Today's Papers

Oui Are Family

The New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal world-wide newsbox,and Los Angeles Timesall lead with President Bush offering a group-hug to European allies while also saying that Russia “must renew a commitment to democracy and the rule of law.” USA Today teases the speech and leads with new Census data showing immigrants who’ve arrived in the … Aughtieshave come with slightly more education than in previous decades. About 70 percent have been high-school graduates versus 67 percent in the 1990s. The 2000s are also on pace to set a record for immigration, with 14.2 million people projected to arrive.

“America supports a strong Europe because we need a strong partner in the hard work of advancing freedom in the world,” said the president, whose talk elicited a lukewarm response from the diplomats and other in attendance at the Brussels chat. The NYT notes that the speech “did not devote more than a few sentences” to bonding with the E.U. Still, some policy changes were unveiled yesterday. Bush ate some specially prepared potatoes and referred to them, pointedly, by their old Europe name: French fries.

OK, actually only the Journal focuses on policy: “FRICTION MAY BE EU-U.S. NORM; Flap Over China Arms Embargo Typifies Post-Cold War Divergence.”

The papers also don’t spend much space sounding out what, if anything, Bush’s tough talk on Russia means policywise. The WSJ, though, does say that the White House is having trouble developing a “cohesive policy” toward Russia, partially because Republicans have been pushing the administration to take a harder line. Bush is scheduled to meet with President Putin Thursday.

According to rough early morning reports caught by the LAT, a few hundred people have been killed in a 6.4 earthquake in Iran.

Three GIs were killed in Iraq and another eight wounded when a roadside bombing hit a medical team that had been responding to a vehicle crash. Another Iraqi journalist was kidnapped, and two Indonesian hostages were released. Also, interim Prime Minister Allawi is a making a long-shot play to keep his job. Most of the violence coverage, such as in the NYT, is relegated to a sentence or two in wider pieces.

The LAT notices jihadists’ latest target in Baghdad: barbers. Offering Western-style haircuts is considered a crime worthy of death. Police said in the past month eight barbers have been killed and about a dozen shops bombed. Lucky barbers just get threatened, such as one who was given a note by a masked man, “Our swords are thriving for the neck of barbers.”

Syria pledged to pull out of Lebanon, but as the NYT makes clear that kind of talk is nothing new or substantive: “With such a tight leash over the country, Syria can easily make promises like the one on Monday without fear of ever having to make good on them, opposition figures say.” (Actually, opposition figures didn’t say that, at least not in the story. The reporter is just making a, quite reasonable, judgment. So, how about dumping the CYA-source citing?) Anyway, Lebanese opposition to the Syrian occupation is getting much louder; a demonstration yesterday was the largest yet.

The NYT, apparently alone among the papers, covers a U.N. report on Afghanistan that describes some gains—such as far more children now enrolled in school—but warns that “poverty, inequality and instability threaten progress.” The life expectancy in Afghanistan is 20 years below its neighbors, at 44.5 years. Though the Times doesn’t get into it, a wire story on the report charged that the U.S.’s military campaign has helped create a climate of “fear, intimidation, terror and lawlessness.” (Presumably that’s a reference to U.S. support of warlords.) For those with the minutes to burn, the New York Review of Books has a lengthy and depressing dispatch from Afghanistan. It focuses on the U.S.’s counter-effective approach to poppy eradication.

The Journal saysinside that the EPA has lowered an outside panel’s recommended limit for exposure to perchlorate, a chemical used in rocket fuel and now found in water supplies. Basically, the EPA decided that there’s enough of a safety margin built into the limit that there’s no need to tweak it for babies. The head of the panel as well as an independent scientist told the WSJ that’s bunk.

The LAT looks at seven states where public employees have been offered the opportunity to trade in at least part of their pensions for private accounts. The paper paints the results as less than stunning. Nebraska found that account holders were making 6 percent to 7 percent a year while professionals who handled the state’s pension assets were making nearly 11 percent.

The Post goes Page One with a quickie intellectual history of the Social Security privatization meme. The paper traces it back to the late 1970s, when a Harvard Law student floated what he called “the craziest idea in the world.” A few years later the Heritage Foundation committed itself to a longterm battle, explaining in one report, “Lenin well knew to be a successful revolutionary one must also be patient and consistently plan for real reform.” (The LAT dug up that quote last month.)

Was he driving a Hummer? The NYT looks at some excuses drivers have offered up in traffic court. Such as: “One driver swore that he was certain of his speed because his fiancée happened to be eye-level with the speedometer.”