The Los Angeles Times leads with state budget sorrows nationwide. The upshot: Governors are in for it, big time. Both the New York Times and the Washington Post lead with North Korea stories. The Times reports on the Bush administration's plan to isolate the country, while the Post goes with the various tactics North Korea might employ in its diplomatic dance with the U.S.
The LAT lead provides a disheartening economic roundup, state by sorry state. The most interesting trend—and the story should've focused more on this—is a collective throwing-up-of-the-hands from prosecutors, who have decided, in some states, to stop prosecuting minor—and some not-so-minor—crimes. In Virginia, for example, misdemeanor domestic violence cases will go untried—unless the prosecutor can find a corporate sponsor. "We could have the Nike Domestic Violence Prosecutor," he says. (Is he joking?) In Kentucky, Gov. Paul Patton freed 567 "low-level felons"—drug dealers, burglars, and the like—in time for Christmas to save a few bucks.
Writing on the same topic—with his signature sobriety—NYT op-ed columnist Bob Herbert adds that Gov. Patton acknowledges that the felons will go on to commit more crimes, but he has to do what he has to do "to live within the revenue that we have."
In its lead, the NYT reports on the Bush administration's response to North Korea's plans to expel nuclear weapons inspectors and its reopening of a nuclear fuel reprocessing plant. The Bushites plan to isolate the country economically, with the help of the U.N. Security Council and North Korea's neighbors and trading partners: China, South Korea, and Japan. It's hoped that the pressure will persuade North Korea to abandon its "nuclear ambitions" or lead to a regime change.
The Post warns that North Korea possesses a "vast array of potential threats" that could be used to up the ante should the Bush plan be implemented. South Korea and Japan are the obvious military targets: There are 600 to 750 missiles pointed in their direction. The WP also refers to a "project about which the outside world knows little, though enough to cause alarm: building a facility that could produce enriched uranium for a nuclear weapon."
A WP news analysis deftly skewers the Bush administration's response to the dueling weapons-of-mass-destruction scenarios in North Korea and Iraq. "In the case of Baghdad, the United States is preparing to go to war with a country that has just readmitted a hundred or so United Nations weapons inspectors," the Post writes. "In the case of Pyongyang, the White House has said it has no intention of resorting to the military option, even though Pyongyang has just ordered the last three U.N. inspectors to leave."
The NYT off-leads a newly cooperative Saudi Arabia, which will allow the U.S. full use of its air bases, including a critical operations center outside Riyadh, in the event of war with Iraq. It's all being done on the hush-hush, however, with public statements from Saudi officials still sounding noncommittal. "Publicly, we'll never have the Saudis throw a parade and celebrate what they're doing for us, but in the end, they will be there," says a senior military official.
Under the headline "Coming Up Roses in a Downcast Year," the financial section of the NYT honors a dozen people who had wildly successful years in 2002. At the top of the list is David Neeleman, founder and CEO of JetBlue. "If the ultimate definition of a good year is to succeed mightily when all those around you failed miserably, Mr. Neeleman had a very good year indeed." Neeleman doubled his company's profits in the nine months ending on Sept. 30—some of the worst months in airline history. He's a father of nine, he never finished college, and he suffers from attention-deficit disorder. Some others on the list: Clive Davis, Michael Dell, and Eliot Spitzer.
The New York Times Magazine runs its annual "The Lives They Lived" issue: mini-remembrances of some who expired in '02. There are, as always, some interesting pairings: John Updike on Ted Williams, Daphne Merkin on Linda Lovelace, Randy Cohen (aka the Ethicist) on Ann Landers. And then there's a letter Jimmy (not yet Jimi) Hendrix wrote in 1965 to his dad (who died this year). "Dear Dad, I still have my guitar, and as long as I have that, no fool can keep me from living. ... I just wanted you to know I'm still here, trying to make it. Although I don't eat every day, everything's going to be all right with me. It could be worse than this, but I'm going to keep hustling and scuffling until I get things to happening like they're supposed to for me. ... Best luck and happiness in the future. Love, your son, Jimmy."