The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, and USA Todayall lead with the House voting to relax restrictions on federal funding for embryonic stem-cell research, a bill President Bush has promised to veto. Though the measure passed with 50 Republican votes, it didn't get enough support to be veto-proof. The Senate is expected to pass a similar version soon. The Wall Street Journal says that rather than risk a veto of a popular bill, the White House is considering pushing for some sort of backroom "compromise" in the House-Senate conference. According to one poll, 57 percent of Republicanssupport embryonic stem-cell research.
The WSJ world-wide newsbox and Washington Postlead with the fruits of the (mushy) filibuster compromise: The Senate voted 81-to-18 to clear the way for a full floor vote on judicial nominee Priscilla Owen. Meanwhile, the compromise itself wasn't looking so robust. "This is a truce, not a treaty," said Senator Orrin Hatch.
Citing three top unnamed government officials, the Post'soff-lead says the military nearly shot down the Cessna that recently wandered over Washington. SecDef Rumsfeld had given the OK, and according to one official, fighter jets were "15 to 20 seconds" from taking the prop plane out. The WP also briefly raises the other side of the coin: The Cessna was sputtering along at about 100 MPH and the F-16s still barely made it in time. In the current setup, are the fighters ready to intercept a faster plane, such as a jetliner?
Everybody mentions a jihadist Web site's report that Abu Musab al-Zarqawi has been seriously wounded. Only the WP fronts the rumor/news. It's also the only paper that appears to have spoken with a member of Zarqawi's group. "It's true," said one commander in Zarqawi's group. "We ask Muslims to pray for him." U.S. and Iraqi officials said, basically, they have no idea if the report is true.
Eight U.S. soldiers have been killed over the past two days in Iraq, including at least four yesterday in assorted attacks. The Post mentions what appears to be ethnic fighting in the northern town of Tal Afar, where two dozen Shiites were killed earlier this week. "Shiites' armed men are walking around looking for Sunnis to kill," said one police colonel.
In a piece TP missed yesterday, the LAT went inside with a depressing analysis of the recent offensive in western Iraq. The Marines in Operation Matador might have wounded Zarqawi, but most insurgents got away. There just weren't enough troops in the area and there still aren't. Essentially much of the Anbar province has been ceded to guerrillas. "[Commanders] can't use the word, but we're withdrawing," said one unnamed U.S. military official. "Slowly, that's what we're doing."
The WP and NYT go inside with a report from Human Rights Watch alleging that two American brothers were detained and tortured for months in Pakistan while the FBI occasionally came in to question them and ignored their pleas for help. "The FBI didn't torture us directly," said one brother, who explained, "We were beaten severely, kept awake all night or hung upside down by Pakistani agents before each of about 10 interrogation sessions by FBI agents." The brothers were suspected of connections to al-Qaida and eventually released without charges.
The Journal goes up highwith Democrats "conceding" that with the filibuster battle headed off for now, U.N. ambassador nominee John Bolton has a better chance of getting Senate confirmation. Meanwhile, the NYT details Republican Senator George Voinovich's full-bore campaign against Bolton, which has included an open letter to colleagues: "We cannot afford to put at risk our nation's ability to successfully wage and win the war on terror with a controversial and ineffective Ambassador to the United Nations." A vote could come this week.
The LAT and WP front a study showing that breast cancer patients have a roughly 50 percent lower mortality rate if they exercise regularly. Apparently, the key is the lower levels of estrogen that result from exercise.
The NYT and USAT front the latest realtor data study, which shows the housing market getting quite... frothy. Median home prices last month were up 15 percent from a year ago, the biggest increase in 25 years. "There's clearly speculative excess going on," one economist told the NYT. "A lot of people view real estate as a can't lose."
On Monday, First Lady Laura Bush praised Egypt's election "reforms" as "a very wise and bold step." As this morning's Post notes, she defended those comments yesterday. And as it happens, the WP has another piece detailing how the reforms are working out:
The campaign of Ayman Nour, the only opposition candidate challenging President Hosni Mubarak in Egypt's fall election, was reduced to this on Tuesday: A clutch of 20 Nour supporters bought tickets to the movie "Kingdom of Heaven" in order to have an excuse to loiter in front of a downtown cinema and shout anti-Mubarak slogans.
The ruse to overcome police restrictions on public meetings didn't work for long. Within a half-hour, a phalanx of thick-forearmed plainclothes security agents backed by dozens of club-carrying riot police marched down narrow Abdel-Hamid Said Street, shoved the protesters into the lobby of the Odeon Theater and scattered reporters and passersby down the block.