The New York Times and Los Angeles Times lead with word that a House-Senate conference committee announced yesterday that they had agreed on a bill to revise bankruptcy law, making it harder for people to erase their debts in bankruptcy court. USA Today leads with "a surprise vote" by the House to create an independent panel to investigate 9/11-related intel failures. The White House opposes an independent inquiry, and yesterday reiterated that it would be "duplicative." The bill passed by 218 to 189, with 25 Republicans opposing the prez, many of them from New York. USAT says that supporters of the inquiry are now hustling to get the Senate to pass a similar bill. The Wall Street Journal tops its world-wide newsbox with news that a Senate committee, headed by Democratic Sen. Joseph Lieberman, rejected President Bush's position that employees of the Department of Homeland Security should have limited workplace rights and protections. Bush threatened to veto the bill to create the department unless it includes such limitations. The Washington Post leads with late-breaking word that Senate and House negotiators have reached a deal on legislation to give President Bush wide-ranging authority to negotiate trade bills. Under the new law, Congress can only approve or reject a trade deal; it won't be able to tinker with it. The bill also includes Democratic-sponsored provisions to provide compensation and health care for workers who lose their jobs because of trade deals.
The LAT's coverage of the bankruptcy bill emphasizes that it had been held up for about a year over a provision that will make it harder for abortion protestors to use bankruptcy laws to avoid paying fines imposed on them for blocking access to abortion clinics. The final wording wasn't released, but the paper says that the essentials of the provision made it into the bill.
The NYT's coverage of the bill, meanwhile, goes heavier on the business angle and makes its position clear. It calls the legislation, "a clear victory for the interests of corporate America over consumers." The Times also points out that the one of the "biggest beneficiaries" of the bill will be a credit card company named MBNA, which, the paper says, was by one measure "the largest corporate contributor to President Bush's 2000 campaign."
In the course of noting credit card companies' complaints that debtors have become too quick to seek bankruptcy protection, both the LAT and NYT say that there were a record 1.4 million bankruptcies last year. The left coast Times adds another bit of useful info: In 1985, there were just 298,000 bankruptcy filings.
Everybody goes high with word that alleged terroristZacarias Moussaoui tried to plead guilty to all the charges against him but then quickly changed his mind when the judge told him that pleading guilty would mean admitting that he conspired in the Sept. 11 attacks. Moussaoui has acknowledged that he's loyal to al-Qaida, but insists he had nothing to do with 9/11.
Though none of the papers explain it as such, Moussaoui's switcharoo may have been at least partly been because he was—like some of the press has been—confused by the government's ambiguous charges against him. Those charges, such as conspiracy to commit terror acts, don't specifically connect Moussaoui to the Sept. 11 attacks. Yet, as the judge told Moussaoui, the attacks are the basis for the charges.
The NYT fronts a scoop: A Senate ethics panel, which has been debating whether Sen. Robert Torricelli improperly accepted gifts from a contributor, has been given actual receipts of the gifts. Ethics rules in the Senate bar members from accepting gifts worth more than $50, and Torricelli denies he broke any rules. But investigators have receipts for a $1,877.90 projection television as well as a $3,816 grandfather clock, both paid for by a contributor and sent to Torricelli's home. The Times, which crows that it has copies of the receipts, also mentions that it has notes from a government meeting during which Torricelli lobbied on behalf of the contributor.
The NYT goes inside with word that a study currently underway by a U.S. government aid agency has found that about a quarter of Palestinian children are suffering from malnutrition. That compares to seven percent two years ago. (The Times points out that a Palestinian organization has posted some of the findings from the U.S. agency's initial assessment. Here's a link to the organization's "About Us" page.)
Everybody notes that Palestinians shot and killed an Israeli rabbi in the West Bank, apparently in retaliation for the Israeli bombing earlier this week in Gaza that killed 15, including a leading militant. Meanwhile, early this morning a small number of Israeli troops and tanks conducted a raid in Gaza.
The LAT and NYT front, and the others go inside with, news that nine miners in Pennsylvania are trapped 240 feet below-ground after they mistakenly cut through to an abandoned mine that was filled with water. Emergency workers are drilling a rescue shaft, but it's not expected to be done until this afternoon.
The papers all go high with news that the director of admissions at Princeton repeatedly snuck into a Web site designed to let applicants to Yale know if they had been accepted to the school. The director acknowledged that he logged on to the system by using the birth dates and Social Security numbers of students who had applied to both schools. He also insisted he didn't mean any harm, "It was really an innocent way for us to check out the security." Everybody give props to the Yale Daily News for breaking the story.
Today's USAT has a particularly meaty graphic doodad: The chart maps the amount of money senators have received in the past six years from the nuclear industry and divides it up by party as well by those who voted in favor of creating a national nuke repository in Nevada versus those that voted against it. The numbers: On average, Democrats who voted aye got $35,900. Those who voted against it averaged $18,345. As for Republicans: Those who supported the bill have, on average, snagged $50,585. Those who opposed it got $11,116.