Today's Papers

Tape Delay

The New York Times leads with, and the Washington Post fronts, news that the Justice Department is discouraging Congress from investigating the CIA’s 2005 destruction of videotapes depicting harsh interrogations of terrorism suspects. Republicans and Democrats alike decry the lack of cooperation, but Justice officials say Congress needs to hold its horses until an internal investigation is complete. The WP leads with analysis of possible negative consequences of President Bush’s opposition to any tax or spending increases pushed by Congress. Popular programs and conservation incentives could go by the wayside, and the federal debt could shoot up by almost $240 billion. * The Los Angeles Times leads with word that an after-hours deal has been struck in United Nations climate talks after two weeks of negotiations in Bali. The deal sets the course for a global warming treaty that will succeed the Kyoto Protocol when it expires in 2012. The Wall Street Journal leads its worldwide newsbox with word that policymakers are struggling to figure out how to deal with the worsening housing and credit crisis. The WSJ also fronts a mention of the CIA tape debate and the climate negotiations, but it misses the late-breaking news that a deal had been reached in Bali.

The WP and the NYT report that the Justice Department said congressional probes into the destruction of the interrogation tapes threaten its own investigations, and Attorney General Michael Mukasey said the department would appear subject to political influence if it disclosed information on the tapes. The ranking Democrat and Republican on the House intelligence committee issued a joint statement saying they were stunned by Justice Department’s refusal to cooperate with their investigation. The WP frames the dispute as the first big congressional confrontation for Mukasey after he refused to call water-boarding “torture” during his confirmation hearings. The House intelligence committee had called two CIA officials to testify at hearings next week, but the NYT reports that the hearings will almost certainly be postponed.

The WP reports that President George W. Bush’s insistence on nearly $200 billion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, his refusal to allow any tax hikes to cross his desk, * and his opposition to increased spending will add $239 billion to the national deficit and lead to the demise of some programs he himself initially championed. One big source of revenue would have been a repeal of a tax break that three years ago allowed oil companies to be classified as manufacturers for export purposes. Bush opposed the incentives at the time, but now the White House says repealing them would amount to a huge tax increase on the industry. Bush was more amenable to discretionary-spending increases when Republicans controlled Congress for his first six years on the job, with spending growth averaging at 7 percent, but since Democrats took over in 2006, Bush has insisted on spending growth of no more than 4 percent. Funding for educational programs, conservation incentives, and aide to poor nations will be cut back.

The LAT fronts a story proclaiming that Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign has lost its “air of inevitability.” The article recounts how a series of attacks on Barack Obama have backfired, including a Clinton campaign news release that mocked Obama for writing an essay in kindergarten titled “I Want to Become President.” The dwindling leads in polls, thinning crowds, and staff gaffes amount to a “crisis” for Clinton’s bid.

The NYT fronts a look at the filthy water in China’s booming seafood industry. Chinese fish farmers feed their stocks illegal drugs to keep them alive in toxic water, and the doped-up feed makes the water more toxic. Human consumers wind up with carcinogenic seafood. China has by far the largest fish-farming industry in the world, though most of the suspect seafood stays in country.

Israeli blockades have turned the Gaza Strip into a “beggar state,” says a front page WP story. Fears of Hamas attacks have prompted Israel to tighten its cordon around the area. A U.N. relief worker tells the WP that 1.2 million Gazans rely on U.N. food aid to survive.

The WSJ fronts a story on the phenomenon of desperate cancer patients and their families trying out untested drug cocktails in hopes of finding a new cure. Doctors warn of adverse reactions, but researchers say untested drug combinations represent the “most promising approach for curing or curbing cancer.”

The WP fronts, above the fold, a photo of retired folks getting down with the Nintendo Wii. Inside the paper, the story recounts how the Wii has enlivened apartments in a suburban retirement community. Forgive TP for saying so, but TP hopes against hope that these “Granny Got Game” stories never get old.

The WSJ fronts a profile of an Argentinean named Julio de Rizio, better known as “Dr. Tangalanga,” who is famous throughout Latin America for his prodigious prank phone-calling. Dr. T entertained 700 guests at his 91st birthday last month by pranking a handyman, a comic book collector, and a convenience store. The WSJ provides English transcripts of two classic Tangalanga calls.

Correction, Dec. 17, 2007: This article originally stated that the federal debt would increase by $240 million and mistakenly referred to tax increases as tax cuts. (Return to the corrected sentences here and here.)