A gunman kills five students at Northern Illinois University.

A gunman kills five students at Northern Illinois University.

A gunman kills five students at Northern Illinois University.

A summary of what's in the major U.S. newspapers.
Feb. 15 2008 6:17 AM

Lecture Nightmare

USA Todayand the Los Angeles Timeslead with the shooting at Northern Illinois University, where a gunman walked into a geology class and began firing. The gunman, who was identified as a former graduate student, killed five students and injured 16 others (at least two remain in critical condition) before turning the gun on himself. Carrying a shotgun and two handguns, the shooter apparently walked into the lecture hall that had at least 100 students and, without saying a word, shot the instructor (who survived) and then began firing randomly. The LAT points out that it was the fifth school shooting in a week.

The Washington Postleads, and most of the other papers front, news that the Pentagon will try to shoot down a malfunctioning U.S. spy satellite before it falls to Earth carrying 1,000 pounds of fuel that could turn into a potentially lethal toxic gas. The Navy will fire an anti-ballistic missile from a ship in the Pacific Ocean as the satellite re-enters the atmosphere, which is a move that has never been tried before and is meant to avoid leaving much debris in space. The New York Timesleads with Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke and Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson acknowledging before lawmakers that the continuing credit crisis will slow down growth in the economy as a whole. Bernanke said the situation will likely get worse before it gets better and emphasized that the Fed is open to further interest-rate cuts. The Wall Street Journal leads its world-wide newsbox with Mitt Romney's endorsement of Sen. John McCain. The former governor of Massachusetts urged the 280 delegates he had won to support his former rival.

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Officials at the 25,000-student university, which is 65 miles west of Chicago, emphasized that campus police arrived at the scene within minutes. Authorities quickly put out a campuswide alert and started to implement a "detailed security plan created for just such an incident," says the NYT. Like many other schools around the country, campus leaders say the university began focusing on their security procedures after last year's shooting at Virginia Tech, which left 32 people dead. And security had also been increased in December, when classes were canceled for a day after threatening graffiti that included a reference to Virginia Tech was found in a dorm bathroom. But the university president said he had "no reason to believe" the graffiti was related to yesterday's shooting.

USAT goes inside with a look at the growing movement that was sparked by the Virginia Tech massacre to allow students, faculty, and staff to carry guns on campus. Twelve states are currently discussing legislation that would allow guns at public universities. Students who want colleges and universities to allow concealed guns on campus will stage protests at several schools a week after the one-year anniversary of the Virginia Tech shootings. "The only way to stop a person with a gun is another person with a gun," a sophomore at the University of Cincinnati said.

Normally, failing satellites are steered toward the ocean, but officials said the one they will try to shoot down has raised particular concerns because it failed soon after it was launched and hasn't burned up much of its fuel. Meanwhile, some speculated the shoot-down was an attempt to test the country's missile defense system, while others said the U.S. military is concerned about information from the satellite getting into the wrong hands. But military officials denied there was another motive for the shoot-down and emphasized that anything of value would be burned on re-entry.

Testifying before the Senate banking committee, both Bernanke and Paulson emphasized they're still not predicting a recession but are less optimistic about upcoming economic growth than they were late last year. Paulson said that while the recently approved economic-stimulus package will help, it clearly won't be enough. "It's going to take time and some pain before we work through this," he said. Senators from both parties criticized the officials for not acting quickly enough to stem the growing problems in the economy. "This housing market has been coming to us for a year, year and a half, and we didn't react properly to it," Republican Sen. Jim Bunning said.

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The WSJ wonders inside whether an Obama-McCain contest means that more states would be in play during the general election. Since Obama is popular among African-Americans and McCain isn't really loved by conservative evangelicals, there's the possibility that several Southern states that had previously been reliably Republican could vote for a Democrat. The paper makes clear that even if he doesn't actually win these Southern states, the fact that he could be competitive might be problematic for McCain, who would have to spend more money and time to campaign in areas that Republicans often take for granted.

The NYT fronts word that Rep. John Lewis, who was one of Sen. Hillary Clinton's most prominent African-American supporters, announced last night that, as a superdelegate, he will vote for Obama. Lewis says he wants to support the choice of voters in his district, who overwhelmingly backed Obama. But the NYT sees it as the latest sign that Clinton is losing the support of some prominent black leaders.

The WP fronts news that the House of Representatives broke for a weeklong recess yesterday without renewing the surveillance law that expires tomorrow. Bush warned lawmakers they're putting the country's security at risk, while House Speaker Nancy Pelosi accused the president of "fear mongering." Surveillance efforts won't stop immediately since spy operations against every known terrorist group can continue as usual at least until August. But if officials come across a previously unknown group, they would have to get a warrant from a secret court. It was clearly a rare show of strength for the Democrats, who have usually been reluctant to fight the administration on issues of national security.

The NYT fronts a dispatch out of Kenya that describes how the country increasingly is being carved up into ethnic enclaves. Since the postelection violence, more people are moving into ethnically segregated areas of the country and even slums in Nairobi are being split along ethnic lines. Bush, who leaves for a six-day Africa tour today, announced that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will be traveling to Kenya to "deliver a message directly" to the country's leaders.

The WSJ takes a look at the "growing number of dullards who steal personal profiles, life philosophies, even signature poems" while looking for love online. Many are finding out that in a cut-and-paste culture, their witty and pithy profiles that they may have spent hours creating are being used by others who are desperately trying to stand out in a competitive field. While some might copy a line or two they think is funny or appropriate, others don't even try to be subtle. One woman claims several men copied her entire profile thinking she would find that appealing. One wrote, "We have a lot in common."

Daniel Politi has been contributing to Slate since 2004 and wrote the Today’s Papers column from 2006 to 2009. Follow him on Twitter.