Today's Papers

Batters Up

The Washington Post and USA Today lead with the congressional steroid hearings, where lawmakers grilled several prominent players about the drug’s place in baseball and about their own experience with doping. All eyes were on legendary slugger Mark McGwire, who, in emotional testimony, would neither admit to nor deny having used steroids during his career. “I’m not here to discuss the past,” he said. The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, and the Wall Street Journal’s world-wide news box lead with the Senate’s 52-48 vote to strike down a budget amendment that would have cut Medicaid by $14 billion. The vote dealt a major blow to the White House deficit reduction efforts and set the stage for a legislative logjam, since the House passed its budget with the Medicaid cuts intact. In another twist, Senators voted 55-45 to repeal a 1993 tax on wealthy seniors’ Social Security checks—bringing the budget’s total tax cut to $134 billion, a whopping $34 billion more than Bush had asked for.

After 11 hours of steroid-motivated testimony, it was unclear if any progress had been made. Following McGwire’s refusal to answer questions, Orioles hitters Rafael Palmeiro and Sammy Sosa both denied having used the drugs. When asked if they thought using steroids was “cheating,” everyone answered affirmatively except McGwire, who said “that’s not for me to determine.” Congressmen lambasted baseball officials for having been soft on the problem—the new rules they imposed this winter appeared only to fine players for a first offense. Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig corrected that impression by saying he would suspend anyone who tested positive.

At one point, Senator and Hall of Fame Pitcher Jim Bunning of Kentucky*, had the following to say: “When I played with Henry Aaron, Willie Mays, and Ted Williams, they didn’t put on 40 pounds … and they didn’t hit more home runs in their late thirties as they did in their late twenties.” He went on to recommend that any major records set by steroid-addled players should be wiped from the books: “Take them away. They don’t deserve them.” (Check out this front line report from Slate’s Josh Levin.)

In a voting rush motivated by the oncoming Easter recess, the Senate blazed through dozens of proposed budget amendments, voting most of them down, but approving the closure of corporate tax loopholes to fund education and protecting funds for urban development grants—a cut the administration had endorsed. The LAT’s coverage points out that if the House and Senate fail to agree on an overall budget, there will be no budget plan at all. This would be an embarrassment to Republicans, who had expected to use their dual majorities to pass Bush’s proposals no problem. No budget would also mean Wednesday’s vote to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge would be voided.

The NYT fronts CIA Chief Porter Goss’ testimony that the CIA is now adhering to federal anti-torture laws, though as for whether the same was true in the aftermath of Sept. 11, Goss said only, “I am not able to tell you that.” He than drew a distinction between torture and what he called “professional interrogation”: “Torture is not … productive,” he said, “We don’t do torture.”

Kandaharis are getting fed up with the lawlessness in their warlord-controlled city, where children have been kidnapped for ransom, then killed even after the fee was paid. This WP front notes that citizens felt less vulnerable under the Taliban, which ousted warlords before brutally imposing its law. After the U.S. defeated the Taliban, many of the warlords regained power and have continued to terrorize the populace despite President Hamid Karzai’s promises to crack down. “Imagine how things are,” said one man, “that we are wishing for the Taliban again.”

The big three front the death, at 101, of George F. Kennan, the brilliant political strategist who first articulated the “containment” theory that became the cornerstone of U.S.-Soviet relations during the Cold War. Containment meant the U.S. would use “unalterable counterforce at every point where [the Russians] show signs of encroaching.” Kennan, who is considered one of the great political thinkers of the 20th century, later became a vocal proponent of arms control.

The Vatican is blasting The Da Vinci Code again, importuning Catholics everywhere not to buy or read the popular book. This although, as the LAT notes, the novel has already sold 20 million copies in 44 languages. “He knows that he is doing wrong and that he is deceiving the people,” said one bishop of author Dan Brown. Wait a sec: Is it just TP, or does the word “fiction” no longer mean made-up?

You Animal!Chinese zookeepers will stop the grisly practice of feeding horses and other large, live animals to their lions and tigers. The prohibition is for good reason: “The bloody scene could … implant violent tendencies in youngsters,” said one zoo administrator. On the other hand, the zoos can “continue to sell small birds for visitors to feed the wild beasts.”

*In May 1965, Bunning became one of 10 pitchers ever to pitch a shutout and then win his own game 1-0 with a solo homerun.