Today's Papers

Freeh at Last

At the Washington Post and USA Today the lead is Janet Reno and Louis Freeh’s joint appearance before a congressional committee. The Los Angeles Times leads with the news that California air quality officials are considering imposing stricter smog rules on pick-up trucks and minivans. And the New York Times goes with the South Korean government’s call for the U.S. and Japan to quickly pony up some cash that has been promised in the recently concluded bailout only as a last resort (yet another case of the Times leading with a financial story nobody else even puts on the front page). Within hours, Clinton administration officials rejected any early injection of U.S. funds. There was no immediate reaction from Japan. There’s politics on both sides of the matter, says the Times: Korean politicians want up-front money to soften what are widely viewed in their country as the bailout’s regulatory intrusions, while the Clinton administration has tried to make the U.S. contribution to the deal–estimated to be potentially $5 billion–more palatable by suggesting there’s a chance it would never actually be needed.

USAT stresses the “unified front” put on by Reno and Freeh on the Hill (as does the LAT in its front pager), while the WP emphasizes Freeh’s testimony that he continues to support an independent counsel taking over Justice’s ongoing investigation of Clinton campaign fund-raising. The Post notes that while Reno has spent a lot of time in front of congressional mikes, yesterday’s appearance marked Freeh’s first extensive public comments concerning the investigation and his disagreement with Reno about how to pursue it. He is quoted describing that disagreement as “the biggest open secret in Washington” because of leaks to news organizations. Probably so, but Freeh had as much motive as anyone to do the leaking: publicizing the dispute served to demonstrate his political independence from Clinton, something Reno has been pilloried repeatedly for not demonstrating (see, for instance, today’s Maureen Dowd column).

The context for the LAT lead is that the boom in light trucks and sport utility vehicles has accelerated pollution because they aren’t subject to the same emission and fuel economy controls as passenger cars. An editorial in the NYT points out that even though these heavier vehicles are only half as numerous as cars, they already produce as much carbon dioxide, and by 2010 if the rules aren’t changed, they may produce up to 75 percent of all smog coming from personal vehicles.

Although even the United Farm Workers considers the strike against table grapes to be “dormant,” until last Thursday it was still going strong, reports the Wall Street Journal, at Harvard. That’s when the results of a campus-wide referendum were announced: 54% percent pro-grape, 46% anti. There will be grapes on campus tables for brunch this Sunday. Some anti-grape students are planning a no-grape eating table.

The Journal’s “Tax Report” brings word that some rock stars have been tangling with the IRS over the deductibility of clothes worn on stage during performances. Apparently, Stevie Nicks of Fleetwood Mac told the government that her flowing on-stage get-ups are not suitable for ordinary wear, and that much of it is discarded after shows because it can’t be re-used. The column reports that a tentative settlement between Nicks and the feds is in the works.

The WP front page reports that Latrell Sprewell held a press conference yesterday. He apologized, but his main goal was image repair: he was accompanied, says the Post, by his agent, his accountant, his tax man, his teammates, the president of the players’ union, several other advisors, and….Johnnie Cochran. Sprewell took no questions from the assembled press and did not address any specifics of the two incidents in which he punched and choked his coach. “We’re not here today to discuss the facts,” Cochran explained. No word yet on the search for the real chokers.