Today's Papers

Jack the Rip-Offer

The Los Angeles Times, Wall Street Journal business box, and New York Timeslead with a Chinese state-controlled oil company’s bid to buy Unocal. The $18.5 billion unsolicited takeover proposal is $1.5 billion more than Chevron’s proposed deal to buy the company. But analysts think Chevron’s offer has other perks and will prevail … unless there’s a bidding war. The Washington Postleads with House Republican leaders embracing another Social Security plan. This one would use the surplus, at least while it still exists, to fund small personal accounts. The plan, as the Post puts it, would “do nothing to remedy” Social Security’s coming fiscal issues. Yesterday’s Journal said the plan’s chances of passing are something close to zilch; instead, the proposal appears to be a sort of sacrificial lamb intended to give Republicans an “exit strategy.” USA Todayleads with the United State’s four biggest airlines—American, United, Delta, and Northwest—raising most of their fares a few percent yesterday. No explanation from the paper on why or how they all picked the same day.

As the Wall Street Journal describes atop its world-wide newsbox—and others front—a Senate hearing aired details aplenty of super-lobbyist Jack Abramoff’s bilking of Indian tribes. Among other things, Abramoff and his business partner took millions from the tribes supposedly for lobbying, instead funneled through some bogus nonprofits and ultimately used it for such worthy causes as financing “sniper” training for Israeli settlers and footing the bill for a golf trip taken by one Tom DeLay.

It’s all a bit complex, but padding billable hours wasn’t. “Make sure you are able to track the time on the bill during the month to be sure we hit the $150K minimum,” Abramoff wrote to one employee, who replied, “You had only 2 hours. We are not even close to this number.” Abramoff answered, “Add 60 hours for me.”

As the Journal emphasizes, the uncovered e-mails also suggest that organizations run by conservative all-stars Ralph Reed and Grover Norquist were also used in Abramoff’s apparent laundering scheme.

The Post’s off-lead says the Pentagon, in a bid to improve recruiting, has contracted with a private firm to create a database of all students in the United States aged 16-18. The No Child Left Behind Act already allows the military to gather some school info, but this latest effort goes further and will include everything from Social Security numbers to what subjects students are studying (at least that’s what the Post says). The info will be taken from commercial databases, state DMVs, and elsewhere. The LAT also fronts the story but credits the Post with breaking it.

Four near-simultaneous car bombs hit a Shiite neighborhood in Baghdad at dusk, killing about two dozen, mostly civilians. Among the places hit were a restaurant and a bus station. Three GIs were also killed yesterday. And about 10 Iraqis were killed in other attacks, including the assassination of a prominent Sunni law professor (along with his son) who had said he was willing to help draft the constitution. Most of the papers paint that as further evidence that insurgents are now going after Sunni moderates. But the NYT’s John Burns isn’t so sure. He notes that the lawyer had withdrawn his name from consideration a while ago. Burns also says he had “links to a hard-line school of Sunni Islam,” and an Iraqi reporter for the Times visiting the prof’s home was told the family wasn’t sure why he was killed.

Nobody has much information on what seems to have been a big battle in Afghanistan. Somewhere between 40 (U.S. said) and 75 (Afghan officials’ count) insurgents were reportedly killed along with about 10 Afghan soldiers and police. Five GIs were wounded, and two U.S. choppers were hit but made it back to base. The best dispatch is a lengthy wire piece inside the Post. Meanwhile, a U-2 spy plane that had been over Afghanistan crashed while trying to land in the United Arab Emirates. The pilot was killed; there were no reports of hostile fire.

Everybody goes inside with a military probe of the Air Force Academy that found plenty of examples of religious intolerance by officers and cadets but no “overt religious discrimination.” During one National Prayer Day, the academy’s commandant sent an e-mail encouraging cadets to use the “J for Jesus” hand signal. The head of the inquiry said the investigation wasn’t really, ah, an investigation but was simply meant to “take the pulse” of the academy. A NYT editorial isn’t impressed.

A Page One NYT piece notices that doctors, responding to recent studies, have increasingly been giving chemotherapy to people in the early stages of lung cancer—and it’s working. The studies showed that patients who received chemo had a 15 percent higher chance of survival after five years than those who just had surgery.

Back to Jack … The Post’s Dana Milbank excerpts one of Abramoff’s more spiritual requests (to a prominent rabbi):

“I hate to ask you for your help with something so silly but I’ve been nominated for membership in the Cosmos Club, which is a very distinguished club in Washington, DC, comprised of Nobel Prize winners, etc.,” Abramoff wrote. “Problem for me is that most prospective members have received awards and I have received none. I was wondering if you thought it possible that I could put that I have received an award from Toward Tradition with a sufficiently academic title, perhaps something like Scholar of Talmudic Studies?”[…]The rabbi, conservative radio host Daniel Lapin, gave his blessing. “I just need to know what needs to be produced,” he wrote. “Letters? Plaques?”