Today's Papers

Forever Jiang

Everybody leads with President Bush’s nationally televised announcement last night that he will allow federal funding of research on stem cells that have already been extracted from human embryos, but–because such extractions destroy the embryos–he will ban subsidizing any further extractions. And cloning of embryos is also ruled out. Bush is widely quoted as saying his distinction supports research while respecting “a fundamental moral line.” The papers explain that Bush also announced the creation of a presidential panel to be headed by bioethicist Leon Kass, which will monitor and set standards for ongoing stem-cell research. Everybody off-leads a Palestinian suicide bomber’s attack inside a crowded Jerusalem pizzeria that killed at least 14 others and injured more than 100. Many of the victims were children and teen-agers. USA Today has a totally unvarnished headline, “EXPLOSION, THEN ARMS AND LEGS RAIN DOWN,” and an indelible Pietá-like picture of a head-wounded child in the arms of a paramedic. Everybody’s on-scene reporting is very good, but USAT’s Mideast reporter, Jack Kelley, was 30 yards away when the bomb detonated, and his unforgettable account includes his eyewitness description of the bomber entering the restaurant. The papers report that Hamas claimed responsibility for the attack and even provided the media with the bomber’s name and age. The Wall Street Journal runs Bush and the bombing 1-2 in its front-page worldwide news box.

The Bush stem-cell coverage includes reactions from the various advocates with an interest in the decision, from scientists to patient advocates to abortion rights proponents and their foes to theologians. The Los Angeles Times says Bush’s decision “cut a narrow middle ground that seemed neither to please nor anger either side in its entirety.” The Washington Post goes high saying that the Bush stance, “far from resolving the controversy,” is “likely to prompt a fresh round of debate over science and morality on Capitol Hill …” The New York Times runs a hostile lead editorial, headlined “President Bush Waffles,” which says the restrictions he endorsed were “so rigid that they may constitute a near-ban.” The editorial closes wondering if Bush’s “real concern was a perpetual fear of offending the Republican Party’s right-wing base.”

The NYT and LAT both raise the technical worry that the already extracted stem cells available to doctors may not be rich enough for meaningful research, with the NYT suggesting that this pre-existing stock, coming from Sweden, Israel, India, and Australia, may not include enough genetic diversity, but the paper also quotes an unnamed senior administration official calling it “a tremendous smorgasbord” (OK, so maybe a lot of it does come from Sweden).

The coverage reports that Yasser Arafat condemned the bombing, after being asked to do so by President Bush in a statement and by Colin Powell in a phone call. Arafat also called for a cease-fire, which the Israelis rejected. They responded instead, say the papers, with police takeovers of the East Jerusalem headquarters of the PLO and other Palestinian offices, as well as with a fighter airstrike on a West Bank police station and a tank attack on Palestinian-controlled portions of the Gaza Strip.

The NYT fronts its interview with China’s leader Jiang Zemin, conducted by a team of Times worthies including its publisher, Arthur Sulzberger Jr., at a government leadership retreat east of Beijing. In it, Jiang comes across as unbowed on missile defense, Taiwan, the Falun Gong, its recent arrests and trials on spy charges of Chinese people with American ties, and Tibet. While acknowledging the viability of democracy on the local level, Jiang also pledged to continue the Communist Party’s monopoly on national power, saying, “I can tell you with certainty: should China apply the parliamentary democracy of the Western world, the only result will be that 1.2 billion Chinese people will not have enough food to eat. The result will be great chaos, and should that happen, it will not be conducive to world peace and stability.” The WSJ front documents one Western idea that is however becoming a hot trend in China: commercial photo studios thriving by providing young women from all walks of life the heretofore impossible service of getting photographed in the nude. But the fad may simply add to the alienation of labor. One Chinese lensman tells the Journal, “People envy us photographers, but most of the women are quite ugly or have bad figures.”

News You Can Lose. The WP reports inside that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has conducted a study concluding that school-related homicides were most common at the beginning of the academic year in September and at the start of the spring semester in February. The study, the paper reports somewhat ominously, was released “as millions of U.S. children, nearing the end of summer holidays, are preparing to return to school.” The researchers said the increase might be linked to the “high stress students typically experience upon returning to schoolwork or to unresolved conflicts that festered during holiday breaks.” Two things the paper doesn’t explain: 1) How much tax money did the CDCP geniuses spend on this steaming pile of monkey droppings? and 2) what, pray tell, are schools supposed to do with this information?

Apparently there’s another area where China still lags behind the West: haggling. The WP reports inside that the Chinese government, after initially demanding $1 million to cover the costs it incurred in the landing on Hainan Island of that Navy EP-3 plane last spring, has settled with the United States for a smaller figure: $34,567.