Today's Papers

Sub Zero

All three papers lead with the Russian navy’s presumption that all 118 crew members aboard its sunken nuclear submarine are dead. Most of the sailors probably died in last week’s initial explosion. Any survivors would have had to tough it out in a vessel filled with freezing seawater and the highly lethal pockets of air pressure. The cause of the blast is still unknown, but observers are betting that the sub collided with a foreign vessel or a World War II mine (apparently these are still present and active; six have been found in the area since 1992). The U.S. denies the presence of any of its monitor subs in the area. The Washington Post reports that Norwegian rescuers disagree with the official Russian prognosis and will plunge in for a rescue attempt today. The story also tallies the other odd twists in the sub saga, including the Russians’ repeated misinformation and half-hearted rescue attempts. “Things just do not add up,” says a retired Russian sub captain. “It very much looks like what is going on now in the Barents Sea is not a rescue of our boys, but the funeral of a military secret.” Or the beginnings of a Tom Clancy novel.

A striking front page story in the New York Times reports that, contrary to educators’ worst fears, non-native English-speaking students may have benefited from the dismantling of California’s bilingual education system. Test scores among these kids have shot up, especially elementary school students. Now former proselytizers for separate classes– including the founder of the California Association of Bilingual Educators–are eating their words. “The kids began to learn–not pick up, but learn–formal English, oral and written. … You read the research and they tell you it takes seven years. Here are kids, within nine months in the first year, and they literally learned to read,” the teacher admits. Schools that implemented the new rules most strictly are the ones with the largest score increases. But several other factors may have helped nudge the numbers upward: recent reductions in class size, transfusions of state aid, and a return to phonetic techniques for teaching reading, replacing newer “whole language” theories that stress context. The story also points out that even though teachers are now required to use English “overwhelmingly,” no one knows what they’re actually doing inside the classroom.

The WP reports that Al Gore and George Bush are not only competing for the presidency, but competing over how hard they’re competing for the presidency. Yesterday Bush’s people responded to a general perception of leisureliness by boasting that their candidate made 23 stops in five states in the week after the Republican convention, as compared to Al Gore’s planned eight stops in four states this week. The Gore folks shot back new tallies, the Bush folks responded, and the current count stands at 22 stops for Bush, 20 for Gore. The story also reports that Gore spokesman Chris Lehane only gets four hours of sleep a night. Presumably Bush’s guy gets three?

The NYT and the WP run stories suggesting that Ford may be partially responsible for the Firestone tire fiasco. In 1989, after a series of road tests and a flurry of national concern over rollovers, Ford starting recommending that owners keep their tires inflated at a lower-than-usual pressure in order to increase stability. But the lower pressures probably contributed to the overheating and failure of the tires. “You’ve got a bad tire on the wrong vehicle,” says one of the plaintiff’s attorneys suing over the recall.

A NYT front-pager notices the incursion of women into previously all-male Olympic sports, including weightlifting, hammer throw, pole vault, the triathlon, pentathlon, and others, crediting trickle-down effect from Title IX for the shift. Traditionally, the highest-profile female Olympians have been gymnasts and ice skaters, who generally have the sparrow-like bodies of pre-pubescent girls. In contrast, Cheryl Haworth, a 17-year-old American weightlifter, stands 5 feet 9 inches tall and weighs in at 308 pounds. The story doesn’t cite it, but expect to hear more on this theme next month with the publication of Colette Dowling’s The Frailty Myth, a book that questions whether men are naturally stronger than women.

A few minutes ago, Today’s Papers dutifully clicked on the Post’s opinion page to read the Sunday columns. They weren’t up yet, but instead of Saturday’s columns, she found a placeholder page featuring “Article Bighead.” Whether the Post was referring to the headline or the columnist, she wasn’t sure.