Today's Papers

Slobodan But Surely?

The New York Times and Los Angeles Times lead with details of Slobodan Milosevic’s agreement with NATO concerning Yugoslavia’s Kosovo province. The Washington Post goes with Judiciary Chairman Henry Hyde’s comment Tuesday–apparently driven by his desire to finish by the end of the year–that he might narrow the impeachment inquiry by consolidating or dropping some of the 15 potential charges described last week by his committee’s chief investigator. USA Today leads with a new poll it conducted together with CNN and Gallup that apparently indicates House incumbents now stand a better chance of re-election than at any previous time during the 1990s. The paper calls that a “good sign for Republicans.” (The paper waits until the tenth and last paragraph of the story to reveal that the poll sample was but 1,004 adults.) But a front-page NYT story says Republican incumbent members of Congress seem to have instead taken to heart other recent polls suggesting an emerging anti-Republican backlash inspired by the House’s initiation of an impeachment investigation–no Republican House candidate, says the Times, is currently running a commercial mentioning the Lewinsky scandal.

The NYT says the crux of the Kosovo accord is a force of 2,000 on-the-ground international observers and NATO reconnaissance flights designed to monitor Milosevic’s withdrawals of police and troops. The other key element, reported high by the NYT and the main thrust of the LAT lead, is Milosevic’s commitment Tuesday to local elections for Kosovo. If the detail about the inspectors seems familiar, that’s because yesterday’s USAT and LAT said they’d been agreed to, whereas yesterday’s NYT said merely that Milosevic appeared ready to accept a monitoring force.

Both Times suggest that free elections would result in Kosovo’s outright independence. And both papers note that the principal Albanian separatist group wants nothing less. The NYT quantifies the situation, noting that in Kosovo, ethnic Albanians outnumber Serbs nine to one. Both papers observe important loose ends of the emerging deal that could unravel it. The NYT reports that the American negotiator Richard Holbrooke did not persuade Milosevic to allow the international war crimes tribunal to have jurisdiction in the region, and the LAT passes along the concerns of some analysts that the Serbs might take some observers hostage, thus boxing out NATO’s ability to deter Milosevic via the threat of airstrikes. The LAT quotes a NSC spokesman’s response: the Serbs wouldn’t want to interfere with the observer force because some of is members would be from their patron-state, Russia.

The LAT illustrates its Kosovo story with a top front picture of a dead five-week-old baby. Just five or ten years ago, it was possible for Americans to advance to a pretty ripe age before ever seeing a dead body. But not anymore–not if they get a newspaper. Readers are invited to notice how often nowadays the main front-page picture of their paper depicts death.

The LAT and USAT fronts run stories about the arrest for spying of a former Army sergeant who served as a codebreaker, allegedly for selling (for $60,000) the identity of Soviet sites to be nuked by the U.S. if the Soviet Union started a nuclear war. The accused spy had been living in Germany after retiring from the Army in 1991, but was tricked back to the United States by someone working with the FBI–said by USAT to be a retired FBI agent–posing as a Russian spymaster. The LAT notes that this is the latest in a long string of espionage arrests of mid- and low-level military intelligence personnel, and the paper suggests these have been facilitated by U.S. access to Russian intelligence files.

In the wake of the Wyoming anti-gay murder, and President Clinton’s resultant call for beefed-up hate-crime laws, the ink is flowing about their advisability. George Will, in the LAT, Michael Kelly in the WP, a NYT op-ed by a law professor and the Post’s lead editorial all question whether such laws further the cause of tolerance and suggest that they represent a threat to the sanctity of prote cted, even if contemptible, personal thought and speech. The NYT’s Frank Rich carries the ball somewhat for the other side, arguing in his op-ed that Republicans paved the “road to Laramie” by demonizing gay people.

Due to technical problems, last night’s column erred in saying that Tuesday’s NYT led with Kosovo. It led with the Japanese passage of a banking rescue and reform bill.

The WSJ “Tax Report” states that according to a recent Harvard study, Connecticut ranked number one in the list of deficit states whose taxpayers send more money to Washington as taxes than they get back as spending. Second place was New Jersey, followed by Illinois, New Hampshire, Nevada, and Michigan. New Mexico topped the list of surplus states, followed by North Dakota, Virginia, West Virginia and Mississippi.

Today’s No-Duh! Headline, from the WP front page: “Impact of Market Turmoil Felt Beyond Wall Street.”