Today's Papers

Bad Heart of Darkness

USA Today

leads with the manufacturer’s withdrawal from the market of a widely used heart drug. (The story is flagged on the Wall Street Journal front and runs inside at the Washington Post and the New York Times.) The heart attack death of Nigerian dictator, Sani Abacha, leads the NYT and is also the top non-local story at the WP. (Abacha also gets front-page space at the Los Angeles Times.) The $32 billion bank merger of Wells Fargo and Norwest leads at the LAT, which also features top of the page pictures of the three remaining Beatles together in London at the Linda McCartney memorial service. It was their first joint public appearance since the “rooftop session” at Abbey Road in 1969.

Other stories getting lots of front and front-section space include: the federal anti-trust suit brought against Intel for allegedly withholding technical data from such companies as Digital and Compaq as punishment for not licensing their technology to the chip maker; the decision of the European Union–and soon, it’s reported, of the U.S. too–to ban new investments in Serbia and to freeze its foreign assets as a sanction against Serbia for its latest military actions against Albanians in Kosovo; and the agreement by Honda and Ford to pay $24.9 million in civil fines to settle Justice Department and EPA claims that the companies arranged for cars to emit substantially more pollutants than they are supposed to. There is very little explanation in these Honda/Ford stories about why the companies did this. USAT and the WP say Ford did it to improve fuel economy, but don’t really get into Honda’s motivation. And the other papers miss the explanatory boat regarding both companies.

Roche Laboratories pulled its heart drug Posicor off the world market Monday because of potentially lethal interactions with numerous other medications. The FDA, says USAT, has received reports of 24 deaths that may be related to the medication, which is used for chest pain and high blood pressure by about 400,000 patients worldwide–200,000 in the U.S.

The NYT says the death of Nigeria’s Abacha, whose five-year reign was marked by his brutal suppression of political opponents and who had no designated successor, initially prompted hopes among Nigerian political exiles and some world leaders that Nigeria, which had a flourishing democracy briefly in the early 1980s, might restore civilian government. But it was not to be–within hours, the dictator’s defense chief was sworn in as the new leader, and for the moment anyhow, the democrats and other political prisoners remain behind bars and in some cases, under death sentences.

The LAT reports that the merger of San Francisco-based Wells Fargo with Minneapolis-based Norwest will create the nation’s seventh largest bank and the largest one based west of the Mississippi. The story carries warnings from consumer activists of higher fees and poorer service, but also notes that the deal could be an economic boost to California, because the combined operation will be headquartered in San Francisco.

USAT’s news section “cover story,” about the NRA’s attempt to go mainstream via Charlton Heston’s image, is illustrated by the same loopy photograph of Heston that the NYT used when it did that story yesterday.

With everybody else giving President Clinton travel advice these days, the NYT’s Thomas Friedman can’t resist following suit. On your way home from China, he writes, stop in Iran. His reasoning is pretty simple: “Looked at a map of South Asia lately? China’s got the bomb. India’s got the bomb. Pakistan’s got the bomb. Let’s see, who’s next to Pakistan…Iran.”

The NYT and WP report that the Secretary of Defense, William Cohen, announced yesterday that the Pentagon will investigate allegations made Sunday by a Time/CNN report that in a 1970 raid on a village in Laos, U.S. troops and aircraft used nerve gas on suspected American defectors living there. If the Cohen investigation is for real it will extend to Bobby Garwood, the last American soldier to come home alive from the Indochina war. The SECDEF should ask Garwood if he believes he was ever targeted for death by U.S. forces while at large in the jungle. And here’s an interesting question today’s newspaper accounts don’t address: Why would there be a commando raid to kill American defectors instead of bringing them back to be court-martialed? It might seem that this oddity proves the raids never happened. But think about it–if the American soldiers were in Laos in 1970, they were part of Nixon’s “secret war,” which had a chance to remain secret only if…they didn’t come back from it.