Today's Papers

Oy Veh Is Mir

The two top stories today are the murder of fashion mogul Gianni Versace and the deteriorating situation aboard the Russian space station, Mir. Versace was shot in the head in front of his Miami beach mansion yesterday morning, and law enforcement officials announced that the top suspect is a homosexual prostitute already being sought as one of the FBI’s “Ten Most Wanted” in a nationwide hunt arising from the recent murders of four other men.

The newest trouble aboard Mir is that cosmonaut Vasily Tsibliev is experiencing a heart irregularity, and therefore may not be able to undertake the space walk needed to repair the damage suffered by the vehicle last week. As a result, the Russians are appealing to NASA to let the American (British-born) astronaut aboard Mir, Michael Foale, do the job instead. NASA is weighing its options and should decide soon. The Washington Post reports that Russian ground controllers at times appear to be attempting to convince Foale directly to undertake the repairs. The paper doesn’t put too fine a point on what’s at stake for the Russians: “The Mir station is the heart of Russia’s manned space program. To abandon it would leave Russian cosmonauts jobless.”

Everybody lavishes attention on Versace’s Miami Beach manse, with for instance, the WP noticing its “huge shower” which it quotes a source as saying is “big enough for 10 people to share simultaneously.” The WP says that just before he died, Versace had gone to a caf, near his house where he spent “$14.89 for four magazines–Entertainment Weekly, People, the New Yorker and Newsweek.” The New York Times says it was “$15.01 on five magazines: Business Week, Vogue, Entertainment Weekly, People and The New Yorker.”

Also receiving much front-page play today: the continuing developments at the Senate campaign funding hearings. Yesterday, the committee learned that in 1992, when John Huang was working for Lippo, he sent a memo back to the company’s headquarters in Indonesia asking to be reimbursed for a $50,000 gift to the Democratic National Committee. The senators also heard expert testimony to the effect that Lippo had in recent years evolved from a family business to a “joint venture with the Chinese government.” The Los Angeles Times, WP, and NYT all cover this ground, but it’s the latter that seems particularly attuned to the quantitative details of Mr. Huang’s own finances, revealing that he received a “salary of about $90,000 a year and annual bonuses of about $230,000,” and that when Huang left Lippo for the Clinton administration, “he was given severance pay of more than $450,000, a figure that included the book value of the company car he was allowed to keep, a 1988 Mercedes Benz.”

Is another government recovery strategy against the tobacco companies being quietly hatched? The Wall Street Journal reports today that “the Veterans Affairs Department has begun processing the first in a potential tidal wave of compensation claims for smoking-related diseases and deaths that could cost the government billions of dollars a year over the next decade.”

USA Today leads today with a report that the Department of Transportation sent letters to nine major airlines yesterday asking them to explain the procedures they use for making seats available for frequent flier awards. The request was a response to increasing complaints by frequent fliers who say they are too often told they can’t redeem their miles to go where they want.. Answers are due back August 31.