Today's Papers

Rocks and Hard Places

USA Today

and the Washington Post lead with a federal appeals court ruling that Secret Service agents are not relieved from testifying before Kenneth Starr’s grand jury by any so-called “protective function” privilege. The story is also the New York Times’s off-lead. The USAT headline–“Secret Service Staff Must Testify”–couldn’t be straighter. The NYT’s adds mention of the Lewinsky case. And the Post’s highlights the political angle–“Starr Wins An Appeal on Privilege.” The Los Angeles Times, in its front-page story on the decision, high up and succinctly describes the significance: moving Starr “one step closer to obtaining testimony from perhaps the last impartial and credible witnesses in his investigation.” The NYT goes with the death, after suddenly taking ill while meeting with U.S. envoys, of Nigeria’s most prominent political prisoner, Moshood Abiola. The Nigerian government has promised a full and prompt autopsy. The story is the WP’s off-lead. The LAT leads with the conviction of a 19-year-old Ukrainian immigrant gangbanger for the murder of Bill Cosby’s son. The Cosby story also grabs the “talker” slot on the USAT top front, and runs above the NYT fold. The WP puts it inside.

The LAT runs the Cosby story big, including a front-page picture of defendant Mikail Markhasev looking back at the Cosby family members who were in court (Bill Cosby wasn’t there) as his fate was announced. The story also has the most details from the trial evidence, such as running quotes from Markhasev’s jailhouse letters to another inmate, in which he says that he went to kill a drug dealer who wasn’t home and then came upon Ennis Cosby fixing a flat tire, and details about how the informant who turned Markhasev in to get a $100,000 National Enquirer reward testified that the defendant told him he’d killed Cosby. The NYT says the informant testified that “Markhasev had said he shot a black man,” while the WP says the testimony was “I killed a [racial epithet].” The LAT renders the confession thus: “I shot the n—–.”

The Wall Street Journal reports that the new $217 billion federal highway program may have a problem: with the construction trades already stretched tight, new workers to carry it out may be hard to find. Another problem, noted by USAT in its front-page “cover story,” is that new highway construction is apt to raise to “epidemic” proportions an already high accident rate among rock quarry workers. This could be avoided, the paper notes, by a few hours of training for new hires. But there’s a catch: federal law prohibits enforcing safety training rules at quarries. (This brute fact is reminiscent of the paper’s recent story about how you can’t sue your HMO.) The provision has been kept in place, says the story, by a stone industry that gives millions to congressional campaigns.

The WSJ flags its Motorola earnings story with “Motorola Surprises Analysts, Posting Slim Operating Profit,” while the WP goes the other way with “Motorola Reports Earnings Plunge/2nd-Quarter Operating Profit Negligible.”

“Today’s Papers” is sentencing itself to the Dept. of Corrections for two recent infractions. 1) Yesterday’s column asserted that since running a story about a Pakistani claiming to have inside knowledge of his country’s nuclear war plans against India, USAT has not revisited the story even though both the NYT and WP have reported that the man is likely a fraud. In fact, the paper has run two stories reporting on the erosion of the man’s credibility. The stories ran inside, but during a visit to the USAT newsroom, “Today’s Papers” was assured that if and when the paper issues a full retraction, it will appear, as per USAT policy, on the front page where the original story ran. 2) Last week, TP stated that Bill and Hillary have never owned a home. Several real estate-oriented readers have pointed out that this is not true–for a few years in the early 80s they did.

Yesterday, the NYT editorialized that it was inconceivable that Roy Rogers and John Wayne ever appear in the same movie. Today the paper admits it is conceivable, because it’s actual: the two starred together in “Dark Command.”