Today's Papers

Russian to Sell

Everybody leads with yesterday’s bad day in the financial markets. The headlines speak of a world crisis, and USA Today, the Washington Post, and the Los Angeles Times headers refer to the Dow’s drop of 357 points. The New York Times headline opts instead to state that the DJ was off 4.1 percent. But none of the big type mentions what USAT has in its second paragraph–this wasn’t even in the Dow’s top 20 bad days. So one wonders why that paper still fronts its business section with such lines as “Crisis Hits Home” and “World Economic Troubles Arrive ‘On Our Doorstep.’” In the same Chicken Little spirit, the WP lead delays until the sixteenth paragraph the news that the day also saw the release of strong figures on the U.S. labor market and on housing starts.

Everybody duly notes all the overseas financial setbacks. USAT reports Japanese stocks were down 3.55 percent, Mexican stocks down 6 percent, Brazilian shares down 10 percent, Russian stocks down 17. The papers have a word for the cause of all this: Russia. Except for the NYT, the papers pass up the usual trading floor desperation pix in favor of shots of full contact banking on Russian streets. Everybody’s front describes the mounting pressure on Boris Yeltsin to quit, and report that without the support of Russia’s central bank, the ruble has continued to fall. The (mostly non-Russian) institutions that had purchased the country’s debt now find themselves, says the NYT, holding only 10 percent of the value they had last week.

The papers agree that investors fear that Russian chaos could spread to other emerging market economies, such as those in Latin America. USAT says Russia’s influence in the world markets is due to its nuclear stockpile. The NYT notes this reasoning, but still wonders–after all, the Russian economy is only the size of Denmark’s. But the NYT notes at least one clear cause of the meta-Russian acceleration: Russia’s troubles have made it clear to other countries that IMF bail-outs are probably not in the offing for them and might not work anyway. The Wall Street Journal observes that the dubious record of IMF rescue packages in the past year probably deepens the rift among Republicans in Congress over whether to give the organization a fresh infusion of federal billions. (Democrats are mostly for that, as is Newt Gingrich. Dick Armey is deeply opposed.)

Perhaps the scariest feature of the market turmoil served up by the papers is the realization that for all their new analytical tools, those in the business are no more capable of cognitive significance than in the days of ticker tape. Thus, the WP quotes one “chief equities trader” saying, “If you can withstand the pain and you’ve chosen good stocks, you should come out okay,” and USAT has another “strategist” saying, “We could rally from this, but a lot of damage has been done.”

Everybody has the same off-lead: that federal authorities have brought into the U.S. and charged a suspect in the African embassy bombings. The suspect, Mohamed Rashed Daoud al-’Owhali, was injured in the Kenya blast and has reportedly confessed his role to the feds. He is said to have admitted that he was trained at Afghani terrorist camps run by Osama bin Laden. A second suspect, Mohammed Saddiq Odeh, is still in Kenyan custody, but is expected in the U.S. soon. USAT says he will arrive here today. The NYT and WP run front-page pictures of the men–with al-’Owhali smiling. The LAT quotes Janet Reno saying that the turn in the case came as a result of the most extensive criminal investigation in U.S. history. If convicted, the bombers could get the death penalty.

The WP has an interesting detail about the alacrity of the extradition to the U.S. Apparently, the Kenyans were worried that prosecuting any bombers would expose them to further terrorism. “You’d think,” the paper quotes one U.S. official, “they’d want first crack at these guys.” The WP adds that under a strengthening of U.S. jurisdiction overseas passed by Congress in 1986, 11 suspected terrorists have been returned here from overseas. But the Post doesn’t tell us what then happened to them in the courts.

The WP runs an AP report about a recently concluded study of seven years’ worth of HIV tests given to 350,000 Job Corps participants. Findings: the rate of infection among women age 16-21 is 50 percent higher than that of men in the same age bracket. And the highest rates of infection were among black women–five out of every 1,000.

The WP’s “Reliable Source” asks who’s going to make more money off the Clinton scandals–Bob Bennett, one of the president’s private lawyers, or his brother Bill, author of a new book, “The Death of Outrage: Bill Clinton and the Assault on American Ideals”?

The NYT runs a story purporting to cast light on women’s post-Monica attitudes towards Bill Clinton, based, it says, on dozens of interviews with “women across the country.” It’s interesting to see what the Times means by that phrase. Here is the complete listing, in order of appearance, of the occupations of the women quoted in the story: shareholder activist, novelist, author and editor, graduate school dean, volunteer, hair salon owner, university public relations executive, producer, writer, English professor. Apparently, the Times couldn’t find any women who are secretaries or housewives.