Bowled Over

A summary of what's in the major U.S. newspapers.
Jan. 4 2003 4:43 AM

Bowled Over

The Los Angeles Times leads with the rousing speech given by President Bush to the soldiers at Fort Hood in Texas. The remarks, which sounded a lot like rallying the troops for war, are also the top non-local story at the Washington Post. Stuffing Fort Hood, the New York Times leads instead with a catch-up preview of the Bush tax plan.

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"Should Saddam Hussein seal his fate by refusing to disarm, by ignoring the opinion of the world, you will be fighting not to conquer anybody, but to liberate people," Bush declared. The WP sees the remarks as a sign of the "war footing taking hold throughout the administration." It predicts that Bush may announce his decision to go to war on Jan. 28, the day of his State of the Union address and the day after Iraqi weapons inspectors are set to report to the U.N.

Yesterday, the LAT reported that Bush's stimulus package would come in at $600 billion, while the NYT and WP stood by previous estimates of a $300 billion package. Today, everyone seems to agree that the Bush plan will cost $600 billion and include aid to the states, an extension of unemployment benefits, and a big slash in the stock dividend tax.

Like the NYT lead, the LAT gives heavy ink to critics of the package. The Brookings Institution claims that two-thirds of the benefits will go to the richest five percent of Americans, and even some longtime opponents of stock dividend taxes acknowledge that their repeal will not encourage stimulus-type spending.

An unnamed administration official tells the NYT that these criticisms miss the point: The tax plan is more a work of structural reform than a classic stimulus package, and the main relief will come from accelerating cuts already in line to take effect.

The NYT fronts a report on so-called "DNA dragnets," the paper's term for the new law-enforcement tack of administering door-to-door DNA tests as part of major criminal investigations. In some places around the country—New York City, for example—a database is kept with the DNA of every tested suspect in a major crime. The records have drawn criticism, the piece says, "for the very reason that police find them attractive: they offer the most incontrovertible proof of identity."

The WP runs a front-page story on "what may be China's most dynamic capitalist enterprise—a flourishing trade in sex." Over ten million people take part in the sex trade, local governments tax it, and it creates jobs for women with otherwise bleak earning prospects. The sex industry is also a big factor contributing to China's AIDS problem, particularly since the Chinese government's nod-and-wink approach to prostitution precludes government programs to encourage safe sex.

The NYT fronts word that two Venezuelans were killed yesterday, the latest casualties in an escalating confrontation between opponents and supporters of President Hugo Chávez. It has been 33 days since the onset of a national strike that sent the country into turmoil.

Everyone reports that Rick Santorum, in line to be chairman of the Senate Rules Committee, has decided to give Trent Lott the job instead. Despite headlining its story ("LOTT WILL GET CHAIRMANSHIP THROUGH DEAL"), the NYT does not claim that a quid pro quo led Lott to step aside quietly. In fact, a source tells the WP this is basically an act of compassion from Santorum, who will continue to head up the Republican Conference, the No. 3 position in the GOP.

According to the NYT, Henry Blodget is about to become the second high-profile analyst to be sued for fraud by the NASD. (Jack Grubman was the first.) Unlucky investors might remember Blodget as the guy who predicted shares of Amazon would hit $400, shortly before the stock spiked and plummeted. Blodget's legal troubles began when e-mails flaunting his relationship with investment bankers at Merrill were made public last April.

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