All passengers rescued as Manhattan looks on, Congress throws money.

A summary of what's in the major U.S. newspapers.
Jan. 16 2009 5:36 AM

Airbus, Stimulus Splash Down

USA Today and the Los Angeles Times lead with the photogenic and uplifting story of the day: an Airbus A320 landing on the Hudson River off Manhattan after a flock of birds fouled its takeoff from LaGuardia airport. All 155 people on board survived, due to quick thinking by the plane's pilot and rapid response from city agencies.

The Washington Post and New York Times lead with details of House Democrats' $825 billion stimulus package as well as the Senate's narrow vote to fork over the second installment of $350 billion in bailout money—despite the fact that administration of the first half has been "hugely unpopular"—granting President-elect Barack Obama broad authority to do with it what he will. The incoming chief executive promised to direct the money toward credit markets and homeowners, plus a goodly chunk for not-doing-so-hot-after-all Bank of America. Money going to banks will have more strings attached, Obama said, such as a requirement to lend and tighter restrictions on executive compensation.

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The Wall Street Journal tops its world-wide newsbox with some scoopage on Iran, which has been using front companies to import a range of metals that can be used in nuclear and ballistic missile systems as well as commercial aviation. The Manhattan district attorney's office also believes that 10 banks have handled Iranian money, which would violate U.S. sanctions against the country. In decidedly more reassuring news, Pakistan says it has rounded up the entire leadership of Lashkar-e-Taiba, the Islamist group suspected of orchestrating December's attacks in Mumbai.

With no fewer than 35 reporters on the story, the NYT takes the cake for blanket coverage of the "miracle on the Hudson." Gov. David Paterson called the rescue effort "one of the most magnificent days in the history of New York City agencies"—few passengers were hurt, and most barely had to touch the frigid waters. The Post tells a tighter story, complete with a Bank of America executive regretting wearing heels as she skittered out on the plane's wing. And the media have found a new American hero in the delightfully named Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger III, who piloted the plane past the Manhattan skyline to a safe water landing.

As the NYT points out, the huge infusions of capital are bringing the U.S. government close to taking majority stakes in several of the recipient banks, which smacks of nationalization despite Treasury's attempt to avoid the appearance of such a step by relieving the institutions of their most troubled assets rather than buying stock outright. Bank of America stock tanked 18 percent on news that the federal government would be investing another $20 billion in the company and sharing losses on $118 billion of its assets. Debate over the stimulus package is likely to center on the balance between tax cuts and spending programs: In the current Democratic proposal, $550 billion would go toward investments in science, infrastructure, and education, with the rest funding a tax credit of $500 for individuals and $1,000 for couples.

The Post milked an interview with Obama for all it was worth, breaking his comments up into pieces about conditions for aid to automakers and entitlement spending. On the latter, the president-elect said he planned to convene a "fiscal responsibility summit" and promised to significantly revamp Medicare to save it from insolvency. (Listen to the whole thing here.)

Israel hit a United Nations relief building yesterday, several days after it had killed 40 in striking a U.N. school, which the NYT uses to highlight long-standing tensions between the country and the international body. The Journal focuses on the death of Hamas' security chief, as well as the memorandum of understanding that Israel is expected to sign with the United States today that would establish an international monitoring regime to prevent arms from reaching Hamas. It's unclear how the Obama administration and Clinton State Department would handle such an agreement or even whether they've been advised of the last-ditch effort. The Post says Obama avoided the issue in his sit-down with them, and USAT appeared to have little more success in its own "wide-ranging" interview with the president-elect, in which the new chief said only that he would be appointing a team to figure out what to do about the situation in Gaza.

As promised, Republican senators held attorney general nominee Eric Holder's feet to the fire over his role in President Bill Clinton's pardon of fugitive financier Marc Rich. Holder came out strongly against torture—a spirit Zimbabwe could use more of about now—and repudiated the partisan policies of the Bush Justice Department. Still, he refrained from endorsing prosecution of past wrongs, such as the illegal wiretapping program. (According to outgoing CIA chief Michael Hayden, Obama is also not looking to prosecute those responsible for harsh interrogation techniques at Guantanamo Bay and elsewhere.) Many more of those actions will bear the test of history, however, as a judge ruled that the White House must preserve its e-mails for cataloging in the National Archives, which the administration had taken steps to avoid.

Other than a pledge to prosecute the employers of illegal immigrants rather than the workers themselves, homeland security nominee Janet Napolitano's confirmation hearing was not nearly so interesting.

The papers present a sad picture of President George Bush's last press conference, which was carried live by all the major networks but contained no major confessions or revelations. "I have often spoken to you about good and evil," he said. "This has made some uncomfortable. But good and evil are present in this world, and between the two there can be no compromise." In one bit of old news to become public yesterday, a special intelligence court backed the Bush administration's wiretapping program, which an unnamed telecommunications company challenged while complying with the executive's request for phone records.