Today's Papers

Putin on a Show

The Los Angeles Times, Wall Street Journal world-wide newsbox, and New York Times all lead with Presidents Bush and Putin’s get-together. The public comments, at least, were mostly make-nice talk, but Bush also said shared what he called “concerns about Russia’s commitment” to democracy. Putin in turn described democracy as “our final choice.” He added, “Some of the ideas that I heard from my partner I respect a lot. Some other ideas, I will not comment on. Thank you.” At that, says the NYT, “Mr. Bush started to chuckle, and Mr. Putin winked back.”

The Washington Post and USA Today front the confab but lead with the pope heading back to the hospital and being given a tracheotomy to help with what the Vatican called “acute breathing insufficiency.” Italian news services cited in the papers say he’s now on a respirator. The Vatican has played things down, calling the tracheotomy “elective.” But outside doctors said it’s likely a result of pneumonia, which is particularly life-threatening for elderly patients with Parkinson’s. “This is not a good sign,” said one specialist.

The NYT has a healthy debate about the tone of the presidential get-together. The paper’s lead mentions “unusual moments of heat” and says things were “sometimes tense and awkward.” The Times’ C.J. Chivers, writing inside, doesn’t see the fireworks: “Much was said gently, or avoided altogether.” (Reading over the transcript, Chivers seems on to something: Putin “declared his absolute support for democracy in Russia, and they’re not turning back,” said Bush. “To me, that is the most important statement of my private meeting.”)

And another subtle contrast: The Post: “BUSH GENTLY PRODS PUTIN ON DEMOCRACY.” An “analysis” in the LAT: The president “made good on his inaugural vow to push for democracy around the world.”

The Journal looks beyond the rhetoric to the wheeling and dealing: In return for Russia shoring up its loose nukes, promising not to let Iran keep spent fuel rods, and promising to stay open to international businesses, the U.S. pledged to support Russia’s attempt to join the World Trade Organization.

Speaking of the nukes deal, the papers toss it aside, with the NYT describing it as one of a series of “modest agreements.” Recall yesterday that the Post was the only one with that story—courtesy of “U.S. officials”—and (thus?) plopped it in the top spot. It’s not always wrong to play up official “leaks”; the problem is when you (or readers) simply get played.

Nobody fronts a surge in attacks in Iraq, where about 30 people were killed yesterday, including about a dozen by a suicide car bomb at a police station in Tikrit. The attacker reportedly wore a police uniform, presented what the Post calls an “official-looking document,” and then drove in during a shift-change.

Two GIs were killed in separate attacks. Just south of Baghdad, a bomb went off outside a local Shiite party HQ killing five, and bomb in the key northern city of Kirkuk killed two. Also, gunmen in Baghdad opened fire on a bakery, killing another two.

Yesterday’s Christian Science Monitor included a dispatch from one reporter traveling with Marines near Fallujah saying the police forces of most towns in the area appear to be “completely compromised by the insurgents.”

Today’s CSM says many of the town councils created post-invasion “no longer exist.” The paper profiled one council member last year; he’s since been assassinated.

The papersgo inside with the Palestinian parliament pushing through a new cabinet that is stacked with reformers and technocrats, as opposed to the more traditional choice: cronies. Palestinian Prime Minister Qureia had offered an old-school list, but as the Post puts it, the legislature “exercised their oversight powers for the first time and forced real change.”

A Page One NYT piece says 10 of the 32 experts on a government panel that endorsed keeping Vioxx, Celebrex, and Bextra around have consulted for the drugs’ makers. Without their assent, Bextra * and Vioxx would have been voted off the market. The FDA often appoints industry-connected docs to such panels. The agency says, and many observers agree, that the most-qualified researchers often have such connections. In any case, a few critics pointed out, the FDA doesn’t disclose the conflicts.

The LAT and NYT front Kansas’ attorney general seeking the medical files of about 90 women and girls who had late-term abortions at two clinics. State law prohibits abortions after 22 weeks except to protect the woman’s health. And the AG, who’s an opponent of abortion, said he needs the files to look for evidence of illegal late-term abortions and, mainly … statutory rape.

Correction, Feb. 25, 2005: The article originally stated that a government panel would have voted to withdraw Vioxx and Celebrex from the market if the doctors on the panel who had consulted for the drugs’ makers weren’t counted. In fact, the two drugs that would have been voted off the market are Vioxx and Bextra. (Return to corrected sentence.)