The papers chew over crime, courts, and censorship in China.

A summary of what's in the major U.S. newspapers.
April 19 2009 6:22 AM

Judgment Days

The Washington Post leads with a preview of perhaps the most hot-button case on the Supreme Court's docket: a challenge brought by 20 white New Haven firefighters who say they were discriminated against when the fire department threw out a promotions test that not one black firefighter passed. The New York Times leads with the news that law enforcement officials are collecting the DNA samples from more and more people for more and more reasons—a kind of "genetic surveillance" that is giving criminal justice experts the willies. The Los Angeles Times leads with an update from China's quake zone, where the government is putting the squeeze on relatives of the approximately 70,000 dead who are asking for too much information about their deceased loved ones.

The New Haven firefighter case, while attracting the most attention of the upcoming arguments, is just one of several cases centered around race that will come before the court this session. The Post's lead pairs nicely with a piece from the LAT—inexplicably tucked inside the A section, while a first-person column made it to the front—on how the famously liberal 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has trended conservative in recent years but may be swinging back again as President Obama fills impending vacancies. For the non-Californian, it's a window into the procedural oddities that make the maverick court what it is.

Advertisement

The NYT's off-lead takes Obama to task for backing off on some promised initiatives, choosing the pragmatic route rather than fighting for proposals on farm subsidies, health insurance, and an assault weapons ban. It's a dramatic contrast to the LAT's front-page, soft-focus retrospective of Obama's first 100 days—up on April 29—which serves up old news with the tone of those fuzzy feature bios from the Olympics. According to this account, peppered with phrases like "Still, Obama pushed ahead," the popular president bravely persevered through setbacks to stay committed to his agenda. … They report, you decide.

The Post off-leads with a good, old-fashioned waste-fraud-and-abuse story about an extremely well-appointed but perhaps unnecessary airport two hours east of Pittsburgh that, thanks to the earmarking prowess of Rep. John Murtha, has received millions of federal dollars—despite 10 years of consistently falling passenger counts. Obama put the Murthas of the world on notice, however, in a weekly address that called for an end to wasteful spending as the deficit mounts up, the LAT reports.

Supplementing its China lead, the Post also features a "New Left" that has arisen in opposition to what it sees as a calcified old Communist elite, sullied by Western-style crony capitalism. It's part of a broader resurgence of interest in government from ordinary citizens, the paper says—which the party doesn't quite know how to handle. In other China news, the NYT tells us how environmental regulations are falling by the wayside as the country's own $585 billion stimulus plan is being fast-tracked into a fresh round of development.

It's election time in South Africa, and the Post fronts a political profile of the man set to formally become president this next week, Jacob Zuma, who took the reins when he ousted Thabo Mbeki from the leadership of the African National Congress last year. His freedom-fighting, corruption-probe-dodging, rape-charge-ridden past has been hashed over many times before (particularly by the NYT's excellent Celia Dugger), but it's a useful and timely primer for the uninitiated. Back in Outlook, a news editor heralds the end of South Africa's post-apartheid idealism, arguing that Mbeki's failures and Zuma's disgraces have finally killed faith in a once-revolutionary government.

Picking up on Obama's trip to Mexico this week, the Post finds that a gun-toting  "culture of the West" is getting in the way of his attempt to crack down on the flow of firearms south across the Mexican border, met with an equal tide of drugs filtering north. Talking to a few gun vendors in Arizona and Texas, the article draws a picture of an industry that doesn't care much where its products end up, doing whatever it can to get around those states' relatively lax safeguards. While depressing yourself about border problems, read the NYT's gritty on-the-ground look at the suburban immigrant experience, which exposes the black vs. Latino racism that makes progress move even more slowly.

The NYT's Week in Review takes a stab at the question of what capitalism might look like after the Obama administration has its way with it. As far as TP can tell, the answer is "not that different," at least not in any way that the piece is willing to pin down. The author does find evidence to suggest that the new economy may be more redistributive but dances around the epithet of socialist, a term that even some right-wingers are starting to reject. Meanwhile, Wall Street sits on edge as the results of bank "stress tests" loom, with the anxiety of teenagers getting back their SAT scores ... except with a few more billion dollars in the balance. And back in the NYT business pages, iconoclast economist Greg Mankiw has the nutty idea of a negative interest rate, which would make money less valuable in the future, thereby making holding money less attractive.

Now you've got even more incentive to get cleared of that pesky drug charge: The trend of increasingly picky employers has finally reached the Army, which is now turning away felons and recent drug abusers, as well as most would-be soldiers without a high-school diploma.

And in what could be considered a sign of progress nowhere else but here, Baghdadis have returned to vice: drinking, carousing, and cockfighting. Let freedom ring!

Lydia DePillis is a writer living in New York.

  Slate Plus
Slate Picks
Dec. 19 2014 4:15 PM What Happened at Slate This Week? Staff writer Lily Hay Newman shares what stories intrigued her at the magazine this week.