The Los Angeles Times, Wall Street Journal world-wide newsbox, and Washington Post lead with President Bush's formal unveiling of his proposal to grant temporary legal status to immigrants working in the U.S. illegally. The step would not move workers towards permanent residency. "This program expects temporary workers to return permanently to their home countries after their period of work in the United States," said Bush. The proposal is vague on details and doesn't state how many years workers will be able to stay. USA Today'slead emphasizes "political debate" about the plan, with critics describing it as election-year pandering that is either too generous (says the right) or not generous enough (says the left). Given that minefield, USAT wonders whether Bush will put much effort into passing the proposal. Yesterday's LAT noticed that the White House has "set no timetable for legislative action." The New York Times's lead says former Enron CFO Andrew Fastow has tentatively agreed to a plea bargain and will out other crooked Enron-affiliated execs in return for a reduced sentence. With the details still being worked out, the Times says Fastow is likely to get a sentence of "at least 10 years."
The WP and NYT both have immigrant-on-the-street pieces with the interviewees giving mixed reactions to the White House proposal. Some said they were thrilled while others said probably they won't register because they don't want authorities coming after them when their permits run out. Also, labor advocates complained about the fact that workers will have to pay an as yet undetermined registration fee and will have to be sponsored by employers.
Nobody fronts news that one GI was killed and 34 wounded after guerrillas fired mortar rounds at a base 50 miles northwest of Baghdad. Most of the papers also mention Iraq boss Paul Bremer's announcement that 500 of the 9,000 Iraqis being detained will be freed. The LAT, which covered the release yesterday, says in a follow-up that the U.S. is actually holding 13,000 prisoners, "most of whom have not been charged."
A story inside the NYT says that Iraq still has severe electricity and fuel shortages. Judging by the accompanying chart, power generation is at about 80 percent of its pre-war total.
The NYT says that one of the teams looking for banned weapons in Iraq is heading home. Said one official, "They picked up everything that was worth picking up." Which, of course, was nothing, says the Times.
The NYT mentions that Iraq's most influential cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, continued to complain about the U.S.'s plan to transfer power, saying the scheduled indirect elections will not "ensure in any way the fair representation of the Iraqi people." Al-Sistani's previous complaints have caused the U.S. to change its plans, though the U.S. has been sticking by this latest one.
The NYT fronts an IMF report warning that the U.S.'s ballooning budget and trade deficits pose "significant risks" to the world economy. In a few years, the amount of money owed by the U.S. to creditors abroad could be equal to 40 percent of the domestic economy, "an unprecedented level of external debt for a large industrial country," said the IMF. The Times says the IMF has rarely used such harsh words for its major funder.
The Journal notes that the IMF also warned that the debt could cause world-wide interest rates to rise by as much as one percentage point over the next decade. A Federal Reserve official made a similar prediction.
Alone among the papers, the WP fronts a study in Nature estimating that global warming will cause about 25 percent of the world's species to face extinction by 2050.
The WSJ notes that in the wake of the mad cow case, the cattle lobby has been opposing attempts to increase food-safety regulations, including working against a plan to require a national cow-tracking system. Apparently, they've had success in the past. They "really are in the driver's seat over at USDA," said one depressed consumer advocate. "If they oppose something, it doesn't move."
The Journal says that the Bush administration is proposing to loosen regulations on mountain-top removal mining. Under the current widely ignored law, miners are prohibited from doing mountain-top removal within 100 feet of a stream if it will degrade water quality. The new proposal says companies can do mountain-top removal so long as they protect water quality "to the extent practicable."
A piece inside yesterday's LAT had internal government documents detailing federal bureaucrats' complaints that the various changes the White House is considering to mountain-top removal rules "cannot be interpreted as ensuring any improved environmental protection," despite the administration's public claims the contrary.
A piece inside the WP flags an ongoing lobbyist conference in which participants have been invited to "Help Congress write its 'To-Do' list for next year." Sponsored mostly by energy companies, the summit features 15 Republican lawmakers as well as some administration officials, including Bush's top mining official (a former lobbyist). Among the choice events is a dinner cum golf excursion with legislators, dubbed "Mulligans and Margaritas."