The New York Times leads with the White House’s decision, to be announced today, to modify a late Clinton administration rule (never put into effect) that would have banned all new roads and most logging throughout dozens of national forests so as to allow local officials to authorize such activities on a case-by-case basis. USA Today leads with its analysis that the Bush administration is rewarding Republican donors and loyalists with ambassadorships at an “unprecedented pace”–22 of 27 nominated so far have political or personal connections to President Bush but no diplomatic experience. The paper notes that 21 of the first 23 Clinton ambassadorial nominees were from the foreign service. The Los Angeles Times leads with House and Senate budget negotiators accepting a plan that would extend health insurance to parents of children already covered by a federal program for low- and moderate-income households. The paper notes that the White House has not objected to the plan and that were it to go into effect alongside the Bush-favored tax credit for heath insurance expenditures made by low-income families, the result would be “the biggest boost in the government’s effort to help the uninsured since Medicare was created in 1965.” The Washington Post leads with Thursday’s unexpected pledge by North Korea’s Kim Jong Il to continue his country’s missile testing moratorium at least until 2003. The North Korean leader told Sweden’s prime minister that he will see if the Bush administration wants to resume progress toward better relations before deciding whether or not to resume testing. The Post notes high in the story that fear of a missile attack by North Korea has been a factor in the United States’ interest in building a missile-defense system. None of the leads makes any other paper’s front.
The top story in the Wall Street Journal’s front-page news box, also fronted by the WP and on USAT’s “Money” front, is yesterday’s arrest by federal agents of three Chinese-born men, two working in the U.S. for Lucent under high-tech visas and the other a U.S. citizen, on charges of stealing trade secrets from Lucent for use by their own company, which had formed a partnership with a Chinese firm controlled by the Chinese government. The papers all note the recent increased tensions between the U.S. and Chinese governments, and the WP even quotes a former Reagan DOD type noting that the source code of the voice and data networking software the three are charged with hijacking and making available, at least indirectly to the Chinese government, could have snooping possibilities. But everybody notes that the charges filed are industrial espionage, not espionage espionage.
The NYT’s Richard Berke files a Friends-of-Bill-based (most of them unnamed) account of what Clinton thinks of his successor thus far. Scorecard: He assesses President Bush as a formidable politician who is far shrewder than many Democrats think. When he met with Bush during the transition, he was impressed with Bush’s saying he would not repeat his father’s mistake as president of neglecting domestic issues. The story says Clinton admires the discipline of the Bush White House. But Clinton believes too much of Bush’s agenda is based on undoing Clinton administration actions. Apparently Clinton was especially distressed by the Bush proposal to cut money for the program helping cities hire more police officers. Oh, and he was stunned to learn that Bush spent but five hours on his budget proposal, compared to the 75 hours Clinton aides said the ex-president put in on his first one. One FOB is quoted saying of Clinton that “how Bush gets away with stuff with the media–that could be his No. 1 issue.”
The WSJ’s “Washington Wire” reports that conservative Republicans are worried that President Bush might appoint White House counsel Alberto Gonzales to the Supreme Court if a seat becomes vacant because they fear Gonzales’ short judicial track record makes him a unknown quantity who could turn out moderate, like Justice David Souter. The column also reports that not every part of the nation’s bidness complex feels wired in to the new administration. One big brokerage exec is quoted saying, “Wall Street is feeling shut out.”
The WP and NYT front the ouster of the U.S. from the United Nations Human Rights Commission–where such rights bastions as Sudan and Pakistan serve–for the first time since the commission’s 1947 founding. One key reason cited in both for the development: The Senate hasn’t yet confirmed the Bush administration’s nominee for U.N. ambassador, so there was no one in place working the halls before the vote.
The NYT fronts word that tonight New York University will honor at a dinner for the school’s athletes seven students it suspended in 1941 for leading a campus protest against the school’s practice of agreeing to withhold black players from intercollegiate games if the other school (usually Southern) objected to their participation. But here is the part that reminds the reader that even so, NYU still has a lot to learn: “The university is not calling the recognition an apology. …” A school spokesman is quoted saying that the university decided not to apologize for actions administrators took in 1940 and 1941 because “we can’t put ourselves in their shoes, and we can’t turn back the hands of time.”
JAPANESE LEADERS CALL FOR AMUSEMENT PARK DEFENSE SHIELD. Everybody goes inside with reports that a man believed to be the eldest son of North Korea’s Kim Jong Il was deported from Japan today after he allegedly was caught traveling into the country under a fake name and on a fake Dominican Republic passport in the company of two women and a small child. He has widely been viewed as being groomed to eventually take over North Korea. Apparently he told Japanese authorities he wanted to visit Tokyo’s Disneyland.
The NYT’s Gail Collins has great fun with the Army’s beret problems. (First the quick decision to put all soldiers in black berets made the elite Rangers mad because they had been the only ones wearing them. Then they made everybody a little nuts because a lot of them turned out to be made in China. Now the Army has promised not to issue the 618,000 black berets of Chinese origin it bought.) But Collins also has a great point: “When you hear the president promise to have some sort of a missile shield in place by 2004, remember that there is nothing so disaster-prone as a large military organization attempting to do something really, really fast.”