Today's Papers

Leave Home Without Them

The Washington Post leads with the Bush administration’s decision to lift sanctions placed on India after its 1998 nuclear test, which includes a prohibition on weapons sales to the country. The move will lead to more joint military exercises between the two nations and, eventually, sharing weapons technology. The New York Times leads with two studies that report that the number of poor children living with two-parent families is on the rise. The jump has occured over the five years since Congress overhauled the federal welfare program. According to the Los Angeles Times, the Bush energy plan, passed by the House of Representatives last week, relies on the premise that large deposits of oil and natural gas located on federal lands have been locked away by overzealous environmentalism. But an LAT investigation found just the opposite.

Why drop sanctions against India? According to the WP lead, the official reason is protecting the Indian Ocean’s sea lanes, favored routes for Middle Eastern oil, from piracy. The unofficial reason is China, which is “posing a mounting challenge to American interests in Asia.” (Isn’t it always?) What’s not clear is why the U.S. is no longer worried by India’s nuclear aptitude. The push to strengthen relations began during the Clinton administration–which urged India, unsuccessfully, to sign the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty–and has gathered steam with the Bush administration. In April, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld feted the arrival of India’s foreign and defense ministers with a full military honor guard, a reception saved for only the most treasured international honchos.

According to the NYT lead, from 1995 to 2000, the percentage of low income black children living with two married parents increased from 34.8 percent to 38.9 percent. Over the same period, child poverty and teen birth rates have declined and the employment rate among mothers who head families has gone up. Analysts credit, at least in part, welfare reform–even analyst Wendell Primus, who resigned from the Department of Health and Human Services in 1996 in protest over it. The NYT dampens the enthusiasm with the usual disclaimers: not all two-parent households are stable, co-habitation without marriage has produced additional problems, and some studies show that welfare-to-work kids have more behavior problems and perform poorly in school.

According to the LAT, public land opened for drilling at a faster pace during the Clinton administration than during those of George H.W. Bush and Ronald Reagan. Now, 60,000 wells on public lands provide about one-third of U.S. production. And the paper points out numerous energy companies that have found ways to cope with environmental restrictions and still turn a profit. Yet energy execs claim, as does Bush’s plan, that there is always more oil or gas just out of reach. One example: A Petroleum Council report estimated that 343 trillion feet of natural gas lies beneath the Rocky Mountains, but the U.S. Geological Survey’s estimate own estimate came up with 100 trillion feet less.

The NYT fronts a cold-water story on credit cards that come “enhanced” with computer chips. Already a hit in Europe, so-called “smart cards” promised greater security in Web shopping and a host of murky benefits. But they’re quickly becoming the latest iteration of the “platinum” card: a shiny bauble that doesn’t really do anything special. Only 6 out of every 1,000 holders of American Express’ Blue card have used the chip on the Web. Now, the companies are trying to turn them into an electronic version of the punch card that allows you to earn, say, a free coffee at Starbucks after the purchase of 10. “Ultimately,” the author writes, “it is not at all clear that American consumers actually want any of these things.”

A WP fronter reports that Democrats are divided over the prospect of Al Gore’s return in 2004. Some like it, some don’t–no surprise there. The piece airs one salacious rumor that has Gore and Joe Lieberman running as a ticket during the 2004 primaries. An unnamed Gore adviser finds this “personally exciting”.

Finally, the NYT stuffs a story on how to re-energize Major League Baseball. Remedy 1: Make the majors more like the minors, with shorter games. Remedy 2: Send the worst teams to the minors at the end of the season, a suggestion not unlike one “Sports Nut” proposed in May. Remedy 3: Move minor-league teams abroad. (The Cincinnati Reds did this is in 1954, producing maybe the worst team nickname in sports history: the Cuban Sugar Kings.) Remedy 4: Find a better way to split revenue between the teams. After reading the article, one thing is for certain: It’s time to re-energize the debate about re-energizing baseball.