Today's Papers

No Flights of Fancy

USA Today

and the New York Times lead with NATO’s decision, in response to Slobodan Milosevic’s apparent stand-down in Kosovo province, to lift the immediate threat of airstrikes against Yugoslavia. The Washington Post goes with what it calls “the first sign of trouble” with the just-brokered Middle East peace accord–Benjamin Netanyahu’s postponement of his cabinet’s vote on it, citing doubts about Palestinian compliance. (This story is the NYT’s off-lead.) The Los Angeles Times lead is a sharp slide in a leading measure of American consumer confidence, a story also flagged on the Wall Street Journal’s front-page news box.

The papers report that NATO emphasized it would not hesitate to take military action if Yugoslavia violated the commitments it recently made to peaceful behavior in Kosovo. The NYT explains that Yugoslavian activities will be monitored by a multinational aerial reconnaissance effort, including American U-2 spy-planes. USAT, the NYT and the WP (in its inside story on Kosovo) mention another element of NATO deterrence: the decision to send an unspecified number of troops–possibly including U.S. soldiers–to Macedonia. From there, the two papers say, the troops could intervene in Kosovo. The LAT, in its front-page Kosovo story, doesn’t mention this deployment.

The NYT explains that U.S. officials are very concerned about whether Albanian forces will respond to the Yugoslavian pullout by resuming their armed insurrection, which is what prompted Milosevic’s incursion in the first place. The paper reveals that the U.S. recently held extensive talks with the rebels, urging them not to attack Serbs in the region. The NYT also points out the Kosovo agreement allows Milosevic to fight back if his forces are attacked. With on-the-ground reportage and interviews, the LAT stresses the militant attitude of the Serbs remaining in Kosovo. The WP mostly does the flip side, describing the return of Albanians to their ravaged homes. A statistical variance: USAT says Serb forces produced 400,000 refugees. The NYT’s number is 250,000.

The LAT lead and the Journal say that the Conference Board’s study of 5,000 households divined a consumer confidence level at its lowest ebb in two years and also a big decline in Americans’ expectations for the future. The LAT quotes an expert saying that every recent recession has been preceded by a drop in this latter measure, although, the paper adds, not every drop has been followed by recession. But the Journal quotes an economist saying that recession would be very unusual in the current low-interest environment. However, such studies are closely watched, says the LAT, because consumer spending accounts for more than two-thirds of the U.S. economy.

USAT’s off-lead reports that President Clinton will unveil a $156 million effort today to combat AIDS among blacks and Hispanics, two groups where, despite the general decline in AIDS mortality, the disease remains a top killer. The NYT and WP run inside stories on a fresh UN finding that in Africa, AIDS is cutting life expectancy and will reduce the continent’s population within the next ten to fifteen years. The Times cites experts who believe that barring a medical miracle, Botswana and Zimbabwe will lose up to a fifth of their populations to AIDS in the next decade.

An AP story on the USAT front and inside the WP reports that the FAA is warning pilots not to take Viagra within six hours of flying, because the color discrimination problems sometimes associated with the drug could make it hard to interpret cockpit gauges and runway lights.

A letter writer to the WP, who claims to have worked for some of the biggest Cabinet departments, asks an interesting question: Why is the federal government accusing Microsoft of monopolistic business practices when, he says, those departments discourage the purchase of non-Windows PCs?

The back pages of the Post also disclose that a just-released independent counsel’s report found that high-ranking government officials committed a “monumental and calculated abuse of the public trust.” How could the WP possibly justify running one of Ken Starr’s reports on page 17? Well, it’s not Starr’s report–it’s the independent counsel’s report on wrongdoing at HUD, an investigation that got started more than eight years ago.