Today's Papers

Still No Viktor

The New York Times, Washington Post and Los Angeles Times lead with the continuing political and economic turmoil in Russia, signaled by yesterday’s second parliamentary defeat of Boris Yeltsin’s candidate for prime minister, Viktor Chernomyrdin. (Ever the world citizen, the NYT, in an editorial, endorses VC.) The Russia story is but a reefer at USA Today, which leads instead with a presidential lawyer’s letter to Kenneth Starr asking for one week to review and rebut Starr’s report on the Monica Lewinsky matter before it is submitted to Congress, a story that also runs on the NYT top front. Everybody gives lots of top-of-the-front-page space and big pictures to Mark McGwire’s record-tying 61st home run.

The papers all note that not only did Chernomyrdin get voted down by the Duma again, but that the chairman of the central bank resigned. The NYT stresses the ground-level financial chaos, noting that many Moscow stores have been picked clean of such items as toothpaste, butter, and toilet paper. The LAT also goes high with this observation, mentioning shortages of cooking oil and flour. The WP likewise takes note of scarcities, adding that pharmacies are also affected. And it’s not just Moscow. The NYT says the price of kielbasa has doubled in Siberia. The WP mentions a nuclear weapons lab in the Urals whose workers haven’t been paid for five months.

The NYT is particularly strong on capturing the heat of the political debate, noting (along with the LAT) that Chernomyrdin warned the parliament that “Indonesia reached the point where the country went up in flames….Is this what you want?” The NYT also gets in a pro-communist representative’s suggestion to Chernomyrdin that he find out what people are saying about him and his reforms by disguising himself and walking out among the people. “But,” the legislator is quoted, “you’d better disguise yourself really well. You’ll be in trouble if they recognize you.” A back-bencher charged Chernomyrdin with wanting to take the country back to pre-perestroika times. “Congratulations,” she said, “You managed to do it. Look at the empty shop counters.”

The WP sees the second Chernomyrdin turn-down as putting pressure on Yeltsin to turn to somebody else as prime minister. Everybody notes that under the Russian constitution, a third defeat would allow Yeltsin to dissolve parliament and hold new elections, but the LAT alone reports a further element in the collision course between Yeltsin and the Duma: the Duma is considering bringing impeachment charges against Yeltsin, for his roles in the breakup of the USSR, in the attack on the parliament building in 1993, and in the war against secessionist Chechnya. A Duma vote on the charges could come, says the LAT, as early as Friday. And, explains the paper, if impeachment proceedings start, then Yeltsin cannot dissolve the parliament. Here’s the week’s biggest stealth news story: come fall, both of the planet’s largest nuclear powers could be considering throwing out their presidents.

In its last few paragraphs, the USAT lead announces that the president of the Southern Baptist Convention, President Clinton’s church and the nation’s largest Protestant denomination–not to be confused with the president of the National Baptist Convention, who yesterday, reports the AP, although married, admitted having an “improper relationship” with a female senior official of the organization–has called for Clinton to resign, on the grounds that he is corrupting young people. (Oh, he’s the one.) The resignation call is also carried as an AP dispatch inside the WP.

The Wall Street Journal reports that the number of black female architects in the country has doubled in the last ten years. But the raw numbers are bracing: in 1991 there were 49, and now there are 98. It would have been useful if the item had also mentioned the raw numbers of whites, white men, and white females.

A WP story says that the General Accounting Office has discovered that welfare reform has generated a $4.7 billion windfall for the states, because under the reform the states get a fixed amount of federal money no matter how much they cut their rolls. Some states have, says the paper, used the money to start new welfare services, but many others are diverting the money to education or tax relief, or just saving it. The upshot: welfare now costs the federal government more than it did pre-reform.

The results of a USAT study of taxi safety are written up on the front of the paper’s “Money” section. From 1990 to 1996, cab accidents were up 48 percent in Phoenix, 41 percent in NYC, 25 percent in Miami, and 20 percent in Seattle. The story is accompanied by a box of tips, including: always buckle up (hitting that partition with your head is a leading cause of passenger injuries) and always request a receipt (most receipts give the cab’s number). Today’s Papers would add: immediately upon entry tell the driver that speeding equals no tip.

The WP runs an AP story reporting that California congressman Randy Cunningham has apologized for saying last Saturday during an appearance at a medical center that a rectal procedure he underwent during his recent treatment for prostate problems was “just not natural, unless maybe you’re Barney Frank.”