Today's Papers

Baiting the Bear

The papers lead with the latest leg of President Bush’s European tour. The New York Times and Washington Post go with a speech Bush made in Warsaw on Friday, calling for an expanded NATO that would brush up against, but not include, Russia. The timing of his comments was provocative, the papers say, given that he’s meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin today. The Los Angeles Times stuffs coverage of the speech in favor of a Bush-Putin preview–essentially a string of quotes from George W. on the importance of establishing a good relationship. “It all begins with the word ‘friend,’” Bush says. He wants his friend to scrap the Antiballistic Missile Treaty of 1972, so that the U.S. can build a missile defense system.

The NYT is alone in fronting Nortel Networks expected $19.2 billion second-quarter loss, one of the largest in corporate history and “the most striking evidence yet of how the bursting of the dot-com bubble has begun to contaminate the bricks-and-mortar economy.” During the boom, Nortel bought up small Internet companies, most of which are now virtually worthless. Nortel’s stock, at $87 in July 2000, closed at $9.86 yesterday. The company is expected to lay off 10,000 workers, and that’s on top of the 20,000 they’ve sloughed off already this year.

The NYT also fronts an interesting profile of CIA chief George Tenet, who finds himself in the unusual role, for a CIA chief, of peacemaker in the Middle East. Apparently Tenet, who became director in 1997 under Clinton, is one of the few people trusted by both the Palestinians and the Israelis. “Nobody wants to disappoint George Tenet,” says a Palestinian official. Peace negotiations are usually the province of the White House and the State Department, but the Bush administration grudgingly concluded that Tenet was the only man for the job. The current cease-fire, which he brokered, is now three days old. 

The LAT fronts the news that surgical sterilization will no longer be performed in Catholic and Catholic-affiliated hospitals because its “intrinsically evil” in the eyes of the National Bishops Conference. This wouldn’t be especially alarming except that the Catholics own a lot of hospitals, about 620, or 11 percent of all hospitals in the U.S. (The number is even higher, 1,140, if you’re a WP reader.) The impact of the decision will be especially great in rural areas, where hospital choices are limited. The legal director of the California Women’s Law Center says, “It’s frankly unconscionable that they would be able to impose their own religious beliefs on the health care that men and women in this country can get.”

The Post’s Page 3 coverage of the bishops focuses, rather monotonously, on the new requirement that all theology professors at church-affiliated colleges teach “authentic Catholic doctrine.” The NYT, meanwhile, opts for the environmental angle, covering the bishops’ call for action on global warming.

Continuing on the religious tip, the WP fronts the vote by the governing body of the Presbyterian Church in favor of lifting the ban on ordination of gay men and lesbians. The measure must be ratified by a majority of the church’s regional bodies before it can take effect.

The NYT fronts a disturbing story about a 16-year-old, “educable mentally retarded” boy who pleaded guilty to a sex offense when he was 10 and was sentenced under Megan’s Law in New Jersey. His punishment may now include, thanks to a voter referendum, placing his name and picture on a sex-offender Web site. The NJ State Supreme Court will decide if the new law can be applied to a 10-year-old. The boy was found rubbing himself up against an 8-year old girl. English was not his first language and he had trouble understanding investigators’ questions: he equated “sex” with “kissing.”

The LAT takes a light-hearted tone with the nine officials from the Chicago suburb of Cicero (Al Capone’s old stomping ground) who were indicted on federal corruption charges. The star of the piece is Town President Betty Loren-Maltese, “legendary here for her pancake makeup, ties to the mob and bare-knuckle politics.” Betty and friends were charged with racketeering, fraud, and money laundering after stealing $10 million from the town insurance fund. The former police chief was involved and so was the town treasurer, and a onetime IRS man. The group spent their loot on a golf course and a horse farm, among other things.

The NYT fronts a piece on Bush’s charm, currently being unleashed on Europe. Meeting Tony Blair for the first time since his easy re-election last week, Bush shouted, “Hello, Landslide.” This greeting was both funny and endearing, according to the Times. Bush called Africa a nation on Thursday, but his “informal, teasing, sporadically goofy personality” has carried him through thus far. Aides point out that behind closed doors, the president is a serious statesman.

Finally, everybody fronts full-color Shaqs, as the Lakers repeat as NBA champs.