Today's Papers

Bed Pandemonium?

The USA Today lead is a run-up to the Senate’s debate of a patients’ rights bill–which would give them the right to sue their health plans–set to start tomorrow. The paper explains that the bill is supported by most Democrats and by the American Medical Association and opposed by many Republicans, the Business Roundtable and several other employer groups. The New York Times fronts patients’ rights, but leads with the Texas governor’s veto of legislation that would have banned his state’s execution of the mentally retarded, on the grounds that there are adequate judicial safeguards already preventing this (an opinion also expressed last week by his predecessor, President Bush). The paper says the veto “is certain to subject the United States to sharp criticism from abroad.” The Los Angeles Times goes with what could be Congress’ first direct response to the energy price spikes that have hit California and other states: a big budget increase for an obscure federal program dating from the 1970s energy crisis designed to help poor people pay their utility bills. The Washington Post leads with the Mexican government’s plans to control more tightly its “notoriously corrupt and loosely enforced” southern border with Central America. The paper explains that this is part of Mexican President Vicente Fox’s commitment to Washington to reduce the flow of U.S.-bound illegal immigrants in return for which Mexico is looking for an upgrade of the legal status of Mexicans already in the U.S. Everybody but the NYT fronts a picture of Chelsea Clinton taken during her graduation yesterday from Stanford.

The NYT lead says that the Texas decision goes against “a steady movement among states.” The paper points out that 15 of them ban executing the retarded, as does the federal government.

The LAT lead reports that as early as this week, the House may vote nearly twice as much money for the federal government’s low-income home energy assistance program as was requested by the White House, and that even bigger increases are likely for next year. A pro of the program the paper points out: It’s a comparatively cheap way for members of Congress to counter the perception that they aren’t doing much to help people cope with the energy crunch. A con: The assistance money doesn’t go very far if it’s spent on ever-increasing energy costs.

The NYT fronts and the Wall Street Journal goes high in its front-page biz news box with word that talks broke off over the weekend between AOL and Microsoft about whether/how to include AOL software in Microsoft’s new operating system, Windows XP, due out in October. The Journal says that this could inconvenience consumers and lead to future jousting between the companies in court. Indeed, says the paper, one of the issues in the broken-off talks was whether the two companies would agree not to sue each other over competitive issues. The Times says the breakdown raises the prospect of new antitrust challenges to Microsoft, based on Windows XP.

The WP front reports that the former king of Bulgaria, Simeon II, ousted after World War II while still a boy, is leading in that country’s parliamentary elections, which gives him an excellent chance to become prime minister. If so, the paper notes, he would be the first Eastern European king to regain power after the fall of communism.

The WSJ front features yet another aspect of the Internet bomb–the nation’s fiber optic glut. There are, says the story, 39 million miles of fiber optic cable in the U.S., and only about 2.6 percent of that capacity is in use. Much of it, says the paper, “may remain dark forever.”

The WP goes inside to report about the death earlier this month of a 28-year-old woman from an aneurysm after she lapsed into unconsciousness on the Goliath thrill ride at Six Flags Magic Mountain outside Los Angeles. The story says the incident has heated up the topic of ride safety and prompted calls that the federal government again regulate the rides, which it did until Congress decided otherwise in 1981. (Now it can only regulate traveling rides, not ones in fixed locations.) The story quotes a number of ride industry types defending their safety record. An editorial in last Thursday’s LAT called such reassurances “stonewalling” and described Disney’s strategy as “postponing the release of information and fighting attempts to enact legislation that would require disclosures about ride safety.”

The NYT goes inside to report that a former U.S. government nuclear scientist is planning to sue the U.S. to end its pre-publication hold on his memoir, which the government says contains federal secrets. (This impasse was fronted recently by the WP.) The author contends that because his book concludes that the Chinese made its nuclear breakthroughs (especially in the area of warhead miniaturization) on its own and not through espionage, the book is being held up because of politics rather than national security. The story points out that a central contention of the espionage charges against Wen Ho Lee was that Lee helped the Chinese get U.S. miniaturization secrets. But it modestly never mentions the newspaper that played the key role in publicizing these never-proven charges–the NYT.

The WP runs an AP report saying that Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon had rejected the idea (proposed by the U.N.’s Kofi Annan) of his foreign minister, Shimon Peres, meeting with Palestinian Authority leader Yasser Arafat. The story identifies Peres as having won a share of the 1994 Nobel Peace Prize but never mentions that it’s Arafat he shares it with.