Russia hits today’s front-page jackpot. The New York Times and the Los Angeles Times lead with dire economic assessments from President Boris Yeltsin and Prime Minister Sergei Kiriyenko, while the Washington Post takes on Russia wannabe Belarus. The actual WP lead, however, is the $23 million settlement of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Dallas with eight ex-altar boys who were sexually abused by a priest in the 1980s and early 90s. The story stunningly asserts that over the past 20 years, up to 2000 of 51,000 priests in the U.S. have been accused of sexual assault, and that Roman Catholic dioceses have shelled out $800 million since the 1980s in compensation for sexual abuse by priests. (The NYT and LAT also run stories on the settlement.)
The NYT’s lead replays Yeltsin’s Friday appeal to Western leaders for $20 billion ($10 million of it from the IMF) to bail out Russia’s faltering markets. This amount almost doubles previously requested sums. According to the NYT, Yeltsin embarked in a phonathon Friday, urging Western leaders to pressure the ever-reluctant IMF to provide the money. And Yeltsin means business–his telephone short-list included President Clinton, Jacque Chirac, Tony Blair, Helmut Kohl, and Michel Camdessus (head of the IMF).
The LAT lead story focuses on Kiriyenko’s depressing announcement Friday that Russia’s debts have reached 44 percent of gross domestic product. Only a month ago, the LAT notes, Kiriyenko estimated Russia’s debt at one-third of GDP. The change dramatically illustrates the free-fall of the Russian economy. Meanwhile, the WP, having tackled Russia’s economics earlier this week, goes next door to inhospitable Belarus, where nostalgia for the Soviet Union and anti-Western sentiment reign supreme.
The court-martial ordered for two Marines whose plane downed an Italian cable car receives front-page play at the LAT, but is inside at the WP and NYT. The two Marines–the plane’s pilot and the navigator–face 20 counts including negligent homicide and involuntary manslaughter. Charges against the other two Marines in the back of the plane were dropped, though they will likely testify in the upcoming court martial.
Another NYT front-pager states that federal judges are galvanizing Congress to rethink the 1974 Employee Retirement Income Security Act. The judges’ goal is to make it easier for patients to sue HMOs and insurance companies.
And the adventurous WP takes a front-page whirl through controversial Dianaland (officially called “Althorp”), the glamorous museum-cum-shrine that Earl Spencer created to memorialize his sister. Among the features: a “Temple” with a marble silhouette of Princess Diana; a museum with her jewelry, silk shoes, wedding gown, and other accessories; and an admission fee of $16. Skinflints should stick to Graceland.