Today's Papers

Taking Leave of Their Census

The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times and New York Times lead with a federal court’s ruling that the Census Bureau cannot use statistical sampling in the year 2000 census. USA Today puts that story on its front, but leads with an unnamed U.S. intelligence official’s claim that soil from around that Sudanese plant hit last week by U.S. cruise missiles contained traces of a chemical used in the making of VX nerve gas. The Sudan plant story is the off-lead at the WP and NYT. The USAT lead also covers the latest development in the 1988 Pan Am bombing over Lockerbie, Scotland–discussed earlier in the summer as in the works by the NYT and nailed down in yesterday’s LAT–that the U.S. and Britain have just decided to accept an offer once made by Moammar Gadhafi to have the two Libyan suspects in the case tried in the Netherlands under Scottish law. No word yet on Gadhafi’s reaction. The Lockerbie gambit is reported on the inside by the NYT and as part of the LAT’s front-pager on the arrest in Egypt of Abu Nidal, the 1980s terrorist mastermind believed to have killed more than 500 people.

The Post lead says the court’s rejection of census sampling is a serious setback for the Clinton administration, which had championed it, and a powerful victory for House Republicans, who favor attempting an actual head count instead. The NYT’s sampling editorial says the decision is “a setback for the democratic process.” The NYT says the Census Bureau had sought sampling to avoid the inaccuracies of the head-counting 1990 census, which missed 8.4 million people. The reason sampling has become controversial, all the papers explain, is that it would probably add categories of people who don’t show up so readily in actual head counts. The Post says the categories are minorities and poor people. The LAT mentions children, minorities, renters, and poor people, especially these categories in rural areas. The NYT lead doesn’t mention poor people (although the paper’s editorial on the subject does). In short, the method is likely to produce more Democrats.

The LAT notes that due to its effect on counts related to education, highway and transit funds, the decision could cost California $1 billion in federal monies. The administration will appeal, but in the meantime, observes the WP and LAT, the Census Bureau must continue to plan for both kinds of survey.

The USAT lead says the CIA had been studying the Sudanese plant for two years. That paper and the NYT and WP all say the tell-tale substance found in the surrounding soil has no commercial uses and is not a by-product of any processes besides the production of nerve gas. The NYT adds the news that Iraqi scientists were helping with the nerve gas-related production at the factory that was hit as well as at another one a few miles away. The second plant was not Tomahawked, says the paper, because it is in a residential neighborhood. But USAT and the Post also report that for the first time, the Clinton administration conceded on Monday that the factory may have also been manufacturing medicines.

The NYT adds another fascinating revelation about last week’s military action: the number-two officer in the Pentagon traveled to Pakistan just before the strikes so that he could be on-hand to reassure the Pakistani military that the missiles were not an attack by India.

The Wall Street Journal’s “Work Week” column reports that the notion of “vicarious liability” of a company for behavior by its employees that it doesn’t even know about is spreading well beyond the Supreme Court’s application last spring of that concept to sexual harassment. A federal judge in Tennessee recently ruled, says the paper, that Budget Rent-A-Car could be held vicariously liable for racial harassment happening in a branch, unbeknownst to the home office.

The NYT op-ed page offers sobering assessments of both Bill and Hillary. Thomas Friedman says that what people wanted from The Speech and didn’t get was for Bill Clinton to draw a clear line between who he was and who he intends to be. Until Clinton does that, says the column, his ability to govern is paralyzed no matter what Kenneth Starr does. And, wonders Friedman, “if there is no hope for the agenda, what need is there for the man?” And Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Wendy Wasserstein offers a sort of “Hillary Chronicles” tracking the morphing of the idealistic, forthright Hillary into something else–a “loyal wife.” Her approval rating, Wasserstein writes, is at a record high, “even as her actual achievements are at a record low.”