The New York Times leads with, and everyone mentions, the Education Department's announcement of new regulations for student loans, intended to end dubious marketing practices by lenders. The Washington Post leads on news that U.S. violent-crime rates rose for a second straight year in 2006, in the first sustained increase since the early 1990s. The Wall Street Journal tops its world-wide newsbox, and everyone teases, the breakdown of the ceasefire in Lebanon, where 18 were killed and dozens wounded amid renewed fighting. The Los Angeles Times leads local on Californian supermarkets' efforts to avert a labor dispute.
After coming under renewed criticism for lax regulation of student loans—prompted, in part, by recent NYT coverage of shady practices in the $85 billion industry—the Education Department yesterday released a draft of new regulations for lenders and universities. The measures will prevent lenders making payoffs to university staff and will require universities to recommend at least three separate companies to their students. Some dismissed the regulations as too little, too late; the Post notes that Congress is poised to impose still-stricter limits on the industry this summer, while the ED's new regulations won't kick in until at least July 2008.
FBI officials said a new report, due to be released Monday, will show an increase of about 1.3 percent in violent crimes, including a 6 percent hike in robberies and a lesser increase in homicides. Competing explanations include escalating gang violence and an increase in the juvenile population. Much of the new crime was focused in urban areas; the Post off-leads with news that the Washington D.C. violent-crime rates spiked by nearly 9 percent last year.
The NYT off-leads with news that improvised explosive devices are now responsible for 80 percent of American combat deaths in Iraq, the highest ratio since the war began. The military has poured billions of dollars into armoring vehicles and creating new technology to counter makeshift bombs, but has struggled to infiltrate the network of insurgents behind the attacks. Meanwhile, the number of unidentifiable bodies dumped in Baghdad rose sharply last month to more than 700, up 70 percent; many showed signs of torture.
The Post fronts a report on the U.N.'s continuing efforts to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq; the body still spends millions of dollars a year to fund a team of 20 weapons experts, who spend their time poring over satellite photos in a Manhattan office. The experts admit there's nothing there to find, but say the Security Council has been unable to agree to end the program, or to alter its mandate to provide a more relevant service.
The Post fronts, and the NYT teases, longtime Bush aide Dan Bartlett's decision to leave the administration this summer to spend more time with his family. Bartlett first rose to prominence during Bush's gubernatorial campaign in Texas; the LAT notes that his exit, following a string of recent departures from the Bush inner circle, leaves Karl Rove as the president's "last Lone Star confidant."
The WSJ continues to report on its own uncertain future, fronting a behind-the-scenes look at the Bancroft family's internal bickering over whether or not to sell the paper's publisher, Dow Jones, to Rupert Murdoch's Newscorp. The NYT teases a similar report. The paper's sale looks increasingly likely, with Bancroft representatives due to meet Murdoch on Monday to seek reassurance about his commitment to journalistic integrity.
The NYT fronts an attempt to cut through the tangle of finger-pointing surrounding the case of a man who was allowed to fly to Europe despite having a rare and drug-resistant form of tuberculosis. On the paper's op-ed page, a health worker argues that the case highlights the need for further funding for TB research. The Post focuses on efforts to trace people who might have been exposed to the disease, while the LAT reveals that the man's own father-in-law, a TB expert at the CDC, helped to diagnose his condition.
The NYT fronts an I-told-you-so report on warnings that imported Chinese toothpaste may be contaminated with chemicals normally only found in antifreeze. The FDA found toothpaste tainted with diethylene gylcol, a toxin that has been the focus of recent NYT reports, on sale in two stores in Miami and Puerto Rico. The Post stuffs an AP report on the warnings.
The Post reports that Alan Johnston, a BBC reporter kidnapped in the Gaza Strip in March, has been seen alive on a video posted on an al-Qaida Web site. The NYT notes that many Palestinians believe Johnston was kidnapped by the same clan that held two Fox News correspondents last summer.
Huang Ju, a senior official in the Chinese Communist Party, died early this morning after a long illness. The NYT notes that his death gives President Hu Jintao an opportunity to consolidate power by appointing an ally to the Politburo.
The NYT rounds up a glut of new books in which liberal writers and intellectuals debate the progressive movement's meaning and direction ahead of the 2008 elections.
What the Web does best ... The NYT reports that the porn industry has fallen on hard times; publishers of blue movies say they can't compete with the growing numbers of lusty amateurs who are willing to post home-brew sex tapes online for free. Meanwhile, the Post fronts word that what happens in Second Life doesn't necessarily stay in Second Life: Belgian police are investigating the "rape" of one virtual character by another, and German police are looking into an incident in which an "adult" avatar and a "child" avatar—both controlled by real-world adults—had simulated sex; it's believed the act may have violated German child pornography laws.
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