Today's Papers


Everybody leads with the worsening violence in Jakarta, Indonesia. The New York Times and Washington Post top fronts feature a dramatic picture of protesters hauling away a man reportedly shot by police. The Los Angeles Times front goes with looters carrying their plunder by a blazing overturned car. President Suharto, who had been in Egypt, returned to the riot-riddled capital and called out tanks and thousands of troops in an attempt to restore order and maintain his 32-year control of the country.

With the riot toll now standing at 24 dead (most shot, some trapped in burning buildings), the U.S. warned Americans not to travel to Indonesia. The LAT reports that up to 3,000 Americans are already in Jakarta, with about 12,000 more in outlying areas. The WP and NYT both capture the growing political nuance of the street-level situation with their observations that some army troops were greeted with applause by rioters, and that the soldiers, unlike the cops, mingled with the crowds. The military might just, the papers make clear, tip the scales against Suharto.

Despite some strong descriptions of events, all the papers could have done a better job of explaining them. USA Today, for instance, waits until the twelfth paragraph of its fifteen paragraph story to inform the reader that the unrest was about rising prices caused by Suharto’s introduction of new IMF-dictated austerity measures. The WP holds that information until paragraph eighteen. The NYT delays until paragraph seventeen mention of rising unemployment and economic-based resentment of Chinese Indonesians. The LAT gets the poverty and anti-Chinese angles, however lightly, into its first two paragraphs.

The Wall Street Journal reports that Indonesian students have relied heavily on e-mail and cell phones to organize their protests. And although the phone companies deny it, says the paper, the protesters believe their cell calls are sometimes blocked to obstruct their planning.

The NYT has a top-front exclusive: that Democratic Party fund-raiser Johnny Chung has provided federal investigators with their first solid link between the Chinese government and questionable donations made to the DNC during the last presidential campaign. According to the Times, Chung now says a large part of the nearly $100,000 he gave to the DNC in the summer of 1996 came from a Chinese woman aerospace executive/army officer whose father was at the time China’s top military commander and a member of the Communist Party leadership. At the time, notes the paper, President Clinton was facilitating the Chinese launch of American civilian communications satellites. A White House spokesman, Jim Kennedy, is quoted in the piece saying, “We had no knowledge about the source of Chung’s money…”

Everybody’s front runs the news that Microsoft yesterday made a surprise last-minute move to avoid antitrust lawsuits by agreeing to delay its release of Windows 98 while it enters settlement talks with the government. The talks start today and the shipments are delayed until at least Monday. It’s clear that government officials feel they’re in the driver’s seat now: one tells the Post, “We’re not going to be locked in the room to be shown baby pictures of Bill Gates.”

The WP and NYT fronts report on the deaths of nine Palestinians in West Bank protests marking Israel’s fiftieth anniversary. Israeli troops opened fire on Palestinians moving towards Jewish settlements. Two of the dead were 8-year-old boys.

The WP runs an AP story saying that Susan McDougal is prepared to testify at her obstruction of justice trial about Bill Clinton’s truthfulness regarding Whitewater matters. The dispatch mentions that McDougal arrived at her plea appearance in a prison jumpsuit and handcuffs. Television footage shows that the cuffs were manacled to a belly chain as well. “Today’s Papers” has never seen any reporting about why Ms. McDougal, neither a violent offender nor a documented flight risk, must be trussed about like this. Some paper should find out: Is this really be an inflexible policy, or is it blatant message-sending by Kenneth Starr?

The WP reports that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s stats for 1997 are in. Notable numbers: Drunken driving deaths–16,520–fell to their lowest level in twenty years. The total number of fatalities was 42,000, 65 fewer than in 1996. (Wonder how many years have had a number of deaths ending in three zeros.) And 63 percent of those killed in car crashes were not wearing seat belts.

Another AP item in the Post reports that at her weekly news conference, Janet Reno admitted she has become so confused over the computer system in her office that she has forsaken it for paper and pencil. “Today’s Papers” is astounded that not one reporter in attendance ventured to ask if the Attorney General had tried installing a different browser.