Today's Papers

The Old Man and the Eight Seed

It’s a slow news day that everyone handles differently. The New York Times leads with Lockheed Martin scoring the contract to build the next human-piloted spaceship, while USA Today gives us poll results from five major Senate races, with Democrats leading four of them. The Wall Street Journal puts a patent victory for two pharmas atop its news list. The California legislature’s refusal to pass two of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s priorities, casino and prison expansion, on its last day in session, makes up the Los Angeles Times’ lead story. The WashingtonPost goes with what can rightly be considered an evergreen: Iran won’t halt uranium enrichment.

Almost as if plucked from the WaPo’s 2003 archives, the story quotes President George W. Bush calling Iran a “grave threat” and saying “there must be consequences,” while asserting that Iran is covertly producing nuclear weapons. The latter claim was made, writes Dafna Linzer, “without offering proof.” The WaPo, the WSJ, and the LAT all front the Lockheed Martin coup, which the NYT calls a “startling setback” for Boeing and Northrop Grumman.

The WSJ is alone in its prominent coverage of a federal judge’s decision to temporarily halt shipments of the generic version of Bristol-Myers Squibb’s and Sanofi’s best-selling drug, the blood thinner Plavix. Bristol-Myers CEO Peter Dolan’s chest pains are going nowhere, though, because pharmacies have several months’ supply of the cheap version in stock. U.S. sales of Plavix have plummeted 77 percent since the beginning of August. An outright loss in court, warns the story, would likely mean a slashing of research and development funds and about 1,200 unemployed drug reps.

For the second day in a row, the WaPo goes above-the-fold with a story the rest of the world had the day before. This time it’s California’s embrace of tight carbon dioxide emissions limits. With an extra 24 hours to work the story, the WaPo manages to add exactly nothing. They’re so late that the paper’s own editorial page has had a chance to rub its chin and share its thoughts. (It likes the “bold action.”)

The WSJ fronts a piece battling for its own evergreen status: Republicans plan to run—again—on national security. The report wonders if that hat still holds any rabbits. The piece singles out 10-term suburban Philly Rep. Curt Weldon, a Republican who recently said that we either fight terrorists in Iraq “or we fight them in the supermarkets and streets here,” adding that he still believes Iraq has weapons of mass destruction. His Democratic opponent, Joe Sestak, served in Afghanistan and calls the war in Iraq a distraction from the war on terror. The WSJ has handicapper Stuart Rothenberg calling the race a tossup. Sestak and Weldon’s disagreement on Iraq’s role in the war on terror, says WSJ, is the central question in the election.

The NYT goes high on the front with its write-up of the first of Bush’s five upcoming speeches to mark the anniversary of 9/11, and in so doing weighs in on the WSJ’s question. The fourth paragraph gives an indication that Bush faces an uphill climb in portraying Iraq as making any progress: “Even as Mr. Bush spoke, a series of explosions ripped through Baghdad, providing more images of a sort that he acknowledged have been ‘sometimes unsettling’ to the public,” write Anne E. Kornblut and Sheryl Gay Stolberg. They go on to note that Bush resurrected the word “victory,” using it 12 times in a 44-minute speech.

Speaking of evergreens, if there’s any room left for nails in Mao’s ideological coffin, the NYT looks to bang one in with a front page piece on Shanghai high-school textbooks all but eliminating mention of the chairman. To nobody’s surprise, the ruling Communist Party is less interested today in imparting to students the inspiring history of the Chinese people’s ability to overthrow exploitative regimes and dynasties. Of course, that has nothing to do with politics, Chinese officials tell the Times.

USAT gives golfers bad news below the fold. Thanks to the housing boom, it makes more economic sense for course owners to sell out to developers. While almost 400 courses opened in 2000, only 125 opened up last year. The number that closed quadrupled in the same time span. Not to worry, there are still 16,052 courses left.

On the WaPo’s opinion page, Charles Krauthammer mails his column in from another planet, arguing that the Israeli-Hezbollah war was a serious setback for both Hezbollah and Iran. TP’s got no problem with the contrarian musing here and there, but Krauthammer’s reference to the situation as a “promising moment” reminds us of a recent remark by Richard N. Haass, a former high-ranking State Department official for the current President Buah and now head of the Council on Foreign Relations: “Lord, spare me. I don’t laugh a lot. That’s the funniest thing I’ve heard in a long time. If this is an opportunity, what’s Iraq? A once-in-a-lifetime chance?”

From supposed to actual victories, Andre Agassi gets his mug on the front page of the LAT, USAT, and the NYT for keeping the nation on the edge of its collective seat last night. After going up two sets on eight-seed Marcos Baghdatis, the old man dropped the third and fourth but had enough left to win a thrilling fifth, living to fight at least one more day—today.