Today's Papers

Bear Butts and Ballots

Mars is still the biggest story, but shares the spotlight today with some international developments. The saga of the NASA mission leads the Washington Post and is the USA TODAY cover story, but moves over to top center front in the New York Times, which leads instead with developments in Cambodia, the story which also tops the Wall Street Journal’s front non-financial news column. The Mexico City election is top of the page left at the Post and (naturally enough, given its large Mexican-American readership) leads at the Los Angeles Times.

The Mars coverage is dominated by depictions of the excitement inside mission headquarters and of the various features of the planet that are about to be investigated. The Post describes a “geological cornucopia” there, which the paper says, includes a topographical feature resembling “the backside of a bear.” (How would the scientists or the reporter know?) Just in case you were wondering if there was political correctness on Mars, both the NYT and USAT state that the rover vehicle Sojourner is not so-called because of its function, but is actually named for the black abolitionist Sojourner Truth.

USAT describes the mission’s $266 million cost as “bargain-basement,” but redeems itself by being singularly sensitive to NASA’s PR efforts, noting that the mission team had been “coached on how to respond to possible questions from reporters about little green men or the ‘face on Mars’ (neither of which came up). They were instructed how to avoid using acronyms and [about] what sort of clothes look best on camera.”

The Mexico City election is news because it’s the first one there in 68 years and because the winner is a longtime opponent of the party that has dominated the country’s corrupt politics for generations. The vote is being widely viewed as the cleanest in the nation’s history. And political reformers north of the border, take note: The NYT reports that “some foreign news broadcasts to Mexico were halted. The interior ministry said it was enforcing an election law that bars the publication here of any election polls for one week before the vote.”

It’s pretty hard to tell from the majors what’s going on in Cambodia as relations between the country’s two prime ministers worsen. The headline above the Times lead story reads “Cambodia Faction Declares Victory As Fighting Halts.” But the WP says, “Chaos Mounts in Cambodia: Armies of Feuding Premiers Battle for Capital.”

Another interesting Mexico story today (played big on the front by the NYT, which carried the watershed vote inside): it seems that Mexico’s most wanted drug dealer, on the lam since February, died after a nine-hour plastic surgery operation. The LAT and WP say the DEA confirms the death. The NYT is more cautious, asking in its headline, “Is it the Drug Boss?” The operation was for extensive facial reconstruction to change the wanted man’s appearance, and also for liposuction. Were his hip measurements on his wanted poster?