Today's Papers

Balkanizing the News

The Los Angeles Timesand Washington Postlead with breaking news of a Serb offensive against Kosovar rebels, launched just after international monitors withdrew from the country. The New York Times leads with the international war crimes tribunal’s recent conclusion that Croat generals engaged in ethnic cleansing, summary executions, and indiscriminate shelling of civilian populations in 1995. (This from a tribunal report leaked to the NYT.) The other major news story is that a team of two balloonists have made the first successful around-the-world trip.

The international war crimes tribunal’s report may result in the indictment of three Croat generals. The tribunal’s conclusions are also potentially quite damaging to the United States since no one knows the extent of U.S. involvement in planning the 1995 offensive known as Operation Storm. A Virginia personnel training firm staffed by former U.S. generals was doing business in Croatia at the time. The NYT also reports that Operation Storm had “tacit” U.S. approval. Moreover, the U.S. military has been accused of foot-dragging in this investigation, though it denies the charges.

The Serb artillery offensive in Kosovo yesterday has forced thousands of refugees to flee their homes. The WP reports than many of the region’s men are headed toward mountain hideouts for fear of arrest when Serb forces occupy their villages. NATO officials are of course furious over Milosevic’s latest provocation, but no one is willing to say anything firm about retaliatory bombings. Sixteen NATO ambassadors are meeting on Sunday to discuss the situation.

As expected, the Breitling Orbiter 3 has become the first balloon to travel around the world, warranting front page coverage in all three papers. The balloon has no ability to change its direction, and must either go upward or downward in search of winds that will take it in the proper direction. The team wins a $1 million prize from Anheuser-Busch.

A WP reporter had reserved a plane at the airstrip in Mopti, Mali, to follow the balloon to its expected landing spot. The only problem is that the balloon’s pilots unexpectedly decided to extend their journey by an additional day and land in Egypt early on Sunday, too far away to be reached in time. So the intrepid reporter instead files a piece about the Mopti air traffic control staff’s thoughts on the around-the-world attempt. “I’ve heard nothing about this” says the lone air traffic controller, “It’s a big gamble. I hope they are keeping air traffic controllers informed.”

A NYT “Week in Review” piece notes that Al Gore hopes to win the presidency on mini-issues–the Airplane Passengers Bill of Rights, larger print on medicine bottles–and says that this sort of campaign may be the wave of the future. Elizabeth Dole, for instance, likes to boast that she forced airlines to install aisle emergency lights. The WP has the best pre-Oscar piece, a survey of past acceptance speeches. Robert De Niro, best actor for Raging Bull, remembered to thank Jake LaMotta, “even though he’s suing us.”

The NYT also reports on the rise of “lifestyle” retail, e.g., marketing Brooks Brothers wines to those who wish to feel like Newport swells. Yes, Brooks Brothers sells wine, and apparently Calvin Klein sells dishes too. The piece names Martha Stewart–“who may actually be the first human to embody a lifestyle”–the genius of the form. (Today’s Papers feels the NYT is being a bit unfair to Hugh Hefner.) Another article says Larry Flynt is opening a chain of clean, well-lit sex emporiums. “Hustler signifies a certain something to people, and that is rebellion,” Flynt explains. Today’s Papers, for one, thought the best thing about The People vs. Larry Flynt was the rebellion scenes.