Today's Papers

Solitary Men

Theodore Kaczynski’s apparent suicide attempt and his renewed attempt to be his own lawyer lead at USA Today and the Los Angeles Times. The worsening Indonesian economic crisis leads at the Washington Post and at the Wall Street Journal. The sentencing of the World Trade Center bombing mastermind leads at the New York Times.

USAT reports that Sacramento jail authorities deduced from Kacszynski’s missing underpants and a red mark on his neck that he had tried to commit suicide in his cell the night before. (Presumably they could rule out a really hot date.) As a result, says USAT, he’s been placed in a psychiatric cell where his movements will be monitored 24 hours a day while the court continues to ponder the issue of his legal representation.

The LAT lead says these latest Unabomber trial developments have left Kacszynski’s mother and brother “reeling.” The story also gets front-page coverage at the NYT and WP. The NYT mentions that the jury was about to be sworn in but was instead “sent home” Thursday. But none of the accounts mention whether the jury is sequestered yet. If not, then the jury’s been exposed to the suicide attempt, the controversy about his competency, as well as to the news that the government turned down his offer to plead guilty in return for having his life spared. Won’t all this tend to promote jury sympathy for Kacszynski?

The WSJ reports that concerns about Indonesia’s President Suharto’s ability to turn things around–because he’s infirm and because he has too many family members with fortunes to protect–have gotten so bad that on Thursday, supermarkets were jammed by those trying to stock up on essential goods.

The Journal focuses more on the crisis, the WP and NYT focus more on what the U.S. and the IMF are doing about it. The Times has the most detail about the U.S. role, reporting that President Clinton insisted in a 20-minute phone call with Suharto on Thursday night that Indonesia must put in place strong economic reforms. The crisis is also on the front at the LAT and USAT.

The NYT lead about the World Trade Center sentencing reports that federal judge Kevin Duffy sentenced Ramzi Yousef to 240 years in prison and urged that he spend it all in solitary confinement, without phone privileges. The NYT mentions that only six prisoners in the federal system have been so confined, but leaves the reader wondering who they are and what they did. The WP gives the example of one, a New York gang leader who directed three murders from jail. The Times makes it clear that the judge can only recommend sentence conditions, which ultimately are determined by prison officials. (Although a word or two about how Duffy arrived at the 240 years would have been instructive.) And the Times has the detail that Yousef was also ordered to pay a $4.5 million fine and restitution of $250 million, because, said Duffy, leaving no Oliver Stone unturned, “someday I can see someone being perverse enough to buy your story.”

The LAT runs a front-page story based on juror interviews reporting that, contrary to opinions expressed yesterday by the Nichols jury forewoman, there was “a strong faction” on the jury leaning towards the death penalty.

Both the WP and the NYT run stories inside reporting a new study concluding that 80 percent of the adults in prison are locked up because of criminal activity linked to drug and alcohol abuse. But the Post doesn’t address a crucial distinction: how much of the criminal activity is violation of the drug laws and how much is something else. (A lot of the former might be grist for legalization. A lot of the latter might be grist for the status quo.) But the study does apparently get into this, because the Times reports that “alcohol, more than any illegal drug, was found to be closely associated with violent crimes…”

It’s no big deal, but the WP story about President Clinton’s visit to a fund-raiser at the toney “Dakota” apartment building in New York City mentions that John Lennon lived there and “it was outside this building where he was murdered in 1981.” Actually, it was 1980.