Today's Papers

On the Third Day of Bombing…

The escalation in NATO’s air campaign and the increasingly fierce reaction of Serbia dominate all fronts. Each papers’ lead underscores the heightening of the Kosovo conflict. The Washington Post titles its overview: “NATO Strikes Again As Conflict Threatens to Expand.” The New York Times headlines the launching of the first daytime strike of the bombardment. The Los Angeles Times gives prominence to the downing of two Yugoslav MIGs over Bosnia.

All papers cite unconfirmed accounts that airstrikes escalated ethnic cleansing. The LAT reports that as many as 50 ethnic Albanians were executed in three separate incidents. The paper reports that mob rule prevails in the Kosovar capital. Terrorists bombed rows of Albanian-owned businesses and torched the warehouse of the Mother Teresa Society. The NYT cites reports that 15,000 to 20,000 civilians were put on a forced march by Serb forces. The WP offers refugee accounts of being driven from their homes by paramilitary units and forced to pay bribes for safe passage. The paper quotes one refugee: “The Serbs can’t fight NATO, so now they are after us.”

The LAT says that the deteriorating humanitarian situation has accelerated efforts to suppress Yugoslav air defenses so that NATO may shift its focus towards deterring atrocities against Kosovars by applying “close-air” power. The paper says that the State Department strongly signaled its intention to bring Milosevic and other responsible parties before a war crimes tribunal. The NYT provides excellent operational details on why NATO carried out its first daylight strike. The paper says that when Serb aircraft were spotted in the open, the military took advantage of the opportunity by launching an unplanned attack.

The Post asserts that the dire news from Kosovo has prompted senior U.S. and NATO officials to discuss the possibility of deploying ground troops. The paper reports that the introduction of ground forces is unlikely. President Clinton has not been informed of the contingency planning.

The incursion of Serb jets into Bosnian airspace was labeled a desperate act by both State Department and NATO spokesmen. The NYT reports that the downed aircraft were part of a four-plane group, “presumed to be heading aggressively toward NATO peacekeeping ground troops.” The Post interprets the incursion as a signal that Serbia might expand the conflict into neighboring countries in an attempt to sow fear and dissension. Only the NYT reports that in a subsequent incident two more MIGs crossed-over into Bosnia, but quickly retreated.

Tremors in the alliance and the wrath of Russia are noted by the papers. As 15,000 Greeks protested the bombing, a government spokesman suggested it was time to go back to the negotiating table. Italy’s prime minister said that action should be “brief and strictly focused.” Russia expelled two NATO representatives. The NYT reports that a Russia resolution demanding an immediate end to the airstrikes was rejected by the Security Council, by a margin of 12-3. The vote demonstrates broad support for punishing Milosevic, according to the paper. The Times reports that Russian rage over the airstrikes was underscored by a radical retaliatory act. A publisher announced that Monica Lewinsky’s upcoming visit to the republic had been canceled.

All papers front the second-degree murder conviction of Jack Kevorkian. Previous juries have let him off the hook for violating assisted suicide laws. The Michigan panel drew the line at what the NYT calls “direct killing,” personally administering a lethal injection. Kevorkian faces at least 10 years in the clink. His counsel called the verdict a “tragedy” and promised to appeal. All papers note that the tragedy was at least partially self-induced: Kevorkian invited prosecution by pushing a videotape of his actions on 60 Minutes and he invited conviction by insisting on representing himself. The former pathologist’s arguments are called “quixotic” by the Post. Dr. Murder, née Dr. Death, waged a 10 minute defense that included scrawling a logic equation on a blackboard, which he claimed irrefutably proved that euthanasia was not murder.

A United Methodist pastor was convicted by clergy elders of violating a church law forbidding ministers from performing same-sex unions. The Post says Reverend Dell defended himself by claiming pastoral obligations required him to treat all parishioners equally, and he was merely recognizing the loving relationship of two committed members of his flock.

The NYT suggests that Gov. George W. Bush has seized on an issue which might enhance his standing among Christian conservatives; an issue as constituency pleasing as his dad’s 1988 stance against flag burning. He has asked a Federal appeals court to reconsider its ruling that benedictions at public school football games are unconstitutional. Pigskin and prayer, no wonder this guy’s the front-runner.