Today's Papers

DeLayed Consequences

The Los Angeles Times, Wall Street Journal world-wide newsbox, and New York Timesall lead with what amounted to the pregame show for Judge Alito’s confirmation hearings. In what was technically the first day of hearings, senators and Alito speechified. No exchanges, or surprises, were had. The Washington Postdevotes four columns across the top to Alito but gives the traditional lead spot on the right to the closing of a top lobbying firm connected to former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay and currently guilty ex-lobbyist Jack Abramoff. “Reports in the press have made it difficult to continue as a lobbying/political entity,” said the firm’s owner, who was once DeLay’s top aide and who employed DeLay’s wife for years. Last week, the NYT flagged and flogged the firm on Page One. USA Todayreefers Alito and leads with an in-house analysis showing that federal mine regulators have collected only about 28 percent of the $9.1 million in fines they’ve levied in the last seven years. About a third of the “missing” money is the result of the fines being cut on appeal or in negotiations. (And no, the paper doesn’t break down the averages collected by administration or give a previous benchmark for comparison.) The NYT also has a piece inside that goes into more depth on mine regulation, pointing out that whereas deaths have been at record lows, the industry is lagging in adopting new safety gear.

Alito tried to distance himself from the ‘winger-esque opinions he expressed during his stint in the Reagan administration.“A judge can’t have any agenda,” he said yesterday. “A judge can’t have any preferred outcome in any particular case.” Alito also repeatedly invoked his modest upbringing, contrasting it with those fancy-pants ne’er-do-wells he attended college with. The NYT’s sums up Alito’s implicit pitch as: “culturally conservative but judicially open minded.” Slate’s Dahlia Lithwick’s summary of Alito’s message: “My family was too poor to afford a judicial philosophy.”

Only the NYT fronts about two dozen Iraqis killed in a double suicide bombing inside Iraq’s Interior Ministry complex. The U.S. ambassador and top Iraqi officials were at the ministry during the attack but apparently well away from the bombings.

There are conflicting details—including on the number of dead—but everybody agrees that the attackers had police uniforms and badges that allowed them to get through some checkpoints. The Associated Press said one of the men was dressed as a police lieutenant colonel and the other as a major.

Also, everybody notes the kidnapping in Baghdad of a stringer for the Christian Science Monitor, Jill Carroll. Her translator was killed in the abduction. The Post’s Ellen Knickmeyer has a front-page piece on Carroll, describing a call that came in from Carroll’s cell phone right after the kidnapping. *The person this phone belongs to was just killed,” said the caller, who was incorrect and had picked up the phone lying next to Carroll’s translator. Carroll was kidnapped just a few hundred yards from the offices of a top Sunni politician who had just skipped a scheduled interview with her.

Most of the papers go inside with and the NYT fronts an official investigation confirming that a South Korean researcher’s cloning claims were indeed bogus. (The exception: The guy really did clone a dog—Snuppy.)

The Post fronts new government data showing U.S. health-care spending eating up a record percentage of the economic output. Meanwhile, a piece inside the paper flags a study concluding that the nation’s emergency-room system is way unprepared for large-scale outbreaks or casualties. “We have no capacity to handle a Hurricane Katrina or an avian flu outbreak,” said one researcher. “We can barely handle a regular flu outbreak.” (The report, it should be said, is by an association for emergency-room doctors that, judging by its Web site, lobbies for more federal spending on emergency-room care.)

The NYT stuffs a piece by tax guru David Cay Johnston noting that the IRS has stopped providing records on its audits despite a 30-year-old court order requiring it to do so. Johnston declares, “Much of what the public knows about the efficiency, effectiveness and evenhandedness of the revenue service and other big federal agencies is based on the figures.”

USAT fronts a metastudy showing that cough suppressants, whether syrups or drops, how to put this … suck. There is no evidence that Robitussin or the like actually work. Two drugs, oddly, that actually do seem to help coughs: Benadryl and Aleve.

Correction, Jan. 10, 2006: This article originally said that the Washington Post’s Ellen Knickmeyer received a phone call from a kidnapped reporter’s cell phone. In fact, the Post wrote that, for security reasons, it withheld the name of the person who received the call. (Return to the corrected sentence.)