Today's Papers

Phone Bill

The Washington Post leads with news the Russian mob is going international in a big way. USA Today goes with the formation of a new coalition of teacher and parent groups dedicated to saving the public schools. And the New York Times lead is: “Mideast Leaders Taking First Step to Reviving Talks” (that’s key F4 on Times keyboards, right next to F5: “Teamster Officials Indicted”).

According to the WP, U.S., European and Latin American law enforcement officials say that Russian organized crime groups, operating out of Miami, New York and Puerto Rico and flush with cash, are forming alliances with Colombian drug traffickers in the Caribbean. These alliances, say some experts quoted in the piece, are the most dangerous trend in drug smuggling in the hemisphere. The Russian mobs offer the drug cartels access to sophisticated weapons siphoned from the Soviet inventory. Recent undercover operations have detected, says the paper, attempts by Russian groups to sell Colombian drug lords a helicopter, surface-to-air missiles and a submarine. The Russians are especially dangerous, one DEA Russian expert tells the WP, because “We are talking [about] people with PhDs, former senior KGB agents with access to sophisticated weapons, people who have [already] laundered billions of dollars.”

USAT heralds the formation today of the Learning First Alliance of teachers, principals, parents, school boards, experts and community leaders, which is dedicated to improving public school education. The Alliance includes such educational policy power players as the NEA and the AFT and its principal goals include establishing tougher course work and making schools safer. The group will be holding a summit in Washington in January to address improving reading and math achievement.

The Wall Street Journal’s Alan Murray observes in a front-page “The Outlook” column that now with the diminution of the tobacco lobby, in Washington the most influential lobby is broadcasting. For proof, Murray points to the fate of the concept of free television time for political ads. Once a staple of campaign reform legislation, it is now MIA, because “broadcasters complained” and “members of Congress cowered.”

The NYT reports that cancer rates for children are on the rise: nowadays a newborn child has a 1 in 600 chance of contracting the disease by age 10. Experts tend to implicate increased environmental exposure to carcinogens.

After virtually ignoring the IRS hearings story last week when the other majors had it splashed all over their front pages, today the WP goes front page with the news that, as a direct result of testimony revealing agency abuses given at those hearings, the IRS has suspended a number of mid-level managers. The paper also reports that the hearings have given the flat tax a new life on the Hill.

The NYT reports on its front page that the Clinton and Gore fund-raising calls now causing such a political furor produced far smaller contribution totals than they were supposed to. The principal problem was, it seems, that neither the president nor the VP was comfortably in bluntly asking for the sums the professional fundraisers specified. And the fund-raisers were convinced their goals could have been met if Clinton would have made more calls himself. So they came up with the concept of a “touch-up call” in which Clinton would call potential donors and talk about everything but money. That was handled by fund-raisers asking for large contributions in orchestrated follow-up calls. “The answer,” says the Times, “was almost always yes.”

It was easy to get Clinton to make touch-up calls, a Democratic fund-raiser told the paper: “The president loves to schmooze on the phone.”