The Los Angeles Times leads with Britain's struggle to contain foot-and-mouth disease. Efforts to eradicate the disease have led the Labor government to slaughter 300,000 animals, with 200,000 more condemned and awaiting "destruction." The New York Times leads with new evidence suggesting that an essential process required for cloning all but ensures a high rate of genetic mutation. At the Washington Post, the top story reports on the stalled construction of two U.S.-promised nuclear power plants in North Korea. Plagued by labor strikes and technical setbacks, the 7-year-old construction project is running eight years behind schedule, and many expect the Bush administration to pull the plug on it.
The LAT lead goes high with revised government estimates predicting a worst-case scenario in which fallout from foot-and-mouth claims the lives of half of Britain's 60 million livestock, but the story explains why even that figure understates the economic damage. Tourism, England's real cash cow with revenue in the tens of billions, may also be succumbing to disease. The British government acted quickly to discourage visitors from trekking through the English countryside since the virus can by carried on the soles of shoes. Now, during what is normally a lucrative Easter holiday, hotels have remained vacant, taxis empty, and shops overstocked. One economist predicts that when all the affected sectors are factored in, the resultant damage will be on the order of $13 billion.
The NYT lead strikes a quite different tone from the WP's fronted cloning job. The WP piece focuses on the latest creature to appear on the scene: cloning-for-profit enterprises that replicate highly coveted farm animals at exorbitant prices. The story explains that a top-flight bull makes for a valuable commodity, enriching its owner to the tune of $12,000 weekly in semen. And thus far, asserts the WP, federal regulatory agencies have voiced no objection to cloned animals cohabiting with the ranks of the conventionally born. A few cloning outfits are already slated for an IPO next fall, and the story speculates that more will follow in the wake of rapidly improving technology. Contrast that prediction with the NYT lead, which points to new research suggesting that problems endemic to the cloning process will make it difficult to cut down on the staggering rate of genetic defects. Only 1 percent of cloned cows survive to adulthood, and the culprit appears to be genetic error introduced during "cell reprogramming," the process that enables adult cells to direct embryonic development. The unnatural but necessary speed of reprogramming magnifies the potential for mutation, often with fatal or crippling consequences. All this has bearing not only on the viability of cloning-for-profit firms but also on the debate over human cloning, which the NYT source calls "morally indefensible" given the likelihood of serious genetic defect.
Picking up on Paul Gigot's column in Friday's Wall Street Journal, the NYT front reports that all is not well between President Bush and Sen. John McCain. A blustery McCain pushed campaign finance onto the Senate floor, disrupting the president's preferred agenda. More recently, McCain has attached his publicly magnanimous persona to Democrat-friendly causes such as stiffer gun control, a more modest tax cut package, and HMO reform. While few aides to either man will talk openly of the rift, the off-the-record hisses from both sides convey palpable animosity. A Senate Republican seethes at McCain for forgetting who won the primaries, while a congressional aide snipes back that for all its talk of bipartisanship, the Bush administration reacts "like a cat dropped on a hot griddle" to any whiff of cooperation with Democrats. Without much in the way of hard evidence, the story floats anew the Republican nightmare that a scorned McCain might challenge Bush for the presidency in 2004, perhaps even running as an independent in the general election.
According to a WP fronter, Bush's selections for sub-Cabinet and White House staff have created "the most conservative administration in modern times." The WP effort avoids going high with an indignant quotation from some or other stunned liberal, instead documenting the surprise and approval of conservative leaders, whose agendas were kept away from the forefront of the election and who had never found a comfortable ally in Bush the elder. President Bush's administration is filled top to bottom with a new generation of "movement" conservatives that lacked the experience to take the mantle during Nixon or Bush I. Though media attention often fixates on the most prominent figures in an administration, the article reminds that the ideological composition of those with midlevel Cabinet posts can have a tremendous effect on policy.
The NYT front spotlights one such figure, profiling Harvard professor John D. Graham. Though his nominated post--administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs--doesn't roll off the tongue like, say, secretary of state, Graham would, if confirmed, enjoy broad discretion to review regulations from some 50 government agencies. The NYT calls Graham a "pivotal figure" in the academic movement against extensive government regulation of the environment, one who has long argued that funds would be of greater social benefit if applied elsewhere. Little noticed in most circles, his nomination has drawn fire from environmental activists but is expected to survive a Senate confirmation hearing. The LAT also takes a peek at a controversial conservative nominee: Tabbed as ambassador to the United Nations, John D. Negroponte is in the cross hairs of Democrats for his role in arming the Nicaraguan contras while serving as Reagan's ambassador to Honduras. Various human rights groups have voiced their opposition as well, charging that Negroponte turned a blind eye to the death squads being carried out by the Honduran government on his watch. The LAT states that the scandals could make Negroponte the first foreign policy official in the Bush administration to face serious congressional opposition.
The WP front reports that the European Union intends to supply its own mediators in an effort to broker negotiations between North and South Korea. The move came at the behest of South Korean President Kim Dae-jung, who fears that President Bush's hard-line stance on North Korea might imperil efforts to make peace. At the NYT, the Korea story focuses on Kim Dae-jung's lingering disappointment after his meeting two weeks ago with President Bush. Despite what Bush aides say was a productive exchange, Kim remains concerned that the U.S. will no longer back his 2-year-old "sunshine policy" that saw South Korea exchange aid for goodwill from its northern neighbor.
An article that runs on the NYT front documents the alarming 26 percent dropout rate of Hispanic girls, who are twice as like as their black counterparts (and nearly four times as like as white girls) to withdraw from school before graduation. The story notes that while Hispanic boys also "surpass" their peers in this area, girls face an additional array of social pressures to leave school early. Experts theorize to the NYT that an emphasis on responsibility to the family, a dearth of role models, and religious beliefs that, in precluding birth control and abortion, spark higher instances of teen pregnancy (a claim that is implied but not documented) all exacerbate the disappointing trend. The story quotes meaningfully from Hispanic girls struggling to stay the course, but it might have done well to furnish a fuller statistical context. Is the dropout rate rising or falling? And how heavily did first- and second-generation immigrants sway the numbers?
A WP quickie notes the self-deprecation that has become a hallmark of Bush's public persona. At an Oval Office meeting last week with a Chinese diplomat, Bush complimented a Chinese reporter by commenting, "Are you with the Chinese press? Your English is perfect. You speak English better than I do."