Today's Papers

Wait and See

The Washington Postleads with a look at how the White House continues to be optimistic that a recession can be avoided without further interference from the federal government. Several prominent economists have been urging the government to get serious about using fiscal stimulus packages to prevent a recession from materializing, but the administration is taking more of a wait-and-see attitude. The Wall Street Journal leads its world-wide newsbox with President Bush criticizing Congress for its “wasteful spending” and warning that he would weigh options to see whether he can kill some of the thousands of pet projects, or earmarks, that were included in two spending bills.

The New York Timesleads with a look at how scientists at three medical centers will soon be starting their first patient tests of what could turn out to be a revolutionary approach to treating cancer patients. USA Todayleads with a data analysis that shows airline problems  are leading to longer flight delays than heavy traffic or bad weather. Although congestion led to more delays overall, those due to “airline-caused holdups” were longer. Some think this is because of the aggressive cost-cutting that most airlines have carried out over the past few years. The Los Angeles Timesleads with a look at the paper’s new ownership. Sam Zell, the “colorful billionaire,” is now the chairman and chief executive of the Tribune Co.

Administration officials are apparently looking into several options for a stimulus package, which could be announced in January, but it will all depend on what the economic indicators will reveal in the next month. So far, the administration prefers to focus on its limited plans to help the mortgage markets, although most economists think that they won’t be enough to have a broad effect on the economy. The Post notes the White House has much to lose here, because it could risk increasing the deficit unnecessarily if it acts too quickly or could suffer the consequences if it’s seen as doing nothing as the economy tanks.

Democrats found Bush’s consternation over “wasteful spending” laughable considering that Republicans increased spending for years when they controlled Congress. And the WP quotes an expert who says that after all is said and done, this year’s earmarks will probably cost about 25 percent less than in 2005, when they reached an all-time high. Still, if Bush is itching for a fight with lawmakers, there are several strategies at his disposal that he could deploy to, at the very least, ignore some of the earmarks. The Post points out that Ronald Reagan once tried to reduce the number of earmarks, but the effort never materialized.

At his end-of-the-year news conference, Bush refused to get sucked into the controversy surrounding the destruction of the CIA interrogation tapes. He said he didn’t find out about it until earlier this month and vowed not to discuss the issue because the investigations are ongoing. Meanwhile, the House intelligence committee issued a subpoena yesterday for the former head of the CIA’s clandestine service to testify about the destruction of the tapes.

Researchers will begin to directly attack cancerous stem cells, which some believe continue to feed the cancer and may be the reason why cancer cells never seem to die even after extensive chemotherapy and radiation. But not everyone believes the underlying theory behind the research, and some say it is “more akin to religion than to science,” says the NYT. But if it turns out to be real, “it could have almost immediate impact,” a cancer expert said.

In his first day as head of the Tribune Co., Zell criticized the conventional wisdom that says newspapers have nowhere to go but down. “I’m sick and tired of listening to everybody talk about and commiserate over the end of newspapers,” Zell said, while emphasizing that he “didn’t make this investment for any other reason than economic gain.” In an interview, Zell dismissed predictions that he would force massive layoffs. While he emphasized that he has no plans to sell the LAT or other major parts of the company (besides the Chicago Cubs) he did hint that “all assets are on the table” for the right price.

The LAT catches late-breaking news out of Pakistan, where a suicide bomber killed dozens this morning at the residential compound of Pakistan’s former interior minister, who is a candidate in next month’s parliamentary elections. Early-morning wire reports say at least 50 people died and more than 100 were injured. The attacker was apparently praying among hundreds of worshippers who were commemorating an important Muslim holiday.

The WP fronts a look at how Iraq’s top Shiite clerics are losing influence among the population as many blame them for throwing their weight behind a political alliance that so far has done little to improve the daily lives of ordinary Iraqis. Although the group of top clerics still holds a significant amount of power, there’s a “subtle backlash” going on that could hamper political reconciliation efforts and could hurt the political future of “America’s main Shiite ally.”

The LAT publishes a Page One mea culpa, noting that a federal affidavit that was released yesterday proved that a story the paper published more than a year ago contained bad information about which baseball players a former major league pitcher had accused of using steroids.

The NYT fronts a look at how the pregnancy of TV star Jamie Lynn Spears has brought the subject of teenage pregnancy roaring back into the minds of kids and teenagers. There are reports of uncomfortable conversations around dinner tables as parents are being forced to talk about sex with their preteen children. Teenagers expressed surprise because Jamie Lynn was supposed to be the “good one in the family” but were also critical of her mother for saying she was shocked by the news because her daughter had always respected her curfew. “When I heard that, I started laughing out loud,” a 17-year-old girl said. She then helpfully explained: “You can have sex during the middle of the day.”