Today's Papers

Stars, No Stripes

USA Today

leads with a White House-commissioned study released yesterday concluding that marijuana can be effective medicine for treating chronic pain, nausea and AIDS-related weight loss. The story makes everybody’s front. The Los Angeles Times leads with the International Olympic Committee’s first concrete enforcement action in connection with the 2002 Salt Lake City Games scandal–the expulsion of six of its members for allegedly taking hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes. Those tossed were from Western Samoa, Sudan, Ecuador, the Republic of Congo, Mali, and Chile. The action is the top non-local story at the Washington Post, while the New York Times runs it inside. The NYT leads with the House’s passage of limits on steel imports for the next three years. The paper primarily focuses on the politics involved: the abandonment of the White House and Republican leadership free trade line by a decisive majority of House members. The paper explains that union organizing, most notably by the United Steelworkers, was key. Only much later in the story is the macroeconomic point made: that closing off such an important market for Asian economies may stifle their recoveries and hence ultimately hurt U.S. exports. But all this may be moot, notes the Times (and the WP and Wall Street Journal in their inside coverage): the bill probably won’t pass in the Senate. And President Clinton, notes the Times, would probably be advised to veto it if it did.

The Olympic coverage owes the reader more of an explanation about the distinctly less-developed-country flavor of the scandal. Why these countries and not Olympic powers? The coverage features an unscheduled athletic event: during yesterday’s meetings in Switzerland, Un Yong Kim, an IOC vice president still under investigation for serious improprieties, nearly came to blows with two other IOC officials. Kim is also, the papers explain, the president of the world taekwondo federation. The LAT nicely sums up the changes in the Olympic movement with a factoid: the last IOC expulsion was of a member who didn’t pay his hotel bill during the 1960 Games.

At a time in journalism when corporate watchdogging often takes a back seat to corporate lapdogging and when following-up is a nearly forgotten art, the LAT must be commended for its front-page effort today on a $1-billion-in-sales-so-far anti-diabetes drug, Rezulin, which it’s been monitoring for a while. Back in December the paper reported that the FDA, in its haste to grant “fast-track” approval of Rezulin, ignored a warning from one of its own doctors about possible liver dangers. Now, by examining newly obtained records, the LAT concludes that the cases of liver-related fatalities implicating Rezulin have more than quadrupled from the time the drug went on the market until now.

Inside stories at the WP and LAT report that retired two-star general David Hale, having pleaded guilty to eight charges in connection with having affairs with subordinates’ wives and then lying about them to investigators, received his sentence from a military court yesterday: no jail time, just a reprimand from the trial judge and a fine of $22,000. Neither his retirement rank nor his pension of $75,000 per year was affected. The papers are silent on a comparison that demands comment: Sgt. Major Gene McKinney, convicted in his sexual harassment trial just about a year ago of only a single count of obstruction of justice, was nevertheless busted down a pay grade, which will cost him possibly hundreds of thousands of dollars over the rest of his life. Decisions like this perpetuate the officer/enlisted double standard.

The WP and NYT go inside with the conviction in South Africa of one-time anti-apartheid activist Alan Boesak of stealing money earmarked for needy children and black voters. Instead he used the money to buy luxury homes and a radio studio. One question: Why doesn’t either paper put the amount stolen, $400,000, in its headline?

The NYT, WP and WSJ report that a top Russian prosecutor, who several weeks ago resigned and disappeared from sight, has returned and vowed in defiance of Boris Yeltsin to stay on and fight corruption involving political leaders and the country’s shadowy financial figures. There’s one aspect of the story that the Journal doesn’t mention at all and the Post merely hints at, but which the NYT goes high and detailed with: after the prosecutor’s reemergence, a government TV channel broadcast something that had obviously been a factor in his original disappearance: a video of a naked him in bed with two young naked women, neither his wife. Why didn’t you think of that, Ken!

Two innovations from California in the news. The WP reports that televised police chases are so popular in Los Angeles that a guy has started a business, the Pursuit Watch Network, where for a flat monthly fee, subscribers are alerted by pager or email whenever local TV stations break in to their regular programming to show one. After just two months, he has, says the Post, hundreds of clients. The NYT front reports on San Francisco’s “john school,” on the model of traffic school, for men convicted of soliciting prostitution. Attendees are forced to listen to ex-hookers tell of their drug problems, their venereal diseases, and their occasional homicidal urges towards their customers. They ought to call it “Scared Limp.”