Today's Papers

Geffen Till It Hurts

USA Today

, the New York Times, and the Washington Post lead with the revelation that the ambassador to Kenya, Prudence Bushnell, had been so concerned about her embassy’s vulnerability that months before the Nairobi bombings, she had asked the State Dept. to build a new one–a request that State denied, citing lack of funds. The Los Angeles Times, which includes the Bushnell story in its front-page bombing aftermath story, but puts it deep in the story after the jump, goes instead with the decision by two Swiss banks to pay $1.25 billion to Holocaust survivors and relatives to compensate for the Nazi victims’ deposits they held onto after World War II, a story that also gets front space at USAT and the NYT. The move came just weeks after the Swiss government had declared it would pay no more than half that sum, but also, the LAT points out, after several state and local governments, in defiance of the Clinton administration position, said they would begin leveling sanctions against the banks.

According to the papers, Ambassador Bushnell’s main concern was that her post was located on a crowded downtown street. USAT and the WP report that Bushnell even wrote directly to Secretary of State Madeleine Albright about the problem, going so far, says USAT, as inviting her to come see for herself, something Albright never did. The NYT adds that the U.S. military command covering the region also expressed concern about the embassy’s security. The NYT and WP quote State sources claiming that even if Bushnell’s request had been honored, the completion of a new embassy would have taken years, and hence the U.S. would have still occupied the old one at the time of the bombing. None of the reporting mentions it, but this sort of development is sadly familiar–it was reported after the fact that the Marines’ commanding officer in Beirut in 1983 had expressed grave concern to his superiors about the vulnerability of his troops to hostile forces operating in the area.

The LAT has a front-page story confirming that the woman in the Kenya rubble known to rescuers only as “Rose” (full name: Rose Wanjiku Mwangi) was found dead on Wednesday. Her head had been protected from three stories of rubble by a table. She had been dead for as little as 24 hours when she was found.

The WP reports that Tanzanian police are looking for the assistant to the driver of the water truck believed to have harbored the bomb deployed against the U.S. embassy in Dar-es-Salaam. The body of the driver, believed to have been a faithful embassy employee, was found in the wreckage. The assistant’s was not.

The NYT front reports that the new Clinton legal defense fund, free of some of the legal restrictions of the old one that was disbanded earlier this year, has already been much more successful, bringing in more than $2 million in just six months. The paper says funds have come in from “Main Street, Wall Street and Hollywood,” in response to a direct mail campaign seizing on hostility toward Kenneth Starr, but makes it seem that Hollywood has been particularly important, mentioning such donors as David Geffen, Tom Hanks, Steven Spielberg, Jeffrey Katzenberg, Harvey Weinstein, and Bud Yorkin. Geffen is quoted explaining his $10,000 donation this way: “There is a well-financed group of zealots who want to bring down the President. And this guy has no money. He’s broke. This is a terrible situation.” The Clintons’ legal expenses are now estimated at $6 million, with the potential, says the Times, to grow at a clip of $1 million a year.

A staple newspaper feature is the academic convention piece, which features elbow-patched and distracted professors virtually unaware that they’ve plopped down into a big hotel in a big city because they’re so terminally immersed in their profession, such as it is. Today’s WP features a particularly ripe target for the genre– a philosophers’ convention. Imagine–3,000 academics in one hotel, not one of them sure the others are really there too! But before you laugh too much at these Platos without a Republic, consider this Post factoid: the employment rate for philosophy Ph.D.’s is 98.9 percent.