Today's Papers

Sub-atomic Mass Hysteria

The Supreme Court’s refusal to fast-track the legal battle between President Clinton and Kenneth Starr leads all the papers. The life sentence without the possibility of parole handed to Oklahoma bombing figure Terry Nichols draws front-page coverage at the New York Times, Washington Post and Los Angeles Times, but USA Today puts it on page 3. Nichols was expected to be put away for keeps unless he spoke to the court in a particularly informative or remorseful way, but he made no statement. The WP and NYT say Nichols, called an “enemy of the Constitution” by the judge, displayed no emotion. But the LAT says that upon entering the courtroom, he broke into tears. As in previous key Oklahoma bombing proceedings, no statements rivaled in power those of survivors and victims’ relatives. The NYT reports that one woman who saw many dead babies at the bombing site testified that whenever “I see these mothers with empty arms, I wonder, was that your baby I kissed on his way to heaven?”

The Court’s decision to return the Lewinsky case issues of attorney-client and protective privilege back to the regular appeals court process is generally taken as a rebuff for Starr’s contention that these matters pose a constitutional crisis of the first magnitude. There is more divergence about what this does to the course of the case. The LAT says that this might keep Starr from questioning White House lawyer Bruce Lindsey and Secret Service officers until “well into next year.” But USAT says that the Supreme Court might well end up hearing the case “by month’s end.”

The LAT “Column One” fascinates today with a story of breakthrough genetic research being done in Iceland. It seems that Iceland provides the best database in the world for trying to isolate genes responsible for such scourges as schizophrenia, Alzheimer’s, adult-onset diabetes and stroke. That’s because Iceland has an incredibly homogenous population, further “culled” by a plague and a natural disaster, and keeps excellent medical records (including a tissue sample from every autopsy conducted in the country since the 1930s). This research environment has, reports the LAT, lured a geneticist away from the Harvard Medical School and enabled him to get millions in underwriting from drug giant Hoffman-La Roche. The project is set to sell public stock shares within a year and if the science pays off, could end up worth billions. Some critics are calling this exploitative “bio-piracy,” but, the paper reports, any effective treatments it creates will be dispensed to Icelanders for free.

The Wall Street Journal “Washington Wire” reports that in the wake of the Indian/Pakistan nukefest, a new buzzword is making the Pentagon rounds: “rogue democracies.” And in a WP op-ed, Stephen S. Rosenfeld makes an important point about this new leg of the arms race. Previously, it had generally been held that non-proliferation could be secured via providing for the security needs of the nuclear have-nots, but, says Rosenfeld, India and Pakistan didn’t really build their bombs to address security concerns. (When was the last time before all this that Kashmir made the front page?) No, he writes, they went overtly nuclear to achieve status. And when poor self-esteem is the root problem, conventional medicine doesn’t work. It takes large doses of “diplomatic therapy,” which will, Rosenfeld writes, “take years.”

The NYT, LAT, and WP fronts herald the discovery that the sub-atomic particle called a neutrino, which is chargeless and was formerly thought massless too, in fact has mass. The papers assure us this is earth-shaking. “The Universe May Never Be the Same” is slugged over NYT Universe reporter Malcolm Browne’s dispatch. The Times says the discovery was announced by 120 physicists at a “neutrino conference.” Hoo-boy, bet the bartenders and hookers go on vacation during that one.