Today's Papers

Broken Glass Pieces

The New York Times leads with NATO’s decision to stage mock air strikes soon over Serbian targets near Kosovo province, a story that also runs on the Washington Post and Los Angeles Times fronts, but USA Today –which instead reserves prime front space for new safety rules for golf carts–doesn’t get around to it until p. 8. The WP leads with President Clinton’s defense of his decision to seek closer relations with China. The LAT leads with Mitsubishi’s decision to end a two-year fight against federal sex harassment charges in a case concerning its treatment of 350 female employees at an Illinois plant by agreeing to the largest harassment settlement ever–$34 million. USAT goes with the outbreak of a sympathy strike at a second Flint, Michigan GM plant. A 17-day 1996 strike, the paper says, ended up costing the company $900 million, adding that continuing strikes at GM could have effects throughout the economy.

The point of NATO’s simulated bombing and strafing raids, to be conducted next week, is, says the Times, to “give Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic a taste of the power that could be turned on him if he persists in attacks on the province.” It is not known, the NYT writes, if the “aerial sabre-rattling” will actually employ live ammo or real bombs.

Clinton says, “choosing isolation over engagement would not make the world safer; it would make it more dangerous.” Gary Bauer of the conservative Family Research Council offers the Post this response: “He’s setting up a false dichotomy. He’s claiming that the debate is between a policy of engagement and a policy of isolationism, when in fact the debate is about what kind of engagement we’re going to have.” The LAT runs this on the front, while the NYT and USAT put it inside.

With the Asian economic crisis nearly a year old, the NYT surveys the GDPs in the region and concludes that the situation is now the most serious region-wide recession since World War II. And although thus far, the impact on the U.S. economy has been negligible, the paper sees warning signs: Asia-focused U.S. companies with anemic earnings, and an overall decline in U.S. exports. The stock market sees this too–Asian worries are widely credited for yesterday’s big Dow drop, say the Times and USAT.

The WP reports that House GOP leaders, anxious to bolster their case for a large tax cut this year, are pressuring Congress’ budget forecasting arm, the CBO, to produce rosier estimates of future surpluses. The House honchos are exercised over CBO’s longstanding overstatement of the budget deficit and its recent understatement of the budget surplus. The story reports that the GOP leadership would like to see a change in the CBO’s forecasting models and probably some new faces over there too.

The NYT front reports that financial settlements have been reached in a case in which without permission or legal sanction, America Online identified to a Navy investigator an active-duty sailor whose on-line profile suggested he was gay. The Navy, which on the basis of the disclosure had originally tried to expel the sailor, has agreed to allow him to retire with full benefits and will pay his legal fees. And AOL, which with the disclosure violated the terms of its own service agreement, has apologized to him and agreed to pay him damages. The sailor has declined to discuss his sexual orientation, and so the coverage of the story has dwelt on the electronic privacy issue, but this episode is also relevant to the Navy’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy. The whole thing started when a third party saw that the man’s email profile mentioned his hobby of “collecting pictures of other young studs” and that his screen-name was “Boysrch.” So here’s the unpursued question: Does such information count as “telling”? If not, then telling has nothing to do with what common sense could easily and non-investigatively arrive at concerning another person’s sexual orientation, and hence has nothing to do with protecting unit cohesion, which could easily be upset by such readily-arrived-at information. But on the other hand, if so, then the current superficially more tolerant policy immediately reduces to the old intrusive one, because investigations would become so easy to set into motion.

Both the WP and NYT report on The New Republic’s post-Stephen Glass post-mortem, which concluded that all or part of 27 of the 41 pieces Glass did for TNR were fabricated. And the Times segues into doubt about the effectiveness of fact-checking departments. But a quick look at today’s letters to the editor in the Times suggest that here at least is one department of the paper that could use a little more fact-checking. A Mr. Donald N. S. Unger, in criticizing a recent William Safire pitch for anti-missile missiles, refers to how the Aegis missile system shot down an Iranian Airbus during the Gulf war, mistaking it for a Mig fighter plane. Actually, the shoot-down took place three years before the Gulf War and occurred because the Airbus was mistaken for an Iranian F-14. So the question arises: Do letters just go straight into the paper without being checked? And if so, isn’t this just as bad as a similar laxity with regard to articles?