Today's Papers

Torn NATO Watch

Today brings the deadline for agreement in the Kosovo peace talks, and everyone leads with the standoff between President Clinton and Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic over the latter’s compliance with the proposed accord. Yesterday Milosevic reiterated his staunch refusal to withdraw forces from Kosovo–“even if the price is bombing”–and shunned meetings with American diplomats. The president responded by threatening NATO attacks on Serbia, to be launched immediately if Milosevic doesn’t accept the Western-drafted compromise and evacuate the great majority of his troops. The New York Times pointedly reminds its readers that NATO’s last threats of air strikes were scrapped for last-minute negotiations, which merely won admittance of an unarmed monitoring team (a far cry from military withdrawal). The papers all quote the president as saying that strikes will definitely be ordered if the deadline passes without agreement, but they give varying impressions of when the first bombs could actually fall. The Los Angeles Times puts NATO “on the brink” of launching strikes, with “warplanes ready to scramble,” but the Washington Post writes that bombing would have to wait for final approval from member officials. The NYT reports that Clinton “set no clear timetable” for action and that 48 to 72 hours would pass between NATO orders and actual strikes.

Only the NYT story includes this reflection on the impeachment verdict, shared by the president during his news conference on Kosovo: “I think the Constitution has been, in effect, re-ratified.”

Politely acknowledging yesterday’s LAT scoop, the NYT off-lead confirms and elaborates on US involvement with Kurdish rebel Abdullah Ocalan’s capture. Anonymous government sources admit that throughout Ocalan’s four months on the lam, the US funneled surveillance data on his whereabouts to Turkish commandos, and lobbied Ocalan’s would-be protector countries against sheltering him. The officials stress that the US had no “direct involvement” in the pursuit, and that the Israelis did no more than monitor Ocalan’s movements.

The WP fronts allegations made by Juanita Broaddrick, known throughout the impeachment scandal by her Jones lawsuit alias “Jane Doe No. 5,” that she was raped by Bill Clinton in 1978. The Post conducted off-the-record interviews with Broaddrick last spring, but wasn’t granted permission to print them until now (by Broaddrick? By the judge in the Jones case? The paper doesn’t say). Details of the alleged encounter echo the ones revealed on the op-ed page of Friday’s Wall Street Journal: then-gubernatorial candidate Clinton invited an innocent Broaddrick to have coffee in his hotel room, and then forced himself on her, biting and bruising her lips. Previously, Broaddrick both denied the allegations and kept them from the public, and Kenneth Starr and FBI investigators deemed her story too shaky to pursue. But the allegations were reviewed by House Republicans anyway, in a sealed room just prior to their vote on impeachment. The paper offers no speculation as to how Broaddrick’s accusation might complicate the president’s legal troubles or the dimming scandal. Broaddrick tells the Post that she remained silent until now out of fear and shame, but is now talking in order to teach her twin granddaughters the value of honesty: “I want them to say, `That was a neat thing you did.’”

The NYT and the LAT front a new effort by the Labor Department to avoid musculoskeletal disorders in the workplace. Ailments such as carpal tunnel syndrome, lower back pain, and tendinitis account for a third of all serious workplace injuries each year, and guidelines will require over 2 million employers to prevent and treat their assembly line workers, database clerks, and journalists, among others. Business groups and congressional Republicans have long opposed such standards on the theory that compliance will cost more than the $15-$20 billion a year currently spent on workers’ compensation for these injuries.

A story inside the NYT describes how West Coast media titans are already wining and dining Presidential hopefuls from Bill Bradley to John McCain. Most of the politicians are on an unabashed fundraising mission, but the moguls are simply trying to “enliven the presidential dialogue” and “stimulate discussion on meaningful subjects.” The story does not consider that the businessmen may have more practical reasons for securing political friendships. For example, no mention is made of host Barry Diller’s extensive cable-and-internet-business holdings, which could be massively affected by regulatory legislation expected from Congress later this year. The gatherings, sighs Diller, are “simply a reaction to the emptiness of the current retail political process.”