Today's Papers

Nuclear Pakistandoff

Everybody leads with the expected, but still earthshaking, first Pakistani nuclear blasts. A measure of the event’s significance is that the New York Times, Washington Post and Los Angeles Times each go with two front-page bomb stories. The LAT and WP feature big above-the-fold pictures of jubilant Pakistanis. The NYT front features instead a shot of Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif walking alongside his army chief, both men grim-faced.

The Pakistanis claim to have set off five explosions, although USA Today and WP reports that the U.S. confirmed only one. (The NYT says “as few as two.”) But, according to USAT, the LAT and the Times, U.S. officials are concerned that there will soon be at least one more Pakistani atomic blast. And Pakistan announced, says the WP and NYT, that it is already fitting nuclear warheads on its long-range missiles. The LAT quotes an expert saying that this missile claim may be more a statement of intent than fact. And the LAT is likewise consoling elsewhere in its reporting, quoting three experts to the effect that India and Pakistan may not henceforth feel the need to match each other weapon for weapon.

President Clinton made an eleventh-hour attempt to head all this off with a phone call to Sharif late Wednesday. (And the WP reports that the Chinese, the source of most of the Pakistanis’ atomic know-how, also tried getting them to stop the tests.) But Sharif’s announcement of the explosions–“Today, we have settled the score with India”–shows what Clinton was up against. The LAT says that among Pakistanis there was “intense, nearly unanimous” support for testing an atomic weapon. The NYT reports that in the hours just prior to conducting the tests, Pakistan summoned India’s diplomatic envoy and accused India of planning a pre-emptive military strike on Pakistan’s atomic testing center.

In response to the A-blasts, under the same automatic provision of U.S. law that kicked in on India, Clinton moved to cancel all U.S. aid to Pakistan (only $4 million) and more significantly, to oppose all international loans. The Pakistani government, the papers report, made an economic move of its own: to keep money from fleeing the country, it froze all foreign currency accounts. But the sanctions will hurt–after all, as the NYT observes, the globe’s newest open nuclear power is also one of its ten poorest countries. The Wall Street Journal sees the sudden Asian nuke-out (along with the China satellite flap) as eclipsing the dominant business-driven foreign policy approach of the nineties, and returning security and moral considerations to the diplomatic fore.

Everybody’s front has the latest Ken Starr move: his attempt to bypass the federal appeals process and go right to the Supreme Court for a definitive ruling on executive privilege as it applies to the Lewinsky case. (The NYT makes the least of the story, merely putting a “reefer” to it on the bottom right front.) The rare tactic, says USAT, caught the White House by surprise. But, the papers note, it was used successfully by Watergate special prosecutor Leon Jaworksi to pry Nixon’s Oval Office tapes from of his hands.

The WSJ states that a special government report to be released next week will criticize the CIA’s failure to anticipate India’s atomic tests. According to the report, the oops wasn’t primarily technical–it was human.

The WP brings word that NEC will shortly become the first PC manufacturer to take advantage of a recent legal settlement between Microsoft and the DOJ by offering Windows 95 but no desktop icon for Internet Explorer. Instead, IE and Netscape Navigator will both merely be supplied on a CD-ROM.

Well, if smoking can reduce breast cancer, it’s only fair that, according to the NYT front, catalytic converters have been found by the EPA to be a significant cause of global warming. Add this to such eco-perversions (noted by Gregg Easterbrook) as: logging, acid rain and the hole in the ozone layer all appear to reduce global warming.

The WP runs an editorial today calling for a vote against Prop. 226, the California ballot measure requiring unions to get a member’s permission before political expenditures can be drawn from his or her dues. What’s wrong, says the Post, is that such a restriction does not likewise constrain corporate political contributions. The NYT comes out against 226 too, and for the same reason. But the Times is open to a bilateral version in which labor unions must get permission for political spending from individual workers and corporations must do so from individual shareholders. Such an “evenhanded approach,” says the Times, “could reduce the amount of special-interest money sluicing into both parties and help diminish the corroding influence of big contributions.”