Today's Papers

No Budge Budget

The Wall Street Journal’s world-wide newsbox and Washington Postlead with the Senate flying by the threat of a presidential veto and passing, 77 to 21, a $109 billion “emergency” war-spending bill that includes about $20 billion in domestic spending that the president isn’t into. The New York Times leads with the planned memorial at Ground Zero now projected to cost nearly $1 billion. The estimate was by a contractor for the foundation that’s planning the memorial. So far, the foundation has raised $130 million. USA Today’s lead features a prediction that this summer air travelers will be smitten with a “baggage meltdown.” The prophecy was made by the chairman of the House Aviation Subcommittee, who pointed to a drop in the number of screeners and the usual summer surge in traffic.

The Los Angeles Timesleads with the latest installment of its investigation into top HMO Kaiser Permanente’s cheapskate kidney-transplant unit that seems to have put patients in danger. Today’s twist: The program was launched “without holding basic discussions with regulators” about how to move 1,500 patients from their old hospitals to the new unit.

The Post sniffs that the Senate’s budget bill “brimmed with favors for farmers, the fishing industry, and the states of Hawaii and Rhode Island.” That makes for good copy but the Journal offers a different picture: There is pork—Sen. Trent Lott’s pet project to move a newly rebuilt railroad, for one—but there’s also some apparent meat, including $4 billion to “mitigate cuts in the departments of Labor, Education, and Health and Human Services.”

The budget bill passed by the House closely tracks the president’s original, slimmer, request. And negotiations to reconcile the bills could be rocky, with Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert kindly declaring the Senate’s version “dead on arrival.”

The NYT’s national edition leads with and others front Vice President Cheney sticking it to Russia. “The government has unfairly and improperly restricted the rights of her people,” he said. The veep wasn’t going off the reservation. As the NYT notes, the speech was “heavily vetted” and a calculated slap at Russia.

The Journal smells a good cop/bad cop routine, with Secretary of State Rice playing the former. Compared with Cheney, says the paper, Rice’s “tone lately has been much more moderate.” As for the VP’s tough talk, the Post says it’s part of a pressure campaign to push for visible improvements before the G-8 summit planned for this summer in St. Petersburg. The administration has “privately identified concrete steps” Moscow should take, such as letting civil society groups actually operate.

The NYT fronts the Pentagon’s seemingly savvy release of a video showing Abu Musab al-Zarqawi fumbling with a gun while walking around in fine New Balance sneakers. The scenes were outtakes from a video apparently found in a recent raid. The LAT goes Page One with another part of the captured booty: a memo, purportedly from Zarqawi’s group, calling on followers to ramp up the civil war and “make the struggle entirely between Shiites and the mujahedin.”


A bomb next to a courthouse in Baghdad killed nine people and wounded about 50. Two GIs were reported killed in other attacks.

The Post fronts “many health experts worldwide” warning that global warming is causing many insect-borne diseases to spread and head north. That’s long been predicted. So, what’s new? “Things we projected to occur in 2080 are happening in 2006,” said one researcher.

In an interview with the Post, one Moussaoui juror elaborated on the verdict and his conclusion that Moussaoui’s “role in 9/11 was actually minor.” The juror said, “The moment he said the name Richard Reid I thought he was lying. It seemed like Moussaoui’s role in 9/11 was increasing over time.” Earlier in the case, the jury agreed with prosecutors that Moussaoui was connected to 9/11 by virtue of his lies to the FBI about al-Qaida prior to the attacks. The question, said the juror, was whether “the death penalty is really an appropriate punishment for lying.”

Yesterday’s LAT noted the “central contradiction” in the administration’s moves against terror suspects, namely that small-time operators have faced court while higher-up men have been stuffed in secret cells somewhere. The LAT emphasized the administration’s argument that it just wants to interrogate them. Lawyer David Cole, writing in the WP, offers a slightly different take:

[A]t a secret CIA “black site” prison, the United States is holding the alleged mastermind of Sept. 11, Khalid Sheik Mohammed. And at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, it has Mohamed al-Qahtani, who the government now claims is the real would-be 20th hijacker. But the administration can’t try either of these men, because any such proceeding would turn into a trial of the United States’ own tactics in the war on terrorism. The CIA has reportedly water-boarded Khalid Sheik Mohammed—a practice in which the suspect is made to fear that he is drowning in order to encourage him to talk. And Army logs report that interrogators threatened Qahtani with dogs, made him strip naked and wear women’s underwear, put him on a leash and made him bark like a dog, injected him with intravenous fluids and barred him from the bathroom so that he urinated on himself. With these shortsighted and inhumane tactics, the administration essentially immunized the real culprits, so it was left seeking the execution of a man who was not involved in Sept. 11.