Today's Papers

Putin on the Brakes?

USA Today leads with an Iraq roundup noting that Russia’s foreign minister hinted that his country might use its veto in a Security Council vote on action against Iraq. The New York Times’ lead also goes with an Iraq catch-all, emphasizing oddly stale news: The U.S. plans on launching massive airstrikes against Saddam in an effort to “shock” his regime into submission. The Times also mentions that the troops likely to take part in any non-Turkey Plan B aren’t in place yet and that as a result war could be delayed until late March. The Los Angeles Times leads with something USAT said yesterday: The U.S. thinks North Korea is about to flip the switch on its nukes factory and the White House has apparently decided it can’t do much about it. The Washington Post  leads with word that Pakistani and American authorities have now realized that when they captured al-Qaida operations chief Khalid Sheik Mohammed over the weekend, they also nabbed the man who oversaw the financing of 9/11, Mustafa Ahmed Hawsawi. “It doesn’t reach the level of excitement of Mohammed, but it’s an extra added attraction,” said one official. Hawsawi had tried to hide his identity.

Everybody mentions that Secretary of State Colin Powell told a French TV station that he’s “increasingly optimistic” about the U.S’s chances of prevailing in a Security Council vote. The LAT says the White House is considering issuing Saddam an ultimatum  to disarm or step down, complete with a deadline.

The Post suggests that the White House is trying to put a Marxist spin on Pyongyang’s impending nukes production, arguing that things will eventually get better by first getting worse: According to this theory, once North Korea starts making its nukes, China and Russia will snap to attention and stop playing with Pyongyang. Meanwhile, as the Post notes, the deputy secretary of state warned Congress last month, “I don’t think, given the poverty of North Korea, that it would be too long” before the country would start selling its nukes.

Though it doesn’t emphasize this point, the NYT notices (as the LAT did yesterday) that one person in the administration wasn’t following the “North Korean nukes are a done deal” script. That official said that if the administration’s efforts “don’t work diplomatically, they’ll have to work militarily.” Who was this maverick? George W. Bush.

As everybody notices, the Pentagon also sent two dozen heavy bombers to Guam, which is within easy striking distance of North Korea. Officials said they were just doing it to beef up deterrence. 

USAT mentions inside that the Pentagon plans to at least temporarily suspend spy flights near North Korea because, the paper suggests, “the United States hopes to prevent a confrontation.” USAT doesn’t ponder whether there’d be any serious intel loss from the stoppage, but yesterday’s NYT said the planes “track ballistic-missile launchings.” (Let’s hope that doesn’t give North Korea a brainstorm for its next provocation.)

The Wall Street Journal does an instructive Washington-is-from-Mars, Pyongyang-is-from-Pluto piece: “The U.S. doesn’t appear to have grasped how menacing its rhetoric, and sometimes its lack of attention, have seemed to the North. North Korea doesn’t appear to recognize how alarming nuclear gamesmanship seems to the Bush administration since the Sept. 11 attacks.”

Everybody goes inside with a bombing yesterday at an airport in the southern Philippines that killed 21 people, including one American. No group has claimed responsibility.

The NYT says on Page One that the budget deficit keeps on truckin’ northward. Congressional analysts now say it’s $30 billion more than they estimated last month. Frankly, that’s not all that much, especially for a front-page piece, but as the NYT mentions, that new number doesn’t take into account tax cuts or the looming war.

A front-page Post article outs some (formally) quiet tax cuts now winding their way through the House. Apparently when the House’s powerful Ways and Means Committee took up a military bill last month, the committee’s chairman, Bill Thomas, R-Calif., asked other Republicans on the committee if they’d each care to make $100 million worth of tax cuts of their choosing. Among the results: a proposal to eliminate the tax on foreign bets on U.S. horse racing.

The WP goes inside with a follow-up piece on the president’s proposed drug coverage plan for Medicare, saying that the proposal will be “a bonanza for the pharmaceutical and managed-care industries, both of which are huge donors to Republicans.”

The WP follow-ups on a story the NYT had yesterday: The Army says it’s now investigating the deaths of two Afghan prisoners at the U.S.’s Bagram air base near Kabul. A medical examiner listed their deaths as “homicides” caused by “blunt force.” 

A front-page piece in the LAT notices one of the risky supplement Ephedra’s unlikely champions: Sen. Orin Hatch. The LAT says he has been Congress’ “foremost defender” of the diet supplements industry, co-authoring a bill in 1994 that allowed supplements to be sold without extensive FDA testing. Hatch also successfully fought the FDA a few years later when it proposed reducing the allowed dosage of ephedra. In response, the supplements industry has presented the senator with a “Lifetime Achievement” award. Oh, and completely unrelated, they’ve given $2 million in contracts to his son’s lobbying firms. 

Stop horsing around … According to the NY Times correction box:

The crossword puzzle on Saturday provided an erroneous clue for 12 Down, seeking the answer “mare.” “Mate for ‘my friend’ Flicka” was incorrect because Flicka, in the Mary O’Hara story, was a mare; her mate would be a stallion.