Today's Papers

Ethanol in the Family

The Los Angeles Times leads with President Bush’s decision to dispatch Secretary of State Colin Powell to the Middle East next week. USA Today leads with Republican Sen. Jesse Helms’ criticism of Bush’s recent post-summit description of Vladimir Putin as “trustworthy” and a “remarkable leader.” In the paper’s words, Helms thinks such praise “undermines U.S. efforts to change Kremlin policies.” The Washington Post goes with the Bush administration’s endorsement yesterday of a bill before Congress that would outlaw not just the creation of cloned children but all human cloning research. The New York Times leads with new poll numbers it says show that despite President Bush’s first official overseas trip and the passage of a sweeping tax cut, his standing as a leader has “diminished considerably.” Among other things, the paper says its survey shows that a majority of Americans are uneasy about Bush’s ability to tackle an international crisis, say he is not respected by other world leaders, and are skeptical about the existence of the U.S. energy crisis Bush has often mentioned. A NYT editorial says the poll “shows a White House increasingly and alarmingly out of touch with what Americans are thinking.” With the exception of the Powell/Middle East story, which also makes the WP front, nobody fronts any other paper’s lead.

The LAT says that with his announcement about Powell, Bush is “abandoning the last vestige of his standoffish approach to the Middle East.” The paper notes one tool of Middle East diplomacy the Bush still isn’t ready to employ: personally meeting with Yasser Arafat, and attributes to unnamed administration officials the idea that Bush considers extending a White House invitation to him to be a “trump card” in persuading the Palestinian leader to restrain his followers.

The WP lead explains that the White House, in taking its cloning stance–which was spelled out in congressional testimony given by an HHS administrator–was siding with many religious organizations and against the law in England, which allows scientists to create cloned human embryos for research as long as they are not transferred into a woman’s womb where they can grow into babies. The HHS administrator testified that such a law would be problematic because “it’s too easy” for scientists “to cross that line.”

According to AP dispatches that the WP and NYT run inside, the Iraqi government says that a U.S.-British airstrike killed 23 people at a soccer game. The stories also say the U.S. government denies this, claiming instead that probably a wayward Iraqi anti-aircraft missile fired at allied planes patrolling the Iraqi “no-fly zone” was responsible.

The NYT front leaks a report prepared for Congress by the Bush administration that recommends continuing federal incentives for ethanol-fueled vehicles even though the program doesn’t reduce gasoline consumption or increase the use of alternative fuels–mainly because only 1 in 1,000 U.S. gas stations sell the stuff. The paper, noting that nevertheless ethanol incentives drive up the cost of corn and referring to a Bush administration decision last week not to let California be exempted from ethanol use requirements, calls the report “the second big victory this month for the ethanol lobby,” which includes the National Corn Growers Association and the Archer Daniels Midland Co.

The LAT fronts word that four members of Congress, including Sen. Joe Lieberman, will call on President Bush today to support restraining Hollywood marketing of sexual and violent material to minors. The paper sees this as a sign that with the Democrats’ ascendancy in the Senate, the war between Washington and Hollywood may be heating up again.

The NYT and LAT front the verdict of an anti-terrorist court in Peru yesterday in the case of American Lori Berenson, who had been previously convicted of helping leftist terrorists there but who had won a new trial: still guilty. This time, she received a sentence of 20 years with credit for the 5 years she’s already served.

The Wall Street Journal fronts a feature about the considerable difficulties involved in getting elderly drivers with serious physical and mental impairments to give up their car keys even when they are manifestly unsafe behind the wheel. High up, the story cites the example of Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura, who says the day he took away his mother’s car keys was, in the paper’s words, “the hardest day of his life.” To drive the severity of that point home, the paper says that Ventura served in Vietnam, with the clear implication that he saw combat there. Has the Journal checked out or does it even know about allegations raised online (at and then in the Minnesota media that Ventura did no such thing? None of the national papers has followed up on this. Why not?