Today's Papers

Aye, There’s the Ruble

The New York Times and Los Angeles Times lead with Russia’s deepening economic crisis, marked yesterday by a nearly ten percent drop in the ruble. USA Today and the Washington Post each put the ruble inside and go instead with the likely coming ashore today in the Carolinas of Hurricane Bonnie, packing 115 mph winds across an extremely broad front. The storm has forced the evacuation, say the papers, of nearly half a million people. The LAT fronts the storm, while the NYT runs a reefer to its story running deep inside.

The NYT says a “fresh wave of panic” is hitting Russia’s financial markets, with, both Times explain, the government trying to delay the scheduled repayment of its debt, and the banks furiously dumping rubles for dollars. The upshot is, according to one former Boris Yeltsin advisor quoted in the LAT, that “not a single foreign investor in his sound mind will come to Russia….” The ruble’s slide has, says the NYT, awakened new fears of hyperinflation like that seen in the early 90’s. According to the NYT, Yeltsin is increasingly acting like a lame duck as attention turns to Prime Minister-designate Viktor Chernomyrdin’s likely alliance with Communists and the financial elite. Chernomyrdin’s initial public comments, says the paper, harks back to Soviet times, with his suggestion of more government support for ailing industries. One NYT example of the spreading cash crunch: yesterday’s press run of the newspaper Izvestia was halted when its printing plant ran out of money.

The NYT off-lead reports that in preparation for their upcoming antitrust case against Microsoft, federal and state investigators are looking into whether MS ever forced Intel to shelve new Internet technology efforts because they posed a competitive threat. The Times notes that the Internet-related conflict between the two companies has been well-covered in the trade press, and was even the subject of a 1996 dialogue between Gates and Grove in Fortune. The paper says investigators appear particularly interested in an August 1995 meeting between Intel and MS execs including Intel CEO Andrew Grove and Bill Gates, at which, according to one internal Intel memo cited by the Times, Gates, concerned about various Intel Internet projects, made “vague threats” about supporting Intel’s competitors. The story also includes Microsoft’s response to the allegation: that the government is trying to depict as evidence of an anti-competitive conspiracy what are in fact just minor disputes arising in routine business meetings. The Times notes that Intel is also the subject of a federal antitrust suit.

An inside NYT piece reports that seven men, including a member of the board of the principal U.S. Cuban exile organization, were indicted in Puerto Rico on charges of conspiring to kill Fidel Castro while he was on an official visit to Venezuela last year. The story also runs inside at the Post. A lawyer for one of the accused tells the Times that he will demand access to every CIA and FBI document on nearly 40 years of Castro death plots.

Monday’s Wall Street Journal broke the story that Osama bin Laden was charged in a sealed indictment with various terrorist activities. (That story, by Thomas Ricks and Robert Greenberger, was also the first report of the detail in yesterday’s NYT about the U.S. dispatching a general to Pakistan to reassure that U.S. cruise missiles were not an attack by India.) Today’s USAT front elaborates on that indictment a bit. Citing a Tuesday Newsday story, the paper says that one of those activities attributed to bin Laden in the indictment is ordering and helping to finance a 1994 plot to assassinate President Clinton. The NYT runs a vaguer story inside about the indictment that doesn’t mention any Clinton plots, but under a piquant headline: “A Formality In a World of Missiles.”

No matter the so-what attitude of most people in most parts of the country, the WP off-lead indicates that in official Washington, President Clinton’s fate still hangs very much in the balance. The headline: “Gephardt Says Clinton Could Be Impeached.” The story is that House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt–never, as the paper notes, close to Bill Clinton–yesterday repeated his criticism of Clinton’s behavior in the Monica Lewinsky matter and is quoted saying that if Clinton were to leave office, “we’ll get through this.” Gephardt describes himself in the story as “a prospective grand juror.” The Post adduces further evidence of the inside-the-Beltway bandwagon, with media reporter Howard Kurtz citing the (mostly Washington-based) columnists who thus far have said in print they want Clinton out, a list that includes Clarence Page, Garry Wills, and Lars-Erik Nelson. And Walter Shapiro, in his USAT column, notes that last Sunday, the Post ran a resignation op-ed by former Sen. Sam Nunn. Today the paper runs a Michael Kelly op-ed in which Kelly writes, “If he is not doomed, he is awfully close.”