The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, and USA Todayalllead with the Supreme Court’s unanimous ruling that patients can’t sue HMOs in state courts if they’ve been injured as a result of the HMO’s refusal to treat something. Patients can sue in federal courts, but there they only win the amount of the benefit missed and can’t get punitive damages. The court based its decision on a 30-year-old law known as ERISA. There have been moves to change that legislation, but right now the efforts aren’t going anywhere. The New York Times fronts the ruling but leads with the resignation of Connecticut Gov. John Rowland, who was facing an impeachment inquiry, a federal investigation for graft, and has admitted accepting gifts—including a hot tub—from people doing business with the state. Rowland, once considered a rising star, was a third-term Republican. Lt. Gov. Jodi Rell, also from the GOP, will replace him.
As the LAT, NYT, and Post all detail, the court’s decision invalidates portions of a Texas patients’ rights bill that was passed in 1997 without the signature of then-Gov. Bush. In 2000, Bush trumpeted the bill as a model of bipartisan progress. “If I’m president,” Bush said during a debate, “people will be able to take their HMO insurance company to court. That’s what I’ve done in Texas, and that’s the kind of leadership style I’ll bring to Washington.” During this Supreme Court case, the administration, as the Post puts it, “echoed” the HMOs’ stance and argued for limiting access to courts. And as the Post also explains, the administration says it supports revising the law to allow suits but wants strict limits on damage awards, something many supporters of the bill oppose.
In the day’s other major Supreme Court decision, the justices ruled 5-4 decision that police are allowed to ask people they deem suspicious to ID themselves, so long as doing so doesn’t incriminate them. Pondering that purported caveat, the Post’s editorial page concludes: “‘You have the right to remain silent.’ At least, you did before the Supreme Court handed down a decision in the case of Hiibel v. Sixth Judicial District Court of Nevada yesterday. Now, when a police officer suspecting you of a crime stops you in the street and asks your name, you can be prosecuted for refusing to answer.”
The WP fronts a poll showing a drop in approval for the president’s handling of “the U.S. campaign against terrorism” to 50 percent, down eight points from a month ago. That’s a particularly sharp spill but part of a long trend downward. (See this graphic.) Two months ago, respondents trusted Bush over Sen. Kerry on fighting terrorism by 21 points. Today’s poll puts them even. On the other hand, the president’s approval rating on the economy picked up a bit, and his overall approval rating held steady, though still at a record low of 47 percent. In a matchup, Kerry leads Bush 48 percent to 44 percent with Nader at 6 percent.
Everybody mentions the killing of four U.S. soldiers in Ramadi. They were on a patrol, failed to report in, and were found shot, apparently in the head. Another GI was killed in a mortar strike near Baghdad. Four or perhaps five Iraqi contractors were also killed in a separate attack.
In other Iraq developments, Iran seized three British patrol boats and eight sailors that it said strayed into Iranian waters. South Korea said it will evacuate its workers, but it’s still planning to addtroops, though it will be moving its force to the safer, Kurdish-controlled north. No word yet on the South Korean hostage who militants have said they’ll behead if Korean troops don’t leave.
The NYT off-leads, the Wall Street Journal goes high with, and others front a military judge in the prison abuse cases granting defense lawyers’ requests that top generals be called to testify. Among those to take the stand will be Gen. John Abizaid, commander of U.S. forces in the Mideast. The lawyers aren’t stopping there. “We will ask to have the president of the United States as a witness,” said one. “Whether that’s granted, that’s a different story.” The judge also declared Abu Ghraib a “crime scene” and said the government shouldn’t destroy it.
The Financial Times previews a U.N.-sponsored audit criticizing the United States’ management of Iraq’s oil revenues. The auditors, who said “they encountered resistance from CPA staff,” concluded that the oversight system lacks “effective controls” and is “open to fraudulent acts.”
The papers mention inside that the Senate defeated a Democratic-sponsored bill to overturn the ban on photographs of GI coffins arriving back in the U.S.
The NYT goes inside with “heavy fighting” in the Russian province bordering Chechnya. Chechen guerrillas launched coordinated attacks in at least three cities, killing the province’s interior minister and about 50 other people.
Everybody fronts the first private manned craft to make it into space. Upon landing SpaceShipOne, the 63-year-old pilot said, “Yeeeeeeee-haaah!”
Commenting on Monday’s NYT story that most prisoners at Gitmo appear to be just Taliban foot soldiers, TP mentioned that hints of this have been around for a year and then suggested the Times only felt comfortable digging into and playing up “this stuff” (mushy phrasing, intended as a reference to the wider issue of detainee abuse) once the Abu Ghraib photos were published. Wrong, says NYT Executive Editor Bill Keller, who explained via e-mail that Times reporters “have been working flat out on [the Gitmo] story since February,” months before the photos became public, and were “interrupted only by the Madrid train bombing.”