The Los Angeles Timesleads with a report that the "beleaguered" Board of Immigration Appeals, which is "often the last stop for people fighting deportation," has been forced to decide many of its cases in just minutes thanks to changes pushed by Atty. Gen. John Ashcroft. The result has been an alarming increase in the number of foreigners being kicked out of the country. The Washington Postleads with a piece on escalating malpractice insurance premiums that are forcing some doctors to curtail services and move their practices to states with lower insurance rates. According to the New York Times lead, health departments across the country are having to cut back some services, like cancer and tuberculosis screenings, in order to comply with President Bush's federal smallpox vaccination program. "We need more resources," pleads one state health official.
According to the LAT lead, Ashcroft has ordered the Board of Immigration Appeals to clear its 56,000-case backlog by the end of March. To meet this rushed deadline, the board's 23 members are each individually issuing two-line decisions after mere minutes of deliberation on cases that normally would be weighed by a three-person panel. The results are staggering: In the last year, the rate at which appeals are rejected has risen from 59 percent to 86 percent. One Thai seamstress, who had once been a slave, was ordered to be deported because she missed a court appearance. Even when the appeals board found out that the court had sent her summons to the wrong address, it still rejected her appeal and upheld her deportation.
The WP lead says that doctors are blaming this year's double-digit rise in their insurance rates on massive jury awards in malpractice cases; plaintiffs' lawyers maintain that insurance companies are bumping up rates to cover losses in the stock market. The article predicts "an intense battle" between the two camps over the next few months as legislators take up tort reform in Washington and the state capitals.
The WP off-lead says the slumping economy is forcing many companies to radically alter their business models. McDonald's is rethinking its dollar menu, airlines are slowly abandoning the "hub and spoke" system, and auto manufacturers are looking at ways to cut out dealerships as middlemen and sell directly to customers.
A WP front-pager bids what some will see as an unduly equitable farewell to senatorial geriatrics Strom Thurmond, R-N.C., and Jesse Helms, R-S.C., under the headline "AN AGE ENDS AS TWO LEGENDS EXIT." Though the article hardly glosses over the senators' racist pasts, it certainly doesn't decry them as the bigoted villains they were so often made out to be on the Post's editorial page. Instead, they're hailed as "looming figures"; Thurmond was a "trailblazer," and Helms was "stubborn, canny, and fearless." Their combined legacy—"arguably the single most important fact of modern political history"—was helping to transform the South from a Democratic stronghold into solidly Republican country. Several years ago, Slate's David Plotz scoffed at the rehabilitation of Sens. Thurmond and Helms as "Washington politesse of the worst sort, a twisted Inside-the-Beltway version of ancestor worship."
The LAT off-leads a piece about Abdul Qadeer Khan, the Pakistani nuclear scientist responsible for building his country's A-bomb. The LAT headline dubs him the "EVIL BEHIND THE AXIS" for having apparently also lent his services to North Korea and Iran, and for allegedly having sent a letter to Saddam Hussein offering to "manufacture a nuclear weapon" for him, too. The big question is whether he was acting alone or on behalf of the Pakistani government, which has repeatedly denied spreading its nuclear know-how.
The WP fronts an article on how the Israelis have bolstered their defenses against an Iraqi Scud missile attack. With American help, they've built a $2 billion short-range missile-defense system called the Arrow-2, which is supposed to be much more effective than the United States' Patriot batteries. They've also trained disaster-preparedness teams, installed a new early warning radar system, and improved their ability to strike back by arming three submarines with cruise missiles capable of delivering nuclear warheads.
The NYT does some entrepreneurial journalism in its off-lead, tracking down the anonymous jurors who, in 2001, convicted four men of conspiring with Osama Bin Laden in the 1998 East African embassy bombings. The NYT tries to figure out how the jury arrived at its 9-3 vote to spare the lives of the two defendants who faced the death penalty. The article offers three revelations: First, that two of the jurors improperly consulted clergy during the process of deliberation (though both ended up voting for the death penalty); second, that one of the jurors was apparently categorically opposed to the death penalty and may have misled prosecutors during the voir dire; and third, that another juror who voted against the death penalty claimed to have done so because he feared retaliation by Islamic terrorists.
The WP fronts, and the LAT stuffs, outgoing House Democratic leader Richard Gephardt's, D-Mo., announcement that, as expected, he'll be joining the growing field of Democratic presidential candidates. Inexplicably, the NYT doesn't give Gephardt's announcement a drop of coverage in today's paper. All he gets is a pair of sentences in yesterday's NYT predicting that he would form an exploratory committee sometime over the weekend.
An article fronted by the NYT says media execs are finally wising up to the fact that piracy can't be fought through the courts alone. Hollywood has begun adding all sorts of digital protections to prevent you from illegally copying music and videos. Even though everyone expects hackers to figure out a way around these new digital locks, the hope is that they'll at least serve as "speed bumps" to deter the rest of us, since committing piracy will no longer be as easy as simply logging on to KaZaA.