Today's Papers

Throwing Stones Gather No Mossad

The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, and USA Today lead with the continuing widespread violence in the wake of Turkey’s seizure on Tuesday of Kurdish insurgent leader Abdullah Ocalan, now jailed in a Turkish island prison. The story is also top-front at the Washington Post. Yesterday was marked, report the dailies, by dangerous Kurdish protests at Greek, Kenyan and Israeli embassies around the world. The most serious incident was at the Israeli consulate in Berlin, where Israeli security guards shot to death three Kurds who were part of a hammer- and club-wielding crowd storming the building. Sixteen other mob members were wounded. The WP lead is a story nobody else fronts: A small New Hampshire fraud-prevention database company recently discovered to have purchased more than 22 million driver license pictures from the state governments of South Carolina, Florida and Colorado has been quietly supported in its efforts by nearly $1.5 million in federal funds and technical assistance from the Secret Service. The story says that although the company claims to be merely in the business of fighting credit and check fraud, congressional supporters of the aid and the Secret Service envisioned using the photo file to combat terrorism and immigration abuse.

Israeli facilities have been targeted by Kurd rioters because of the suspicion among Kurds that Mossad helped effect Ocalan’s capture, a suspicion, say the papers, Israel denies. Some of the headlines are clearer than others about what happened. USAT’s “3 Kurds Shot Dead in Revolt” doesn’t say where or by whom. The LAT’s “Israelis Fire on Kurds as Mob Storms Consulate” unaccountably leaves to the small-print subhead the news that three protesters were killed. Best is the NYT’s “3 Kurds Shot Dead by Israeli Guards at Berlin Protest.”

The WP says one Berlin protester was killed when he tried to take a pistol away from an Israeli embassy guard. The LAT says the dead in Berlin were two men and a woman and says the rioting there may “foreshadow a season of deadly discontent as Kurdish protests spread….” The LAT and WP do a good job explaining the German background to the story–last fall, Germany’s Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, aware of the sensitive mix of the larger number of Kurds and Turks in his country, decided not to ask Italy to hand Ocalan over on an outstanding arrest warrant. But, notes the paper, doing so would have spared Ocalan the death penalty he now faces, and hence might have produced far less domestic upheaval. The WP says, for instance, that since Ocalan’s arrest, tensions in Germany between Turk and Kurd “have reached the breaking point,” with a Turkish cultural center in Hamburg and several Turkish fast-food stands already firebombed.

The NYT lead spends a good deal of ink high up addressing the question of whether or not Israel helped carry out Ocalan’s abduction, but waits until the last sentence of the piece–at the end of the 34th paragraph–to state the Clinton administration’s denial of involvement.

A Wall Street Journal front feature reports on a little-noticed consequence of more and more couples, many of them twin-earners, waiting later and later in life to have children: elementary schools now have to gear up to teach students about parental death. One principal is quoted saying he assures students “this is a fluke.” But the piece makes the case otherwise: In 1980, about 23 babies were born to every 1,000 women age 35-44. But by 1996, that rate rose to 42 per 1,000, while death rates for men and women in that bracket have dropped only slightly.

The LAT front and the NYT inside report that the Los Angeles district attorney has decided to accept an appellate court decision reversing the murder conviction of ex-Black Panther Elmer “Geronimo” Pratt because a key witness lied on the stand when he denied being a police informant. The case has long been a flash point in L.A. race politics, attracting the vocal involvement of Johnnie Cochran, who, although mentioned in the NYT, goes oddly unmentioned in the LAT account.

The USAT front reports that, in what is probably the first posthumous presidential pardon, President Clinton will today pardon Henry O. Flipper, the first black to graduate from West Point. In 1877, Flipper was accused of embezzling fort funds. Although acquitted of that charge, he was convicted of another stemming from the original case. Burying the news seems pandemic today: this story waits until the last paragraph to inform that others stole the money and accused Flipper of doing it out of racial hatred.

As he has done many times before, the NYT’s Bob Herbert uses solid reporting to detail a police outrage. Today it’s a case of a Honduran immigrant who tried to step forward to tell New York City cops what he knew about a collision involving an unmarked police car. For his trouble, he was flipped to the pavement and beaten so severely that he went blind in one eye. Recently, the man sued for false arrest and excessive force. One passage in Herbert’s account vividly demonstrates arrogance in blue: When, in open court, the NYPD cop accused of body slamming the plaintiff was asked to demonstrate his actions, he did the same thing again full force to a lawyer. And, Herbert notes, grinned while he did it. Fortunately, the jurors weren’t laughing. Last week, they returned an $8.2 million verdict against the city and NYPD.