Everyone's top nonlocal story is AT&T's $67 billion purchase of BellSouth. The deal would largely reassemble the old "Ma Bell" that federal regulators broke up in 1984. But this time AT&T is banking that the feds will let the deal go through, because of the merger-friendly Bush administration officials in charge and the fact that the telecom business landscape is so much more complex now, with so much more competition, than it was 22 years ago. Consumer groups are vowing to fight the deal, however, arguing that it will lead to higher prices. By some calculations, it would be the fifth-largest merger in U.S. history.
The WSJ flooded the zone on the story and includes an analysis on the potential for a political fight over the merger, with some Democrats in Congress already speaking out against the deal and additional mergers that this could spur. The Journal also appears to be the only paper giving a number to the layoffs expected as a result: 8,000. Most analysts cited by the various papers, however, seem to think that the effect on consumers will be negligible.
Everyone stuffs Iran's threat to increase the scale of its uranium-enrichment-related activities if the International Atomic Energy Agency, which meets today, refers Tehran to the U.N. Security Council. Iran's top nuclear negotiator also threatened to cut off oil exports. The U.S., in turn, threatened "tangible and painful consequences," according to the Washington Post.
Everyone but the Journal fronts the Oscars, where Crash won best picture but no one film dominated.
The Post fronts a look at the mental-health situation in Iraq—unsurprisingly, it's not good. A study in Baghdad found that more than 90 percent of residents surveyed suffered from psychological disorders such as insomnia, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder. While the situation was bad enough before the 2003 U.S. invasion, another study showed that people have been exposed to dramatically more trauma since then. Compounding the problem is the exodus of educated Iraqis since 2003, which has left a total of 75 psychiatrists—including zero child psychiatrists—in the entire country.
Parental-notification laws have no apparent effect on the abortion rates among teens, according to a NYT front-page study. Different states see different effects—in Tennessee, for example, the abortion rate went up after the law went into effect. One reason—parents often push their pregnant daughters to get abortions.
The NYT also looks at how the recent rash of avian-flu appearances in Africa and Western Europe has confounded researchers who thought they had learned much about how the disease is spread. Scientists had thought migratory birds were a major factor, but the new outbreak is apparently not related to migration. Possible culprits: trucks, shoes, and fertilizer made from infected bird manure.
The Los Angeles Times follows up on President Bush's trip to outsourcing capital India with the front-page news that education, which Bush and others have urged as a solution to keep American workers competitive in a global economy, may not be enough anymore. While the jobs that used to be outsourced were primarily in manufacturing, now more and more service jobs that require education are also being performed abroad. The article seems largely based on one in the most recent issue of Foreign Affairs.
There's a sad story in the LAT about a Mississippi town that tried a quaint and smart alternative to the trailers that FEMA provided to Hurricane Katrina victims. An architect designed 300-square-foot cottages that could have been provided for the same price as the 135,000 FEMA trailers that are being installed across the Gulf Coast. But FEMA declined the town's request for funding, because by law FEMA can't provide permanent housing. "FEMA is creating trailer trash," the town's mayor said. A move is afoot in Congress to change the law.
There is a new front on the Muslim-European culture wars, the WSJ reports: Voltaire. A municipal cultural center in a small French town revived an obscure play by the Enlightenment satirist, Fanaticism, or Mahomet the Prophet. Local Muslim activists protested, the thespians refused to back down, and small riots broke out. Even aside from the play (which one reviewer called "deeply boring"), Voltaire has become a symbol for both sides. European editors who have published the Danish Mohammed cartoons cite his maxim, "I disapprove of what you say but I will defend to the death your right to say it," but anti-Voltaire Muslims say it was his philosophical influence in part that led to French efforts to colonize Algeria and other Muslim countries. Ironically, when the play was written in 1741, it was thought to be a thinly veiled poke at Christianity.