Today's Papers

State (of Shock) Visit?

The Washington Post and Los Angeles Times lead with Mexican President Vicente Fox’s call yesterday, during his state visit to Washington, for an immigration agreement between the U.S. and Mexico by the end of this year. These stories suggest that Fox’s remarks caught the sitting-nearby President Bush by surprise. (But the New York Times Fox fronter says that his aides were not surprised.) Fox is also the top story in the Wall Street Journal’s front-page worldwide news box. The NYT lead (online, at least) is the intensifying of the Democrats vs. Republicans Washington “blame game” over the budget crunch. Yesterday, the paper reports, the Senate’s top Democrat, Tom Daschle, called the Bush White House “the architects of our current economic condition,” and both the Bush budget director and secretary of defense made congressional appearances in which they insisted that protecting the Social Security surplus was compatible with the Bush administration’s requests for increased military and education spending. USA Today leads with word that the Federal Reserve is considering buying corporate bonds for the first time ever because of the increasing scarcity of the Treasury bonds it usually invests in. The paper reports that the Fed might seek congressional approval to do this in two years and if it’s granted, be in the private bond market by 2005.

The WP interviewed Fox before his public remarks. “What I expect,” he told the WP editors, “is that for every single Mexican that is in the United States that he would have a legal status, that he would not have to be hiding away, that he would have this regularization or advance to a legal status.” The LAT sees in a similar comment from Fox’s speech not just the urging of an upgrade in status for Mexicans who get to the U.S. but also something of a concession from him that Mexico will somehow end its northward flow of undocumented immigrants. But in general, Fox’s comments, while perhaps something Bush is personally open to, are depicted in the coverage as on a collision course with congressional sentiment. As the LAT explains, conservative Republicans want temporary guest workers but not substantially expanded legalization for those already here, while labor-oriented Democrats want legalization but not a guest worker program, while Fox seems to be urging more of both. A similar bit of Fox political gunpowder is nestled into the Post lead, which has his interview comment that if Mexican trucks don’t win the right to come into the U.S., then “United States trucks will not go into Mexico.”

The USAT lead says the Fed move into corporate paper could open the way for the Social Security Administration, which currently also only buys Treasury bonds, to do the same. (Now that would be a lockbox, wouldn’t it?) The story explains that the traditional fear about such a move is that it would be a case of the Fed picking corporate winners and losers, but it doesn’t explain why this is any different from say, when the Air Force buys a fighter from Lockheed and not from Grumman. Also, the story says Treasury bonds are getting scarcer because “current projections” say the national debt will be virtually retired by 2010, but doesn’t explain how this can be on the new, disappearing-surplus current projections.

Each of the WP, NYT, and LAT front the acknowledgement in congressional testimony yesterday by HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson that fewer than half of the 60 stem-cell colonies President Bush recently said were eligible for federally funded research are in fact established enough to be the basis for such work. In counterpoint to this suggestion that the Bush policy has at least loosely tied scientists’ hands, Thompson also revealed that the federal government just signed a deal giving it access to five stem-cell colonies developed at the University of Wisconsin. The WP and NYT headlines state the paucity of cell lines; the LAT’s goes for the Wisconsin deal.

The LAT is alone in fronting the latest violence from Belfast, Northern Ireland, where Protestant extremists have been trying to keep Catholic schoolgirls from walking through Protestant neighborhoods: An illegal Protestant militia claimed credit for a bomb tossed at some girls and their parents on their way school.

The WP and LAT go inside with a story tipped yesterday in a NYT wire story: Today’s New England Journal of Medicine reports that an apparently harmless and relatively common virus seems to have the property of extending the lives of those with AIDS.

Everybody goes inside with the Oklahoma City district attorney’s decision yesterday to prosecute Terry Nichols–already serving a life sentence on federal charges related to his participation with Timothy McVeigh in the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing–on state murder charges. The D.A., who says an important factor was the possibility that Nichols might someday win an appeal on his federal case, will seek the death penalty.

A NYT editorial on fuzzy perceptions of risk amid the current shark attack frenzy notes that between 1990 and 1997, 28 children were killed in the U.S. by falling TV sets, four times as many people as have been killed by great white sharks in the 20th century. Which means, says the paper, watching Jaws is more dangerous than swimming in the Pacific.

A USAT insider reports that a Georgia state legislator said in a speech during a House session that she has achieved psychic contact with Chandra Levy.

What–being Times editor doesn’t entitle me to amend the Constitution? The WP piece on new NYT Editor Howell Raines quotes his assessment of the current president’s father: “If Bush had been as worried about the fact that he could see homeless people in Lafayette Park from his bedroom window as he was about lowering the capital-gains tax, he would still be president.”