Today's Papers

Sacramento Spur

The Los Angeles Times and the New York Timeslead with a legislative deal struck in California that will establish “the most sweeping controls on carbon dioxide emissions in the nation.” The story also tops the Wall Street Journal’s world-wide newsbox and merits a separate in-depth story on the paper’s front page.  The Washington Post, strangely, appears to have ignored the news from Sacramento entirely, leading instead with a description of the Bush administration’s “new thrust” against critics of the Iraq war—a story others reported yesterday. USA Today leads with an exposé of predatory lending practices targeted at soldiers.

At least in theory, the deal struck between Democratic legislators and Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger would reduce the state’s greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent over the next 14 years. It would establish tight controls on how much carbon dioxide industries and utilities can belch into the atmosphere. Oil companies and other business groups opposed the bill. However, it had support from many Silicon Valley corporations, and, in a major break with industry practice, from the giant utility Pacific Gas & Electric, which praised its “market-based mechanisms.”

The law, which comes on the heels of the state’s decision to place similarly tough restrictions on automobile emissions, puts California “at the forefront of a broad campaign to curb the man-made causes of climate change,” NYT says. California is the world’s sixth-largest economy. It accounts for only 2 percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, but the evident hope is that its move will spur other states to pass similar restrictions—and maybe even the federal government. But the Bush administration, as everyone notes, seemed less than thrilled by California’s move.

The LAT, understandably more focused on the local political implications, writes that the new law will position Schwarzenegger “as a national leader in the burgeoning movement to curb greenhouse gas emissions.” The governor, who faces a tough re-election campaign, has lately been burnishing his environmental bona fides, even signing an agreement on the issue with British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

The WSJ, which has a very good rundown of the details, says the 25 percent target is just the first step, noting the experience of countries that have signed the much-tougher Kyoto Accords. “Far more difficult,” it says, “is apportioning responsibility for coming up with those cuts among politically powerful businesses—let alone individual car-driving voters—within their borders.”

The WP’s lead says that, starting with a speech today, President Bush will be embarking on a campaign to “put Democrats on the defensive” by accusing them “of aiming to appease terrorists and cut off funding for troops on the battlefield.” Both the LAT and the WSJ wrote much the same thing yesterday. “Pressed to support these allegations,” WP says, “the White House yesterday could cite no major Democrat who has proposed cutting off funds or suggested that withdrawing from Iraq would persuade terrorists to leave Americans alone.” (Slate’s Fred Kaplan calls the administration’s rhetoric “ghastly.”)

The USAT lead is a nice piece of advocacy journalism. Apparently, many so-called “payday loan” shops set up around military bases. They charge interest rates of up to 400 percent. A report suggests that roughly 20 percent of soldiers took out such short-term loans last year. The story suggests that some soldiers have gone so deeply into debt that they’ve lost their security clearances, jeopardizing their deployment overseas. It cites no numbers to substantiate the assertion, but it does retell the case of an airman who got into trouble and ended up paying $2,600 for a $500 loan. This is unfortunate, though it seems to TP that $2,100 might be a small price to pay to avoid deployment to Iraq.

The NYT off-leads a dispatch from Sudanese province of Darfur, which suggests that its civil war, only smoldering since a peace deal was signed a few months ago, might be about to flare up again. While the Sudanese government has come under extraordinary criticism—some call its brutal tactics “genocide”—it’s actually the rebels who are who are most to blame for the present worsening situation, the story makes clear. Several holdout groups that rejected the peace agreement have been continuing to launch attacks in Sudan’s north, killing civilians and aid workers. Now both sides are talking tough and buying weapons. The United Nations is talking about sending peacekeepers, but Sudan has to agree to it.

The WP, following a Boston Globe scoop, fronts a piece that says that scientific studies have determined that the amount of nicotine in cigarettes increased an average of 10 percent between 1998 and 2004. The cigarette companies say they have no idea how it could have happened. A judge in a recent federal lawsuit determined that the companies have “designed their cigarettes to precisely control nicotine delivery levels.” More nicotine makes cigarettes more addictive and harder to quit.

The WSJ, continuing a fine run of Mexico coverage, has a great piece on the fallout from the country’s recent disputed presidential election. It concludes that there is a real possibility for serious unrest because the narrow loser in the race, left-winger Andrés Manuel López Obrador, has vowed to continue a campaign of civil disobedience to protest an election he calls fraudulent. “It’s as if Al Gore had called for revolution instead of calm,” the story says. His model seems to be Ecuador and Bolivia, where similar protests brought down governments.

Speaking of Bolivia, the WP checks in and says that things aren’t going so swimmingly for new populist President Evo Morales. And in Venezuela, the lefty-ist country of them all, the government is threatening to seize a fancy golf course and turn it into low-income housing, the LAT reports in a front-page feature.

The NYT predicts that the United States is going to find it difficult to push even weak sanctions against Iran through the U.N. Security Council. Complicating matters is a new report by the International Atomic Energy Agency that “will describe only slow progress by Iran in enriching uranium,” the story says. The Bush administration thinks Iran is hiding its nuclear progress from inspectors.

The WP and LAT front news that Egyptian author Naguib Mahfouz, winner of the Nobel Prize, died yesterday at age 94. A supporter of the Camp David accords and survivor of an Islamist assassination attempt, Mahfouz, in his last years, was dismayed by developments in the Arab World and critical of the U.S. invasion of Iraq. “I have a terrible vision of the reign of chaos,” he wrote in 2002, as war loomed.

NYT health specialist Gina Kolata has another one of her voluminous, fascinating features today—this one suggests that, contrary to popular belief, genetics may actually have little to do with how long you live. This crestfallen writer would nonetheless like to take this opportunity to say: Happy 90th birthday, Pop Pop!