USA Today and the Washington Post lead with the China/EP-3 morass state of play, which is also the top story in the Wall Street Journal front-page world-wide news box. The upshot is that although negotiations continue, a resolution isn't yet at hand. The New York Times goes with the looming battle over domestic program cuts in the Bush budget (due out today), going high with Dick Cheney's chat show comment yesterday that "the president is eager to veto appropriations that come in over budget." The Los Angeles Times lead says that even with a newly approved electricity rate price hike, California will not have the nation's most expensive electricity. In fact, Californians have been paying less than residents of Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Vermont, New York, Alaska, and Hawaii. One big reason (besides the till-now-frozen rates): Californians conserve, with the average Californian using 40 percent less than the average American. Every front features a picture of Tiger Woods winning the Masters (for the second time), making him the first golfer to hold all four major pro titles simultaneously.
The WP lead reports that President Bush completed a letter of sympathy to the wife of the missing Chinese pilot, which was sent to her last night. The paper also notes that while still refusing to apologize for the incident, Secretary of State Colin Powell yesterday used the word "sorry" for the first time in referring to the missing aviator. But overall, the coverage gives a picture of some digging in on both sides. USAT's lead says high that several congressional delegations have canceled trips to China and that Rep. Henry Hyde has described the U.S. aircrew still on Hainan island as "hostages." The story also takes note of the continuing hard line of China's military. The Post lead says high that both Cheney and Powell yesterday rejected China's continuing demands that the U.S. apologize, with both men warning that further delay in returning the crew could risk long-term damage to U.S.-China relations, with the Post passing along Powell's translucent threat that delay could adversely affect the upcoming Senate vote on China's trade status. The NYT stuffs its observations of the United States' "slightly stiffer tone" and fronts instead the zen angle of the crisis, saying that the solution might well lie in the U.S. ability to find a word "less apologetic than 'bao qian,' yet more heartfelt than 'yihan.' "
The NYT lead says that the Bush budget will feature cuts in corporate subsidies and in some housing, health, and social welfare programs, with the White House saying these are needed to slow their rate of growth, and critics saying they're needed to pay for the Bush tax cut. And, says the Times, lobbyists are already mobilizing. To-be-trimmed-or-cut programs featured in the story include federal loan guarantees for buyers of American-built commercial ships, doctor-training at children's hospitals, construction and repair of public housing, and financial support for the Export-Import bank. The story makes it clear that many of the threatened line items have important Republican supporters in Congress.
The papers go inside to report that President Bush has appointed an openly gay Republican, Scott Evertz, to head up the administration's AIDS policy shop. The WP says he'll be the first gay person to hold the job. The NYT says that according to "members of gay groups" this is "the first time an openly gay man or a lesbian had been chosen for appointment by any Republican administration." The Times finds the White House less interested in this aspect of the appointment than it is, noting that officials there "refused to discuss Mr. Evertz's sexuality or its significance in either politics or policy, saying that Mr. Bush did not take such concerns into account when making appointments."
The WP reports that the doctor who pioneered the concept of "aerobics," Kenneth Cooper, is in discussions with the Bush administration about maybe becoming the next surgeon general. The paper says he's endorsing federal tax breaks to encourage more healthful behavior. For instance, keep your body mass index under 25, and you get a $250 deduction, ditto for blood pressure under 140 over 90, for keeping your chlolesterol under 200, and for not smoking. (Oh great--now lying about your weight's gonna be tax fraud.)