Today's Papers

Yes We Can!

The Los Angeles Times leads with the more than 500,000 people who took to the streets Saturday in downtown L.A. to protest some of the immigration measures that will come before the U.S. Senate on Monday. In addition to legislation co-sponsored by Sens. John McCain and Edward Kennedy, which would grant permanent residency and possibly citizenship to over 11 million illegal immigrants currently in the United States, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist introduced a bill that would tighten border security and increase penalties for illegal immigrants and those who employ them

The marchers were peaceful and included immigrants as well as labor, religious, and civil rights groups, chanting “Si se puede!” (Yes we can!). Although they represent a significant opposition to the crackdown on illegal immigrants—50,000 people also gathered in downtown Denver on Saturday to protest a state measure that would deny government services to illegal immigrants—the marchers are apparantly in the minority. The LAT reports that according to a Zogby poll, 62 percent of Americans support more “restrictive immigration policies.”

The battle over immigration has also divided Republicans. The NYT fronts a piece on the plight of Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, who himself has yet to decide how he’ll vote on the upcoming legislation. While Cornyn, a credentialed conservative, doesn’t support amnesty for illegal immigrants, he may support a temporary worker program. If he does, he’ll have the support of the Chamber of Commerce and other business groups. Conservative critics, however, won’t be behind him. They claim the temporary program will be impossible to enforce, and therefore don’t see the difference between amnesty and guest workers. The NYT reports that the issue is so contentious that some Republicans who previously backed immigrants’ rights (Mike DeWine, Orrin Hatch) refuse to discuss it now.

The New York Times leads with a report that in order to comply with the testing requirements of the No Child Left Behind education law, schools nationwide are ratcheting up the amount of time students spend on reading and math—to the exclusion of other courses. Because the law only requires annual tests in those two subjects, schools are ditching history, science, art, and music and concentrating on their test scores. At one school in California, some students spend five of their six class periods on math, reading, and gym, with only 55 minutes reserved for another subject; the school’s lowest performers don’t even get that extra class. There’s a split among experts as to whether such intense focus on math and reading will eventually help underperforming students, or will, as some suggest, lead to student burnout.

In an education-related op-ed in the NYT, Orlando Patterson challenges several recent studies that attribute the high levels of joblessness, crime, and drug use in the black community to substandard education. Blaming education, Patterson argues, only raises another question: “Why are young black men doing so poorly in school that they lack basic literacy and math skills?” Patterson doesn’t necessarily think bad schools are to blame. He points out that “countless” studies by education experts have found that “poor schools, per se, do not explain why after 10 years of education a young man remains illiterate.” In general, he thinks socioeconomic factors don’t provide enough insight and suggests the answers may be cultural, blaming hip-hop culture, among other things, for entrapping black men in a “Dionysian trap.”

The Washington Post leads with news that Edwin Buckham, a former chief of staff and political adviser to Tom DeLay, collected over a million dollars in payments from a pro-family nonprofit organization. Buckham set up the U.S. Family Network – a group whose revenue came mostly from clients of lobbyist Jack Abramoff—while in DeLay’s employ. Although DeLay claimed the USFN was a “nationwide, grass-roots organization,” the 3 million dollars it collected in five years was mostly funneled to DeLay’s advisers or used to fund ads attacking Democrats. In addition, the money was spent on costly art as well as lavish travel and entertainment for Buckham. The WP also notes that “Abramoff, for his part, once boasted that he had invested a million dollars in Buckham.”

The NYT off-leads with a fascinating story on the eradication of Guinea worm, a disease that can trace its roots to the Old Testament. Former President Jimmy Carter spent the past 20 years organizing volunteers to treat the drinking water in infested villages and as a result, in five years’ time, Guinea worm will be the first disease since smallpox to disappear.

The latest from Belarus: The NYT reefers news that riot police beat, shoved, and arrested protestors in Minsk as 6,000 people gathered in the city center. An opposition leader was reportedly arrested after leading a march on the prison where other opposition members are being held. The LAT reports that police didn’t just beat protestors, they bloodied them, and many who ran from the police were clubbed to the ground once they were caught. This week’s protests are the first in the 12-year reign of President Aleksandr Lukashenko, who was re-elected on March 19 in an election that the opposition and the West claim was rigged. Lukashenko went on television on Saturday night, singing the praises of his country’s peaceful existence, claiming the only reason the West opposes him is because he blocked the eastern expansion of the EU and NATO into Belarus.

The WP fronts a local feature reporting that the nation’s capital now leads the country in new AIDS cases. Although 20 years ago the District was one of the first cities to appoint an AIDS director and establish an AIDS office, D.C. now reports 10,000 cases of AIDS and a still uncounted number of HIV cases. The problem, officials say, is that while D.C. combated the disease early on, it hasn’t shifted its focus to match the disease’s changing nature or done enough early prevention. For example, although the city has spent close to half a billion dollars in federal and local funds in eight years, there’s no prevention campaign targeting the District’s teenagers.

An article in the NYT Styles section details the latest Los Angeles must-have: the life coach. It seems that while therapists are hardly a thing of the past, a life coach focuses less on old wounds and more on the here and now demands of self-improvement, time-management, and writer’s block. Given that many actors, writers, and producers retain personal trainers, masseuses, and colorists, a life coach is inevitable. As one producer put it: “Once they have their offices feng shui’d, coaching seems to be the next thing.”