Today's Papers

Mir Mortals

The New York Times and Los Angeles Times lead with the ongoing Mir saga. The Washington Post has Mir on the front but below the fold, while making its top national story the sudden departure of Rep. Bill Paxon from the House Republican leadership. USA Today also has Mir on the front below the fold, but leads with the looming trouble between President Clinton and the European Economic Union over the proposed Boeing-McDonnell Douglas merger, which he supports and the EU is likely to reject as being a threat to the European aircraft manufacturer, Airbus.

The papers give the general impression of a Mir crew that is getting more stressed out by the minute. Yesterday an astronaut mistakenly unplugged a critical cable, thereby disabling the craft’s guidance system and causing a power loss. Despite this, NASA announced that it was going to allow the American member of the Mir crew, Michael Foale, to begin training for a repair space walk. The actual decision on Foale’s participation in the walk itself has yet to be made. The LAT attributes the view to Rep James Sensenbrenner, chairman of the House Science Committee, that, in the paper’s paraphrase, “NASA is now putting Foale’s life at risk.”

As to which astronaut pulled the cable, the NYT simply reports that “the Russian officials would not say.” According to USAT, the word from the Russians was, “We have not asked them yet and it does not matter for us.” In the WP, the Russian mission director says the reason for the silence about the crewmembers is, “I don’t want them executed in the mass media.”

The Paxon exit is widely seen as fallout from his participation in a failed attempt by House Republicans earlier this week to unseat Newt Gingrich from his Speaker’s post. The WP and USAT headlines say Paxon quit. The NYT header says Gingrich ousted him. USAT sources the stories about Paxon’s anti-Newt moves to “many Republicans,” while the WP speaks instead vaguely of “disclosures.” Only the NYT comes out and admits that the revelations were prior stories in the newsletter The Hill and The Washington Times.

The NYT, WP, and the Wall Street Journal all cover yesterday’s Internet breakdown, which played havoc with email and Web site access. It seems the trouble was a software glitch at Network Solutions, the company that manages email addresses, which was then ignored by the company’s system administrator. A Network Solutions manager tells the Times that the company employee who dropped the ball “is being dealt with very appropriately.” Executed in the mass media?

Speaking of which, the WSJ has this little factoid tucked in at the bottom of today’s Washington Wire: “The Energy Department’s annual budget for [magazine and newspaper] subscriptions tops $13 million, almost triple the Pentagon’s subscription budget.” Wouldn’t you love to see those lists?

All in all, a fine day on the NYT op-ed page. I don’t mean Frederick Forsyth’s loopy defense of fox-hunting (“Not only are 50,000 hounds and about 20,000 fine horses at stake, but equipment suppliers, hay merchants, saddlers, clothiers, farriers, blacksmiths and riding schools would go down the tubes.”). I mean law professor Michael Rips’ argument that the woman in the Bill Cosby extortion case wasn’t doing anything illegal–at least she wouldn’t have been if she’d done what more sophisticated people do for money every day–have a lawyer threaten to make the disclosures. And there’s Bob Herbert’s indictment of the NAACP leadership for not talking tough about irresponsible black male sex. Herbert notes that NAACP president Kweisi Mfume is not well positioned to lead this fight, having fathered “five children by four women in 21 months.”