Today's Papers

Blue Cross: Green Fields

The New York Timeslead says that France and the U.S. are getting close to nailing down a compromise resolution on Iraq. The Los Angeles Times leads with a federal appeals court’s ruling that the federal government isn’t allowed to hassle physicians who recommend that their patients take marijuana. The Washington Post  and USA Today lead with the feds’ indictment of John Allen Muhammad charging him with murder and attempted extortion. While the federal charges, which could lead to the death penalty, add to the uncertainty about in which jurisdiction Muhammad, and his alleged accomplice, John Lee Malvo, will be tried, the feds essentially control the decision since they actually have custody of the two suspects.

According to the NYT’s lead,  the U.S. would promise to head back to the U.N. before attacking Iraq, while it would also reserve the right to go in on its own should the U.N. dilly-dally. That’s similar to what’s been discussed for the past few weeks, and the Times doesn’t clearly lay out what’s changed. In fact, the paper adds that the big recent sticking-point—whether the resolution should say that obstruction of the inspectors would constitute a “material breach”—is still unresolved. Still, whatever the details, there does seem to be progress. “We are much closer to an agreement than we were a week ago,” said one French official.

The NYT fronts a shot across the bow in the War of Jurisdictions: Unnamed Maryland investigators told the Times that right after Muhammad was arrested, he started opening up to them and was on his way to confessing, when the feds messed it up by filing—in the investigators’ opinions—unnecessary weapons charges against Muhammad and interrupted the interview to take off with him.

The Wall Street Journal says that North Korea has rejected Japan’s demands that it abandon its nuke program. North Korea explained that it will only negotiate with the U.S., which, not coincidently, can offer bigger carrots, including, the Koreans hope, a non-aggression pact.

Alone among the papers, the NYT fronts the potential collapse of Israel’s coalition government. The center-left Labor Party, the junior member of the coalition, has threatened to pull out over a line in the proposed budget increasing funding to settlements. Even if Labor does pull out, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon may be able to keep his majority by inviting in a small right-wing party. The Times suggests that the move is an election-related effort by Labor’s leader, Defense Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer to show that he’s a legit liberal. Meanwhile, Palestinian terrorists snuck into a settlement on the West Bank and opened fire, killing one woman and two teenage girls. Everybody also says that Yasser Arafat yesterday cajoled his parliament into approving a new Cabinet that mostly filled with his supporters and not reformers.

A front-page piece in the Post says that in the charter language of a federal panel on the safety of research volunteers, the Bush administration refers to embryos as “human subjects.” That’s the first time the White House has said that embryos, not just fetuses, should be treated as human beings. At this point, the change is not linked to any policy changes.

An above-the-fold piece in the Post says that the Bush administration is collecting evidence to potentially charge Saddam and his top dozen lackeys with war crimes. The LAT had this story three weeks ago—but it was on a Sunday and on the Left Coast so, as often happens with the poor LAT, nobody paid attention.

Everybody notes that the consumer confidence index fell last month to its lowest point in nine years. (Here’s a Slate  article explaining the index.)

The LAT gives the latest installment of that  tweener genre, the news analysis. Headlined “TO SOME, REAL THREAT IS U.S.,” the article  argues that many members of the U.N. think the U.S. is bullying other countries nowadays. It’s not hard to figure out where the piece’s two authors fall on that argument: Among the seven quotes in the article, only one defends the U.S’s position. TP thinks reporters shouldn’t, and can’t, excise all their opinions from stories. But news analyses often read like mealy mouthed op-eds. The reporters are conveying their opinions, but by convention are barred from coming out and saying so. (Yes, news articles can have a similar dynamic. But analyses tend to magnify the scaredy-cat disconnect.) The other problem with that timidity—which requires expert quotes or paraphrases to convey one’s point—is that it increases the chances that the conclusions will be less than original (see above).

The LAT doesn’t help its case by not being straight up about its sources. Explaining how the U.S. has a history of playing hardball, the paper says that “according to Phyllis Bennis, a director at the Institute for Policy Studies, a Washington-based think tank,” the U.S. offered aid to many countries back in 1990 in return for supporting Gulf War I. 1) That’s an assertion of fact, not opinion. Why didn’t the LAT reporters get off their duffs and simply confirm it? 2) IPS is a lefty organization, and Bennis herself is a big critic of U.S. foreign policy who strongly opposes U.S. action against Saddam. Nothing wrong with any of that, but the LAT should have let readers know.