Today's Papers

Hedge Hogs

The New York Times leads with a look at the rising tide of cash being sunk into hedge funds by pension officers. The Los Angeles Times leads with the possibility that immigration reform could either make or break the GOP in the next election cycle. The Washington Post’s top nonlocal story is a call by a top Shiite cleric in Iraq calling on U.S. forces to give Iraqi troops a bigger role in pursuing terrorists.

The NYT raises concerns that corporate and state pension funds are investing too heavily in hedge funds, which the NYT calls “secretive and lightly regulated investment partnerships.” Readers have to sift through eight graphs of statistics and hand-wringing before the NYT remembers that it hasn’t explained what a hedge fund is or why pension plans shouldn’t be investing in them. The article never actually defines the term, content to say they consist of “sophisticated investments” that often fly in the face of conventional wisdom. That’s true, but that explanation makes hedge funds sound like they’re simply high-risk mutual funds, which would be a gross oversimplification at best. For all the talk in the article about how the funds can be secretive and dangerous, there’s precious little in the way of details. If the NYT feels that people ought to be worried about this, shouldn’t it tell them why?

Illegal immigrants are the new gay marriage, trumpets the LAT, pegging immigration reform as the defining social issue for the next election cycle, just as homosexual nuptials were last year. Unlike gay marriage, however, there are serious rifts within the right on how best to deal with immigration reform, with big businesses (and President Bush) calling for a temporary worker program, while hard-liners are looking to wall off Mexico. The LAT argues that whether or not Republicans can reach a popular consensus on the issue will determine the party’s ability to rebound from dissatisfaction over the war in Iraq and the latest round of ethics probes.

The WP relays top Shiite cleric Abdul Aziz Hakim’s call for giving Iraqi troops a greater hand in fighting terrorism within Iraq. The WP admits that Hakim is a little vague on what exactly he wants from the U.S., apart from bigger guns and lots of them. Instead, the article focuses more on Hakim, his possible rise to political power, and his troubling ties to the Badr Brigade before devoting the back half of the piece to Hakim’s point of view on the occupation. The WP acknowledges that the cleric’s rare interview is an attempt to respond to allegations that Iraqi troops have been torturing suspected insurgents at a secret prison. TP isn’t so sure that secret torture prisons make a great case for giving Iraqi forces big guns and more “leeway” and has to question why the WP is giving Hakim a soapbox on Page One.

The NYT fronts the differences between terror suspects tried with crimes in U.S. courts and those held as “enemy combatants” and tried by the military in an attempt to discern the rules after last week’s reversal in the Jose Padilla case. Their conclusion is the White House assigns (and reassigns) the status of suspects solely to shield its broad investigatory powers from scrutiny in the courts. The upshot is a judicial game of Calvinball with the DOJ standing in for the capricious 7-year-old.

The LAT indirectly questions the findings in the suicide of a U.S. colonel stationed in Iraq. One day Col. Ted Westhusing was investigating allegations of corruption by U.S. contractors in Iraq, the next he shot himself in the head, less than a month before he was scheduled to return home. The LAT won’t come out and say that some of the details in Westhusing’s death don’t quite add up, but it’s clear that the LAT is skeptical of the official explanation. Either way, the story says a lot about what life is like for soldiers serving in Iraq: It’s either incredibly corrupt or impossibly depressing.

Star athletes worried about meeting NCAA academic requirements are rigging their GPA’s with quickie transfers to a correspondence high school in Florida, reports the NYT. For $399, students can make up unlimited coursework in a matter of weeks, via open-book exams based on brief study guides. The NYT delivers a disturbing look at the willful bureaucratic negligence that makes this possible. As one athletic director puts it, “I probably should want to know, but I don’t want to know. I don’t want to know anything about it.”

Next week will most likely see the nation’s 1,000th execution since resuming capital punishment in 1976, prompting the WP to spotlight lucky customer #1,000’s case for clemency. Virginia Gov. Mark Warner faces a tough decision over whether or not to commute Robin Lovitt’s death sentence to life without parole because the Arlington Circuit Court clerk accidentally chucked DNA evidence that Lovitt claims would have exonerated him. Lovitt’s proponents claim that executing a man without being certain of his guilt could undermine popular support for capital punishment. Gov. Warner is openly pro-death-penalty and has never commuted a sentence before, opening up discussion as to how his decision could affect a possible Warner presidential bid in 2008.

The NYT covers all the disturbing details in a piece on prepubescent forced marriage in Malawi.

The WP traces the Ikiru-like quest of an Egyptian architect struggling to construct a park in Cairo. His story becomes a catalyst to examine the astounding web of red tape the Egyptian government uses to keep a hold on its populace.

The NYT continues to pump out speculative articles about what Supreme Court nominees may have possibly thought at one point.

The LAT profiles the woman who revolutionized phone sex, Internet porn, and online gambling as a “gray market” investor who made billions in the process.

Calling all potential “Check Mates” … The World Chess Beauty Contest is looking to sex up the board game’s stuffy image by posting pictures of the world’s most attractive female competitive chess players in revealing outfits, reports the NYT. The NYT likens the collection of bikini-clad rook-pushers to tennis star Anna Kournikova, in that while all the women on the site play competitive chess, most of them don’t play particularly well.