Today's Papers

Shaft’s Big Score

The Los Angeles Times leads with the late-breaking news that all nine miners trapped in a flooded Pennsylvania coal mine were rescued early Sunday morning. The other fronts (in their early editions, at least) only note that the miners were found alive and reasonably healthy. The New York Times leads with the House’s vote to grant the president “fast track” trade negotiation authority. The bill passed at 3:30am Saturday by a thin 215-212 margin, largely along party lines. This is also the top non-local story in the Washington Post, which leads with D.C. Mayor Anthony Williams’ attempt to jump-start his re-election campaign. Williams was denied a place on the Democratic primary ballot Friday after filing allegedly fraudulent nominating petitions.

The trade bill, the papers say, allows the president to draft trade agreements with other nations that Congress can accept or reject, but not amend. Every president since Gerald Ford has enjoyed this authority, which lapsed during a legislative deadlock in 1994. The papers all expect the agreement to fly through the senate, and call the vote a big win for President Bush. The administration hopes to ink agreements with Chile, Singapore, Morocco, and five countries in Central America as soon as possible. The LAT notes that the bill is unlikely to provide any short-term economic stimulus, and the NYT agrees, reminding readers that these trade pacts often take years to draft. 

All the papers note a “casualty” of the trade agreement agreement: measures that would make it tougher to declare bankruptcy. Support for the tougher bankruptcy laws foundered during the late-night session after anti-abortion Republicans balked at a provision barring people who attack or block access to abortion clinics from declaring bankruptcy to avoid paying court-ordered fines.

The WP spends several paragraphs trying to recreate the late-night drama of the debate, which House Minority Whip Dick Armey called “a running gunfight.” It says “members took drowsy children onto the House floor,” but doesn’t further explain this puzzling detail.

The NYT and the LAT skirt the drama and note instead some concessions to labor included in the bill: U.S. workers who lose their jobs as a result of trade agreements will have more time to receive financial relief and retraining, and will also receive subsidized health care.

Secretary of State Powell began his visit to India and Pakistan to push for talks on the Kashmir standoff. Pakistan’s president pledged an end to the border infiltrations six weeks ago, but Indian officials say the incursions haven’t stopped, and that they won’t come to the table until they do. Powell will also tour several other countries in Southeast Asia and encourage them to share financial and immigration information to help the U.S. fight terrorism.

The NYT looks at “free Kurdistan,” a small piece of northern Iraq where 3.6 million Kurds “have come as close as ever to their centuries-old dream of building their own nation.” They now enjoy a relatively free press and unrestricted access to the internet, but residents of the territory fear that a new U.S. war against Iraq, successful or no, will jeopardize their newfound autonomy.

The WP reports that “many senior U.S. military officers,” including members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, are becoming more vocally opposed to forsaking the status quo in favor of more aggressive military action against Iraq. These officials feel that containment has been more successful than commonly believed, keeping Saddam Hussein from harassing his neighbors, encouraging terrorism, and updating his arsenal.

The NYT explores on a fascinating loophole that allows wealthy taxpayers to save millions in taxes by buying exorbitant life insurance policies. In many cases, individuals can save $9 in taxes for each dollar of insurance they buy.

Signaling that Americans are once again ready to look at horrific images of crashing planes, both the WP and the LAT front photos of yesterday’s disaster at an air show in Ukraine, where a jet failed to pull out of a dive and crashed into the crowd, killing at least 78 spectators.

A recent study at Emory University suggests, somewhat suprisingly, that humans are hard-wired to be nice to each other. Doctors examined M.R.I.’s of the brains of young women as they played laboratory games involving a choice between “cooperative” and “defective” behavior, and found that the more the subjects cooperated, the more blood flowed to the pleasure centers of the brain. One author of the study pointed out to the NYT that the “plays-well-with-others” trait is not uniformly distributed: “If we put some C.E.O.’s in here, I’d like to see how they respond. Maybe they wouldn’t find a positive social interaction rewarding at all.”