The Washington Post and Los Angeles Times lead with California's worsening energy crisis. USA Today leads with tomorrow's inauguration of George W. Bush, America's 43rd president. The New York Times leads with a Pentagon raid of the Marine Corps' Osprey unit headquarters. The Osprey, an "experimental tilt-rotor aircraft" that can act like a helicopter or prop plane, was responsible for two fatal crashes last year. The Pentagon suspects the unit of falsifying Osprey maintenance records to help "win approval for full-scale production."
California suffered a second day of rolling blackouts. Even more disruptive, the outages affected about 1.5 million customers, according to the Post. (The Wall Street Journal says "two million"; NYT says "several million.") Demand is simply crushing supply. The state's scrambling to buy energy from various sources, racking up huge costs that may never be recovered. The state legislature approved use of $400 million from its surplus, a move the LAT calls "a grim admission that the state faces a social, economic, and public safety disaster." The WSJ calls the crisis an "early test" for Bush. As the sixth largest economy in the world, California is a "major engine of growth," and Bush will face pressure to act quickly. In a separate front-page story, the LAT has Bush's initial response: nothing. Rather than granting price caps the state has asked for, he suggests California relax its pollution laws and allow plants to run "full tilt."
The Post and NYT off-lead accusations at the Ashcroft hearings. In 1999, then-Sen. John Ashcroft convinced Republicans to reject Judge Ronnie White's appointment to the federal bench. White testified yesterday that Ashcroft distorted his record, calling White soft on the death penalty when facts showed otherwise. White asked the Senate if this was "consistent with fair play and justice" required of an attorney general. Democrats saw two motives in Ashcroft's actions: 1) He hoped to look tough on crime during his (failed) campaign for re-election; 2) Racial bias (White is black). The NYT says Ashcroft is "the leading symbol of Mr. Bush's difficulties with black voters," a group that seems "determined to view [Ashcroft] as walking, talking evidence that Mr. Bush is deaf to its interests." Everybody gives the hearing front-page play.
All but the NYT front Jesse Jackson news. (The Times sticks it inside.) The married minister had an affair with an employee, fathering a child out of wedlock. Jackson pays $3,000 a month to support his 20-month-old daughter. The Post says most find Jackson's disclosure "unlikely to do significant long-term damage," but Jackson has canceled upcoming events and plans to leave public life for a while.
The Journal finds a new wave of cheating that's sweeping language classes. Students are using translation Web sites like Babelfish.altavista.com. Why write your essay in Spanish when you can let the site translate for you? Teachers are on to it, though: The translations are far from perfect, especially when it comes to idioms.
The NYT covers India's new political trend: eunuchs. One eunuch was elected mayor of Katni as a joke. Several more eunuch victories followed in other cities. Now there are plans for a national eunuch party. Generally male in build but female in manner (and yes, lacking that), eunuchs hold low social status -- electing them is a jab at the establishment. "People here were just so fed up, they said, 'Sure, let's have a eunuch,' and there wasn't much thought about which one," claims an Indian official. "Voters seem to trust us," says a eunuch.