Democrats battle in Pennsylvania while Rice mocks Sadr.

A summary of what's in the major U.S. newspapers.
April 21 2008 6:06 AM

Bring 'Em Back On

The New York Times and Washington Post lead with nearly identical headlines, reporting that Barack Obama has sharpened his tone on the eve of the Pennsylvania primary. The Los Angeles Timesgoes with a study showing that the workforce lacks the education and training needed to replace the retiring boomer generation. USA Todayleads with nations' unwillingness to meet previous troop commitments in Afghanistan. The Wall Street Journal puts the pope's visit to Ground Zero atop its world-wide news box, fronting two stories on the Democratic primary.

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., has been asking Democrats to take a fresh look at Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., in the wake of what she considers to be her superior debate performance. "It's no wonder my opponent has been so negative these last few days of this campaign," she said, "because I think you saw the difference between us."

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The Post notes that Obama's increasingly negative rhetoric is a departure from his practice of coasting into a primary vote with a positive message, nervous about making Clinton seem too sympathetic. After Clinton's many comebacks, he seems to be dismissing that fear. The last few days, Obama has painted Clinton as a compromised Washington insider (Times) and a practitioner of old-style, special-interest politics (Post)—while making apologies for getting rough. "Look, our campaign's not perfect," he said. "There've been times where, you know, if you get elbowed enough, eventually you start elbowing back."

The Wall Street Journal fronts speculation that, immediately following the primaries, "influential Democrats—led by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi—plan to push the last uncommitted party leaders to endorse a candidate, in hopes of preventing a fight at the August presidential convention, party insiders say. … That's when Mrs. Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Democratic Party chairman Howard Dean and their allies will start rallying superdelegates to decide the contest in favor of the leading candidate, Democrats say." Leading candidate has become a euphemism for Obama, given his essentially insurmountable lead.

Reading between the story's lines, it's possible to wager a guess at the identity of the insider sources. Donna Brazile, Al Gore's 2000 campaign manager, is quoted in the piece saying a group around Clinton doesn't "care about the party" and that after the last primary "we'll all talk to each other. I know I'll reach out to some key people, including my ex-boss." Dean, too, was interviewed for the story, as were Pelosi aides.

The Journal runs it write-up of the pope's visit on Page 3, highlighting an unexpected shyness and compassion from the church leader. His visit raised hopes that he will follow up by removing the statute of limitations that has so far protected some priests who sexually abused children. He mentioned the scandal on every day of his trip. A photo of the pope is splashed across the front of the Times.

The Post fronts a five-click feature about the growing use of relatives' DNA in the investigation of crimes. Law enforcement officials claim that testing a suspect's relatives' DNA can narrow a search—as it did with the BTK serial killer, whose daughter's DNA was tested and found nearly to match that found at crime scenes. Privacy advocates are unenthusiastic about the broadening scope, noting that the tool will be used primarily on DNA already in the government's possession—meaning that minority suspects will be overly affected.

A recent NATO summit, which led to the pledge by other nations of some 7,000 to 8,000 additional troops for Afghanistan, was more talk than action, USAT reports. Only a few thousand of those have been delivered, and others appear to be on their way home, with Poland set to remove 900 troops in the fall and Georgia 2,000 next year. One security expert tells the paper that "what the NATO summit showed is that the United States is not going to be able to count on its NATO allies to fill the gap in Afghanistan."

The LAT leads with a study showing a crisis in workforce training and education, just as the boomer generation is set to retire. Citing a new study based largely on U.S. Census data, the paper notes that "60% of [Los Angeles County's] immigrant workers struggle with English and one-third lack high school diplomas." Those immigrants now account for roughly half of all workers and are projected to account for nearly all of the growth over the next few decades.

"Right now we're headed toward becoming a Third World city. But we can change that," says Ernesto Cortes Jr., Southwest regional director of the Industrial Areas Foundation, which the Times says is something called "a leadership development organization."

WSJ fronts a look at Obama's rise through Illinois politics.

The NYT fronts a piece on "Mugabe's Tsunami,"as it's being called in South Africa. A thousand Zimbabweans a day are estimated to be fleeing the violence following President Robert Mugabe's apparent electoral loss, coupled with a refusal to cede power. He has prevented results from being released as Mugabe-supporting gangs beat and torture opposition supporters.

Latin America's political movement leftward continued, with the landslide election of a man dubbed the "Bishop of the poor" in Paraguay.

WSJ fronts fears that another shoe may drop in the spreading lending crisis, as small banks begin to take the hits that big banks have absorbed. "Regulators are bracing for a surge in bank failures, especially among smaller lenders that often lack the diversification to absorb steep losses in one area. Those banks are also less appealing to the sovereign wealth funds and other big investors that have poured billions into larger banks."

PETA is offering a million-dollar prize to a researcher who finds commercially viable fake meat, and Danica Patrick became the first woman to win an Indy car race.

Bring 'em on, again ... USAT and WSJ tease Rice's Sunday trip to Iraq on the front; she mocked cleric Muqtada Sadr as a "coward." Now, TPisn't schooled in the art of diplomacy, but …

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