Today's Papers

Two Scoops!

The New York Times leads with the day’s biggest scoop. President Clinton’s State of the Union address will introduce a carrot-and-stick funding program to improve elementary and secondary schools. The Washington Post leads with a scooplet–the president’s lawyers will challenge some of the facts gathered by Kenneth Starr. The Los Angeles Times, USA Today, and Wall Street Journal have no scoops at all, and are left to report what the senators said on Sunday’s political talk shows. (The WP informs that fully one-fifth of the Senate–19 senators–appeared on the Sunday shows.)

The NYT’s State of the Union article–which may of course prove to be a trial balloon–says that Clinton wants to tie federal funds to whether schools test their teachers. So-called “social promotions”–promoting unqualified students from grade to grade so they stay with their peers–will be discouraged as well. Finally, Clinton and his speechwriters also intend to discuss Social Security, unveil a plan to safeguard Russia’s nukes, and beef up US defenses against biological weapons attacks. The president’s speech (scheduled for Tuesday) will not directly address his legal troubles since he hopes to shift voters’ attentions away from the impeachment trial. Predictably, the NYT story is sourced to “White House officials” and “aides” in the first few paragraphs; oddly enough, it quotes Bruce Reed (Clinton’s chief domestic policy advisor) by name at the end.

The WP reports that the president’s lawyers plan on a “fact-driven” defense, which means challenging the Starr report’s specific allegations rather than arguing that none of the allegations warrant removal. All papers report that most senators expect witnesses to be called. Democratic senators are threatening to call Kenneth Starr as a witness.

The international lead is that the Yugoslav army is attacking the town in Kosovo where 45 ethnic Albanians were executed on Friday. Needless to say, the fighting and the massacre are signs of a breakdown in the cease-fire agreement signed four months ago. NATO has condemned Milosevic but chooses not to bomb him.

On what would have been Rev. Martin Luther King’s 70th birthday, most papers run several King-related stories. The WP presents a vignette of life on Washington D.C.’s Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue (“Life and death, faith and despair, violence and a tenuous brand of peace coexist”). The NYT runs a story on Jews and blacks as well as a William Safire column recounting the time he, a young press agent, organized a press conference for the then obscure King. Roy Cohn warned Safire that the FBI thought King a “commie”; Morton Janklow advised Safire to ignore Cohn. Shelby Steele in the WSJ argues that King’s rhetorical prowess made whites ashamed about this country’s racial history, unwittingly encouraging liberal whites to feel “responsible” for blacks, which prevents blacks from becoming truly free. Steele thinks King should be revisited as a man who “made freedom first of all a black responsibility.”

The WP reports on a Boulder, Colorado company that is designing a “robokoneko” (“robot kitten” in Japanese). Why a kitten? Because baby cats are “cute, media-friendly” says the robokoneko’s designer. Apparently the kitten’s “brain” will actually build itself–programmers write mini-programs that are able to build new mini-programs which will eventually fuse into a simulacrum of a kitten’s thought process. The end-program will ultimately be strapped to a working wire-and-steel kitten. The WP warns that this robotic cat may not “walk between your legs as you go down the stairs”–the article doesn’t actually specify how this robot will be cat-like at all–but readers can rest assured that the final product will be readily convertible into 1) a self-directed housecleaning robot or 2) a Mars rover. (No kidding.)