Today's Papers

Staying Alive

The New York Times and the Washington Post lead and the Wall Street Journal, at least online, tops its world-wide news box with Sen. Hillary Clinton’s resounding victory in Puerto Rico’s Democratic presidential primary. Clinton, who took 68 percent of the vote, vowed that she would not exit the race before tomorrow’s final primaries in Montana and South Dakota. The Los Angeles Times off-leads Clinton and leads with a fire that damaged portions of the Universal Studios Hollywood back lot and theme park. USA Today leads with news that national public transit usage reached record numbers in the first quarter of 2008. The ridership spike is straining the capacity of many cities’ underfunded transit agencies.

In all likelihood, Clinton’s Puerto Rican victory will be remembered as little more than a souvenir of what was apparently a lovely vacation. Apparently disinclined to challenge the DNC’s decision to award Sen. Barack Obama a portion of the vote from the disputed Michigan primary, her best shot at the nomination now seems to involve winning the popular vote and using that to lure superdelegates. Obama, approximately 47 delegates away from clinching the nomination, certainly doesn’t sound concerned: He congratulated Clinton on her victory and said that she would be a “great asset” during the general election.

While some hardcore supporters appear ready to battle until the convention, many Clinton loyalists seem finally to be admitting that their days are numbered. (The key number is 2,118.) “It would be most beneficial if we resolved this nomination sooner rather than later,” said one Clinton superdelegate, and the sentiment resounds throughout all of today’s campaign coverage. The WSJ fronts a long story analyzing various endgame scenarios for Clinton.

The fire at Universal Studios Hollywood was the second there in as many decades. Attractions like the King Kong tour and the town square from the movie Back to the Future were badly damaged (save the clock tower, anyone?) as “the towering cloud of black smoke made it look as if Hollywood was producing a film about its own doomsday.” Efforts to extinguish the unexplained blaze were hampered by low water pressure and a malfunctioning sprinkler system.

The NYT off-leads a report on Pakistan’s inability or reluctance to capture Baitallah Mehsud, the leader of the Pakistani Taliban and the alleged brains behind the assassination of Benazir Bhutto. Mehsud, who regularly appears in public, openly operates terror training camps near the Afghan border. “If the army took firm action they could crush him in two months,” said one frustrated tribal leader. Pakistan seems to have thought that Mehsud’s border presence could be useful in a theoretical war with India.

The Post goes below the fold with news that a record number of immigrants caught crossing the border between the United States and Mexico are being prosecuted on criminal charges. In February alone, 7,250 criminal immigration cases were brought in federal court. Officials claim that Operation Streamline has helped deter potential illegal aliens from crossing the border; critics claim that the program “makes for good election-year politics but poor policy.”

The NYT goes up top with a report on how operational improvements in U.S.-operated prisons in Iraq may soon be neutralized if the U.S. agrees to remand thousands of prisoners to the custody of the Iraqi government. The extensive article, filled with praise for a remade detention system that offers prisoners fair administrative hearings and educational programs, is encouraging, but it reads something like a press release. TP wonders exactly how much supervision the reporter faced during her visits to Camps Cropper and Bucca.

Everybody fronts the news that Yves Saint Laurent, celebrity fashion designer and advocate for women’s trousers, is dead. In a career that spanned nearly 50 years, Saint Laurent built a legacy based on a chic and daring simplicity, outfitting women in peacoats, pantsuits, and tuxedo jackets as he embraced the revolutionary spirit of his era. “My small job as a couturier is to make clothes that reflect our times. I’m convinced women want to wear pants,” he once said. He was 71.

The NYT reports that the nation’s credit crisis has induced many student lenders to stop loaning money to students attending some less-than-prestigious colleges and universities. The banks—including PNC, SunTrust, and Citibank—cite higher default rates as one reason why they have dropped certain schools from their loan programs. “I find it totally and completely unethical,” said the financial aid director at William Jessup University.

USAT reefers a feature on Baghdad’s Sadr City neighborhood, an insurgent haven recently partitioned by a long wall intended to, as one merchant puts it, “separate the bad Sadr City and the good Sadr City.” Although the three-week-old wall has been a security boon, the difficulties involved in passing through it have crippled many retailers stuck on the American side. “If the market is going to die, then maybe the Mahdi Army would be better,” said one retailer. Everybody notes that the 19 American military deaths in Iraq in May were the fewest since the 2003 invasion.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates blasted the government of Burma, accusing the ruling junta of “criminal neglect” for its refusal to allow international foreign aid into its cyclone-damaged country, the NYT reports. Four American aid ships, treading water near Burma’s borders for the past few days, will probably be recalled soon.

Cash rules everything around me: The WSJ fronts a feature examining the various extreme ways that Americans are trying to raise the cash necessary to support their debt-ridden lifestyles. Some are taking out reverse mortgages on their homes; others are selling their life-insurance policies to corporations for immediate cash payouts. “You don’t want to do these things unless you absolutely have to,” cautioned one financial adviser. Caution be damned, says one cash-strapped soul: “Why plan for retirement if you can’t make it today?”