Today's Papers

Bonnie and Slide

The Los Angeles Times leads with yesterday’s 40 percent drop in the value of the ruble against the German mark after Russia’s central bank halted ruble purchases of dollars. The Wall Street Journal also gives much prime space to the Russian free-fall, running besides a news story on developments, a front-page feature on the Russian barter economy, and a “Politics and Policy” piece on President Clinton’s plans for the upcoming summit with Boris Yeltsin. The Washington Post lead reports that Clinton’s top political advisors have reached virtually unanimous agreement that he must say more publicly about his relationship with Monica Lewinsky, a tack so far resisted by the First Family. The New York Times goes with Janet Reno’s taking a legal step that could lead to the appointment of an independent prosecutor to look into Al Gore’s fund-raising role in the 1996 Clinton-Gore campaign, which is also the WP’s off-lead. USA Today goes with Hurricane Bonnie as it comes ashore, a story that garners considerable text and picture front coverage everywhere.

The LAT tells of Russians lining up at banks nationwide to withdraw their savings, and captures the spirit on those sidewalks with quotes from a 76-year-old widow who says she lost her life savings once before during a currency reform. She was unable to get her money yesterday because many banks are now limiting withdrawals to $500 or $1,000 a day. The paper says this isn’t everybody’s plight though: most Russians keep their savings in dollars under their mattresses, and many bankers are making a killing speculating in foreign currency. Some of this speculation, says the LAT, has been done with money lent by the IMF. The Journal quotes a former Yeltsin advisor saying that Russia is “now going into a kind of Indonesian crisis.” The paper also foresees a rise in Russian anti-Americanism. The NYT, in its off-lead on the crisis, continues to paint the picture of Russia’s financial barons sinking economic reform–with its aims of collecting back taxes and allowing money-losing concerns to go under–and reasserting their power.

The WP lead says White House staffers are convinced of the need for another Monica moment because they’re concerned about more Democrats taking flight from the president. Indeed, the paper notes that yesterday brought distancing comments from Sen. Russell Feingold and the Americans for Democratic Action. Possible forums being kicked around include a speech today on school violence or an upcoming breakfast meeting with religious leaders. The WP says another decidedly less contrite tack under consideration, also reported inside by the NYT, is for the White House to get a courtesy early copy of the Starr report and then pre-emptively issue its own report.

Both the NYT and WP fronts carry word of the resignation of a hard-nosed American member of the U.N.’s weapons inspection team, William Ritter. Ritter yesterday released a resignation letter in which he charged that the U.N. and the Clinton administration had blocked the work of the inspectors, who were “on the doorstep” of uncovering Iraq’s hidden weapons efforts. The Clinton administration, the papers report, denies the accusation, but they also confirm that American officials have admitted that the U.S. and Britain urged the team not to hold surprise inspections. The WP, which two weeks ago broke the story of secret administration resistance to inspections (a provenance not mentioned by the Times), follows up hard today with a report of at least six such interventions. A column on the Ritter resignation by the Post’s Jim Hoagland claims, citing impartial sources, that U.S. resistance to the U.N. inspection effort went so far as to include the CIA’s successful undoing of a Ritter plan to deliver to the U.N. 120 prohibited Russian missile gyroscopes earmarked for Iraq.

The NYT runs a front-pager on the Tomahawked Sudan plant that bears watching. An international agency charged with overseeing chemical weapons bans says the substance cited by the U.S. as a conclusive identifier of nerve gas production could possibly be used for commercial products, such as fungicides or pesticides. A Pentagon spokesman reached by the paper responds that academic examples of possible non-nerve-gas use are not examples of such actual commercial use. Another expert quoted in the piece says that if the U.S. soil samples were, as is likely, not collected or tested under ideal laboratory conditions, a pesticide-related soil sample could be mistaken for a nerve-gas-related one.

A NYT editorial and an op-ed by the paper’s Bob Herbert call for Mark McGwire to stop taking androstenedione, for the sake of the kids who watch his every move. The front-page of USAT’s “Money” section reports that sales of the stuff could exceed $100 million this year, up from $5 million last year. The story reports that 20 percent of Wal-Marts sell the product, as does Weider Nutrition, where sales are up 45 percent just since the McGwire story broke. General Nutrition Centers don’t sell it though. Ads for the product will soon be placed in Muscle & Fitness, ESPN Magazine and…USAT.

The WP admits that it was mistaken when it said previously that the farewell parties the U.S. Postal Service threw for its recently departed Postmaster General, Marvin T. Runyon, cost taxpayers $82,508. Actually, it was $124,397.