Today's Papers

Babes and Arms

The apparent break in the Iraq crisis leads at USA Today, the Washington Post, the New York Times, and the Los Angeles Times. Inspectors have gotten clearance to go back in, and, the papers report, a 77-member team including an unspecified number of Americans is scheduled to be on the ground in Iraq by the weekend. However, the U.S. is taking a wait-and-see attitude, and so extra air and naval forces are still heading to the Persian Gulf. Concerning Saddam Hussein, President Clinton is quoted in all the dailies as saying, “In the coming days we will wait and see whether he does, in fact, comply with the will of the international community.”

The NYT reports that a French diplomat explained Hussein’s turnaround by suggesting that the Americans “bent a little.” Similarly, the paper reports, some Iraqi officials said Saddam agreed to renewed inspections because Russia had guaranteed it easier inspection procedures, such as changing the composition of the UN teams and limiting U-2 surveillance flights. (The WP attributes such a sentiment to the Iraqi deputy prime minister.) U.S. officials adamantly deny this, saying there were absolutely no concessions. And, true to recent convention, there is a “livid spotting” about this: The Wall Street Journal “Washington Wire” reports that national security advisor Sandy Berger was “livid” at a State Department leak about U.S. “carrots.”

The WP accompanies its main Iraq story with a fine piece of reporting by its crack technical military writer R. Jeffrey Smith on Iraq’s biological weapons arsenal. The piece, based on scores of interviews of UN and US officials, details how UN inspectors have spent the post-Desert Storm years looking for twenty-five missile warheads filled with the world’s deadliest germs, capable of killing up to a million people. This weapons program, reports the Post, was seeded by a 1985 mail-order shipment of germs from a Rockville, MD company.

Morning-after thinking about the septuplets is creeping into the coverage. The WP tells of intense criticism from ethicists and doctors, and of their warnings about promiscuous use of fertility treatments, which produce extreme medical risks for women and their offspring, at growing public expense. The paper reports that some specialists doubt the claim by the septuplet’s OB/GYN that she used the same dosage of fertility drug that she had used previously to produce the mom’s prior child. The NYT also runs a piece inside reviewing the risks posed by drug-induced multiple births.

The WP runs an AP story inside reporting that the number of American children contracting AIDS from their mothers at birth dropped 43 percent between 1992 and 1996. The credit appears to go to aggressive use of the antiviral drug AZT.

There’s an intriguing headline today over an LAT front pager: “Major Clinton Donor is Focus of Burial Probe.” The story has to do with M. Larry Lawrence, the late owner of San Diego’s Hotel Del Coronado and a major donor to President Clinton, and now a subject of a House panel’s investigation into whether the Clinton administration rewarded campaign contributors with burial plots in Arlington National Cemetery. (The perfect gift for someone too decomposed to really enjoy the Lincoln Bedroom.) Lawrence is buried there even though his merchant marine service ordinarily wouldn’t have gotten him in.

If the aforementioned qualms about multiple births don’t seem decisive, the NYT has a more prosaic consideration: the 35,000 diapers that the septuplets’ parents will have to change.