Today's Papers

Raid in Full

A good indication of the slowness of the news day: the papers’ front pages have no stories in common. The New York Times leads in its late edition with early morning American raids on at least three cities in Iraq. Dozens of Baath Party members have been detained. The Los Angeles Times leads with the imminent resignation of Frank Keating, the head of the Catholic Church’s U.S. sexual abuse oversight panel; last week he likened some bishops to La Cosa Nostra. And the Washington Post goes with a revised death toll from that U.S. tank incident Friday morning: seven, rather than 27, Iraqis perished and it’s believed that five of those were civilian bystanders.

There’s not much new information in the late-breaking Times lead. The raids took place this morning in Falluja, Iraq, and at least two other cities the U.S. won’t name. “This thing is happening all over Iraq tonight,” says a lieutenant colonel, sounding like Bush the elder. The goal is to quell the uprisings and ambushes that have lead to the deaths of 10 U.S. soldiers in the past two weeks in Sunni-dominated areas north and west of Baghdad. The raids will be followed by concentrated relief efforts intended to win over the Iraqi people—an approach referred to by a U.S. colonel as “carrot and stick.”    

Frank Keating, former governor of Oklahoma, is expected to give up his job as head of the Catholic Church’s National Review Board within the next couple of days, according to the LAT lead. His hard-nosed advocacy on behalf of abuse victims ruffled some clerical feathers, but it’s believed his resignation was called for by his fellow board members. His departure may, in the LAT’s words, “revive questions among many Catholics about whether the bishops were willing to accept independent, outside oversight of their work.” The lay board was appointed a year ago in the wake of the sex scandals.

The Post lead seems mighty thin, even granting the dearth of big news. The paper revisits Friday’s ambush on the 7th Calvalry in Balad, Iraq, in which, initially, 27 Iraqis were thought to have been killed. Now it turns out to have been seven, and that’s a curious error, mistaking seven for 27, but the story doesn’t offer any insight into the discrepancy. As for the five civilians, the LAT already told us on Saturday that they were “farmers stretched out in their fields under the stars.” The Post fills out the story with humdrum quotes from U.S. commanders, as in, “Every unit goes out and tries to avoid civilian casualties,” and “My soldiers are very good. … We’re here to help these people.”

George Bush’s fund-raising prowess was the early edition lead in the NYT, only to be bumped aside by the Iraqi raids in the final. Bush-Cheney ‘04 is expected to reap some $20 million in the next two weeks, as George W., Dick, and Laura do the dinner-circuit thing. They may best the total ($26 million) of all nine Dem candidates combined thus far. In 2000, Bush raised $100 million, “redefining standards for modern-day presidential fund-raising,” as the Times puts it. 

On the TV page in Arts & Leisure, the NYT extols the “endless sunshininess” of PBS’ Reading Rainbow above the fold and previews the Spike channel below. “Butterfly in the sky, I can go twice as high. Take a look, it’s in a book” goes the Rainbow theme song. The new shows on Spike include Stripperella, with Pamela Anderson lending voice to animated stripper/superhero Erotica Jones. On Rainbow, LeVar Burton invites his viewers to pause a few seconds to listen to a babbling brook. On Spike, you get Ride With Funkmaster Flex, a show about hip-hop stars and their customized cars. Rainbow recently lost its funding; Spike premieres tomorrow.

The WP fronts the rush of philanthropic (and some might say opportunistic) corporate sponsors stepping up to plug the fiscal holes in public education. Vying for fat cash prizes for their schools, kids put their thinking caps on and come up with, say, the most creative use of SweeTarts or the best song in celebration of Oscar Mayer Lunchables. (Kids in Maryland dressed up as dancing pieces of bologna, ham, and cheese, and walked off with 10 grand.) Even schools that don’t finish in the money (i.e., the losers) are eligible for other “benefits”—such as a visit from the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile.   

In the NYT Magazine, the Ethicist (Randy Cohen) responds to a high-school English teacher who wants to offer $20 to the student who scores highest on the next exam. Surprisingly, Cohen embraces the idea, though he warns that the “reward seems too small and its eventual arrival too remote to be a goad to learning. But that’s a question best left to the teacher, and to the state legislators, who will no doubt be delighted to allocate adequate funds for the next round of ‘Name That Nabokov Character.’ “

It beats making a life-size car out of SweeTarts.