Today's Papers

Wang Turn

The Washington Post leads with the arrival in the U.S. of just-exiled Chinese dissident Wang Dan. The Los Angeles Times goes with the conclusion of the economic summit in Chile, where the U.S. and 33 other nations decided to go forward with plans to create a free-trade zone throughout the Americas by 2005. The leads with word that an all-time record two million-plus legal resident immigrants are still waiting to become U.S. citizens. The USA Today, WP and New York Times top fronts feature powerful pictures from yesterday’s Oklahoma City bombing third anniversary memorial service. USAT goes with a “scathing” Carnegie foundation report concluding that many undergraduates at research institutions graduate “without knowing how to think logically, write clearly or speak coherently.”

Dissident Wang, a leader of the 1989 pro-democracy demonstrations in Tiananmen Square crushed by Chinese Army tanks, landed in Detroit yesterday after his release from a Chinese jail. (The WP notes that previously released dissident Wei Jingsheng was also flown to Detroit, but doesn’t explain the destination. The NYT does: it’s the terminus of the only direct flight from Beijing to the eastern U.S.) Wang was promptly admitted to a hospital for tests. The NYT, in the course of its four Wang stories, notes that some 2,000 people remain imprisoned in China for the crime of “counterrevolution.” The WP says Wang’s release was part of a “reported deal” between Beijing and Washington that clears the way for President Clinton’s visit to China in June. The LAT is more definite, saying the release was “one of the last steps in an extensive package deal secretly negotiated earlier this year” during a “clandestine mission to Beijing on the weekend of March 7-8 by three Clinton administration officials.”

The NYT has a front-page piece on the information turned up by Ken Starr for the Arkansas grand jury he has had looking into Bill and Hillary’s Arkansas financial dealings. The piece, by Whitewater experts Jeff Gerth and Stephen Labaton is mostly a useful summary of old news, but there is new ground broken: the grand jury evidence includes 1) a document found last summer in a briefcase in Vince Foster’s attic that impugns Hillary Clinton’s account of how she came to represent James McDougal’s Madison Savings and Loan, and 2) Bill Clinton’s testimony that after the initial NYT articles on Whitewater he sent an associate to see McDougal: “And I might have asked him to, you know, talk to him and see if we could have no further damaging articles, but I don’t remember exactly what I said.”

The Wall Street Journal’s “The Outlook” column zeroes in on the closest thing to a storm cloud in the current economic forecast: the stunning erosion of lending standards. The column reports that last year banks raised outstanding credit by more than 8 percent, the fastest rate of increase in ten years. And that more financial outfits loosened lending rules than raised them. What’s more, outstanding home and auto loans to borrowers with lousy credit histories surpassed $300 billion this year. That’s 33 percent higher than just the year before. Not to mention, adds the Journal, 150-percent-of-home-equity loans and mortgage loans to homeowners already in foreclosure. Actually, there’s another storm warning in the Journal: In February, mostly because of the Asian economic collapse, the U.S. trade deficit reached $12 billion, up 4.2 percent from January. Worse, says the paper, is predicted in the months ahead.

A rave review of Salon inside the WP reminds “Today’s Papers” of something wrong with last week’s NYT piece about the American Spectator’s attempts to account for the Richard Scaife money it disbursed in pursuit of Arkansas dirt on Bill Clinton: it didn’t mention that this Scaife funding effort was first reported on by The New York Observer and Salon.

A Philip Shenon piece in Sunday’s NYT “Week in Review” makes an incredibly important point: Pol Pot wasn’t the last big war criminal walking around free. There’s Idi Amin, estimated to have killed 300,000 of his fellow Ugandans, enjoying life in Saudi Arabia. There’s Bosnian Serbs Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic–Shenon reports that last summer the latter had a nice holiday that took him from the Adriatic to the Danube and that he often travels along roads supposedly patrolled by NATO troops. And how about Emmanuel Constant, accused of complicity in the murder and torture of thousands of Haitians in the early 1990s? Or General Jose Guillermo Garcia, accused of covering up the rape and murder of four American churchwomen in San Salvador in 1980? They’re both living in…the U.S.

A column by Mike Downey in the Sunday LAT brought word of an invention that could single-handedly reverse the tide of tabloidism: a miniature device worn on a cap or as jewelry that, whenever a photographer tries to take the wearer’s picture, emits a picture-ruining flash.

The Sunday LAT also featured an interview with Bernard Lewinsky, who had this to say in defense of his daughter: “She’s a very smart, intelligent, beautiful girl who’s going to go places, and unfortunately she’s taking her licks….” “Thanks, Dad!”