Today's Papers

Tobacco’s Lucky Strike

The New York Times, the Washington Post, and the Los Angeles Times all lead with tobacco’s latest triumph: A federal appeals court in Richmond, VA, ruled Friday that the Food and Drug Administration cannot regulate nicotine as a drug without explicit Congressional authorization. Nor, by extension, can the FDA regulate cigarettes. The judges’$2 2-1 decision deals a crippling blow to the FDA’s efforts to curb the targeting of underage smokers. It effectively overturns an FDA plan that required anyone under 26 to show identification before buying cigarettes, banned cigarette vending machines from most public places, and kept tobacco billboards away from schools. The Clinton Administration has vowed to appeal the decision, and the current FDA regulations will remain in effect until the appeal is resolved. The WP notes that “very little” of the FDA plan had been put into effect anyhow.

The Lewinsky scandal is relegated to A14 in the LAT, but nabs the WP off-lead and side-by-side NYT front-pagers. There’s no new news today, only endless speculation. The LAT and the WP are busy catching up to yesterday’s big NYT story about Clinton’s contemplated fudge-the-definition-of-sex defense strategy. The WP assesses Clinton’s options in addressing the nation. While calling a nationally televised address “the most likely choice,” the WP says that some Clinton’s lawyers advocate a written statement instead. A NYT piece paints Clinton as bleakly alone: With Washington evacuated as usual in August (except for the press jackals), only Hillary and Chelsea are around to keep his spirits up. The other NYT front-page Lewinsky story trots out the Ordinary People refrain–end this scandal soon, please.

A NYT front page story recounts in depth the extraordinary tale of a top Iraqi scientist who defected to the U.S. in 1994, after working for decades on Iraq’s efforts to build a nuclear bomb. Khidhir Abdul Abas Hamza, who has been debriefed by the CIA, paints a chilling picture of Iraq’s successful deceptions against the international community, coupled with U.S. ignorance about Iraq’s swift progress. The research conditions Hamza describes are appalling: Immense pressure is reinforced by torture, and all operations are overseen by a controlling but “illiterate” ogre–Saddam Hussein.

According to another WP front-page story, starting today AT&T will begin assessing a mandatory $3 minimum fee to new customers. This move, which will bring AT&T into line with other long distance carriers, will help staunch the $300 million in annual losses incurred because 10 million of AT&T’s 70 million customers don’t even reach this $3 minimum. AT&T will exempt low-income customers from the regulations.

Recent terrorist threats have caused the U.S. to partially shut down its embassy in Albania, say both the NYT and the WP inside. Albania has become something of a terrorist hotbed in recent months: The three (NYT) or four (WP) Egyptians arrested there during June and July have been identified as likely affiliates of Saudi terrorist financier Osama Bin Ladin, whose name has surfaced repeatedly in connection with the Africa bombings.

Yesterday President Clinton turned 52. The celebration, complete with spice cake and other goodies, is described inside at the LAT and in the WP “Style: Names & Faces.” A very happy birthday it must have been!