Today's Papers

Have Gifts, Will Travel

The New York Timesleads with a look at the little-known benefits that universities receive from study-abroad programs, which some contend limit students’ options and make studying in a foreign country more expensive. These groups offer free trips to university officials, help in managing and promoting their programs, and sometimes even offer cash as a reward for enrolling students. The Washington Postleads with word that D.C.-area officials are having trouble paying for the upkeep of much of the equipment they received for homeland security after the Sept. 11 attacks. Although the story has a local focus, there are hints that officials around the country are facing similar problems.

USA Todayleads with word from the U.S. military that major, high-profile attacks in Iraq that cause a large number of civilian casualties have decreased by almost 50 percent since the beginning of the “surge.” Officials see this as a sign that the strategy of targeting al-Qaida in Iraq, which is frequently responsible for these large attacks, is working. The Wall Street Journal tops its world-wide newsbox with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki announcing that he will hold a meeting with the leaders from all the major political parties this week in order to try to work out their differences. The Los Angeles Timesleads with news that U.S. customs at LAX is back to normal after a computer outage on Saturday affected more than 17,000 passengers.

The NYT says that many of the benefits doled out by study-abroad programs “are similar, if not identical, to ones uncovered in multiple investigations into the student loan industry.” Of course, it’s difficult to get as outraged over problems in study abroad programs, but the paper takes the larger view and wonders “how many aspects of higher education involve such little-known incentives.” Some say the reliance on these middle men is one of the main reasons why studying abroad remains expensive and out-of-reach to many students.

The announcement of a political meeting in Iraq comes at a time of increasing tensions as almost half of the members in Maliki’s Cabinet have walked out recently. The NYT says the meeting is the result of pressure from American officials who want to have something to show Congress in September. Although Maliki said he’s optimistic about the meeting, he didn’t hesitate to warn those who walked out that they could easily be replaced.

In other Iraq news, the U.S. military announced five soldiers were killed Saturday. According to the Post, one of the soldiers was killed by a sniper, who then lured the other four to a booby-trapped house. The WSJ goes high with word that insurgents are increasingly using rigged houses to kill American troops.

Karl Rove tells the WSJ’s editorial page editor, Paul Gigot, he’s resigning on Aug. 31. “I just think it’s time,” Rove said. He admits it might look like he’s leaving Washington to avoid congressional scrutiny but contends he’s been thinking about it for a while. Rove said he expects Bush to move back up in the polls and predicted there will be “a fissure in the Democratic party” in the fall. He also said Republicans still stand a chance of holding on to the White House, in no small part because of the fact that Democrats will likely nominate Hillary Clinton, “a tough, tenacious, fatally flawed candidate.”

The LAT off-leads a dispatch from Pakistan that says al-Qaida and Taliban forces have been expanding their presence in villages along the Afghan border, even as the Army is stepping up its offensive against the insurgents. News of the fighting is hard to come by, but there is some evidence that insurgents are using the latest offensive to their advantage and increasing the scale and sophistication of their attacks against the Army. “They’ve become better organized, more disciplined and more capable of mounting big attacks,” a Pakistani analyst tells the paper.

Everyone reports that, after resisting the characterization on several occasions, Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf admitted yesterday that Islamic militants operating from the country’s tribal areas provide support to insurgents in Afghanistan.

The NYT fronts, and the WSJ goes inside with, what seems to be the emerging story line from the Iowa straw poll: The big winner was Mike Huckabee, the former governor of Arkansas. Sure Mitt Romney came out first, but that was expected, while Huckabee’s second-place finish gives him a chance to receive some much-needed attention that could propel his candidacy. The NYT focuses on how Huckabee has managed to set himself apart from the crowd by using humor effectively. And proving that a fake poll can have real consequences, former Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson announced he’s quitting the race after coming out sixth in Iowa.

The WP fronts a look at the political action committees and the political nonprofits operated by Linda Chavez and her family, which have taken on millions of dollars but disbursed little of that money to the causes they’re supposed to be helping. Everything done by Chavez, who was Bush’s nominee to head the Labor Department until it was revealed that she hired an illegal immigrant, appears to be perfectly legal, but it’s a good example of how many of these organizations operate with little oversight and spend most of their money funding themselves. “I guess you could call it the family business,” Chavez said.

The Post and LAT front the death of Merv Griffin, the talk-show host who invented the long-running game shows Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy!. Griffin was 82 and died of prostate cancer.

The WP looks into the ongoing efforts to explain why Americans are no longer the world’s tallest people. After much time at the top, American men now rank ninth and women 15th in average height, while the Dutch have taken over as the world’s tallest. Some believe the trend has to do with the lack of universal health care, but no one really knows. “It’s a puzzle to which we really don’t have a good answer,” an expert tells the paper.