Today's Papers

Crimson Snide

The Washington Post leads with an ominous detail from yesterday’s Middle East violence: For the first time, a suicide bomber–who struck at a crowded train station, taking three Israeli Jews with him–was not a West Bank Palestinian, but rather an Arab citizen of Israel. The paper notes that the possibility of such attacks from within casts doubt on the efficacy of establishing a military buffer zone between Israel and the West Bank, which Israel has just approved in principle. Yesterday, Israel responded to the train station attack, another bombing, and to a drive-by shooting that killed two Israelis with helicopter missile strikes that damaged several Palestinian security and political buildings, injuring five people, killing no one. The top nonlocal story at the New York Times, which stuffs the Middle East, is that since Friday’s release of dramatically worse unemployment numbers, many Democrats as well as Republicans are now advocating further tax cuts. The story says that Democrats are mostly talking about reducing Social Security paycheck withholdings while Republicans are leaning more toward a cut in the capital gains tax. The top story in the Wall Street Journal’s front-page worldwide news box is also on the new tax cut calls. Both papers report that President Bush is not likely to quickly endorse any of them, preferring instead to wait for the tax cut he’s already passed to jump-start the economy. The top nonlocal story at the Los Angeles Times, which fronts the Middle East, is that congressional Democrats will today begin an assault on the Bush administration defense and foreign policies by attacking national missile defense as a world-destabilizing waste of money. The story reports that a prominent critic will be Sen. Joseph Biden, who tells the paper that Bush is sacrificing every aspect of foreign policy to missile defense. USA Today, which fronts the Middle East, leads instead with a story nobody else fronts: a University of Pennsylvania study out today estimating that about 325,000 U.S. children 17 or under are being sexually exploited–mostly as prostitutes or pornographic subjects–far many more than the experts anticipated.

The WSJ explores the hidden depths of pain and suffering endured by many Bush appointees because of the financial divestitures forced upon them by federal laws governing conflicts of interest. The story starts with the sad plight of the Department of Justice’s No. 2, Larry Thompson, who says the financial loss inflicted on him will force him to leave public service sooner than he had contemplated. Thompson’s punishment for government service was to have to sell stocks quickly in a down market and sever ties with his blue-chip law firm so quickly that his partner’s compensation package will be “sliced deeply.” And there were all those forms to fill out. Two big problems with this story: 1) There are absolutely no hard money numbers for the financial sacrifices alleged. This is more the fault of the aggrieved appointees than of the reporter, who has virtually no ability to get this confidential information, but it should make one’s journalism meter twitch. If a Cabinet member really were irrevocably losing big dollars to take his job, why wouldn’t he say how much? 2) There is no mention of a very common post-Cabinet career pattern: gazillionairehood. Henry Kissinger, Lawrence Eagleburger, and Brent Scowcroft, for instance, are making tons more now than they once “sacrificed.”

The LAT fronts a woman’s attempt to become the first black student in the history of the University of Alabama to get accepted by a white sorority. The result? Despite a 3.87 GPA, an outgoing personality, and being the first soprano in the school choir, she was turned down by all 15 of the school’s all-white sororities–for the second straight year. The woman had the support of many faculty members and administrators, but they apparently had little influence compared to “The Machine,” the shadow confederation of students that seems to control fraternity/sorority decisions and student body politics.

The WSJ fronts a feature about the special brand of tough love wielded by the suicide squad at the Golden Gate Bridge. Would-be suicides there are not as a rule greeted by cops or psychologists, who don’t want to climb out over the railings on the 220-foot-high bridge to talk things through. So the job has fallen to a volunteer cadre of ironworkers, who will go out on that limb but don’t do psychobabble. The story notes some of their time-honored tactics, like asking the proto-jumper for his/her watch/wallet “since you’re about to die anyway” or to describe in gruesome detail what it will be like to hit the water going 100 miles an hour. It’s estimated that out of 90 or so would-be Golden Gate jumpers per year, these anti-shrinks save the lives of about 60 of them.