Today's Papers

Turkey Playing Chicken

The New York Times (online) and Los Angeles Times lead with a mushy declaration on Iraq from European Union members that tried to patch over their differences and ended up splitting the difference. It reiterated their “full support for the ongoing work of U.N. inspectors,” while also saying, “Baghdad must disarm and cooperate immediately and fully.” It didn’t mention a deadline. The Washington Post and USA Today lead with the East Coast blizzard. The storm was the biggest in seven years, which, technically speaking, does make it the storm of the century.

The elasticity of the E.U.’s statement throws the papers for a loop. The NYT: “EUROPEAN UNION SAYS IRAQ MUST DISARM QUICKLY AND FULLY.” The Post: “EU LEADERS AGREE: INSPECTORS SHOULD GET MORE TIME.”

The NYT says that Turkey is playing hardball with the White House and is now saying that if the U.S. wants to use Turkish bases it’ll have to pony up a heck of a lot more money than has been offered. The administration has said it’s already made its final offer. Both sides suggested the issue has to be resolved this week or it will be moot. While the papers play up the economic angle, Newsweek reports that Turkey is also demanding that it be allowed to set up “strategic positions” as much as 150 miles inside Iraq. The Kurds are not thrilled about that.

A front-page NYT piece looks at some of the worst-case scenarios that the White House is contemplating and now “openly discussing.” (If they’re now so open about it, then why are some officials in the piece only quoted on background?) Anyway, the possibilities read like the 10 plagues: Terrorism, score-settling, blown up oil fields, North Korean aggression, and on and on.

The Post and Wall Street Journal both go high with check-ins on the U.S.’s latest U.N. strategy. The papers essentially reiterate what’s already been reported: In the next few days the White House and Britain will propose a second resolution, which will probably include specific demands for Iraq to meet. The Post emphasizes administration officials’ suggestion that they’ll give diplomatic wrangling about two more weeks.

The papers all go high with news that 21 people were killed during a stampede at a nightclub in Chicago, apparently caused by security guards using mace to break up a fight. The club, which the city had tried to shut down because of repeated safety violations, had only one set of open exit doors. USAT mentions that a lawyer for the place contended that the panic started after “people yelled terrorist attack or poison gas.”

A news piece in the Journal notes that Syria is opening up and becoming a touch less repressive. The paper suggests that some of the credit for that should go to President Bush, whose talk of “regime change” for Iraq has scared the pants off Syria. “We feel that if we do some reforms, we might shield ourselves,” said one Syrian analyst.

The Post fronts word that Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, perhaps the most liberal member of Congress, basically announced that he’s running for president. Kucinich, who officially just said he’s setting up an exploratory committee, described himself as “a candidate for peace.” He’s the only Democratic contender who voted against giving the president authority to invade Iraq.

The LAT fronts an interesting study by Dartmouth researchers concluding that the elderly in cities that have lower than average Medicare outlays get about the same quality of care as those who live in free-spending areas. Controlling for other factors, the scientists say they found that more care doesn’t necessarily equal better care.

It was a hard-fought battle, but the Journal wins the prize for dumbest snow-related editorial. The paper somehow considers the blizzard valuable evidence in the global-warming “debate”: “Who can blame Americans for being skeptical of the science behind global warming when the temperature stays well below freezing for days on end and the weatherman measures the snow in feet?”

The NYT takes the storm in stride, running just two front-page stories on it. (Today’s count from the Post: four. Plus a banner headline.) But the weather did cause the Times to execute some emergency plans. Apparently the op-ed page editors rushed to a vault where they broke the seal on a dust-covered file labeled, “Editorial 65.76: Publish in event of major snowstorm.” The result: “Compared with the need to stay warm and dry, the other necessities of life seem less pressing. Suddenly there is nowhere to get to and no getting there fast. All the urgencies that crowd the calendar look entirely postpone-able. The storm brought an almost meditative calm, time to slow down and remember, once again, that human life can be lived only within the frame of nature.”