Today's Papers

Baby Boomer Bummer 

The Washington Post leads with complaints from state education officials that the requirements of the new federal “Leave No Children Behind” Act are too rigid and will result in the majority of schools, even high-performing ones, being pegged as failing, thus requiring schools to follow a series of prescribed steps—such as private tutoring—that will cost a lot but benefit only a few students. According to the New York Times’ lead, some opponents of abortion are pushing to introduce anti-abortion legislation in Congress, the first piece probably being a Senate bill to ban so-called partial-birth abortions. A similar bill passed the House in July, and Bush has said that if comes across his desk he’ll sign it. The Los Angeles Times leads with the inauguration of Brazil’s new leftist president, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. USA Today leads with the word that the baby boomlet kids—that is, the children of the baby boomers—are starting to clog up colleges: Applications are at record levels and are expected to keep moving up through the end of the decade.

The new education law requires every racial and demographic subgroup at a school to show annual improvement. If any group doesn’t improve for two consecutive years, the school will be branded as “low-performing.” That’s less-than ideal because, as one education consultant put it, “There is a strong likelihood that a school’s scores will go up and down based solely on the performance of just a small handful of students.” USAT pointed out this definitions issue a few months ago.

The NYT and Wall Street Journal both have front-page pieces on the strained relationship between South Korea and the United States. The NYT’s piece doesn’t say much new, except it does remind readers of one bit of often-forgotten history: “Some experts say South Koreans’ resentment dates from the years when a series of military dictators in South Korea, acting with what was perceived as support from Washington, thwarted all efforts at democratization. South Korea did not emerge as a democracy until the late 1980’s.”

Meanwhile, the Journal’s piece, which is a must read (sub required), gives one of the first behind-the-scenes looks at the history of the Bush administration’s policymaking toward North Korea. The piece details the long-standing split in the White House between those who wanted to continue Bill Clinton’s policy of negotiations and hardliners who wanted to isolate North Korea. It was within that context, the Journal explains, that Bush offered in early 2001 to negotiate with  Pyongyang but made such broad demands that everybody expected—and some hardliners hoped—that North Korea would refuse, as it eventually did. “We knew it was almost a foregone conclusion that they wouldn’t accept,” said one official.

Finally, a piece inside the WP takes the White House to task for saying that North Korea already has a few nukes thus implying that it’s no big whoop if Pyongyang whips up a few more. “Despite administration claims,” says the Post, “it is not so clear-cut that North Korea is already a nuclear weapons power.” While the CIA has long estimated that Pyongyang has one or two nukes, it’s never been considered a sure thing. One analyst called the estimate a “back-of-the-envelope” calculation.

A front-pager in the NYT gives a sneak peek at two new scientific studies apparently showing that global warming is already forcing species around the world to move into new ranges. Scienists said that could be, ecologically speaking, a big bummer.

An above-the-fold piece in WP says the feds’ expanding air marshal program—which has been adding hundreds of agents per month—had some growing pains during its first year but has lately been doing a better job. USAT has been reporting on the air marshal programs problems for months, although its coverage has been less nuanced than the Post’s.

A piece inside the Post’s biz section notes that the Labor Department has decided to stop issuing its monthly report on mass layoffs. The department says it can’t afford to put out the reports, which cost $6.6 million per year. A number of state employment officials bemoaned the cuts. “We use them to determine which occupations are going kaput,” said one.

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