The Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, USA Today, and Wall Street Journal biz-box all lead with a federal panel's rejection of United Airlines' request for $1.8 billion in loan guarantees. The decision means that United, the world's second-largest airline, will almost certainly have to file for bankruptcy. The panel said that United's problems were of its own making and that execs still didn't have a workable business plan. If and when United does file for Chapter 11, it will probably be able to keep most of its planes flying. The New York Times leads with a scoop: The Manhattan district attorney's office plans to ask a judge to overturn the convictions of five men in the notorious 1989 Central Park jogger rape case. The five men, teenagers at the time of the assault, had been convicted on the basis of their own confessions. But early this year another man came forward and said he was guilty of the crime. DNA evidence only connects this last guy to the scene.
Everybody mentions that Iraqi officials said yesterday that they don't have chemical or biological weapons and will report as much in the U.N.-required declaration this weekend. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld said earlier this week, "The United States knows that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction." Still, most of the papers suggest that the administration won't head to war over the declaration. Meanwhile, the papers point out that the White House is pushing chief inspector Hans Blix to start taking Iraqi scientists out of the country, where there's a higher chance they'll spill the beans.
The NYT says up high that the Pentagon is getting close to announcing a call-up of as many as 10,000 National Guard and Reserve troops. If and when war with Iraq becomes (really) imminent, the Pentagon will call up about 200,000 reserve troops.
The WP and LAT both front a federal judge's decision to allow alleged al-Qaida groupie Jose Padilla access to a lawyer. At the same time, the judge ruled that so long as AQ is a threat, the president can classify U.S. citizens as unlawful enemy combatants and hold them without trial. By the way: The Post has had the best, most comprehensive, coverage of the civil liberties angle of the war on al-Qaida.
A front-page piece in the NYT notes that a financial panel of the Archdiocese of Boston voted to allow the church to file for bankruptcy. The vote wasn't binding, and the archdiocese still needs to get a thumbs-up from the Vatican. Heading to bankruptcy court would allow the church to take all the sexual abuse lawsuits against it and settle them as a group. (Here's Slatearticle that explains what happens when a church goes belly up.)
The LAT and NYT both front word that scientists have completed a draft of the mouse genome. It turns out, they're a lot like us: Of a mouse's 30,000 genes, less than 300 have no similarities to human genes. That means mice make great lab rats.
The NYT and LAT notice that during Secretary of State Colin Powell's stopover in Colombia yesterday, he promised the country increased military aid. Though the papers are fuzzy on this, Powell doesn't appear to have given a specific number.
A front-page piece in the Post announces (at least in early editions), "SMALLPOX VACCINE REACTIONS JOLT EXPERTS." The vaccine, it turns out is tough stuff—it can put you bedside for a day or two and make your arm really itchy. But, as the article itself mentions, smallpox vaccine has always been like that, so contrary to the story's headline, experts aren't really surprised.
Everybody mentions inside a new Pew study concluding that the U.S.'s popularity has taken a hit in the past two years. The study, which surveyed 38,000 people total in 42 countries, found that the U.S.'s favorability ratings (yes, they really call it that) took its biggest dive in the Mideast. Still, a majority of respondents in 35 countries said they still have a favorable view of America. The papers also point out that some governments forced the polltakers to omit some questions. Then there was Saudi Arabia, where according to the survey's director, "you have to get permission to do a poll, and we didn't get permission."
Meanwhile, according to the Journal, Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Abdullah has decided to institute some serious reform: Members of the royal family will no longer be encouraged to spend extravagant amounts of money on weddings. (In one case, a prince imported Italian furniture for his fiesta. When the party was over, he had the stuff burned.) Instead, the Crown Prince has financed the construction of a large, royal-family-only, banquet hall where members can, for free, conduct slimmed-down ceremonies.