The New York Times leads and Wall Street Journal tops its world-wide newsbox with suggestions from a top aide to Russian President Putin that Moscow won’t ratify the Kyoto treaty on global-warming gases. If Russia pulls out, the treaty would be effectively killed since it needs either Russia’s or the U.S.’s signature in order to become binding. The White House pulled its support in 2001. The Washington Post leads with news that the White House has reversed policy and will allow a U.S. citizen captured fighting in Afghanistan, Yasser Hamdi, access to a lawyer. The Pentagon said the decision, which comes as the U.S. was required to file a briefing on the case with the Supreme Court, “should not be treated as a precedent.” USA Today leads with the Supreme Court’s unanimous decision that police can break down the front door of a suspected drug dealer 15 seconds to 20 seconds after knocking. The judges said the 20-second rule doesn’t necessarily apply to non-drug searches. “Police seeking a stolen piano may be able to spend more time to make sure they really need a battering ram,” wrote Justice Souter. The Los Angeles Times leads with word that California’s major workers-comp insurer will roll back rates only slightly next year. California workers-comp’s premiums are twice the national average, and Gov. Schwarzenegger has said that businesses are leaving the state because of them.
Unlike the NYT, the WSJ says up high that Russia hasn’t necessarily settled on pulling out of the Kyoto Protocol. The aide who made the comment, a longtime opponent of the treaty, said Russia won’t sign the Kyoto Protocol “in its current form.” And after he made the comment, the Journal notes, a Russian government spokesman said Putin hasn’t made a decision yet. Unnamed U.S. officials told the WSJ that they don’t expect him to decide until after his re-election bid in March.
The NYT notes in the second half of its Kyoto article that the Bush administration has been lobbying countries to reject the pact.
The Post says on Page One that the U.S. is going to let five Iraqi political parties, mostly exile groups, create an 850-man militia to combat guerrillas. An independent member of the Governing Council said the move is a bad idea: “We should be dissolving militias, not finding ways to legitimize them.”
Everybody briefly mentions inside that another G.I. was killed yesterday in Iraq.
A Post piece stuffed on page A22 says that while President Bush has talked lots about bringing democracy to the Middle East, his follow-through has consisted mostly of “gentle nudging.” The WP notices that when Secretary of State Powell was in Tunisia this week, he praised the “excellent partnership” between the two countries and said he is “great admirer of Tunisia and the progress that it has seen under President [Zine Abidine] Ben Ali.” Ali has been president for 16 years and was last elected in 1999 with 99.44 percent of the vote.
The Journal says the military has been remarkably slow to recognize its need for translators and ramp up training: “Bottom line,” said one internal Army report, “the U.S. Army doesn’t have a fraction of the linguists required.” Meanwhile the Post reminds that the military has discharged 37 linguists because they’re gay (the linguists, not the military).
The NYT fronts word that the administrator who runs Medicare, and who was deeply involved in drafting the recently passed drug bill, is about to step down and has long been the “object of a bidding war” by five firms that have clients affected by the bill. The administrator, Thomas Scully, says he received a waiver from a federal ethics committee that allowed him to continue working on the bill while he was chatting with potential employers. The Times says well beyond the jump (21st paragraph), “No one has suggested that Mr. Scully took any position in return for a job offer. In some cases, he took positions contrary to those of the lobbyists with whom he was discussing employment.” Indeed, a Post piece from two weeks ago quotes Scully bashing a part of the bill as big a corporate giveaway.
The NYT fronts a piece saying that education gains in Houston are far less than they’ve been made out to be by the White House, which used Texas’ system as model for the federal No Child Left Behind Act. There have been questions about Houston’s supposed gains before, but the Times digs into the data. It concludes that according to national tests, “More than half of [Houston students] either remained in the same place or lost ground in reading and math.”
The WP fronts and NYT reefers word that the Bush administration is leaning toward loosening proposed mercury regulations. The revised proposal calls for a market-based “cap and trade” program rather than the mandatory reductions the Clinton administration had planned. A CDC study recently concluded that 8 percent of child-bearing age women have unsafe levels of mercury in their blood. And the head of a bipartisan association of state environmental officials called the new plan, “an insult to public health and the environment.” The LAT has a slightly different take: “EPA CHIEF PLEDGES DRIVE TO CLEAN AIR.”