Today's Papers

How Special Ed

The Los Angeles Timesand Washington Postlead with, and others front, newly released papers showing that when Judge Alito hit up his Reagan administration bosses for a promotion two decades ago, he wrote that he supported the notions that “racial and ethnic quotas should not be allowed and that the Constitution does not protect a right to an abortion.” The New York Timesleads with and WP off-leads the Supreme Court ruling that parents who dispute a school’s special education plan for their children bear the burden of proving the plan is inadequate. That’s how most states already operate and the ruling will likely only affect a “few hundred cases” annually. The WP explains that the burden of proof is only decisive in the tiny percentage of cases where an arbiter finds all evidence essentially equal. Unlike the other papers, the LAT considers the small impact of the case and drops it inside with a short piece. USA Today leads with the death toll from Katrina creeping up after a few families in Louisiana finally returned home to find the body of a relative who died from the storm. The death toll is now 1,076, a “jump” of 104 in six weeks.

Alito’s position on abortion, of course, isn’t exactly a shocker. Nor does Alito’s note, which the Washington Times first nabbed, answer the question of how he would actually rule on Roe v. Wade. Really. As Slate’s Dahlia Lithwick notes, there’s a near consensus among law prof types that Roe v. Wade was a bunk decision, but that’s a different issue than whether to overturn it. Everybody gives at least a nod to that argument, but only the Wall Street Journal sees it through, playing down Alito’s comments on abortion while focusing on his ode to conservatism in general.

“I believe very strongly in limited government, federalism, free enterprise, the supremacy of the elected branches of government, the need for a strong defense and effective law enforcement, and the legitimacy of a government role in protecting traditional values,” Alito wrote to his bosses.

The NYT adds that Alito was also a member of “Concerned Alumni of Princeton,” which the Times says was formed to “oppose the admission of women to the university. [T]he group moved on to criticize the school’s minority admissions, permissive social norms, and secular atmosphere” while supporting the selective admission’s policies of private student clubs affiliated with the school.

The WP fronts a bipartisan group of senators endorsing a compromise plan that would roll back last week’s detainee amendment and give Gitmo prisoners someaccess to federal courts. Sen. Lindsey Graham, who sponsored the initial no-longer operative legislation seemed to be … pleased (or looking to save face), saying the change “corrects a flaw in my amendment.”

The NYT mentions the detainee compromise in a front-page piece about a Republican-sponsored Senate bill that—quite politely—nudges the administration to get the heck out of Iraq. The bill would require quarterly reports on progress and calls for Iraqi troops to take the lead by the end of next year. Unlike a similar Democratic-sponsored bill, it doesn’t include a demand for “estimated dates” of departure, and apart from the reports, requirement is nonbinding.

The WP talks to two former Iraqi detainees who say they faced beatings, mock executions, and were put in a cage with lions. The men, who were detained in 2003, were later declared innocent. And now they’re part of an ACLU lawsuit against SecDef Rumsfeld and others.

The WSJ has fascinating piece on a little-known program that trains military officers to be experts in a particular region, complete with language skills, and then assigns them there for the rest of the careers. The military has 145 such officers assigned to the Middle East, and go figure, just closed down the effort in Iraq. “While it’s regrettable to lose experienced people, overall there are many more Arabic speakers working for us [in Iraq] than you might think,” said one U.S. Embassy official. The Journal notes that after one of the officers is removed from Mosul the U.S. won’t have a single official there who speaks Arabic.

Two Marines have been killed and a handful wounded during an offensive in an Iraqi town near the Syrian border. It’s the same town where nine Marines were killed in an offensive earlier this year. The difference, says the military, is that this time Iraqi and U.S. forces will stick around. In a bit of body-counting, the military said it has killed 50 insurgents in the operation. Meanwhile, two South African security contractors were killed by a bomb in Baghdad.

One German peacekeeper and two Afghans were killed in two bombings yesterday in Kabul.

The WP, NYT, and LAT all front government investigators suggesting that top FDA officials went against agency scientists to reject the application for over-the-counter sales of the “morning-after” pill. The officials seem to have decided to reject the application before a scientific review was even concluded. But the investigators had a hard time nailing down the details since e-mails were erased and the former head of the FDA—and now head of the Medicare and Medicaid, Mark McClellan—refused to answer investigators’ questions.

USAT teases yet another poll showing the president’s approval rating dipping to 37 percent. But here’s the part of the story that’s already swinging around the blogosphere: “Fewer than one in 10 adults say they would prefer a congressional candidate who is a Republican and who agrees with Bush on most major issues.” Which may or may not be significant. The question referenced actually asks whether you would be “most likely to support a Republican who agrees with George W. Bush on almost every major issue.” That’s obviously a bit different than how the story phrased it, and a darn high bar. What were the responses, if any, in previous years?