The New York Times and the Washington Post lead with a $550 billion, 10-year tax cut passed by the House. Businesses and wealthy tax payers are the main beneficiaries. The bill differs significantly from the Senate version, which will go for a full vote next week. The Los Angeles Times fronts the tax cut but finds its lead over in the Senate, where the Armed Services Committee approved a bill which would end a 10-year ban on nuclear research.
The House's tax cut is made up largely of reductions in capital gains and dividend taxes, which, as the NYT reminds us, are "paid mostly by the wealthiest Americans." The vote was 222-203, mostly along party lines: Republicans relatively happy, Dems outraged. "The key here is the context by which people are looking at the tax cuts," says a GOP pollster in the LAT. "Democrats want to frame it in the context of the deficit. Republicans want to frame it in the context of jobs." Next comes the rumble in committee with the Senate. An unnamed GOP aide says in the WP that House Republicans will "sink the tax bill entirely" if the Senate refuses to go above its promised $350 billion ceiling.
Nukes get a shot in the arm in the new defense authorization bill, according to the LAT lead. Under the bill, the 10-year research ban would be abolished and funding would be increased, paving the way for a new generation of smaller, battlefield-friendlier bombs. Among them: the hydrogen "bunker buster," capable of crushing targets 300 meters below ground with an explosive force of up to a megaton, six times more powerful than the bomb dropped on Hiroshima. The LAT reports that the mayor of Hiroshima wrote to Bush last month protesting the weapon, calling it a "frontal attack on the process of nuclear disarmament."
The NYT fronts the disarming of the Mujahadeen Khalq, an Iranian opposition group that operated in Iraq with the support of Saddam Hussein's government before the war. The disarming is a revision of the April 15 cease-fire agreement that allowed the group to keep their weapons and defend themselves against Iranian agents if necessary. Now they will be moved to safe areas and protected by the U.S. military. At issue for Bush was the group's status: terrorist organization, or no? He decided yes, though the Times reports that the group has "dozens of supporters on Capitol Hill" who believe that the terrorist designation, made by the Clinton administration in 1997, was merely a political gesture to Iran.
Both the WP and the LAT front Bush's first commencement address of the season, at the University of South Carolina. He told the Gamecocks that he'll establish a free-trade zone in the Middle East and help "modernize the region's justice, education and political systems and promote concrete steps toward equality for women," as the Post puts it. He'll also spend more time on the Israeli-Palestinian issue. "The way forward depends on serving the interests of the living, instead of settling the accounts of the past," he said. He received an honorary doctorate of laws for his trouble.
The NYT's Arts & Ideas section has a story on the U.S. Holocaust Museum in Washington and one of its more unusual educational programs: the training of police officers. Recruits from in and around D.C. tour the museum—"a history lesson that stunned many recruits to sobered silence"—and attend lectures and seminars. Their mandate, a speaker from the Anti-Defamation League tells them, does not differ all that much from that of the local police in the Third Reich. The similarities include "having knowledge of their communities, investigating suspicious behavior, marshaling power and responsibility, making good use of their training and experience, instilling trust in the public and ensuring the continuity of an orderly society."
An NYT editorial focuses on the Holocaust Museum's new exhibit, "Fighting the Fires of Hate," about the book-burnings of May 10, 1933, "a cultural atrocity that presaged the human atrocities that soon followed." The piece reads like promotional copy for the museum. "The sight of those fires of 70 years ago and those faces livid with conviction should remind us that censorship, even when no books are being torched, is in its very nature a violence against the essential freedoms of thought and expression."
Finally, while most of China's economy has been decimated by SARS, the pharmacies there remain flush, according to a NYT fronter. "When we get a new product, we run out in a day, because people are crazy the way they are buying," says the cashier at the White Pagoda Pharmacy in Beijing. "But you know—they know—there is no treatment for SARS." The Times reporter describes "a macabre world of potions, creams, disinfectants, shots, gloves, masks and more, many of dubious utility. ... Indeed, the SARS outbreak in Beijing has created a medical marketing dream: 14 million worried but healthy people."