USA Today and the Wall Street Journal world-wide newsbox both lead with White House spokesman Ari Fleischer's comments to reporters that the U.S. has a "solid basis" for contending that Iraq maintains biological, chemical, and nuclear weapons programs. The White House says it won't release its evidence until Iraq issues its weapons declaration, expected sometime this weekend. The Washington Post leads with Saddam Hussein's televised speech to government leaders, in which he said he would comply with inspector searches, to "keep our people out of harm's way." The New York Times goes with word that the White House is pressuring the U.N. inspection team to identify key Iraqi weapons scientists, so that the administration can trade asylum in exchange for information.
According to the NYT, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice met with Hans Blix in New York on Monday to discuss the issue. Blix is said to be arguing that the United Nations can't "abduct people against their will." The Pentagon and White House (not the State Department) disagree strongly with Blix, the NYT writes, arguing for what the paper calls "perhaps the most aggressive tactic in a decade of Iraq inspections."
The WP notes that Iraq's vice president yesterday accused U.N. monitors of being U.S. and Israeli spies. As for Saddam's speech, the paper says his rhetoric was meant to recast Saddam as tolerant and peace-minded. "Some might claim we didn't give them the proper chance to resist, with tangible evidence, the American allegations that Iraq produced weapons of mass destruction during the period of the inspectors' absence," he said.
The Los Angeles Times off-leads a look ahead to Iraq's weapons declaration this weekend, leading instead with a domestic issue—a potentially important federal appeals court decision—that everyone else buries. The San Francisco-based 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled yesterday that the Second Amendment does not give individuals the right to keep and bear arms. The 3-0 decision by the court upheld California's sweeping assault weapons ban in 1999. The paper quotes a legal scholar who suspects the judges were reacting to a ruling by a federal appeals court in New Orleans last year (later applauded by U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft) which came to the opposite conclusion about the Second Amendment. The Supreme Court hasn't ruled on what the Second Amendment says in more than 60 years, the LAT teases.
The NYT may have popped steroids back onto the media radar last Monday, but the WP carries the story on its front page today. The paper says that two new steroids—called "1-testosterone" and "4-hydroxy-testosterone"—are more potent and are sold over the counter and on the Internet as dietary supplements.
The NYT fronts a new method that Colombian cocaine traffickers are using to launder their drug money: life insurance policies. A federal grand jury indictment in Miami, the first of its kind, targets the Cali drug cartel for laundering more than $80 million through life insurance policies for nieces, nephews, and other relatives of traffickers. Though the story doesn't look into whether the insurance industry ignored the practice, the article notes that insurance companies may have reaped 25 percent or more in early policy cash-out penalties.
The LAT fronts news that Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez sent his army to protect the nation's petroleum facilities after Venezuela's oil workers went on strike to protest Chavez's presidency. The NYT writes that Chavez also sought to overthrow an oil tanker captain who was holding 280,000 barrels of oil hostage, but the LAT updates the situation as being resolved when the captain surrendered. The LAT fronts a second oil-related story on the country of Equatorial Guinea, third-largest oil producer in sub-Saharan Africa. The country's government has a history of brutal human rights abuse but is now on friendlier terms with the Bush administration.
The WSJ has a plethora of stories today spelling out the impact of United Airline's likely bankruptcy filing. The bankruptcy could mean that passengers will see fewer flights and frequent flyer perks. The paper predicts that UAL's competitors, such as American and Northwest, could pick up market share. The article recommends that UAL concentrate on its marketing message and then asks an obvious but fair question: Why does the Bush administration choose to bail out certain industries and not others? The obvious answer: lobbying and electoral politics.
The papers all front the death of Roone Arledge, the first president of ABC Sports and later president and chairman of ABC News. Arledge, who died from complications from cancer at age 71, is credited with popularizing sports in prime time, most especially with the pioneering Monday Night Football. Later, Arledge helmed ABC News and debuted 20/20 and Nightline.
The NYT details the White House's plan to equip President Bush's 2-year-old Scottish Terrier, Barney, with a "lipstick-sized camera" so the aspiring canine cineaste can document the mansion's Christmas decorations. The results will be streamed at whitehouse.gov, but as Jimmy Orr, director of White House Internet operations says, "We'll either let him go, or if he needs to be directed a bit, we'll get him a guide."