Today's Papers

Coming Soon: Sandra’s Day

USA Today leads with, and everybody else fronts, word that the Supreme Court has agreed to hear two cases challenging a university’s consideration of race in admissions. USAT’s lead also gives prominent play to the court’s decision to take a case about whether states can outlaw sodomy between consenting adults. The Washington Post   and New York Times lead with a new bit of rhetoric from the White House: President Bush said yesterday that the “signs are not encouraging” that Saddam is cooperating with inspectors. Bush went on to say that “inspectors do not have the duty to uncover weapons in a vast country,” it’s Saddam’s job to voluntarily disarm. The Wall Street Journal tops its world-wide newsbox (online) with word that the missile launcher used in last week’s attack on an Israeli airliner has similar serial numbers to a launcher that was used in a previous al-Qaida attack. Also, an Islamist Web site yesterday posted a message purportedly from al-Qaida claiming responsibility for the missile attack and bombing in Kenya. The Los Angeles Times leads with a federal appeals court’s decision blocking any new oil drilling off the coast of California. The administration has pushed for such drilling, which would be in federal waters. But California’s government has long opposed the action and argued that it can’t happen until a state environmental commission gives the thumbs up. The court endorsed that position.

The last Supreme case involving schools’ use of affirmative action came in 1978 when the court ruled that while universities can’t set aside seats based on race (i.e., quotas), they can use race as one factor among many, with the goal being to ensure diversity. That’s basically been the law ever since, and that is what’s now being challenged. Everybody pegs Justice Sandra Day O’Conner as the swing vote.

Most of the headlines on the affirmative action case are like the LAT’s: “COURT TEST FOR COLLEGE RACE POLICY.” The NYT, though, skips any specific mention of race, “SUPREME COURT TO REVISIT COLLEGES’ DIVERSITY EFFORTS.” That seems less than direct. Why not say what the policy is rather than its intended results?

To varying degrees, everybody unpacks the PR angle and gives context to Bush’s Iraq comments. But the Journal is the most direct about it. The paper’s relevant newsbox blurb begins, “Robbed of some of the rhetorical thunder by the apparent lack of Iraqi interference in arms inspections so far, Bush and Cheney sought to focus attention on other misbehavior by Baghdad.” That’s useful. As opposed to wimpy “objective” coverage, the Journal isn’t just stating the facts, it’s clearly giving its opinion about what they mean—and readers are more informed as a result.

The NYT goes high with the first tiny bit of intrigue from the inspections: After visiting a missile plant, inspectors said some equipment was missing even though Iraq is required not to move it. Iraq said that some of the stuff was destroyed by coalition bombings. Meanwhile, as both the LAT and USAT catch, inspectors made a surprise visit to one of Saddam’s palaces this morning. They had to wait five minutes and then were let in.

The Journal reports that the U.S. military, in an effort to help stabilize Afghanistan, will set up “security enclaves” in about a dozen cities around the country. The enclaves will include U.S. combat soldiers and civil affairs troops. The Post had the basics of this story last month. But whereas the WP’s story relied on Pentagon leaks and gave only Washington’s view, the Journal’s piece, which was written by Pakistani reporter Ahmed Rashid, adds that Afghan officials don’t think the move goes far enough: For one thing, it’s unclear whether the soldiers will provide protection to Afghan civilians or just to aid workers.

According to conventional wisdom, mom-and-pop stores are dying. But not according to the Census Bureau. USAT’s Page One graphic illustrates census data showing that mom-and-pop operations—defined, kind of loosely, as small businesses that don’t have any employees—are becoming slightly more common. There were 6 percent more of them in 2000 than in 1997.

The Journal profiles Stephen F. Cooper, who currently holds what has to be one of the more unpleasant million dollar-a-year jobs in America: He’s CEO of Enron. One of his first duties at the office: Convincing some delivery guys not to repossess the water coolers.