Today's Papers

Telling Secrets

The Washington Post leads with a former U.N. arms inspector’s report that an international ring of smugglers obtained blueprints for an advanced nuclear weapon and may have shared them with a number of rogue states. The plans could significantly aid nations like Iran and North Korea in adding nuclear elements to their ballistic weaponry. The New York Times leads with a 1974 foreign policy essay written for the National War College by Sen. John McCain, the presumptive Republican nominee for president. The essay, which discusses the reasons some American prisoners succumbed to enemy pressure during the Vietnam War, reveals a long-standing irritation with the American government for failing to educate the public about crucial aspects of foreign policy. The Los Angeles Times fronts, at least online, some gay couples’ doubts about rushing to the courthouse for a marriage license when they become available in California this week.

The NYT’ssmuggler ring lede is a bit less ominous than the Post’s, noting simply that the nuclear blueprints were discovered on a computer belonging to rogue Pakistani scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan but that investigators “have not been able to determine whether they were sold to Iran or the smuggling ring’s other customers.” The Times also curiously reports that some of the blueprint’s details appear in the Sunday Washington Post, but the WP’s “details” are few and far between. The WP divulges only that the plans included both instructions for building a “compact nuclear device” that could be fitted to the sort of ballistic missile used by Iran and for a second, more complex nuclear weapon.

In a 1974 paper obtained by the NYT, Sen. McCain wrote, as summarized by the paper, that “Americans captured after 1968 had proven to be more susceptible to North Vietnamese pressure, because they had been exposed to the divisive forces which had come into focus as a result of the antiwar movement in the United States.” McCain recommended more education to ensure that soldiers thoroughly understood and supported U.S. policy—an approach that, while certain to draw criticism, might solidify a soldier’s resolve in crucial encounters with enemy forces. The essay also sheds light on other aspects of McCain’s political psyche, including his habit of averting conflict by making peace with former enemies. Reporter David D. Kirkpatrick backs up his lengthy piece with gripping details from McCain’s war history, interspersed with commentary from the senator himself.

Strikingly similar stories on gay couples’ increasingly mixed feelings about legal marriage appear on the front pages of the NYT and the LAT. The NYT focuses on the four years since Massachusetts legalized homosexual marriage in 2004, noting that the number of marriages has dropped every year. Some have ended in divorce, while others, facing the new world of dilemmas that legal marriage presents, are hesitant to take vows in the first place. The LAT notices similar cold feet in California, except this time it’s before the ruling even takes effect (marriage licenses for same-sex couples are officially available in the Golden State on Tuesday). Both pieces are heavy on anecdotes and psychology, though the NYT provides some interesting census statistics on the ages and male/female ratios of same-sex couples in Massachusetts.

A front-page WP story charts the rapid rise of single-gender public-school classrooms, an experiment that many believe will help eliminate some of the chronic problems facing public education. “The approach is based on the much-debated yet increasingly popular notion that girls and boys are hard-wired to learn differently and that they will be more successful if classes are designed for their particular needs,” the story explains. Since most public schools trying gender segregation are still in experimental phase, there is little hard evidence to suggest that the approach will be as revolutionary as some educators hope; parents, however, seem to be overwhelmingly receptive to the idea.

The first installment of a WP series puts faces on the credit crisis, using the stories of multiple players in the subprime mortgage saga to chronicle its rise and fall. Part 1 (the others will follow Monday and Tuesday) deals in timelines and back story, delivering more narrative than analysis. The nutshell: The housing bubble that began in the mid-’90s was “a way to harness the inventiveness of the capitalist system to give low-income families, minorities and immigrants a chance to own their homes. But it also is a classic story of boom, excess and bust, of homeowners, speculators and Wall Street dealmakers happy to ride the wave of easy money even though many knew a crash was inevitable.”

An op-ed by former Clinton speechwriter Ted Widmer in the LAT insists that “America isn’t over,” responding to announcements that we live in a “post-American world.” Widmer notes the array of popular books trumpeting the rise of Brazil, Russia, India, and China and argues that “to just throw in the towel, as so many of these new books seem to do, seems a little un-American. It also ignores a mother lode of history that points to the opposite conclusion.”

A touching tribute to fatherhood appears deep in the NYT’s A Section, as writer Peter Applebome affectionately recalls his three fathers—”my own and two neighbors who had enough left over after dealing with their own kids to feel like dads to us as well.”