Today's Papers

The Texas One-Step?

The New York Times’ lead goes with comments from British Prime Minister Tony Blair that regardless of the method, Saddam needs to be disarmed: “I hope he can be forced by international pressure,” Blair said. “But if not, we have to be prepared, as an international community, to force him to do it the other way.” The Washington Post leads with a check-in on the coming congressional elections:Republicans, says the paper, have “marginally improved” their chances of winning back the Senate, while Democrats are unlikely to take control of the House. USA Today leads with word that the Labor Department, in a brief filed earlier this month for an Enron employee lawsuit, said that the government believes that company executives can be held personally liable if a company’s 401(k) plan tanks and employees were misled about it (as happened with Enron). The paper explains halfway through the piece that the position taken in the filing isn’t really new, it’s just the department’s “most detailed clarification” to date of it. The Los Angeles Times leads with news that West Coast ports, in the midst of contract battles with dockworkers, imposed a lockout on workers yesterday and closed indefinitely.

The top story in the Wall Street Journal’s world-wide newsbox says that in the face of big-time opposition from China, France, and Russia, “some administration officials are mulling a toning down” of the language in the proposed Brit/U.S. resolution against Iraq. The Journal mentions that one possible compromise being tossed around is to have just one resolution—as opposed to the two-resolution approach advocated by the French—but to have it require that inspectors file a report detailing non-compliance before force can be used. Despite the headline of the NYT’s lead—”BLAIR IS CONFIDENT OF TOUGH U.N. LINE ON IRAQI WEAPONS”—the article itself actually reinforces the sense that the U.S. and Britain may be backing down a bit. The story notes that Blair, in one of a few signals that he’s willing to compromise, said yesterday he’s still “open for the moment” to the French two-step solution.

The trade association representing the companies that run the now-shut-down ports argued that yesterday’s lockout was necessary because unions have been organizing expensive workplace slowdowns. (The paper doesn’t explain how the lockout, which seems to have been obviously coordinated between various companies, isn’t a case of collusion.) According to the LAT, the closed ports will cost the economy about $1 billion per day, and the White House has said that it may order them to be reopened.

The LAT and WP front new stats from the Census Bureau showing that 41 million Americans didn’t have health coverage last year, 1.4 million more than the year before. The papers point out while the increase happened across income levels, the biggest jump, 14 percent, actually came in the highest income bracket, those making $75k or more. That’s at least partly because companies’ health-coverage programs have become skimpier as the economy has taken a dive. The NYT, which goes inside with the story, mentions that the number of children without health insurance stayed steady at 8.5 million, after having declined for two years. The Times explains that in addition to the sputtering economy, more than a billion dollars given to states to enroll kids in health-care programs has gone unused.

The NYT off-leads, and others stuff, Israel’s withdrawal from its siege of Yasser Arafat’s compound in Ramallah. As the WP pointed out on Saturday, the White House, angry that the siege might muck up negotiations on Iraq, told Sharon to knock it off.

The lead editorial in the NYT complains that the administration is trying in various ways to weaken the National Environmental Policy Act, a sort of full-disclosure law requiring the government to create a public assessment of any federal project that may have a significant impact on the environment. The editorial mentions three different instances in which the administration has tried to weaken, or at least “streamline,” the law’s requirements. According to a quickie Nexis search, none of the papers have done a news article about the apparent trend, which is too bad, because though the editorial is interesting, it’s not a big enough venue to provide much supporting evidence or to really flesh out the issue.

In a standard hide-and-seek style correction, the WP acknowledges that the paper misquoted White House spokesman Ari Fleischer in an article yesterday about Iraq’s stated rejection of any new U.N. resolutions on weapons inspectors. The correction simply notes that Fleischer really said that Iraq’s position “makes it even more important for the United Nations to take strong action.” That, of course, leaves readers guessing about what Fleischer reportedly said and whether it was off in any significant way. Here’s how the original article quoted Ari: “It makes it even more important for the United States to take strong action.” [Emphasis added.]

Sen. Tom Daschle, a Christian … Yesterday’s NYT Magazine had an odd reference. In a story about the nasty sport of dog-fighting, the writer ID’d an opponent of the practice as, “Sgt. Steve Brownstein, a vegetarian Jew in Chicago Police blue with a renowned expertise in blood-sport crimes.” Any particular reason the guy’s religion is relevant?