Today's Papers

Diaper Rashness

The possibility that Iraq will back off its attempt to prevent or modify weapons inspections leads USA Today, the New York Times, and the Los Angeles Times. The Washington Post leads with the news that President Clinton will endorse a patient’s rights bill.

The Iraq story took a big turn late in the news cycle, when early this morning a Geneva meeting of foreign ministers, including Madeleine Albright, was told by a Russian diplomat that the Iraqis had relented. The papers report Albright’s reaction: “I will believe it when I see it.” The NYT states that if Saddam Hussein does indeed back down, it will represent an important victory for American and Russian diplomacy. But only the LAT seems to notice what Hussein might have accomplished in his three uninspected weeks: the production of “350 liters–about 92 gallons–of anthrax a week. That’s enough to fill two missile warheads or four bombs.”

The Post reports that Clinton intends to call on all U.S. health insurers to adopt standards , endorsed yesterday by a presidential commission, for easier patient access to treatment, better health care information flow and improved appeals procedures. (The NYT broke the story of the commission’s recommendations several weeks ago.) The WP says Clinton’s call is his largest and most controversial foray into health care since the defeat of his reform plan three years ago. And as with that plan, the paper notes, there will be much discussion about the cost of these new rights.

The live births of those septuplets in Iowa grabs a lot of front-page space. And uncomplicated boosterism suffuses most of the coverage. The LAT reports the event under the headline “Oh, Baby!” and displays their names and birth weights inside drawings of baby booties. The WP waits until the thirteenth paragraph of its story to mention the fertility drugs involved and that such drugs are frowned upon by many doctors. USAT waits more than twenty paragraphs before raising an eyebrow, with this contrarian quote from an expert on multiple births: “People were not meant to have litters.” The . NYT flashes much more awareness than the others of the ethical, medical and economic problems inherent in the births.

The father’s quote: “God gave us those kids and he wants us to raise them,” makes everybody’s story. Well no, it was actually science and a huge amount of charity: The coverage mentions that forty specialists attended the births and that the mother has been hospitalized for over a month. Only USAT notes that the part of the bill not paid by insurance will be covered by a fund set up by the parents’ church, and that Iowa’s governor has announced that the state will build the family a new house.

The Wall Street Journal runs a feature on the first-ever relieving for cause of a Trident nuclear missile submarine skipper. (The WP ran the story several weeks ago, but the tale bears repeating.) The skipper, a real-life Captain Queeg, deserved to get bounced. He reamed out subordinates in public over such trivialities as a missing dinner fork. More seriously, under his command, botched communications led to the Navy’s not knowing where his ICBM-laden sub was for nine days.

The WP brings closure on a 32-year-old college prank. It seems that one morning in 1965, the University of Virginia awoke to discover a cow perched on the dome of the school’s Rotunda, fifty feet above the ground. The prankster was never identified. Until now. The culprit, fearing unmasking by classmates, stepped forward and paid $1,755 to the sheriff who investigated the incident. He is Alfred R. Berkeley III, the president of the NASDAQ stock exchange.