Last Rights

Last Rights

Last Rights

A summary of what's in the major U.S. newspapers.
March 19 2005 5:51 AM

Last Rights

The New York Times and the Los Angeles Times lead with word that despite legal efforts by congressional leaders to stop the process, a judge ruled that doctors could remove the feeding tube sustaining Terri Schiavo, the brain-damaged patient at the center of a right-to-die case. The Washington Post leads with an assessment of the heavy toll the war in Iraq is taking on U.S. military resources.

Everyone fronts news about (and photographs of) what an NYT video calls "the most extensively litigated right-to-die case in the history of America." Terri Schiavo has lived in a persistent vegetative state since 1990, and her husband has been lobbying for the right to withdraw her feeding tube in accordance with what he says were her wishes. With the tube gone, Schiavo will live no more than five or 10 days. Republicans launched an eleventh-hour effort to keep her alive, issuing subpoenas for her to testify before Congress—despite the fact that she's been unable to speak for 15 years—and warning that doctors who removed the tube would be guilty of interfering with a congressional witness, a federal crime. But they were smacked down by a circuit judge, who said, "The fact that you—your committee—decided to do something today doesn't create an emergency."

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The NYT points out that Republicans used the case to try to score points for the "culture of life," while Democrats bit their tongues, hoping to signal their willingness to move to the center. The NYT hints that Tom DeLay, who appeared on television to rally conservatives, was trying to wag the dog, using the issue "as a sudden distraction from his troubles." The WP notes although her doctors say Schiavo had no hope of recovery, Bill Frist reviewed home videos and disagreed. The NYT points out that Frist is a potential presidential candidate.

The WP marks the two-year anniversary of the beginning of bombing in Iraq by leading with a long story about the war's drain on the nation's military resources. Current troops have been "combat-hardened," but that advantage is outweighed by recruiting shortfalls and equipment backlogs. Troops and gear are being depleted faster than they can be replenished. Overextended in Iraq and Afghanistan by unexpectedly heavy demand, the military's ability to engage elsewhere, such as Korea, is not "sufficiently robust." As one general put it, "What keeps me awake at night is, what will this all-volunteer force look like in 2007?"

The NYT fronts news that Wal-Mart will settle a federal investigation that found that it used illegal immigrants to clean its stores, but the LAT, which won a Pulitzer last year for its Wal-Mart coverage, merely teases the news, as does the WP. Wal-Mart settled with the government for a $11 million. The government says this is "a milestone for corporate responsibility," since it's a record dollar amount for a civil immigration settlement. But as a janitorial condition watchdog group points out, $11 million will hardly serve as a deterrent for a company with sales of $288 billion. Wal-Mart admitted no wrongdoing, instead blaming its contractors and saying, "We should have had better safeguards in place to ensure that our contractors were hiring only legal workers."

The LAT obtains a copy of Kofi Annan's blueprint for revitalizing the U.N., a plan that includes restructuring a human-rights panel, expanding the Security Council, and overhauling approaches to counterterrorism, nuclear nonproliferation, and peacekeeping. Annan sees the plan as a way to "meet the challenges of a changing world," says the LAT, but the U.S. sees it as "a last-gasp bid to restore the organization's relevance."

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The WP fronts a summary of a defense department survey that found that one out of every seven women at military academies has been sexually assaulted, and more than half have been sexually harassed. Most of the incidents went unreported, but military campuses hope to change that with a revamped confidentiality policy. "Sexual assaults are not a good indication of character," one superintendent insightfully noted. "In fact, they're a very bad indication."

The NYT fronts news that criminals are using Wi-Fi to cover their tracks. Before wireless, it was hard to be untraceable, but now, says the NYT, "it could hardly be easier." As a result, the unsecured wireless networks of unsuspecting neighbors are being used for "child pornography, fraud, death threats and identity and credit card theft."

The WP teases word that teens who take virginity pledges are almost as likely as non-pledges to catch STDs, according to an eight-year study. Teens who take the pledge do delay sexual activity and marry earlier, but they are also more likely to experiment with oral and anal sex and less likely to use condoms. As the study's author put it, "Kids who are trying to preserve their technical virginity are, in some cases, engaging in much riskier behavior."

Blog and pony show … CEO blogs get a big thumbs down from the Washington Post. Blogs are supposed to be personal, fresh, and casual, but executive blogs often wind up being pure PR. "Their attempts at hip, guerrilla-style blogging are often pained—and painful," pronounces the WP. "With blogs like that, who needs news releases?"