The New York Times leads with the release of 15 British sailors captured by Iran. The Washington Post and USA Today go with a story on campaign fund raising; the Post highlights Obama's $25 million take while USAT has it in the top story's subhead. All three papers have a similar above-the-fold photo of the sailors. The Los Angeles Times leads with a story on increased cooperation between local prosecutors and the feds to deport gang members, sometimes even before trial. Top news in the Wall Street Journal is the new interest among the American rich in alpacas—animals that don't seem to be worth anything more than a tax break.
The release of the 15 captives, whom President Bush had referred to as hostages, ends a tense week and a half that began when the Iranian Revolutionary Guard captured the sailors on March 23, claiming they were in Iranian waters. The 14 male sailors were dressed in snazzy if ill-fitting suits, stylishly without ties; the female sailor was decked in what looked to be clothes from a Tehran thrift store. The sailors returned to London on a commercial flight, USAT was able to report, departing at around 1 a.m. ET. The Post was left to say their exact whereabouts could not be "ascertained."
The LAT's lead story on suspected illegal gangsters discusses the line between local law-enforcement activities and federal efforts to deport illegal immigrants. Immigration advocates argue that deporting illegal immigrants suspected of gang activity will create suspicion of police in the immigrant community and reduce cooperation with police. But the move could be a way to reduce overcrowding in California prisons: The piece reports that 10 percent of L.A. County inmates—or 40,000 people—are illegal immigrants. There's always the problem, notes the story, that deported gangsters could re-enter the country the same way they did the first time.
Illinois Sen. Barack Obama raised $25 million from 100,000 donors over three months, a story the Post finds lead-worthy and the LAT also fronts. His home paper, the Chicago Tribune, had the story first, as Obama let curiosity build over how much he had raised. His $25 million take was just shy of Sen. Hillary Clinton's $26 million, but he likely raised more money that can be spent during the primary because Clinton held more $4,600 events—$2,300 of that would be available only for the general election.
TP refuses to believe that the WSJ's alpaca story was not intended for April Fools' Day. Investors are spending upward of half a million dollars for animals whose fur they then give away.
It cost fund-raiser Sam Fox more than $4,600 for the ambassadorship to Belgium. Fox, a top Republican donor, gave $50,000 in 2004 to Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, a group that helped sink John Kerry's presidential campaign and spawned its own verb. That was enough for Democrats to vow to block his confirmation to the post. Bush withdrew his nomination last week, only to bring it up again while the Senate is out of session, allowing him to bypass it. Though USAT points out below-the-fold that the move will cost Bush in terms of his relationship to Congress, he may have figured he had little left to lose.
The Washington Post fronts a piece on a study by the U.S. Department of Education showing that the $2 billion-a-year educational software industry has nothing to show for its efforts and that student scores were not found to be affected by the programs. The software has been billed as a way to make up for poor teaching. That makes the industry's excuse for why the programs didn't work—poor teacher execution—a bit of circular logic. If the programs require good teachers, then once schools have good teachers, why would they need the software?
The LAT is inside with a piece on Bush confronting Democrats on war spending, with the president insisting that the timeline Congress is considering will not become law.
A long story by Deborah Sontag in the NYT about a soldier who wrecked his life after returning from Iraq manages to use the word hardscrabble twice in its money line: "The story of Sam Ross has the makings of a ballad, with its heart-rending arc from hardscrabble childhood to decorated war hero to hardscrabble adulthood." Hardscrabble hasn't seen so much ink-action since Jessica Lynch returned to her hardscrabble town of Palestine, W.Va.
USAT also fronts a piece on an invasive plant species that can grow 18 feet high along the Mexican border, allowing drug- and/or people-smugglers cover as they sneak across. The United States plans to spend $1.5 million to bring in European bugs to eat the vegetation.
WSJ has a prominent front-page story on a possible plan by investment giant Apollo to sell 10 percent of its company. The move would raise capital for the company and its founders while not exactly making it a publicly traded company.
The paper goes inside with a story about Wal-Mart apologies to some shareholder groups for suspecting them of being threats to its operation. The apologies come after the paper's story yesterday, sourced to a former employee with the company's Threat Research and Analysis Group, about wide-ranging efforts by Wal-Mart to spy on "employees, but also on critics, stockholders and the consulting firm McKinsey & Co."
The WP fronts a walk-up to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales' testimony on Capitol Hill April 12 and April 17, reporting that he will practice with three days of mock testimony and is taking it as seriously as a confirmation hearing.
Robert Novak opines that peace between Israel and the Palestinians will have to wait until Bush is out of the Oval Office.
The Post's Dana Milbank watched Jimmy Carter speak at the National Press Club and sketches the scene.
James Baker III is on the WP's Op-Ed page with a "remember me" piece on the Baker-Hamilton Commission's recommendations for the Iraq war. He thinks they're still pretty good.