The Washington Post leads with news that "congressional leaders are strongly considering" giving the new Department of Homeland Security authority over "parts of the CIA and the FBI." The paper says that the idea, which is being tossed around by both Republicans and Democrats, "would be certain to meet strong resistance" from both agencies. The New York Times leads with word that the Senate rejected a Republican-led effort to permanently repeal the estate tax (aka "the death tax"). Republicans promised to turn the defeat into a campaign issue this fall. The Wall Street Journal tops its world-wide newsbox with the results of a wide-ranging Journal/NBC poll concluding, among things, that 42 percent of respondents said they believe that the Bush administration "has withheld information on terrorism that it should have made public." The Los Angeles Times leads with a local story that could have national implications: A federal district court ruled yesterday that Latinos have become such a significant group in California that they no longer need the special protection afforded by parts of the federal Voting Rights Act. The paper says that the case may end up going to the U.S. Supreme Court. USA Today leads with comments by Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld, who's visiting India, that he's "seen indications" that al-Qaida is operating in Kashmir.
The ninth paragraph of USAT's lead mentions, "A U.S. official in Islamabad said there is no solid evidence to support Rumsfeld's comments."
The Journal's article on the paper's poll notes that though the general confidence in institutions seems to be declining, that "hasn't significantly affected President Bush, who sustains a robust 69 percent approval rating." (According to the poll results page, Bush's approval rating was at 75 percent last month. Also in the last month, his "disapproval" rating has gone from 18 to 23 percent.)
Everybody notes that a U.S. military transport plane crashed during takeoff yesterday in Afghanistan, killing three soldiers. The Pentagon said that the plane, a MC-130 designed to ferry special ops troops, was not hit by enemy fire.
The LAT reports that U.S. officials said that an alleged al-Qaida operative—who apparently fired a portable surface-to-air missile at a U.S. military plane in Saudi Arabia last month—has been captured in the Sudan. The article says it's not clear who's holding the guy: "He is no longer believed to be in Sudanese custody, but he has not been turned over to U.S. authorities, officials said." (It would have been useful if the LAT had said which model the missile was, since the U.S. supplied one type to Afghan guerrillas in the 1980s.)
The same LAT story, which is filled with good tid-bits, notes that French authorities say they've arrested five men who they believe are somehow tied to alleged shoe-bomber Richard Reid.
The NYT off-leads word that Pakistani authorities say they've arrested "several" Americans who are linked to al-Qaida. One of them "is believed by Pakistani officials to be an associate of Jose Padilla." Tuesday's USAT had the scoop on this stuff.
Everybody goes high with comments by Secretary of State Colin Powell that the administration is considering pushing for the creation of an "interim" and "provisional" Palestinian state, the exact borders of which wouldn't be finalized until later. The papers note that the White House distanced itself from Powell's ponderings. Said spokesman Ari Fleischer, "The secretary, from time to time, will reflect on the advice that he gets and do so publicly, which is his prerogative, of course. If the president has anything further to indicate, he will."
(TP would love to see a story examining the concept of an "interim state." For example, what's the historical precedent?)
The papers all report that the jurors deliberating in the criminal trial of accounting firm Arthur Andersen told a judge they were deadlocked. The judge told them to suck it up and keep deliberating.
Everybody notes that the former CEO of the bio-tech firm ImClone was arrested yesterday and charged with insider trading. As the papers point out, this is the second time in a week that a corporate head honcho has been faced with time in the slammer.
Everybody notes that the Los Angeles Lakers became NBA champions again yesterday after they beat the New Jersey Nets 113-107 to complete a four-game sweep of the finals. It is the Lakers' third straight championship. (Full disclosure: Today's Papers was psyched.)
USAT's Life section notes that ABC has rescinded an offer to have singer Toby Keith perform his hit song on a July 4th TV special after the show's host, ABC News anchor Peter Jennings, heard the tune and objected. Here are some lyrics from the ditty, entitled Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue (The Angry American):
This big dog will fight/ When you rattle his cage/ And you'll be sorry that you messed with/ The U.S. of A./ 'Cause we'll put a boot in your ass/ It's the American way
"I find it interesting that he's not from the U.S.," Keith says of Jennings, who is Canadian. "I bet Dan Rather'd let me do it on his special."