Today's Papers

Petroleum Jelling

The Washington Post and New York Times lead with the decision by a coalition of some of the world’s top oil exporters to cut back production in an attempt to reverse a sharp price slide. USA Today, which runs the oil story as its off-lead, leads with the revelation that last fall, the State Department shut down some of its worldwide computer systems because of a suspected penetration by hackers. The systems contain unclassified but sensitive information such as the travel schedules of U.S. embassy officials. The Los Angeles Times goes with the first joint appearance of the leading Democratic gubernatorial candidates at a state party convention.

The oil news is that Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, and Mexico, which together supply about a fifth of the world’s oil, issued a joint statement saying that they and other oil producers plan a cutback amounting to about 2.7 percent of world production. The move, which the WP calls “unusual solidarity,” is expected to send oil prices up. The NYT reports that the initial reaction in the Asian markets on Monday was nearly a $4 up-tick.

The Times explains that having non-OPEC countries like Mexico on board is important because in the past OPEC production cuts have often been met with non-OPEC production surges. The paper also notes that many analysts had been predicting the economic pain of low oil revenues would force the producers to rein in production. Clear enough, but then the paper goes on to “illustrate” that idea with the following passage from the joint statement, which is anything but: “.[A] drop in oil prices could lead to a reduction in the investments needed to secure international supplies, which would destabilize the world economy in the medium term.”

OSCAR NOTE I: The LAT says that “The Full Monty,” made for a paltry $3.5 million, could ultimately turn a profit of around $100 million. The Wall Street Journal says the movie has already raked in more than $200 million.

OSCAR NOTE II: This past Saturday’s NYT reported that acting is on the rise as an occupational choice for young people, and today’s USAT “Snapshot” reports that in a recent poll, 51 percent of men surveyed would prefer their children grew up to be a Hollywood star rather than a U.S. Senator. (Only 32 percent of the women preferred this.)

Curiously, the LAT lead puts in the second paragraph the information that businessman Al Checchi criticized Rep. Jane Harman for appealing to Republicans, that Harman sniped at Checchi for having a lot of position papers, and that Lt. Gov. Gray Davis attacked them both as millionaires trying to buy the election, but delays until the fifth paragraph the news that Checchi and Harman said that as governor they would seek to repeal Prop. 209, the California ballot measure outlawing racial and gender preferences in state hiring and college admissions, and that Davis would not do this. Plus, the reader has to wait to the sixth paragraph to learn that Davis also wouldn’t commit to signing a bill sanctioning gay marriage, while both Checchi and Harman would do that.

The WP runs a piece inside reporting that according to Russian sources, Russian intelligence agents have, for the past several years, quietly recruited scientists to go to Iran and teach their Iranian counterparts how to build missiles to carry deadly payloads as far as 1,200 miles. The piece goes on to say that the Russians intend to stop this practice. Some observers, remarks the Post, wonder if the Russian government can in fact stop the flow of scientists to Tehran.

The WSJ brings evidence that not every conservative blindly supports the many turns of Ken Starr’s investigation of President Clinton. The “Rule of Law” piece, by a former Reagan administration deputy attorney general, argues that “it is time for a sober reassessment of the power we have concentrated in the hands of prosecutors and the alarming absence of effective checks and balances to prevent the widespread abuse of that power.”

The two people in America who still think of the NYT as America’s sober “paper of record,” are directed to Sunday’s front section, page 20. There, instead of the dozens of straightforward shots of Robert Bennett no doubt available, the paper opts for a shot of him with a crazed smile and hands not quite in front his face, making him look like a spastic Mafia don.

The WP reports on last Saturday night’s Gridiron Dinner, that annual Washington D.C. court masque in which bigfoot journalists entertain the government’s heaviest hitters and vice-versa. The centerpiece this year was President Clinton’s monologue, which featured the following joke he said had been approved by his lawyers: “Knock-knock” “Don’t answer that.”