Today's Papers

White House, Red Hands

The Washington Post lead reports that the Bush administration, as part of its strategy for enlisting the Salvation Army’s support for the president’s faith-based social services funding program, has suggested to that organization that it would issue a regulation protecting it from local and state laws banning hiring and benefits discrimination against gays. The story is based on a Salvation Army internal document the paper has obtained. USA Today leads with President Bush’s budget director, Mitch Daniels, saying that the White House would allow some of Congress’ home-district add-on spending as “an acceptable cost of doing business”–thus apparently backing off the stance attributed to him in the WP last week, which said he was on a anti-pork “jihad.” The Los Angeles Times lead says Blue Cross will announce today that, in “a radical departure” from managed care norms, its HMO is scrapping its current incentive program rewarding doctors for cost control in favor of one that links bonus payments to patient satisfaction. Plus, Blue Cross will post these rewards on its Web site. The New York Times lead reports on Bush administration plans to ask Congress to fund a missile-defense test site in Alaska that could become an operational anti-missile system as early as 2004, plans described yesterday by the Wall Street Journal. The Times says that this system would be “a clear violation” of the ABM Treaty but also observes that 1) it might be incremental enough to not really bother the Russians; and 2) since it will initially be a test facility, it might be calculated to jujitsu Democratic critics of missile defense, who’ve insisted on more realistic testing.

Although the Salvation Army document the WP is working from refers to previous discussions in which “the White House has already said that they are committed” to the Salvation Army’s objective of protection from local anti-discrimination laws, the paper has the White House saying yesterday that the Salvation Army had overstated the case, but a White House spokeswoman does confirm to the paper that discussions on the topic with the Salvation Army did take place. The Post says the episode suggests “President Bush is willing to achieve through regulation ends too controversial to survive the legislative process” and “underscores the close allegiance between the administration and conservative groups.”

The NYT and WP front word out of Chile that an appeals court has ruled that the mental condition of the 85-year-old former dictator of the country, Augusto Pinochet, is too weak to allow him to be tried on charges that after coming to power in 1973, he covered up death squad killings of political opponents. Although prosecutors still have some options on these and other charges against Pinochet, both stories report that the ruling almost surely means he will never be tried for anything.

A WP fronter reports on some of the stringent conditions of the Japanese judicial system to be encountered by the U.S. Air Force sergeant recently turned over by U.S. authorities to the Okinawa police on charges of raping a woman there. Such as: three weeks of lawyer-free interrogation (mostly designed to force a confession) before getting a day in court, and if indicted, being tried by a judge because there are no juries. One other important obstacle the story leaves out: The accused doesn’t understand Japanese but under Japanese law doesn’t have the right to a translator.

USAT, the WP, and NYT report inside that a lawyer for Rep. Gary Condit says that Condit will give police looking for the intern he now admits having an affair with, Chandra Levy, access to his apartment and to personal records and will even provide them with a DNA sample if they want. Also, both papers report that investigators will be talking today to a flight attendant who said she had an affair with Condit, too, and was asked by a representative of his to sign an affidavit denying that.

The LAT and NYT front online grocer Webvan’s abrupt shutdown Monday. The 2,000-employee company, founded by Louis Borders of the eponymous bookstore, had lost more than $1 billion. The NYT says that in terms of money blown and people put out of work, this is e-commerce’s biggest failure.

The NYT reports that the WSJ is laying off 16 journalists (from its staff of 636). The Times suggests the reason is that the Journal continues to lose advertising–through May, its ad volume is down 34 percent from the same time chunk for the previous year. The Times quotes the Journal’s managing editor saying that his paper will nonetheless continue to “aggressively pursue” stories. But apparently not this one–as Today’s Papers went to post, there were four stories at the WSJ Web site about layoffs at other companies, but nothing about its own.