Today's Papers

Non Committal

The Los Angeles Times leads with GIs arresting a top Sunni politician yesterday and then releasing him 12 hours later with apologies. The military said no harm, no foul; it was just a case of mistaken identity. The politician said three of his sons were also picked up. The Washington Post, Wall Street Journal world-wide newsbox, and New York Times all leadwith fallout from France’s smackdown of the proposed EU constitution. The Netherlands is scheduled to vote Wednesday and is also likely to reject the document. The potential dual non votes mean there’s a solid possibility that the constitution will die. That’s prompting lots of gloomy talk about European integration stalling. USA Todayleads with a near evergreen on the increasing chintziness of the minimum wage. At $5.15 per hour, it was last upped in 1997 and in terms of buying power is at its lowest point since 1949. The paper’s hook: Eleven states have raised the minimum on their own in the past year and a half, and on Wednesday Wisconsin will join their number. Interesting factoid flown by: Only 2 million people earned the minimum wage last year, a bit less than half the number in 1997.

The Journal focuses on the potential economic fallout of the French vote, saying it could put Europe’s economic liberalization on ice. The euro fell to a seven-month low yesterday. Here’s a Slate cheat sheet on the constitution and the votes around it.

Then there’s the fallout in France itself. President Chirac had been leading the drive for the constitution and now is looking like a lame duck. In a bid to survive (and blame others), he is reportedly about to sack Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin and reshuffle his Cabinet. What did Mr. Raffarin have to say about that? “I’m going for a stroll around Paris,” he said. “See you later.”

Meanwhile, with Chirac getting smacked, Brit Prime Minister Blair backed down from a vote in his country; he said now should be a “time for reflection.”

In other Iraq developments, two or three suicide bombers in Hilla killed about 30 people. According to the Post,the first attacker targeted police; the second and potentially third bombers ran with the initial survivors into a building then detonated themselves. Also, an Iraqi Air Force plane crashed, with four Americans and one Iraqi on board; no word on survivors.

The NYT’s off-lead peels back the picture a bit on some of the shell companies behind the organizations the CIA uses for air travel. The spooks didn’t exactly do a flawless job covering their tracks: “Whoever created the companies used some of the same post office box addresses and the same apparently fictitious officers for two or more of the companies.” (For an overview of the companies, see this handy, headache-inducing chart.) The Times doesn’t have any bombshells and there have been a few other pieces about the CIA’s jets. But it does dole out some good details on the main front: Aero Contractors Ltd., son of Air America.

The LAT fronts a little-noticed provision in the recent military-spending bill that allows oil and gas drilling in a national park off the Gulf of Mexico. The area is zoned as “wilderness,” meaning it has the highest level of federal protection. It’s the first time moves have been made to drill on such sites. 

The NYT notices that, despite drugmakers’ promises to publish all data from their pill studies, most companies are still keeping results on the down-low

Meanwhile, a front-page USAT piece looks at the FDA’s apparently overtaxed drug-ad review office. The unit sent out only 23 warning letters last year, about a third the number mailed in 2000 (though the recent ones more frequently demand action). The paper says the review office has “only 40 employees.” That sounds … who knows. Is it more or less than previous years?

In another one of its Page One adverticles, the Post excerpts its reporter John Harris’ new book on Bill Clinton. As it happens, today’s NYT reviews the book, calling it “fair-minded, highly readable,” and filled with “nothing terribly new.”

The NYT notices a Web Site called PostSecret. People send in anonymous postcards revealing, yes, their (purported) secrets. The Times isn’t exactly trailblazing, but so what. One postcard shows a picture of the Twin Towers burning. “He should have been at work that day,” it reads. “I wish he had been.”