Today's Papers

Anti-Pap, Anti-Iraq

USA Today

leads with mounting criticism of Kenneth Starr, mincing no words in referring to “his probe into President Clinton’s sex life.” The Washington Post leads with the rise in doctors’ disability insurance claims. The Los Angeles Times goes with the Clinton administration’s desire to drop the annual process of certifying that Mexico and other nations are cooperating in the drug war in favor of setting up an international anti-drug alliance that such countries would join. The New York Times lead states that the “consumer” health-care laws (the scare-quotes are supplied by the Times) being discussed in state capitals tend to focus more on protecting “the incomes, jobs and turf of the health-care system’s biggest and richest vested interests,” namely, specialist physicians and managed-care plans.

Doctors used to be among the most dependable workers in America, but according to the WP, they’ve been leaving their jobs to collect disability benefits in such high numbers that insurers now view them as in the same claim risk echelon as grocery cashiers and bank tellers, and even riskier than shipping clerks and traveling salesmen. Not to mention far below lawyers, accountants and engineers. The most likely explanation: stress and unhappiness brought on by the widespread advent of managed care. As a result, disability premiums for docs are up big-time: one big insurer is charging nearly 25 percent more than just last summer.

USAT’s off-lead states that “the Clinton administration began making the case for military action against Iraq to a U.S. audience Sunday..” That “began” is a little unfair, isn’t it? The paper goes on to point out that Congress, which began a week’s recess Friday, left without passing a resolution authorizing force. Isn’t this a rather telling demonstration of Congress’ priorities? Hmmm…what should I do: Decide on whether or not to go to war or…take a vacation?

The NYT front discusses some of the events that could affect the timing of any military action against Iraq. Chief among them: moon phases (stealth aircraft are easier to eyeball under a full moon), Parents’ Weekend at Stanford (President Clinton and Hillary are scheduled to go, and that’s not the best place to conduct a war from), and the Olympics (there’s an international convention that nations refrain from war during the Games).

USAT reports that, as part of his pitch on a Sunday “This Week” shot, Secretary of Defense Cohen showed a photo of a Kurdish woman and child killed by Iraqi chemical weapons. Yet a front-page piece by LAT Middle East expert Robin Wright states that in the eyes of some U.S. intelligence experts, the U.S. knew the intelligence it supplied to Iraq in the 80s (during its war with Iran) would be used to develop chemical weapons plans.

The LAT front also brings word of anti-paparazzi legislation about to be introduced by Sen. Dianne Feinstein. The “Personal Privacy Protection Act” (it sounded better than the “Alec Baldwin Should Be Able To Punch Out Photographers” Act) would, says the paper, preserve the right to photograph celebrities in public, but would crack down on actions that could jeopardize safety. This is a fine example of what Slate deputy editor Jack Shafer has called a therapeutic law: it accomplishes nothing, except perhaps to make us feel good via the illusion of accomplishing something. Really, how many examples are there of paparazzi endangering (as opposed to merely inconveniencing) celebrities? Princess Di’s death turned out not to be one–it was drunk driving. The LAT lead mentions a mob of photographers outside Monica’s house waiting for a glimpse, but again, where’s the safety issue there? The paper also mentions Arnold Schwarzenegger and Maria Shriver being cut off in traffic by videographers, but that just gets at the redundancy of the law: reckless driving is already against the law, as is trespassing on somebody’s doorstep. “Today’s Papers” suspects that Sen. Feinstein gets all this, but can also do the math: a bill protecting the rights of Arnold and Alec means serious donations.

Saddam’s complaint that has led to the current impasse is that the U.N. weapons inspectors are U.S. spies. And yet on the WP’s front, R. Jeffrey Smith makes the point that if U.S. military planners do attack Iraq, they will be drawing in part on data about Iraqi capabilities and targets collected by the U.N. teams.

On Sunday, the NYT used the Bill-Gates-pie-in-the-face incident as a springboard for a “Week in Review” thumbsucker about the history of food as a weapon. It wasn’t enough to have the de rigeur mention of James Cagney grapefruiting Mae Clark. There were also references to the Peloponnesian war, the Irish Rebellion, Bismarck, and the siege of Leningrad. But most special, however, was this passage: “A pie in the face, it’s Soupy Sales stuff,” said Andrew Smith, who teaches culinary history at the New School for Social Research.”