Today's Papers

America Perks Up

USA Today

leads with the revelation that last year alone the Department of Energy requested at least 19 separate FBI investigations of irregularities relating to the security of sensitive information at nuclear weapons facilities. The New York Times leads with North Korea’s decision Tuesday to allow the U.S., in return for food aid, to inspect a vexed underground site suspected of being a secret A-bomb factory. The story is also the top non-local item at the Los Angeles Times, and is fronted at the Washington Post, which leads instead with an Army two-star general’s surprise guilty plea to charges that he had sex with the wives of subordinates and then lied about it. An Army court-martial–the first of a general in 46 years–could decide his punishment as early as today. The case will be watched, notes the Post, as a test of how the military handles sex misconduct by its top brass.

USAT says the newly revealed nuclear investigations were among a host of security concerns noted in the briefing materials prepared last summer for incoming DOE Secretary Bill Richardson. The paper says the breadth of concerns suggests that security troubles at the agency extend “far beyond” the recent indications a Los Alamos scientist may have passed nuclear secrets to China. Meanwhile, the NYT reports that contrary to the previous Clinton administration line that Los Alamos troubles became known to it in the summer of 1997, some administration officials are now saying the notification really came in late 1996. The Deputy Secretary of Energy responded with a concrete counterintelligence plan, most of which, the paper reports, was never carried out. The Times adds that the issue of security at the nation’s weapons labs is decades old, commenting that a 1988 GAO report found lax controls over foreign visitors.

The NYT lead points out that the provisional deal with North Korea leaves unresolved the status of that country’s ballistic missile development and flight testing program, and of any nuclear facilities it has secreted somewhere besides the one the U.S. made this deal to get a look at. Although the papers report that the U.S. turned down famine-plagued North Korea’s original demand of $300 million in order to inspect the site, Republican critics, thinking of all this unchecked militarism, see the deal as a reward for bad behavior and as charging the U.S. for North Korean compliance with international agreements and prior deals with the U.S. The LAT suggests there’s something to this worry via its quotation of a comment from North Korea’s official news agency: “The U.S. is mistaken if it thinks it can ‘check’ the [North Korean] missile development through ‘cooperation.’ “

A NYT front-pager describes in some detail how Goldman, Sachs employees will participate when the firm rakes in as much as $24 billion by going public this spring. Substantially all 13,000 employees will get something, as the firm has said it will become one of the only companies in history to distribute the public offering yield even to employees with no ownership stake. This will mean, says the paper, a summer home for a secretary, retirement for a 36-year-old investment banker, and a 10 grand bonus for the janitor. The story says that each of the firm’s 221 partners stands to gain at least $20 million, with the most senior partners getting more on the order of $150 million. The paper doesn’t bother to spell out the ratios here, but it appears that top Goldman compensation is at least 2,000 times the yield at the bottom, which is about 10 times the typical ratio of top management to line worker rewards. USAT’s “Money” section describes this general trend in wider terms with a “cover story” on how corporations are supersizing executive perks. Routine rewards doled out to senior managers that the paper notes include: elaborate home security systems, above-market rates of return on deferred compensation, tax-free loans, and country club memberships. One reason stockholders never find out about a lot of this is that companies aren’t required to report perks totaling less than $50,000.

The NYT and Wall Street Journal report that Apple has released a new operating system for web-serving computers and, taking a page from the Linux playbook, will publicly release parts of its software code to let outside developers improve upon it.

The LAT front reports on a new analysis of health data coming out today in JAMA that shows that many Mexican-American and black kids as young as nine years old are already picking up the risk factors for heart disease. Compared to whites, young people in these two ethnic groups tend to exhibit more excess weight, high blood pressure, and fat-rich diets.

A NYT op-ed notes the existence of an often-overlooked group of U.S. presidents: those who had never before held any (important) elective office. Three of this number–Zachary Taylor, Ulysses Grant, and Dwight Eisenhower–were war heroes. The other two? William Howard Taft and Herbert Hoover. The piece notes that Taft and Hoover were capable administratively but stumbled in their presidencies over the parts of the job that demanded political sensitivity rather than expertise. The piece suggests this is something for Elizabeth Dole to think about.

The Times notes that Ireland’s prime minister Bertie Ahern, making a St. Patrick’s Day visit to Bill Clinton today, will bring with him something that no American president has been brave enough to try yet: a live-in companion.