The New York Times and Wall Street Journal world-wide newsbox both lead with the latest on Iraq. The Times highlights Iraqi officials’ response to U.N. inspectors’ demand that Iraq dismantle its longer-range-than-allowed missiles: They say they’re thinking about it. The paper adds that everybody thinks Saddam will destroy the things. USA Today leads with the surprise result to a much-anticipated AIDS vaccine study: The vaccine appears to be pretty effective on blacks and Asians, but is essentially useless on “whites and Hispanics.” The Los Angeles Times leads with word that the administration has proposed exempting the Pentagon’s nascent missile-defense program from testing requirements and congressional oversight. No major weapons system has been given such a pass before, and critics say it’s a particularly bad move since missile defense hasn’t exactly exceled during the tests it has gone through. (Slatehad a piece last week about the exemptions.) The Washington Post leads with an update from the club fire in Rhode Island that killed at least 97 people: The paper says members of two rock bands said they set off pyrotechnics during their previous performances at the club, contrary to what the owner of the place claims.
The AIDS vaccine trials, which the NYT off-leads, found that blacks and Asians who were given the vaccine had about a 60 percent lower infection rate than people in the same groups who took placebos. Researchers said they weren’t sure why the drug worked only on those racial groups, though they said there’s a small chance that even that limited positive result might be a statistical blip caused by the relatively small sample size. USAT seems thrilled with the results, “VACCINE FOR AIDS SHOWS PROMISE.” The NYT isn’t impressed, “LARGE TRIAL FINDS AIDS VACCINE FAILS TO STOP INFECTION.”
The LAT and USAT both catch late-breaking news that a 6.8 earthquake hit western China this morning, killing at least 95 people.
A NYT piece uses South Korea’s inauguration today of its new president, Roh Moo Hyun, to look at the increasingly strained relations between Seoul and the U.S. The article attributes the cooling to both sides: The U.S.’s refusal to sit down with North Korea has ticked off South Korea. Meanwhile, Roh’s eagerness to hang with his northern neighbors has upset the White House—and even some in the Korean government. “It looks like Roh is prepared to throw the alliance away and make common cause with North Korea,” said one South Korean diplomat. Despite the article’s both-sides-are-misbehaving feel, the headline saves blame for just one: “U.S. APPROACH ON NORTH KOREA IS STRAINING ALLIANCES IN ASIA.”
On Friday, most of the papers led with news—from an unnamed Pentagon spokesperson—that the U.S. is going to send a few thousand soldiers to the Philippines to fight Abu Sayyaf, a Muslim extremist group-cum-criminal gang. But as most of the papers report inside today, that deal is now up in the air. Philippine President Gloria Arroyo has come in for a whole lot of domestic criticism over the deal and has denied that she ever agreed to let the GIs actually go into combat. The Philippine constitution doesn’t allow foreign soldiers to fight in the country.
Last October, the ever-wise Onion (motto: “You are dumb”) headlined, “BUSH ON ECONOMY: SADDAM MUST BE OVERTHROWN.” A piece inside today’s NYT announces, “KEY TO DOMESTIC AGENDA COULD BE VICTORY IN IRAQ.”