Today's Papers

Veto Position

The New York Times and the Los Angeles Timeslead with the news that President Bush threatened to veto legislation to expand federal funding for stem-cell research, setting the stage for a showdown with Congress. The Washington Post’s top non-local story reports that Iraq’s Sunnis are closing mosques across the country to protest recent killings they blame on the Shiite-led government.

The stem-cell bill, currently pending in the House, would loosen the restrictions that Bush imposed in 2001. Mike Castle, the bill’s Republican sponsor, reportedly told Bush, “We have a bill and we’re going to be pushing as hard as we can.” But Bush took the rare step of vowing to exercise his veto power, telling the press, “I’ve made it very clear to the Congress that the use of federal money, taxpayers’ money, to promote science which destroys life in order to save life is … I’m against that.” The new legislation would still ban federal funding for creating embryos for research, but it would allow research using discarded embryos from fertility clinics. The measure has Republican backers, but the WP notes that Bush’s warning could dissuade Republicans who are already wary of angering antiabortion groups. The LAT story neatly summarizes the scientific debate.

The WP reports that Sunnis in Iraq say that in recent weeks, security forces have raided their mosques, failing to distinguish between insurgents and innocent Sunnis. In protest, Sunnis will close their mosques for three days, hoping to attract world attention. As one Sunni put it, “Every Muslim in the world will hear this, and he will go crazy and ask, why are we doing this?” Meanwhile, Shiite mosques were shelled in what Shiite politicians said were attempts to spark a sectarian war.

The NYT reports that, for many Muslims, Guantanamo Bay defines America. Reports of abuse at Guantanamo reinforce Muslims’ suspicions about American contempt for Islam. Further evidence: A Pakistan private school put on Guantanamo, a “very relevant” documentary play based on spoken evidence from Guantanamo Bay prisoner testimony; Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya use images of Muslim prisoners in station promos; Muslims hear stories about Quran desecration and think to themselves, “It is something the Americans would do.” As one former Afghan commander put it, “The Americans were good people before. …  People are changing their minds.”

The WP goes below the fold with news that a Swedish parliamentary probe found that a 2001 CIA rendition—defined as “the forcible and highly secret transfer of terrorism suspects to their home countries”—violated Swedish law because CIA agents subjected prisoners to degrading and inhuman treatment on Swedish soil. “Should Swedish officers have taken those measures, I would have prosecuted them without hesitation,” said the investigator in charge.

The NYT reports that “America’s love affair with SUVs is taking a breather.” For the first time in 14 years, sales of SUVs and other trucks went down relative to sales of cars, and the NYT has the colorful quotes to prove it. “I just bought a Ford pickup truck and I wish I wouldn’t have bought the darn thing,” said one man. Meanwhile, the new owner of a Chrysler 300C sedan cooed about her purchase. “It’s soft, it’s feminine, it’s classy,” she said. “It calls my name.” Why has the SUV trend finally reversed itself? High gas prices are a factor, as are the fact that many SUVs are at the end of their product cycles, the parade of new luxury cars, and the introduction of hybrid vehicles like the Toyota Prius.

The WP fronts a related story reporting on the opening of Hyundai’s $1.1 billion factory in Alabama, its first in the U.S. In the zero-sum game of auto manufacturing, jobs and production are down in Detroit but up in the South, where several Asian-owned companies have placed their facilities. But every new Asian car factory that opens in the U.S., says the WP, “is another sledgehammer swing at the crumbling fortunes of Ford and GM.” Part of the problem for domestic auto makers is that Hyundai’s workers aren’t unionized, which means Hyundai can charge less for cars and still make more profit.

The WP teases word that the Republican Party is preparing for a vote on Tuesday on whether to end judicial filibustering. After three days of debate about a judicial nominee, a Republican senator filed a cloture motion to end debate. That vote could lead to the nuclear option, says the WP, recapping how that process will likely go: Assuming no compromise is reached first, Republicans will fall short of the 60 votes they need to end debate on Tuesday. Bill Frist will then make a point of order that debate on judicial nominees should be limited. Dick Cheney, the Senate’s presiding officer, will rule in Frist’s favor; Democrats will appeal; Frist will move to table the appeal, and the Senate will vote on the motion to table. If the motion to table is passed, the Senate will then vote on the judicial nomination, setting a new precedent for ending filibusters.

To love and to parish … The LAT reports that many churches in the South are now advising their congregants to seek counseling to make sure they’re compatible before they get engaged. Hopeful couples take relationship quizzes, view statistics, and get prognoses. As one lecturer explained it, “What we’re trying to teach couples is, ‘This is romantic.’ “