Today's Papers

NYT Buries Lead!

The Washington Post leads with indications that President Clinton may drop his appeal of last week’s court decision holding that his top aides may be questioned by Kenneth Starr. The New York Times goes with Clinton’s comment Sunday that the U.S. would support new international financial aid to Russia if its debt situation worsens. USA Today leads with this year’s big increase in killer tornadoes–nearly double the twister death toll for all of 1997, and a 365 percent increase over the total for 1996. The Los Angeles Times leads with the likelihood that Congress will approve the most sweeping changes in bankruptcy law in decades–which will make it significantly harder for those with annual family incomes over $50,000 to wipe out their debts. The WP lead is on the USAT front but no others. Neither the NYT nor LAT leads are on anybody else’s front.

Besides executive privilege, the WP reports that two other legal decisions incident to the Lewinsky case must also be made soon: whether the DOJ will challenge a court decision ordering Secret Service agents to testify, and whether Clinton himself will testify before Starr’s grand jury.

According to the NYT, Clinton’s Sunday statement concerning debt assistance to Russia was timed to spread calm among the Asian financial markets before they opened for the week. A senior administration official tells the paper that direct U.S. aid is not being contemplated, but rather IMF and World Bank monies, which means 80 percent non-U.S. funds. The Times offers a helpful explanation of the hoped-for result: once investors realize the U.S. and the international funds are determined to support Russia, they will stop dumping the ruble, which may mean that actually making the loans becomes unnecessary. This is, says the NYT, “a form of deterrence theory.” The story runs inside at the WP.

The Wall Street Journal runs a front-page story about how stockbrokers hustle clients . The techniques described include pretending also to be on the phone with another client who just placed a big order with the broker or who just made half a million dollars with him. The big flaw with the story: it never says whether or not such ruses are illegal.

The LAT front points out a rather sticky dilemma now arising for the U.S. in the wake of the new Asian arms race. The Indian and Pakistani nuclear weapons are, the paper observes, probably, like the U.S. and Soviet programs of the 50s and 60s, quite unsafe–vulnerable to both physical mishaps and command and control mistakes. So the question is, should the U.S. help both countries make their bombs safer? Although to do so would violate the new U.S. sanctions imposed on both countries and could provoke international complaints that America is spreading nuclear know-how, the LAT reports that “outside analysts” think such a course of action is probably under consideration.

A topic of immeasurable social and intellectual importance is very unwisely buried deep inside the NYT business section: How could a story about “Today’s Papers” be so badly underplayed?

A piece inside the WP reports that although the government has issued 30,000 letters authorizing the installation of airbag cut-off switches in cars and trucks, only 1,000 of these have been accepted by auto dealers and service shops. The reason? These facilities are worried about legal liability, but this doesn’t add up, since the story goes on to explain that the automakers have agreed to indemnify those doing the cut-off work.

The NYT has obtained a draft of a U.S. government report on Nazi gold taken from Jews–primarily as jewelry and teeth fillings–during World War II, and writes it up on the top-front. Principal findings: There was twice as much gold seized in this fashion as previously estimated; it was used to pay–mostly in transactions handled by the Swiss National Bank–for a huge share of Nazi war needs purchased from Portugal, Spain, Sweden and Turkey; and two major German banks, Dresdner Bank and Deutsche Bank, neither previously implicated and both now doing considerable business in the U.S., had major roles in the transactions.

Sunday’s NYT “Week in Review” reports on the steady rise in volume levels at the movies. The paper reports that a recent New York City showing of “Bulworth” dwelt mostly in the vacuum cleaner range, except for when Warren Beatty was rapping, taking things up to somewhere between jackhammer and car horn. “Today’s Papers” has been employing an effective countermeasure for nearly twenty years: earplugs. These not only offer excellent protection from hearing loss, but also from noisy theatergoers and inane movie dates.