Today's Papers

Hard Landing

The Washington Post leads with the remarkable Mir cosmonaut press conference. The top national story at the Los Angeles Times is one that was covered last Thursday by the New York Times–the conflict between, on the one hand, the Senate fundraising investigating committee and, on the other, Washington advocacy organizations across the political spectrum that have been subpoenaed by that panel. The NYT leads with a look at the current state of health plan coverage.

The Mir press event was a platform for the just-returned and much-maligned cosmonaut Vasily Tsibliev to defend himself and to vent about the Russian space program, the Russian economy, and Russian life. The WP says that the cosmonaut’s in-orbit performance has become Russia’s Topic A. The country’s papers have been all over him, and upon his return, Boris Yeltsin took a swipe at him as well. The problems on board Mir during his tenure, said Tsibliev, according to the Post, were not his fault, but rather stemmed from “problems on Earth. It’s connected with the economy, with our affairs in general. Even the equipment needed to live aboard the station and that we requested to be sent–and we’re not talking about coffee, tea and milk–they just don’t exist..The factories don’t work, or have insufficient supplies, or they ask for, excuse me, crazy prices.” The NYT’s account quotes an additional cause here, of Dostoevskian proportions: “our poor lives.”

The WP, NYT, and LAT pieces on the cosmo-conference are so focused on the chaotic and deteriorating Russian space program that they all miss an important point: namely, that this latest development shows that their space program is more open than ours. Imagine a NASA astronaut having the nerve to say such things! You’ll have to, because it’s never happened, even when things went as awry as they did with the Challenger.

The WP runs a piece on an important change in the Georgetown University basketball program–Coach John Thompson no longer seems to emphasize graduation for his recruits. The paper reports that Thompson’s players now achieve only a 59 percent graduation rate compared to an overall rate for freshmen at the school of about 90 percent. In the piece, the school’s long-time dean of admissions calls this “clearly disappointing.”

The NYT continues to pursue the police brutality scandal, with a front-page account of yesterday’s two (one led by Haitians, one led by mayoral candidate Al Sharpton) street protests against the cops. Additionally, Bob Herbert’s column addresses the issue, pointing out along the way that New York City is already averaging payouts in police brutality cases of about $20 million a year, three times the costs of just a few years ago.