Roads Rule

Roads Rule

Roads Rule

A summary of what's in the major U.S. newspapers.
July 13 2004 4:30 AM

Roads Rule

The Washington Postleads with the Bush administration's just-announced plans to overturn Clinton-era rules that had placed 60 million acres of national forest off-limits to roads and logging. Under the proposed changes, governors would have to appeal to the federal government if they want to designate land road-free. The Clinton-era rules had been challenged in the courts with mixed results. The Los Angeles Timesleads with President Bush's forceful defense of the invasion of Iraq and his policy of pre-emption. "Today, because America has acted and because America has led, the forces of terror and tyranny have suffered defeat after defeat, and America and the world are safer," said the president. The Wall Street Journal highlights Bush's admission of "shortcomings" in prewar intelligence. USA Today's lead says the search for an AIDS vaccine has hit a wall. The most promising formula has proven to be a dud, and most of the other ones in development are similar to it. Part of the problem may be a lack of funding, says the paper, since most AIDS research is focused on developing treatments, which tend to be more profitable than vaccines. The New York Timesleads with brokerage firm Morgan Stanley agreeing to a $54 million settlement in a sexual discrimination suit brought on by the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, one of the largest settlements in the agency's history.

The LAT and Post both characterize the proposed road rules, essentially, as an evisceration of the Clinton-era changes. The NYT stays away from making that judgment, saying up high that the new rules actually allow "governors to seek greater—or fewer—strictures on road construction in forests." But the Post adds some evidence to its side, noting that while a governor can petition one way or the other, the default baseline will be "less stringent than Clinton's roadless rule."

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Counting up his successes, Bush pointed to Libya's decision to disarm. Only the Post does a bit of unfettered fact-checking, saying there are "substantial differences of opinion" over what prompted Libya's decision: "Many specialists say the decision grew out of diplomacy with the United States and Britain that began during the 1990s when Bill Clinton was president."

The president also said, "We removed a declared enemy of America who had the capability of producing weapons of mass murder and could have passed that capability to terrorists bent on acquiring them. In the world after September the 11th, that was a risk we could not afford to take." Most of the papers ignore the implied linkage. Not Knight-Ridder. Noting that spokesman Scott McClellan backed up Bush's suggestions—"We know there were ties between Iraq and terrorists, including al-Qaida," he said—the chain headlines: "BUSH AGAIN TRIES TO LINK SADDAM, AL-QAIDA."

An impressively lengthy Page One piece in the Post details how GE has successfully lobbied to turn a corporate tax bill to its advantage and in the process pushed tax breaks for companies that work abroad. The bill, which was originally intended to repeal a $5 billion per year exports subsidy that the World Trade Organization had ruled illegal, has roughly tripled in size, with GE getting most of that. The conglomerate has the largest lobbying effort in D.C., and as one Republican staffer put it, "They're very smart people." 

Most of the papers front new guidelines for much lower cholesterol levels than previously advised. Those at high risk should get their "bad cholesterol" count to 70 or below. 

A piece inside the NYT peeks into some of the blacked-out portions of the Senate intelligence committee report on Iraq and finds mention of another defector who Secretary of State Powell relied on for his U.N. speech, even though an analyst warned the guy's allegations were iffy. The Times says the CIA blacked out the pages about the defector because British intelligence still uses him.

A front-page piece in the Post notices that the federal court system has been "plunged into turmoil" following a recent Supreme Court decision that undercuts sentencing guidelines. For the past two decades, judges—and not juries—have been instructed to increase a defendant's sentence based on aggravating factors. The court only explicitly overturned that practice in Washington state. But federal courts use the same system, and judges there aren't sure what to do. Writing in Slate yesterday, Gerald Shargel highlighted the mayhem—and celebrated the justices' decision.

The NYT's Jeffrey Gettleman traveled to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's hometown in Jordan and talked with the some of the neighbors and some of his former jail mates. They paint a picture of a thug, but not a terrorist mastermind. "When we would write bad things about him in our prison magazine, he would attack us with his fists," said one man. "That's all he could do. He's not like bin Laden with ideas and vision. He had no vision." In 1993, Jordanian police found a stash of assault rifles and bombs hidden in his house. Zarqawi insisted he found them while strolling on the street. "He never struck me as intelligent," said his lawyer.

Eric Umansky, previously the "Today's Papers" columnist for Slate, is currently a Gordon Grey Fellow at Columbia University's School of Journalism.