Today's Papers

Head Case

The New York Times leads with American prosecutors and investigators flying off to Iraq this weekend to help build the case against Saddam Hussein. Everyone is quick to point out that the Iraqis are in charge, but the U.S. team will take the lead in sorting out the evidence. Local news dominates the front pages of both the Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times. The Post leads with the capsizing of a Baltimore harbor shuttle with 25 people aboard; one is dead and three are missing. The LAT goes with the arrest of the director of UCLA’s willed-body program, who’s charged with selling corpses and the occasional body part for profit.

The case against Saddam will be based on (literally) tons of documents showing evidence of human-rights atrocities, according to the NYT lead. The U.S. legal team, authorized by Condoleezza Rice back in January, will bring “quite a few resources to the table but not too many so it looks like a completely American process,” in the words of an administration official. The paper trail is critical in part because Hussein himself has been a disappointing source of information.

Salem Chalabi, nephew of the leader of the Iraqi National Congress * and graduate of Yale and Northwestern, is the Iraqi lawyer in charge of war crimes trials. “We’ll tailor the trial procedures in such a way that shows we learned the lessons of the Milosevic trial,” he says in the NYT. “We don’t want the tribunal and people like Saddam to be the principal teller of history here.” The strategy is to bring very specific charges and then allow defendants to call witnesses and construct arguments relevant only to those charges.

John Kerry says if he were president he would’ve backed Aristide, according to a NYT fronter. He calls the former Haitian president “no picnic” but maintains that the United States. “has understandings in the region about the right of a democratic regime to ask for help.” Speaking to reporters on his plane for an hour, Kerry tried to sound decisive and tough, though his aides concede that he, in the NYT’swords, “still has a hard time mustering the clear, declarative sentences and bedrock precepts that have become Mr. Bush’s trademark.”

The pop psychologists at the WP front a exceedingly long dissection of Kerry’s decision-making process. “Kerry Can Be Slow To Decide But Quick To Act” is both the headline and the belabored conclusion.

A lesson in newspaper editing from the LAT: A headline in the early edition—’U.S. Sees Science as a Shield From Terror; Critics Doubtful’—gets cleaned up for the final: ‘U.S. Funnels Billions To Science To Defend Against Terrorism.’ The science in question ranges from the workaday (stockpiling vaccines) to the fantastic (national air-monitoring sensors), but those doubtful critics say it may all be a waste of money. A smallpox attack, for example, could infect thousands before the first person shows symptoms, and the virus could be “sprayed from airplanes, dispersed in restaurant salad bars or introduced into building ventilation systems.”

The Nader candidacy continues to draw venom. The WP quotes from an AP poll showing Bush with 46 percent, Gore—make that Kerry—with 45, and Nader with a spoiling 6. “Kerry has been running ahead of the president in polls that do not include Nader.” In the NYT Magazine, a Princeton prof concludes that Ralph “may leave behind as his most striking achievement the re-election of George W. Bush—a man who stands aggressively for everything Nader claims is most corrupt about America.” Sound familiar? Hendrick Hertzberg in this week’s New Yorker: “But if Nader once again succeeds in making himself the decisive factor in a Bush victory, then his legacy will be less than zero. His legacy will be George W. Bush.”

The NYT front has some serious news, but the eye keeps returning to the 4x7 color photo of the two teens making out just to the left of the lead. It’s a provocative image but (surprise!) the story is about a “new teenage culture of restraint.” The kids locking lips in the photo are virgins and say they’ll remain so until marriage. The story: Teenage pregnancy is down thanks to less sex and more protection.

Restraint may be the Times public face, but transgender college students lurk within, in the SundayStyles to be precise. A few enlightened institutions—can you guess which ones?—are beginning to accommodate their transgender populations in interesting ways. Health services at Wesleyan asks students to “describe your gender identity history” rather than check “M” or “F.” Brown, Sarah Lawrence, and Wesleyan will offer special housing for trans students this fall. Smith has stricken “her” and “she” from the student constitution in favor of “the student.”

Not everyone is pleased. “It contradicts the whole point of having a women’s college,” says a Smith sophomore. “I am opposed to it, because there’s something to be said for a women’s college, and a lot of us come here because we choose to be in an environment where women are the primary focus.”

“We are a women’s college,” says the director of public affairs at Barnard. “But if a student began here as a woman and then wanted to change her gender, does that mean we would kick her out of college? No, it doesn’t. We are a sensitive and caring community. That said, the question has not arisen. To the best of our knowledge, no Barnard student has changed gender.”

Correction, March 8, 2004: The piece originally referred to the Iraqi National Conference. It’s the Iraqi National Congress. (Return to corrected item.)