leads with what it calls Chinese premier Zhu Rongji’s blunt rejection of charges that his country spied on the U.S. The New York Times leads with a fresh poll showing that in the wake of the city’s most recent questionable police shooting, fewer than a quarter of all New Yorkers believe that the police treat blacks and whites the same. The NYT’s off-lead is the spy-scandal-driven announcement by some leading senators that they will block any effort by the White House to support China’s admission into the World Trade Organization, and that they also want some scientific exchange programs with China suspended. The top non-local story at the Los Angeles Times is the latest from the re-started Kosovo peace talks in Paris: ethnic Albanians have offered written support for a proposed peace deal, which, the paper observes, removes from the Serbs a principal excuse for not signing the pact. The inside stories at the other papers on the talks also emphasize this. The Washington Post leads with the apparent failure–after an entire year of deliberations–of a federal Medicare commission to arrive at any sort of reform plan to recommend to the White House or Congress. The paper notes that the panel’s chairman, Sen. John Breaux, “lashed out” at his usually close political ally, President Clinton, for not supporting his centrist reform plan. All too typically, the story develops this political angle first, while waiting until the eighth paragraph to broach the Breaux position that Clinton wouldn’t sign on to: making the private sector shoulder more of the Medicare burden through making wealthier recipients pay more and raising the eligibility age from 65 to 67. The story is also covered inside at the NYT.
The speech by China’s Zhu is the highest-level, fiercest declaration of innocence in the China spy story since it broke. The USAT headline refers to his comment that the spying charges are a “fallacy,” and the story proper adds that he says they are part of an “anti-China wave.” The type over the LAT front pager on Zhu relegates the mention of the spy charges to the subhead. The WP runs the story on page 13. A story inside the NYT says that Wen Ho Lee, the Los Alamos nuclear scientist who is the focus of the case, told the FBI last week during interviews that he had contacted Chinese scientists without reporting this as security rules required. This admission, says the paper, was key in the decision to fire him from his weapons lab job.
Some of the schizoid factoids turned up in the NYT lead about New York’s attitudes towards police include: A third of the city’s blacks said they had been in situations where they feared a police officer, while only 11 percent of whites said they had; 62 percent of whites said they’d been in situations where they felt safer with a cop around, while 57 percent of blacks said they’d never felt that way. With such stats, the story implies that the NYPD is overwhelmingly white. Is it? It would have been useful to state the numbers of non-white cops on the force. More light is cast in this direction by the WP’s inside story on an organization of black NYPD cops that instructs minority Big Applelites about how to safely deal with police officers, even abusive ones. Rule Number One: Never reach into your pockets. The black lieutenant who is the focus of the story says that every one of the one hundred minority officers in his group has been harassed by white officers while off duty.
The WP front and the USAT front report on Al Gore’s first full-blown campaign swing as an all-but-official presidential candidate. The big news here is that one-time rival Dick Gephardt unexpectedly endorsed Gore for the job. The WP front reports that Steve Forbes is going to run for president again, this time coupling his flat tax advocacy to a healthy dose of social conservatism, which he’s counting on to attract the support of the Republican religious right.
The Wall Street Journal reports that the much-lambasted opinion expressed by Ronald Reagan that trees cause pollution is more or less true. An Oregon scientist has shown that trees pump out huge amounts of isoprene, a natural hydrocarbon that is a key ingredient in the chemical interactions that create smog. The Journal says the EPA now frequently looks at the role of trees in assessing a locale’s air quality.
LAT columnist and former Ramparts editor Robert Scheer has a go at the China scandal, staking out a unique position: that everyone is mistaken in assuming that the Chinese would or could do something with any of our nuclear weapons miniaturization information they got their hands on. After all, writes Scheer, “China is a joke as a nuclear enemy,” and is “a half-century behind the U.S. in the deployment of an intercontinental nuclear weapons arsenal.” The flaw here is that one could have said precisely this about the Soviet Union in the mid-40s when it stole America’s atomic bomb secrets, but that didn’t make the theft benign.