The Wall Street Journal's world-wide newsbox and Los Angeles Timeslead with the bankruptcy bill clearing the House by a 302-126 vote. The bill, which President Bush is expected to sign ASAP, makes it harder for consumers to clear their debt and restricts bankruptcy judges' discretion. The New York Timesleads with federal prosecutors charging three businessmen and their Texas oil company with paying illegal kickbacks to Saddam in the oil-for-food program. Separately, a South Korean businessman, at the center of a 1970's influence-peddling scandal ("Koreagate"), was charged with being an "unregistered agent" for Iraq. Apparently, the businessman was given suitcases of cash intended to "take care of" of an (unnamed) U.N. official. "It's a broad and large investigation," said the lead prosecutor. "We're going to wring the towel dry." USA Todayleads with Census data showing a population boom in the far out 'burbs. "This is the decade of the exburbs," said one demographer and quote-machine aspirant. The Washington Postleads, essentially, with a celebration of the new boys in town. The Nationals won 5-3. Wanna see the first pitch?
A piece in the LAT last month noted that while credit-card companies have been kvetching that bankruptcies are bleeding them dry, they've been enjoying record profits. As this morning's NYT mentions, about half the people forced to go into bankruptcy do so because of medical costs. The Post suggests the bill isn't all bad for consumers, with lobbyists complaining that it actually got watered down.
The Journal's bankruptcy piece mentions in passing that Republicans did not let Democrats offer an amendment. The WSJ doesn't really get into it, and neither does any of the other news coverage. But you can find the details if you turn to the WP's editorial page. It explains that the amendments would have forced lenders to keep fees in check, expand disclosure, and would have given extra protection to victims of identity theft. Then the Post gets serious:
The bill, in our view, is flawed, although it is not nearly as dangerous as its critics maintain. But even its staunchest proponents should be embarrassed that it was muscled through the House in this kind of Potemkin-democracy way. This process—or, more precisely, lack of process—is becoming routine.
As for a choice between the values of deliberative democracy and the interests of the credit industry, we know where we come down. Yesterday's sham debate makes clear where House Republicans come down too.
Only the LAT fronts the two closely timed bombs in Baghdad that killed about 18, mostly civilians. It was the deadliest attack in about a month. Another five policemen were killed in the strategic and tinderbox town of Kirkuk. (The NYT devotes it main Page One photo to the bombings, and the others reefer them.)
The LAT teases and Post goes inside with a study suggesting that many prisoners executed by lethal injection, which is supposed to be painless, actually feel plenty of it. "We know you need a certain amount of this drug in your blood to be asleep," said one of the study's authors. "And when this drug was measured in people a short time after they were killed, it wasn't enough." But an anesthesiologist quoted in the Post said the researchers couldn't really know how much anesthesia there was at the time of death; he dubbed their conclusions "just scientifically dishonest."
Channeling "close associates" of Sen. Bill Frist, the Post says inside that the Majority Leader is "all but certain" to try to go nuclear in the next few weeks. That is, he will try to ban filibusters for judicial nominations.
Frist has long talked about his desire for a filibuster compromise and has distanced himself from some of the rowdier talk about judges. But in the NYT's off-lead, conservative beat man David Kirkpatrick reports that this weekend Frist will appear in a telecast as part of "Justice Sunday," an event hosted by evangelicals that will focus on the Democrats' opposition of some judicial nominations. "The filibuster was once abused to protect racial bias," reads one flier. "It is now being used against people of faith."
The Post goes inside with what appears to be another case of John Bolton taking a particular interest in the career development of an underling. Bolton accused the aide of hiding information from him. The aide was cleared by his bosses but was reassigned anyway, after Bolton said he never wanted to work with him again. (Small snipe: The WP's headline isn't very helpful: "BOLTON FACES ALLEGATIONS THAT HE TRIED TO FIRE ANALYSTS." Didn't we already know that?)
A Page One piece in the Journal notices that lawmakers are increasing hopping out on "educational" trips—to cold, dreary, places such as Puerto Rico and Hawaii. There were 1,900 such excursions last year, up from 1,300 in 2000. The junkets are perfectly legal because they're paid for by companies and trade associations rather than lobbyists. And yes, Tom DeLay recently partook, spending what must have been a difficult week this past January at the Big Island's Hapuna Beach Prince Hotel.
That clears things up ... from the WSJ corrections box:
The infinity of prime numbers is denser than that of square numbers, and the infinity of even numbers is denser than that of numbers divisible by 9. The April 8 Science Journal column on prime numbers used the less precise term "bigger."
Pass over, or under ... From the NYT: "VIAGRA CLEARED AS KOSHER FOR PASSOVER."