Today's Papers


As often happens on a Sunday, the papers are dominated by non-breaking stories, which could have run today or a month from today. At the New York Times the lead is word that GOP leaders are talking about radically overhauling the tax code. At the Los Angeles Times, it’s President Clinton’s comment that the Republicans are hurting the federal judiciary by systematically blocking his appointments to the bench. The Washington Post leads with details of a 1993 abduction of a Libyan dissident from Cairo.

According to the NYT, the Republicans in Congress have begun an intense debate about how to follow up the balanced-budget amendment, reflecting the fact that polls show voters are becoming less responsive to mere tax cuts. To lay the groundwork, reports the paper, Rep. Dick Armey of Texas, the majority leader, and Rep. W.J. Tauzin of Louisiana announced last week that they were embarking on a three-city “Scrap the Code” tax tour in October to debate the merits of Armey’s flat tax vs. Tauzin’s national retail sales tax.” Last Thursday, the two kicked off this philosophical quest by throwing copies of the federal tax code into a large garbage can.

The Post lead asserts that the CIA now has convincing evidence that a leading Libyan dissident who was a U.S. resident just months away from citizenship was abducted from a Cairo human rights conference with the help of Egyptian agents and spirited off to Libya where he was murdered. This finding is said to have upset relations between the U.S. and Egypt. The paper says that throughout the course of U.S. officials’ investigation of the incident, their requests for help from Egypt have produced only limited cooperation, and that this month Al Gore privately demanded that Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak order a full investigation.

The NYT today begins the first of two pieces on educational testing with a piece on the failure of the field’s largest company, the Educational Testing Service (a nonprofit with an annual revenue $400 million), to get cheating under control or to disclose security problems to the test-taking public. The company, says the paper, prefers to sweep its dirt under the rug to protect its dominant share of the testing business instead of spending the money to tighten security. The story details widespread cheating on the company’s Louisiana state school principals’ test and the English proficiency exams it administers as part of the citizenship process. And as first reported in the Times recently, federal prosecutors in Manhattan have busted a nationwide cheating operation on graduate school and ESL exams.

Bob Dylan is very much blowin’ in the wind, with an omnibus review of his oeuvre on the front of the NYT “Arts and Leisure” section and a picture on the top front of the LAT of him performing yesterday for the Pope.

In the wake of its handling of the Marv Albert story, Friday’s column asked the WP to clarify its policy on naming names. Almost as if to oblige, today’s Post “Ombudsman” column examines that policy, primarily by surveying the spectrum of views held by various senior editors. But a lot is left unclear. The paper’s policy as stated in Friday’s Albert story was “The Washington Post does not identify victims of alleged sexual assaults.” The “Ombudsman” column says the policy is to not name “a person accusing another of a sex crime.” (These are not the same thing: a person accusing another of a sex crime against a third party would be covered by the Sunday policy, but not by the Friday one.) The original problem, previously pointed out, was that, in the Albert story, the Post violated the policy stated in that story within mere column inches, by identifying the second woman who testified in the case. It can be pointed out now that the revised policy has the same problem. And even the latter doesn’t seem like the paper’s de facto policy. Can we really believe, for instance, that John Bobbitt’s name was never used during the Post’s coverage of his wife’s trial for sexually maiming him?