Today's Papers

Can America Stand Pat?

USA Today

and the Los Angeles Times lead with a special Senate committee’s report on the Y2K problem. (The report was first discussed last week in the Washington Post, which today runs a story on it inside, as does the New York Times.) The top non-local story at the WP is the consummation of the long-awaited deal by which the federal government and the state of California have agreed to pay a lumber company $480 million to preserve Northern California’s Headwaters Forest, which had been the largest stand of ancient redwoods in private hands. This also makes the LAT front. The NYT fronts Headwaters too, but leads instead with growing support in Congress for walling off Social Security funds from the rest of the federal budget. The main divide among advocates of the move, the story explains, is between those who want to do it now and those who want to do it gradually. Yesterday, House Republicans introduced a gradual plan. Gradualism has the advantage of allowing for a combination of new spending and tax cuts near-term and shoring up Social Security in the long haul. The story delays until the 13th paragraph the news that all current talk of budget surpluses depends on counting Social Security among general revenues, and never mentions that in business accounting, earmarked pension funds are not considered among a firm’s assets.

The subhead over USAT’s Y2K story says the Senate report “cites vulnerability but little risk of disaster” and the story proper quickly includes calming words from two senators. Nonetheless mentioned are potential problems with paychecks and medical records, and accidental nuclear launches. The LAT lead stresses the risks a bit more, with its first paragraph mentioning computer crashes, disruptions leading to civil unrest in some countries, and the risk of terrorist attacks amid the resulting confusion. USAT plays terrorism lower. Both papers make the point that whatever Y2K risks there are will be more acute in many foreign countries than in the U.S.

The NYT off-lead reports the murder of eight tourists visiting the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest in Uganda to see rare mountain gorillas. The story also makes the LAT and WP fronts. The two Americans among the dead were executives at Intel. The murderers were said to be a band of machete-wielding Hutu rebels, remnants of the forces that massacred more than half a million rival Tutsi tribesmen and moderate Hutu in Rwanda in 1994. The Times notes that tourist treks aiming to see mountain gorillas became popular after the movie “Gorillas in the Mist,” about researcher Dian Fossey, but oddly does not mention that Fossey was also murdered in the jungle.

The WP goes above the fold with a picture for Pat Buchanan’s decision to run for president for a third time. In New Hampshire, Buchanan, the paper reports, launched his effort with a speech criticizing economic globalism, the UN, immigration, affirmative action and abortion. His peroration was “As they say, mount up and ride to the sound of the guns.”

The Wall Street Journal “Tax Report” informs that the new IRS capability to accept tax payments via credit card has become unexpectedly popular among the super-wealthy. Already, says the paper, at least seven taxpayers have asked to charge between $1 million and $9 million on their Amex or MasterCard. And at least 20 have asked to charge more than $100,000. Can you guess why? Well, the Journal points out, charging $4 million could rack up enough frequent flier miles to buy 40 friends first-class round trip tickets to London.

The claws are out and the fur is flying as the Monica show, (during which, reports the WP, Lewinsky says President Clinton is a “good kisser” who “struggles with his sensuality”) opens tonight. The LAT front quotes a commentator saying, “This country’s appetite for the salacious, the sexy and the personal is truly a bottomless pit….” The commentator? Lucianne Goldberg, who goes on to say, “Most pudgy little princesses from California don’t get themselves into this kind of a jam and make all this money.” Publisher and TV host Judith Regan says Lewinsky “isn’t a victim. She’s an adulterer and she should be walking around with a scarlet A.” And she “seemed more interested in making money than contemplating the deep meaning of her actions.” The LAT notes that Regan tried and failed to land the Lewinsky book, but didn’t mention that Regan’s commitment to asceticism and deep contemplation included publishing Rush Limbaugh and Howard Stern.