Today's Papers

Game Over

Everybody leads with President Bush’s tough talk for Iraq—and the United Nations. “The United States would welcome and support a new resolution which makes clear that the Security Council stands behind its previous demands,” Bush announced. But when it comes to letting Baghdad negotiate with inspectors, “The game is over.”

The lead at the New York Timessays the U.S. may be amenable to two compromises from the U.N.: a resolution that avoids calling for “all necessary means” to be used against Iraq—language that customarily accompanies an authorization of force—and a provision allowing for a last-ditch deadline for Saddam to step down without a fight.

The paper goes on to suggest that France may be coming around to the American side. Recently, the French military began modifying its munitions for use with American weapons, and the nation’s lone aircraft carrier was seen inching toward the gulf, the NYT reports. “We’re not systematically pacifist, but we think war isn’t nice,” Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin tells the paper in reference to his country’s position.

But that’s not all Raffarin said. “There is no change in the French position, no change at all,” he insists to the Washington Post, which dedicates a separate story to making the case that “France and other key allies” were not persuaded by Powell’s remarks and remain long shots to consent to any military effort.

At the Los Angeles Times the lead is likewise skeptical that the swing votes in the U.N. are prepared to support a war. The paper points out that even Tony Blair stopped short of endorsing military action that lacked U.N. approval.

Several papers front Colin Powell’s defense of the administration policy on North Korea. Responding to the latest rhetoric from Pyongyang (“pre-emptive attacks are not the exclusive right of the U.S.”) Powell reassured the Senate that the United States is keeping all options, even military options, open—and that fighting two wars at once is not unfeasible as a last resort. 

The LAT reports that the “balanced remarks” from Powell were an indication that the administration is already fighting a two-fronted PR war: downplaying the North Korean rhetoric while at the same time fending off Senate Democrats who accuse Bush of ignoring North Korea in favor of Iraq.

An expert reminds the LAT that Pyongyang made threats of pre-emptive war back in 1998 but never followed through. “That doesn’t make it any nicer,” he adds.

The Wall Street Journal fronts news that the International Energy Agency and Kuwait have given separate assurances to the U.S. that they can be counted on for oil during the war. The story reminds that the IEA did not release emergency reserves at the start of the Gulf War, and worldwide oil prices soared as a result.

According to a front-page WP article, the Bush administration has begun constructing guidelines for cyber-warfare, the use of sophisticated (and secretive) technology to destroy an enemy’s computer system. Experts cited in the paper lay out the two biggest fears connected with the launch of a cyber-attack: Its collateral damage could wipe out vital support networks like hospitals, and retaliation in kind would be devastating for the United States.

One day after dismissing speculation that the Columbia might have been damaged by insulation that flaked off its fuel tank, NASA’s shuttle program manager retracted that claim, and the space agency announced plans to turn over its investigation to an independent review board. The move was made to ensure “we’re not ruling anything out and that we’re not missing anything,” NASA’s top official explained.

The WP reports that a group of retailers who do business over the Web have agreed to collect state sales tax on all U.S. purchases, even when shipping to states where the online merchant has no physical presence. The move comes as local governments facing woes are looking into ways to get a piece of the Internet commerce action.

One reason to think the voluntary e-tax trend won’t continue: According to the WP, yesterday’s round of concessions was led by companies like Wal-Mart and Toys R Us that do lots of conventional business as well. For them, charging sales tax has two benefits: The move puts pressure on Internet-only competitors like Amazon to follow suit, and makes it legal for the companies to forge closer ties between their online divisions and their nationwide army of stores.

In a new study that makes all the papers, researchers claim to have discovered a way to shave the premature birth rate by 30 percent, at least for those women with a history of having babies early. One in 10 newborns in the United States is premature (i.e., more than three weeks early), a phenomenon that generates health-care costs in the hundreds of millions of dollars.

The WP fronts news that House Republicans will not support tax-fee savings accounts, a key program of Bush’s recently unveiled economic plan. According to the paper, administration officials have conceded defeat on the issue and will de-emphasize it in future policy talks. The proposal would have allowed those in any income bracket to use after-tax dollars to set up a private savings that could accumulate interest tax-free.

Did today’s snow storm in the Northeast make you consider calling in sick? If so, the front page of USA Todayreports that you’re not alone. A recent survey found that the amount companies are spending to cover sick time has risen 30 percent in the last two years. No one is quite sure what’s causing employees to stay home, but companies have started to respond—with fewer sick days, new bonuses for perfect attendance, and more calls from supervisors to check up on absent employees. TP suggests you check your company policy before reaching for the phone.