Today's Papers

Quakes and Flakes

USA Today leads with rescue efforts following a deadly El Salvador earthquake. The New York Times leads with Democrats’ careful maneuvering now that Republicans will control both the White House and Congress. The Los Angeles Times leads with the California energy crisis. Neither companies nor consumers are fond of the state’s plan to buy energy wholesale and resell it at cost to utilities. All papers give front-page notice to yesterday’s football results: Super Bowl XXXV will pit the Baltimore Ravens against the New York Giants.

USAT’s lead says international rescue workers are on hand in El Salvador after Saturday’s 7.6 magnitude earthquake. Top priorities: “purifying water and staving off disease.” The quake killed “more than 250” (USAT), “at least 300” (WP), or an estimated “more than 400” (NYT), with many more still missing. Hardest hit: a San Salvador suburb where a landslide buried hundreds of homes and people. The Washington Post goes personal, with the tale of a man still trapped in rubble a full day after the temblor struck. Paramedics and family members sit by him, offering comfort and food.

The NYT lead claims that, despite Republican control of the presidency and both chambers of Congress, core Democrats see room for defiance, seizing on President-elect Bush’s loss in the popular vote, lingering questions over Florida, and the 50-50 Senate split. Some promise firm resistance to John Ashcroft’s confirmation as attorney general. But Dems must know their limitations: They can’t rely any more on the president’s veto or bully pulpit and risk looking overly partisan (see: Newt Gingrich, circa 1995) if they dig in their heels too far.

The Wall Street Journal looks at dollarization, a trend gaining ground in Latin America. Ecuador,  El Salvador, and Panama have made the dollar official currency; several other countries have shown interest. Pros: more trade, investment, and stability. Cons: The dollar is the “ultimate symbol of Yankee imperialism,” and there are too many dead white guys on our bills.

In ongoing reviews of the Clinton legacy, both the WP and LAT go front page with analysis of Clinton’s foreign policy record. At first a domestic-centric candidate (“It’s the economy, stupid”), Clinton as president grew to enjoy foreign policy and to immerse himself in it. The LAT calls the range of issues he worked on “arguably as diverse as that of any president of the last half-century,” and notes that he visited more countries (72) than any other president. His strengths: innate political skill, and charm. Weaknesses: naivete, and an over-reliance on charm.

A USAT front-pager says Bush’s inauguration will feature “unprecedented” security, aimed particularly at protesters. After last April’s anti-World Bank demonstrations, D.C. cops are wary. Activists call new measures a “pretext” for violating their rights. Under consideration: a ban on “protest puppets,” whose long poles are viewed as possible weapons.

The WP finds a physicist who designs his own snowflakes to study how these water crystals form. By varying temperature and moisture levels, he can tailor the size and style (“six-fingered flakes, fern-like stars, sectored hexagonal plates”) to researcher’s specifications. But, reassuringly, he is still unable to create two identical flakes.