Everybody leads with something different today. The New York Times goes with a piece that attempts to examine Saudi Arabia's efforts to keep oil prices at a reasonable level, while the Washington Post puts Hillary Clinton's campaign appearance in Iowa way ahead of next year's caucuses in the lede spot—a story the other two papers stuff. The Los Angeles Times makes the case that conditions are ripe for a new golden age of vaccines that could lead to huge advances in public health for its top story.
There are all sorts of unknowns in the NYT lede, because of the Saudi oil ministry's well-known abilities at keeping its motivations secret. But the story points out there have been clear signs that the Saudis have settled on a policy of keeping oil in the $50-a-barrel range.
To start with, the Saudi oil minister mentioned recently that "moderate prices" were part of the country's policy, the paper says. And when it comes to OPEC, he also "effectively put his veto on an emergency meeting" to increase prices when they fell below $50 a barrel, the NYT notes.
The question, of course, is why, as well as how much U.S. pressure has influenced Saudi Arabia's moves. The story says that several factors could be at work. The Saudis may be reasoning that especially high oil prices dampen the global economy and reduce oil demand, according to the NYT. They also may be seeking to limit Iran's oil revenues, the paper says.
As for U.S. influence, there are several dots, but no clear lines connecting them. The story points out the Bush family's close relationship with Prince Bandar bin Sultan, as well as Dick Cheney's meeting with King Abdullah in November. Cheney's office wouldn't tell the NYT if the two men talked about oil.
The WP lede says Clinton told the crowd gathered at a school in Iowa that she was "running for president, and I'm in it to win it," thereby differentiating herself from the candidates who are in it for either a draw or a respectable third- or fourth-place finish. The story notes that her appearance comes a year ahead of Iowa's first-in-the-nation caucuses.
Clinton took questions from the crowd and seemed to have an easy time with it. One person asked her about Iraq, the WP says, but she dodged it by talking about veterans' health care.
She had a slightly tougher time during a meeting with Iowa Democratic Party officials, where she was asked about her previous vote authorizing the war. She handled it this way: "I've taken responsibility for my vote. But there are no do-overs in life. I wish there were. I acted on the best judgment I had at the time." The LAT notes those comments in its story, as well, but the NYT seems to have either missed it or decided it wasn't news.
The LAT's vaccine story takes account of new vaccines against a virus linked to cervical cancer and rotavirus that reached the market in 2006, and says others appear to be on the way. The article says researchers are hoping to have a vaccine for malaria, which kills up to 3 million people annually, within five years. Grants from rich nations, the United Nations, the World Health Organization, and organizations like the Gates Foundation have also raised hopes for more vaccines reaching poor countries, according to the LAT.
Numbers are, understandably, hard to come by, ranging from the NYT's "tens of thousands" to the Post's explanation that the crowd "seemed significantly smaller than the half-million people organizers said were present and may not have matched similar protests in September 2005 and January 2003." The LAT comes the closest to making an estimate, calling it at "about 100,000."
Jane Fonda was there, as was a guy dressed like Jesus. The NYT locates a group of protesters who said they were active-duty service members. There were counter-protesters as well, leading to some minor skirmishes.
Also in war-related news, the NYT fronts an analysis of the Bush administration's attempt to increase pressure on Iran. The story notes that the White House plans to present soon "evidence" that Iran is to blame for many attacks in Iraq. It explains, however, that officials are likely to have a hard time convincing some. Turns out there's one or two folks out there hung up still on that old story about weapons of mass destruction.
The LAT fronts a look at a land deal that may or may not lead to trouble for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. It also gives us reason to be thankful newspapers are now offering video on their Web sites. It puts a story on its front page about California prison officials seeking to transfer inmates out of state to deal with overcrowding—and posts a clip from a promotional video seeking to encourage prisoners to volunteer. The video is jaw-droppingly ridiculous.
If you're in the mood to be outraged, you can read the NYT's look at casinos in Atlantic City being given millions in what is supposed to be public money.
You could also take the time to read Dinesh D'Souza's odd explanation in the WP about his bizarre-sounding recent book, The Enemy At Home. But before you commit, first consider this extract:
"And in my recent appearance on Comedy Central's 'The Colbert Report,' I had to fend off the insistent host. 'But you agree with the Islamic radicals, don't you?' Stephen Colbert asked again and again."