The Los Angeles Timesleads with California joining a handful of other states and stepping in to cover drug costs for the "hundreds of thousands" of state residents who haven't been able to get the new federal drug benefit because of bureaucratic blunders. USA Todayalso leads with the Medicare benefit's snafus and focuses on the fact that those getting screwed are mostly poor or disabled. One California official said she'd been told by the feds that 20 percent of beneficiaries have had trouble with coverage. The New York Timesleads with Germany, France, and the U.K. announcing they're done negotiating with Iran on its nuclear program and will now support referring the matter to the Security Council, where sanctions are possible. The move was prompted by Iran restarting its enrichment of uranium, and it isn't a surprise. The Washington Postleads with and the NYT fronts Maryland's assembly reversing a veto by their governor and essentially requiring Wal-Mart to increase spending on employees' health insurance. There are similar bills in about two dozen states. The Maryland law requires companies with more than 10,000 workers to spend at least 8 percent of their payroll on health insurance. There are four employers of that size in Maryland, Wal-Mart being the only one that doesn't meet the threshold.
It's long been reported that if Iran flips the switch on uranium enrichment, the European countries will join with the U.S. in at least going to the Security Council. The more important story, such as it was, was in yesterday's Post and Journal and repeated in today's Times: Russia reportedly won't veto a referral to the Security Council. But then there's the issue of whether Russia, China, or other countries would actually be willing to go for tough sanctions. The sanctions that would really hurt would involve oil and, as the NYT says, there are "no signs leading nations are ready" to do that.
The Wall Street Journal tops its world-wide newsbox with and others front Judge Alito finishing up his testimony and being well on his way to confirmation.The prospect of a filibuster had always been predicated on a bombshell or big snafu during the hearings. It didn't happen, and as the Post notes "even most liberal advocacy groups acknowledged" Alito is on his way.
The NYT fronts and WP goes inside with analyses of Alito's testimony, concluding: Yep, he's pretty conservative.
And just in case you're wondering: Judiciary committee staff went through the files of the Concerned Alumni of Princeton—the snooty and sexist group that Alito listed on a job application to the Reagan administration—and didn't find one reference to Alito.
The NYT's national edition fronts and others go inside with the 345 people killed in a stampede on the pilgrimage to Mecca. The pilgrims were partially blocked by luggage as they approached the entrance to a bridge that's a notorious choke point. This was the deadliest stampede at the hajj since 1990. A few years ago, Slate explained why the pilgrimage and the bridge crossing are so dangerous.
The Post notes the proactive approach Iraqi troops took after the U.S. handed over control of Saddam's largest palace a few months ago: They picked the place dry. "Thank God we were able to save the walls from the looters," said one local official, "because everything else was stolen."
The NYT reefers the White House estimating that the budget deficit will jump back up to $400 billion this year—about 3 percent of GNP—and about $80 billion more than last year. But the Post flags this all as potential spin, the White House playing down expectations:
This is the third straight year in which the White House has summoned reporters well ahead of the official budget release to project a higher-than-anticipated deficit. In the past two years, when final deficit figures have come in at record or near-record levels, White House officials have boasted that they had made progress, since the final numbers were below estimates.
For what it's worth … The LAT fronts researchers who combed through the remains of the Donner Party for three years and say they've found no evidence the Donners themselves ate their fellow travelers.
The Who? From the Journal:"Pete Townshend is the current guitarist of the band The Who. An article Tuesday in Personal Journal about hearing loss and MP3 players incorrectly implied the band was no longer together."