Today's Papers

Daschle Hounding

The Wall Street Journal’s world-wide newsbox and Washington Postlead with the House sticking it to the Senate a touch and voting to extend the Patriot Act for just another five weeks, during which time negotiations can continue on adding civil liberties protections to the about-to-expire law. The Senate had agreed to a six-month extension, but pro-Patriot conservatives in the House revolted and whittled the extension down, presumably in an attempt to push Democrats and rebel Republicans to support the administration-endorsed version of the bill. USA Todayleads with the Pentagon’s plans to, at least at the moment, hold back two brigades that had been scheduled to head to Iraq in January. That would mean the number of troops there would soon drop by 30,000 to 130,000, just about the number there were in 2004. The New York Timesleads with New York City’s transit workers agreeing to go back on the job without a contract. The deal came after mediators hashed out an informal understanding wherein management backed down on its demands for pension cuts and the union agreed that workers will have to pay more for health care. (And in case you were worried, don’t be: TP’s commute was minimally affected.) The Los Angeles Timesleads with the state’s insurance commissioner proposing to largely scrap using ZIP codes to help set car-insurance rates.

The LAT and WP front an independent panel concluding, big surprise, that a South Korean researcher did indeed fake at least nine of the 11 human embryonic stem-cell colonies he claimed to have created.

Only the WP seems to give more than wire copy to a federal judge concluding that the U.S.’s detention of two Chinese men at Gitmo is “unlawful,” though the judge said he was powerless to do anything about it. The detainees, who are ethnic Uighurs, were found by a military tribunal to be no threat. But the U.S. won’t ship them back to China for fear they’ll be persecuted there, nor will it let them come to the U.S.

The WP goes inside with an anonymous Republican blocking the Senate intel authorization bill, the first time that’s happened in 27 years. Among other things the anonymous senator is demanding be removed from the bill: language requiring the administration to regularly brief Congress about the CIA’s secret prisons.

In a Post op-ed, former Senate Minority leader Tom Daschle blows a hole in the White House’s explanation of how it has the power to engage in warrantless domestic snooping. The administration has argued that Congress implicitly gave the OK via the post-9/11 authorization to use military force against al-Qaida. But Daschle writes that the White House had tried to write that power into the bill at the time and was smacked down:

Literally minutes before the Senate cast its vote, the administration sought to add the words ‘in the United States and’ after ‘appropriate force’ in the agreed-upon text. This last-minute change would have given the president broad authority to exercise expansive powers not just overseas—where we all understood he wanted authority to act—but right here in the United States, potentially against American citizens. I could see no justification for Congress to accede to this extraordinary request for additional authority. I refused.

The Post, presumably after receiving a bit of a lead here, devotes a separate news article to Daschle’s comments, explaining that they “challenge a central legal argument offered by the White House” in defense of the snooping.

In an NYT op-ed, novelist Jonathan Safran Foer offers a beginner’s guide to Hanukkah time. The first entry:

Christmas * Christmas is a holiday that Christian children celebrate because they aren’t Jewish. Instead of eight nights of presents, there is only one. And instead of getting to eat delicious and nutritious latkes, they are forced to drink something called nog, which isn’t even a real word. They touch each other’s sweaters while they sing together around pianos, they get into the “spirit,” and here’s another bad thing about Christmas that should make Jewish children excited about celebrating Hanukkah: Christmas trees are a terrible fire hazard.