SCOTUS splits and disses the Clean Water Act.

SCOTUS splits and disses the Clean Water Act.

SCOTUS splits and disses the Clean Water Act.

A summary of what's in the major U.S. newspapers.
June 20 2006 3:13 AM

H2 Uh-0

The New York Times, Wall Street Journal's world-wide newsbox, and Washington Post all lead with the Supreme Court's divided ruling that "came close to rolling back" the Clean Water Act. The Los Angeles Timesleads with the White House again warning North Korea to stop toying with a long-range missile test. Japan's prime minister also said his country "would have to respond harshly" to any test. USA Todayleads with police in big cities across the U.S. saying "no, thanks" to the feds' requests that they help I.D. illegal aliens. 

The Supreme case involved what the plaintiffs argued is the government's too-loose definition of "wetlands," which results in altogether too much land being protected by the Clean Water Act. Four justices agreed and voted to restrict the definition, while four justices voted to leave things be. Justice Kennedy wrote his own, fence-sitting opinion where he agreed that the protections are being applied too broadly but didn't agree with the other justices on what to do about it. The upshot: The case was kicked back down to lower courts without much guidance.

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And what will that mean? Eh, good question:

The WP: "JUSTICES REIN IN CLEAN WATER ACT."

The LAT: "DIVIDED SUPREME COURT UPHOLDS FEDERAL PROTECTIONS FOR WETLANDS."

It's still not a sure thing that North Korea is now ready, willing, and able to test a big missile. One of the key issues is whether it's actually fueled the thing. And countering yesterday's NYT, the Post says that's not clear. "We can't say anything for sure," said one "top official with access to the intelligence."

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The NYT editorial page takes another bold stance and declares that a missile test would be "thoroughly bad for North Korea, for its region and for just about everyone else." The editorial concludes, "We hope that North Korea's next surprise is to respond ... sensibly and cancel whatever plans it has for such a self-destructive move." You hear that, Pyongyang? Don't even think of crossing the Times editorial page.

Bonus material:There's been some chatter among experts on blogs about how little we know of North Korea's overall missile program.

According to late-night reports, Japan is ending its mission in Iraq and pulling its 600 troops. "We've finished this chapter," Prime Minister Koizumi reportedly said. 

Only USAT fronts a well-known insurgent group, an umbrella organization, really, claiming they've captured the two GIs who've been missing in Iraq. It's an interesting choice by the paper given that, as the NYT emphasizes, the group offered no video or other proof. (Witnesses have reported seeing the soldiers being pushed into cars.)

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The NYT alone fronts the military charging three soldiers with murdering three Iraqis. The Iraqis had been captured, but the Times says investigators have concluded that the soldiers released them "before they were shot, apparently to have a pretext for killing them as they fled."

About 25 Iraqis were killed in assorted attacks.

USAT fronts a feature on the spiraling insurgency in Afghanistan and the West's less-than-full-fledged support for the country. The paper says one study concluded that aid to Afghanistan "equals $57 per person, compared with $679 in Bosnia and $206 in Iraq."

The NYT points out that Taliban guerrillas killed 32 members of one pro-government family over the weekend. The WP has a feature inside on how Taliban militancy is spreading in Pakistan. "Things are starting to spin out of control," said one Western diplomat. "In some areas, it's beginning to look like they are setting up a government within a government."

The LAT fronts New Orleans Mayor Nagin asking the National Guard to help patrol the city's streets after a shooting last weekend in which five teenagers were killed. Nearly a year after Katrina, the police force is still in a bad state, short on cops, money, and, according to the NYT, "low on supplies like ammunition."

The WP mentions that Bush attended an annual congressional GOP fund-raiser where he "generally avoided the harsh language he used to describe Democrats at last year's dinner." The president said Democrats are "good talkers," while Republicans are "good doers." Using some of that non-harsh language, he said, "It's important to have members of the United States Congress who will not wave the white flag of surrender in the war on terror."