The New York Times and Los Angeles Times lead with the first Bush administration budget, which is also the top national story at the Washington Post and the first story in the Wall Street Journal's front-page worldwide news box. USA Today fronts the new budget but goes instead with the China/plane story, emphasizing a poll it took in which 55 percent of respondents said they consider the U.S. aircrew to be "hostages" and 54 percent said the U.S. should not apologize to China.
Everybody has President Bush saying his budget "represents compassionate conservatism." Although the coverage reports that the proposed budget cuts or reduces some cherished Democratic programs, both the NYT and WP also note that the language of the proposal reflects little of the zeal for containing the federal government evoked by Republicans from Reagan to Gingrich. Yet both papers do detect conservative fingerprints, with the Times adverting to a preference for tax credits and incentives over direct spending and the Post seeing more spending latitude being ceded to states and more user fees.
The NYT headline emphasizes the increase in federal educational funds. (But the paper's lead editorial calls the budget "distorted.") The WP headline refers to "MODEST CUTS," and the LAT's big print sees an "ARRAY OF CUTS." The coverage notes that the proposed budget contains 4 percent more in discretionary spending than this year's, compared, explains the NYT, with annual average increases of 6.2 percent over the past three years. The LAT flatly states that missing from the document is how much Bush will put into modernizing defense. The WP warns that the budget is but a "prelude to a more pronounced revamping of government" in the next few years.
Everybody notes that the budget is molded around Bush's $1.6 trillion/10 year tax cut, which the Senate has already pared down. Accordingly, the WP has the Senate's top Democrat calling the budget "dead before arrival."
The fronts say negotiations are continuing between Chinese and American officials over the return of the EP-3 crew. The consensus is that there hasn't been much movement, although the LAT fronter sees "signs of progress" in U.S. officials' continued visits with the crew, and that they are now getting some time with them without the presence of any Chinese reps. But an inside effort at the NYT is alone in reporting (citing unnamed U.S. officials) that the crew has been "subject to intense questioning by the Chinese, not only about the collision, but also about other aspects of their duties and operations ..." The story also reports that the crew and the U.S. officials remain circumspect in their conversations, on the assumption "that they are being monitored." This reflects what interrogation professionals know: that the "soft sell" usually yields much more information than the "hard sell." Here, then, is another reason why the Chinese would want to slow things down.
The WP fronts the second part of its series on "Modern Meat," which, like yesterday's effort about the holes in the government's inspection safety net, is sure to produce vegetarians en masse. Today's focus: Increased production rates at meatpacking plants mean that often steers are not dead or even unconscious while beef is being cut off their bodies.
The LAT is alone in fronting a result achieved by UCLA and University of Pittsburgh researchers: isolating stem cells, not from embryonic tissue but from ordinary body fat, and converting them into bone, cartilage, and muscle. (A similar but more limited result has also been achieved at Duke, the paper adds.) The fat stem cells have so many applications, says the lead researcher, that the finding "could take the air right out of the debate about embryonic stem cells."
The WP fronts the opinion of the majority owner of the Washington Wizards that Michael Jordan--now a team executive--will play in the NBA next season. This is, notes the paper, something that Jordan has repeatedly denied. The rumors are being fueled by Jordan's recent participation in team workouts, which he explains as merely an attempt to lose some weight.
The WP and NYT go inside with updates on Russian TV journalists' fight against the takeover of their network, NTV, by a state-controlled company. The WP emphasizes defections from the journalists' ranks and Russian President Vladimir Putin's criticism of remaining protesters as not understanding the market economy. Both the Post and the Times have Putin comparing the takeover of the network to GE's purchase of NBC. But only the Times has his reference to the Sultan of Brunei's polygamy as another example of something "not very understandable for a European eye and ear."