Today's Papers

Up in Secondhand Smoke

Today’s coverage yields the typical Sunday diversity. The Washington Post lead spells bad news for secondhand smoke opponents: on Friday, a federal judge invalidated a 1993 EPA report which had declared secondhand smoke a dangerous carcinogen. The New York Times lead says that the military may soften its adultery policy by limiting the circumstances under which adultery can be prosecuted. The Los Angeles Times lead looks at national security lapses connected with the export of satellites to China.

U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Osteen, who issued the secondhand smoke ruling covered in the WP, says that the EPA “did not demonstrate a statistically significant association between [secondhand smoke] and lung cancer.” Few studies have convincingly linked secondhand smoke to cancer, and the new ruling is sure to reignite the controversy. The government will probably appeal the case, according to EPA administrator Carol Browner.

On the subject of the military’s adultery policy, the NYT says that a Pentagon committee has proposed changes to the military’s Manual for Courts Martial that “would result in fewer prosecutions and impose a less-serious discharge upon convictions.” The movement has generated significant debate within the military, which has been periodically beset by sex-related controversies. Ironically, the changes in adultery policy must be approved by lily-white President Clinton.

The LAT lead raises concerns about the Pentagon’s monitoring of satellite exports to China. The fear is that technological expertise from the U.S. companies–which supply the satellites–could aid China’s ballistic missile program. The U.S. government relaxed export controls in 1988. Since then, critics charge, the U.S. may have come to “rely too heavily on voluntary compliance by U.S. companies.” Among the national security oversights cited by the LAT: Pentagon monitors were not required to be present at seven of 12 most recent satellite launches in China; and monitors at five launches did not attend prelaunch meetings between U.S. and Chinese teams.

All papers run inside stories on what the WP calls “South Africa’s worst-kept secret”–the wedding of South African President Nelson Mandela with Graca Machel, a widely respected black liberation leader who lives in Mozambique (and intends to commute from there). The ceremony took place on Mandela’s 80th birthday; the blushing bride, Mandela’s third wife, is 28 years his junior. The NYT uses the AP version of the story, which gushes, “Far from a political marriage, it is obviously one of true love. The years seem to melt from Mandela’s creased face and his eyes light up …” Love is indeed wonderful.

A WP front-pager marvels at the deluge of applications to the U.S. Patent and Trademark office for logos sporting the word “millenium.” Anything goes–Playboy is prancing around as the “official worldwide brand of the millenium,” and Mars Inc. is drooling over the chance to be the millenium’s official candy-maker. Equally coveted is the sexy Y2K logo (named for the millennial computer bug). Year 2000 boozers may have to choose between Coors (“the official beer of Y2K”) and “Bud Y2K.” In anticipation of the successful delivery of TP on January 1, 2000, we lay claim to “The official Y2K buster.”