Schoolhouse Rocked

Schoolhouse Rocked

Schoolhouse Rocked

A summary of what's in the major U.S. newspapers.
Nov. 27 2002 4:20 AM

Schoolhouse Rocked

USA Today leads with word from unnamed White House officials that President Bush will soon order smallpox vaccinations for 500,000 U.S. soldiers and 510,000 civilian medical workers. The paper says Bush still hasn't decided whether the vaccine, which kills roughly one out of every million people who receive it, should be made available to the public. The Los Angeles Times leads with a U.N. report concluding that half of all people now infected with HIV are women. The New York Times leads with word that the federal Education Department issued new rules yesterday saying school districts overseeing public schools that are "failing" need to offer students the opportunity to switch schools, regardless of whether other schools in the district are already full. The Washington Post leads with news that WorldCom and the SEC agreed on an initial settlement on fraud charges: The company agreed to increased oversight. Fines will only be imposed if WorldCom falls off the wagon and messes with its accounting again.

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The NYT's lead spends most of its time on critics' complaints that the Department of Ed's regulations are "aimed at creating conditions" for private-school vouchers (NYT's words). Nobody else gives the story big play. The WP does go inside with a piece on the new regulations, but the article skips the part the NYT focuses on and instead emphasizes that states think the new rules are too rigid ("too many schools will fail," said one state official). The Post also highlights complaints that while the new rules will cost schools lots of money, Washington hasn't ponied up yet.

The Times' lead also explains that schools are defined as failing when any subgroup of students—say special ed or ESL—"fails to close the achievement gap" on tests for two years in a row. Of course, that begs the question: What's an "achievement gap"? Meanwhile, USAT had a piece a few months ago on the confusion about what it means for a school to be "failing."

Everybody notes that in southern Africa, where women do the majority of farming, the increased rate of HIV among women is worsening food shortages in some countries. According to one U.N. analyst quoted in the Post, HIV isn't exacerbating local famines, "AIDS is fiercely driving them."

According to a front-page piece in the Post, over the past 10 years many industries are increasingly aiming campaign contributions at Republicans and away from Democrats. In 1992, the drug industry gave about $2.5 million to each party. In the last election cycle, they gave $3.4 million to Dems and $10.8 mil to the GOP. On a broader note, overall in this past election cycle, Dems got about $120 million in contributions while Republicans got at least $213 million.

The NYT reefers word that scientists are considering creating a mouse implanted with a few human stem cells; in other words, a sort of human-mouse hybrid. Given that scientists aren't allowed to test stem cells on human subjects, such an experiment could be incredibly useful. Of course, it could also be incredibly controversial. Two scientists within the group considering the experiment say they oppose it.

Everybody has fallout from yesterday's Post report that the White House is mulling over plans to strong-arm the Saudis into cracking down on alleged terrorist financiers. Press Secretary Ari Fleischer acknowledged that something along those lines is being considered, but he maintained that no important people have signed off on it. He then ducked and weaved about the Saudis' anti-terror efforts, saying that they're a good partner, but adding, "The United States' job is to work with the government of Saudi Arabia to push them to do more to take a look at everything they can be effective."  The NYTdownplaying  its competitor's scoop, headlines, "BUSH OFFICIALS PRAISE SAUDIS FOR AIDING TERROR FIGHT." Meanwhile, the WP says, "BUSH AIDES: SAUDIS CAN DO MORE TO HALT TERROR FUNDS."

The Wall Street Journal's editorial page today features one of America's foremost thinkers pondering the state of our country. "America isn't at a social or political crossroads as some will try to tell us. Those who believe that would have told you 500 years ago that the earth was flat. Thirty years ago they would have been stoned on LSD, drooling and dancing naked at a Grateful Dead concert," writes Ted Nugent. The op-ed is titled "AMERICA ROCKS."

Eric Umansky, previously the "Today's Papers" columnist for Slate, is currently a Gordon Grey Fellow at Columbia University's School of Journalism.