Today's Papers

Conservatives Cell Out?

USA Today leads with United Airlines’ Sunday announcement that it has decided to abandon its planned buy of US Airways–which would have produced the largest airline in history–because United concluded that the Department of Justice would have, out of antitrust worries, kiboshed the deal. The Washington Post, which off-leads United, leads instead with an account of mounting political support for human embryo stem cell research among opponents of abortion as President Bush nears a decision about whether or not to allow federal money to support such science. The New York Times also fronts United, but leads instead with a story reporting (as did yesterday’s WP front) that even without passage of a patients’ bill of rights, managed health care has been evolving to the benefit of patients. But, the Times says, health care costs are “spiraling” again, at a double-digit rate, with more of these costs being shifted to consumers. The Los Angeles Times lead claims that the Bush administration’s proposal for targeted sanctions against Iraq–easing them on ordinary goods for ordinary Iraqis while tightening the arms embargo against the government–is in “disarray.” The proposal is currently deadlocked at the U.N., Iraq’s smuggling out of oil as a way to beat sanctions has proven so lucrative for some of its Middle East neighbor governments that they are no longer anxious to support the U.S. plan’s smuggling ban, and besides, the U.N.’s new rules for Iraq weapons inspections have been importantly diluted.

The WP lead ticks off the names of some of the conservatives on abortion who’ve come to support work on embryonic stem cells and who are now lobbying the Bush administration: senators Orrin Hatch, Zell Miller, Strom Thurmond, and Gordon Smith, congressman Randy Cunningham, ex-senator Connie Mack, and Secretary of HHS Tommy Thompson. The story says that presidential advisor Karl Rove “has become a major hurdle in the process,” because of his fears that supporting the research would alienate the Catholic vote. The paper points out though, that recent polls show the research is supported by a majority of Catholics. The Post reports that some members of the administration are considering a compromise on the issue that would include investing more heavily in adult sources of stem cells and/or funding work on embryonic cells that have already been harvested. The story never explains why the stem cell issue is to be decided by the president rather than Congress.

The NYT lead emphasizes that health insurers have come around on spending for preventive medicine, with more than one million of their patients now being monitored in preventive programs. But some of the good news presented high is somewhat taken back low. In its third paragraph, the story reports that two-thirds of HMOs no longer require approval from a health-plan nurse before a patient is granted hospital admission or specialist access. However, in its 17th paragraph, the Times says that “most of the 80 million Americans in HMOs still need approval from their primary physicians before they can see a specialist.”

The NYT fronts exclusive word from Saudi Arabia’s interior minister that 11 of the 13 Saudis indicted by the U.S. recently in connection with the 1996 truck bombing of a U.S. military barracks in Saudi Arabia are in prison in his country and will be tried there and therefore will not be handed over to the U.S. (which has no extradition treaty with Saudi Arabia). The story implies that the Saudis are not happy with the U.S. conduct of the case thus far, quoting the interior minister’s complaint that, at a May meeting he had in Boston with then-FBI director Louis Freeh, he was not told that the U.S. was going to indict the Saudis. The Times points out that Saudi trials are not open to the public–although beheadings there are.

The NYT front says that Fidel Castro’s recent public fainting spell offered a glimpse of an array of Florida-based plans that are in place to deal swiftly with the public, diplomatic and bureaucratic consequences of his death. Probable measures include: Exile groups contacting the Cuban government to offer aid and to plea for the installation of democracy, the Coast Guard’s limiting of boat traffic between South Florida and Cuba, and the insertion of a heavy police presence in parts of Miami where Cuban-Americans gather.

An inside NYT story reports on the concerned reaction of more than a dozen prominent Republicans to “the arguably clumsy way the administration handled the global warming issue and the initial rollout of its energy plan, the defection of Sen. James M. Jeffords of Vermont from the Republican Party and the meeting of a senior administration official [= Karl Rove] with executives from a company in which he owned more than $100,000 worth of stock.” The story says these Republican critics are mostly pointing fingers at Rove (and confirms along the way that he is widely thought to be “front and center” in the White House’s stem cell decision). The story’s headline (online at least) calls the president’s inner circle of advisors “CREW OF LISTING BUSH SHIP.” Reader homework assignment: Find the most recent NYT headline favorably describing the political abilities of the Bush White House. Extra credit if it ran within the past month. Double extra credit if it involved a nautical metaphor.