the census: The increase in Mexican-Americans accounted for more than half of the last decade’s increase in the U.S. Hispanic population, while the second-largest U.S. Hispanic group was those who didn’t identify any non-U.S. country of origin. The Post says this could either indicate confusion over the census form or that many Hispanics have a growing feeling of assimilation. The WSJ says it indicates a “new pan-Latino identity.” The LAT census fronter mentions the non-identification without assigning it any meaning.

While the NYT lead editorial calls the House budget plan “a model of fiscal evasion and irresponsibility,” the NYT lead sees its passage as the latest in a string of victories for President Bush, defying expectations that the narrow Republican majority in the House would lead to paralyzing infighting. The story credits the patience of Speaker Dennis Hastert and the persistence of Majority Whip Tom DeLay along with a focus thus far on the easy stuff–tax cuts and budget resolutions. The NYT notes that some harder stuff is coming up that may fray the House’s thus-far almost musical comity, such as federal aid to education, family planning abroad, and the United States’ payment of U.N. dues. The Times says that the Senate’s passage of the budget resolution is virtually assured, and the WSJ reports that there the main emphasis will be on how to scale back the tax cut to the levels the White House and Congress have agreed to, with a particular emphasis on a gradual phase-out of the estate tax that becomes complete in 2009.

The coverage of the Israeli boys’ deaths explains that the two were found in a cave in a scenic area near their settlement where they went hiking and that police think their killers were Palestinians who just came upon them there. The papers all note that when Yasser Arafat was asked about the killings, he didn’t condemn them. The WP and the NYT have another Palestinian official saying “killing civilians is a crime, whether on the Palestinian or the Israeli side,” with the Post adding that the Palestinian media did not include that comment in its coverage. Both the LAT and NYT mention that the murders have produced strong emotions among Israeli settlers, but the LAT makes more of this, reporting that yesterday hundreds of settlers demonstrated outside the official residence of their long-time ally Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

The WP reports inside that radical Palestinian leader Ahmed Jibril (who’s based in Syria) admitted his Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command was responsible for the shipment of heavy military weapons intercepted last weekend by the Israeli navy off the Gaza Strip. He also said he’s shipped weapons to Palestinians previously and pledged to continue doing so.

The WSJ reports that the daughter of a Falun Gong practitioner who died in Chinese police custody–whose quest to find out the truth about her mother’s fate was part of a Journal package of stories that last month won a Pulitzer–has just been sent without a trial to a work camp.

Both the WP and NYT go inside to report that while attending a business conference in Hong Kong as a paid speaker, Bill Clinton had a private meeting with China’s President Jiang Zemin. The papers report that Clinton later said he urged Jiang to have patience while the United States transitions to a new administration, one, which Clinton explained, also wants to have good relations with China.

The WP provides meaty reasons to wonder if Theodore Olson, the Bush nominee for solicitor general (and President Bush’s lawyer in the election cases heard before the Supreme Court), testified truthfully at his confirmation hearings last month when he said that while he served on the board of the American Spectator magazine, he was “not involved” in its “Arkansas Project” to uncover scandals about Bill and Hillary Clinton. It seems that after that testimony, former Spectator writer David Brock told the same committee (and also the Post in an interview) that Olson was “directly involved” (the Post’s words), participating in discussions about possible stories, including one about the death of Vincent Foster. Additionally, the Post has obtained documents also suggesting a larger Olson role, including “Arkansas Project” records showing bills paid to Olson’s law firm. One question: Why does the Post put this story on Page 29?

Both the WP and NYT go inside with AP stories about Al Gore’s first post-election-loss visit to Florida. Both stories have Gore defending his relative media silence since losing on the grounds that the nation needed some recovery time. But the Times version also has Gore’s answer to the question about whether looking back he would have done anything differently: “I would kiss Tipper much longer.”

What’s next–bronzing baby’s first dootie? The WSJ front reports a fresh sign that estrogen can be a major hallucinogen–it says the latest fad at baby showers is something called belly casting. The details: The pregnant honoree gets naked and has friends gather round with wet strips of plaster of Paris, and 10 minutes later, there’s a lifelike pregnant torso to put on your wall or use next Halloween. There’s even a Web site where you can order kits for doing this. The story says this practice is spreading nationwide, but all its particular examples are of women living in California.

“Dear Editor: Even though I’m the presidential spokesman, I don’t have to accept my presidential nickname.” The NYT runs the following correction: “A front-page article yesterday about a threat by members of the House of Representatives to withhold dues to the United Nations misstated the given name of the White House spokesman. He is Ari Fleischer, not Air.”