Today's Papers

Peace Annan?

The ongoing U.S. assessment of the U.N.-brokered Iraq deal leads at USAT and the WP. The national edition of the NYT goes with a Senate vote that keeps alive a campaign fund-raising reform bill (the metro edition of the Times goes with a state court decision that gives New York City the right to kick topless joints and sex shops out of Times Square). The LAT lead is El Nino rainstorms that have killed six in California, while the paper’s off-lead is the news that Kenneth Starr will prosecute White House officials if he believes they have spread false information about his staff. The stance, says the paper, amounts to an escalation of the confrontation with the Clinton administration to “frenetic proportions.”

USAT reports that the U.N. Security Council delayed voting on the Iraq agreement after pressing Secretary-General Kofi Annan on several points. The big unresolved issues, says the paper: the role of the diplomats who would now accompany weapons inspectors on their rounds, the inspectors’ chain of command now, and whether or not the agreement’s nod to respecting Iraqi sovereignty could interfere with inspections. The WP says the U.S. fears the new inspection organization will be more susceptible than its predecessor to outside political pressures. In response, says the Post, Annan telephoned President Clinton yesterday, reassuring him that inspections will remain controlled by technical experts.

The WP also reports that the U.S. wants the U.N. resolution to automatically declare Iraq in breach of the agreement if it resumes its obstructive ways. The WP runs the text of the deal signed by Annan and Hussein, and the language is surprisingly clear. “Today’s Papers” has had apartment leases that were harder to follow–and longer.

The NYT front runs a nice piece of access journalism detailing how President Clinton, and his top national security aides, especially Madeleine Albright, contributed to the ultimate details of the Annan/Hussein deal. At one point, apparently, Al Gore suggested that the administration consider designating Saddam a war criminal. According to the paper, Washington was far more actively involved in planning Annan’s approach than has been previously acknowledged.

But the biggest NYT story is that President Clinton has decided to have his closest aides cite executive privilege to keep from testifying to the Starr grand jury about internal White House discussions on the Monica L. matter. The notion could be put to a test before a federal judge as early as this week.

The WSJ reports that the Justice Department has decided to fight Starr’s efforts to obtain testimony from presidential bodyguards. The decision was forged, says the Journal, after the Secret Service director, in arguing that efficient protection requires agent proximity and hence agent confidentiality, made a presentation at the DOJ that included a slow-motion videotape of a Secret Service agent taking a bullet intended for Ronald Reagan in 1981.

Some editorial writers weigh in today on the escalating battle between Clinton and Starr. The WP lead editorial says Starr “absurdly” subpoenaed White House aide Sidney Blumenthal, and assesses the White House strategy of “looking for dirt on prosecutors and trying to discredit straightforward reporting of embarrassing facts” as “sleazy.” The NYT lead editorial views Starr’s move on Blumenthal as “bone stupid” tactically and an “attack on press freedom and the unrestricted flow of information.”

The NYT reports that “robust investment returns coupled with strong donations to higher education have created a financial boom for American colleges and universities, 25 of which now have endowments of $1 billion or more.” The piece goes on to quote various breathless university officials about how the money is rolling in, but nowhere is the question raised as to why if financial times are so good, tuition has risen at a ferocious rate, often outpacing even health care costs.

The NYT front includes a Gina Kolata piece describing the rapidly escalating cost of donor eggs for various infertility procedures. One New Jersey clinic has just doubled payments to donors, offering $5,000 for a month’s worth of eggs. The paper notes that sperm donors typically get less than $100, but also describes in some detail how much less fun egg donors have.