Today's Papers

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Everybody leads with the FCC’s decision, as expected, to significantly loosen media ownership rules. The new regulations, which passed by a 3-2 vote along party lines, will allow companies to, theoretically, set up a monopoly on major media in cities: One company could own up to three TV stations, a daily newspaper, and eight radio stations in one town. Television networks will also be allowed to buy a lot more local stations. The FCC’s chairman argued that the old rules were outdated in the age of the Internet and cable.

The New York Times, which mentions that its parent company dug the deal, emphasizes that there still are some potential roadblocks for the regulations. Many lawmakers, including Republicans, oppose the new rules and might try to pass legislation rolling them back. “Probably most of the Republicans in Congress would not agree with this decision,” said Sen. Trent Lott. USA Today, which notes that its owner, Gannett, also pushed for the rules, says that such a bill probably isn’t going to happen. The congressman in charge of the committee it needs to come out of opposes it. In any case, the rules will also be challenged in the courts, “Everyone has something to litigate about in this,” one analyst told the NYT.

Most of the new analyses on the vote are snorers, telling us that the new rules will probably, you know, lead to lots of consolidation. In a fresher take, the Los Angeles Times  considers the FCC chairman’s comments that the rules are primarily about shoring up free television. The paper wonders, “Why give broadcasters the ability to become more profitable when many of them no longer air the kind of community-oriented programming that once was their mandate? Might it make more sense for Uncle Sam to fatten its coffers by taking back the airwaves and selling them to the highest bidder?” The LAT guesses that the feds could get $400 billion out of the deal—a fraction of which could be used to generously subsidize those who couldn’t afford the no-longer free TV.

Everybody fronts a new government report that found that the Justice Department’s post-9/11 anti-terror roundup of immigrants had “significant problems,” including a “pattern of abuse” at one jail: The report concluded that the feds had an unwritten policy assuming that any immigrants nabbed in the sweeps were connected to terrorism until the FBI concluded otherwise, even though many were originally detained on flimsy grounds. Some, for instance, where picked up after traffic stops, others because anonymous tipsters had called the FBI and warned of somebody’s “erratic work schedules.” The DOJ basically blew off the report. “We make no apologies for finding every legal way possible to protect the American public,” said a spokeswoman.  

President Bush’s arrived yesterday in Egypt to summit with Arab leaders and push them to support the peace road map. The administration wants, as the LAT emphasizes, the leaders to back—financially, rhetorically, and otherwise—Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas, who doesn’t have much support at home. According to one U.S. official cited in the Wall Street Journal, Abbas’ real control of the security services consists of a few hundred loyalists (out of tens of thousands of security officers). “It’s a far lower number than any of us had anticipated,” the official said. The NYT mentions inside that Israeli Prime Minister Sharon will announce today that Israel will dismantle a few recently built outpost settlements.

Meanwhile a front-page piece in the Washington Post,citing unnamed administration sources, says that President Bush has so far refused to get involved in the nitty-gritty of the peace plan—and that’s worrying some in the administration (State Department?) who think he still isn’t committed to pushing for a deal. “He does not have the knowledge or the patience to learn this issue enough to have an end destination in mind,” said one current official.

In an interview with USAT, the recently departed secretary of the Army, Thomas White, slammed top Pentagon officials (read: SecDef Rumsfeld, who clashed with White), saying they’re “unwilling to come to grips” with the number of troops that Iraq will require for the foreseeable future: “It’s almost a question of people not wanting to ‘fess up to the notion that we will be there a long time.”