Today's Papers

Stubborn Slobodan

The papers all lead with U.S. envoy Richard Holbrooke’s last-ditch diplomatic mission to convince Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic to sign a Kosovo peace deal and avoid NATO bombing. The New York Times points out that the trip comes just 10 days after he delivered a similar ultimatum. The Washington Post manifests impatience in its banner headline: “Belgrade Faces the 11th Hour; Again.” USA Today emphasizes the lack of a clear consensus in Congress. In a subheading, the Los Angeles Times contributes that the killing of 4 policeman by Kosovar rebels is likely to complicate Holbrooke’s efforts.

The NYT contextualizes Holbrooke’s visit, pointing out that he will be preceded by three top negotiators from the Paris peace talks, including American, Russian, and Austrian ambassadors. USA Today fronts congressional dissent regarding the NATO strategy, noting that Democratic Sen. Bob Kerrey expressed pessimism that airstrikes would halt Serbian aggression. USAT also fronts the Senate majority leader’s plan to introduce a bill that would bar funding of military action without congressional approval. The WP notes that some NATO allies, including Italy and Greece, are reluctant to approve airstrikes absent U.N. Security Council authority. Council members China and Russia vow to block a resolution granting authority. Diplomats hope the humanitarian crisis will overwhelm alliance doubts.

The Wall Street Journal writes that NATO diplomats differ in their take on Milosevic’s endgame–some see his offensive as an effort to cripple the rebel’s military punch, other believe he is resigned to giving up the troublesome province, but awaits airstrikes to justify retreat.

The Post describes the execution of 10 Kosovar villagers by Serbian forces. The paper asserts that the current onslaught differs from previous offensives. Yugoslav Interior Ministry police forces are now teamed with army troops, a sign of the more compliant military leadership installed by Milosevic last year. The LAT writes that the slaying of Serbian police officers in Pristina inflamed fears that fighting, which was mainly confined to the countryside, will engulf the cities and thereby exacerbate the crisis. All papers report on the plight of the refugees, who have swelled to 44,000 in number. Kosovo Albanians are fleeing burning villages and shellfire, urged along by police forces. According to the Post, 1,600 international monitors were removed Saturday to prevent them from becoming targets. The Times says 1,300.

The NYT illustrates an underplayed reason for economic growth, by reference to a manufacturer, a financial services firm, and a retailer in central Iowa. These businesses have increased productivity through Lazy-Susan production, reengineering around the Internet and accordion schedules, respectively. Amid media hoopla about sky-high consumer spending and stock valuation, as the Dow flirts with the 10,000 mark, the piece reminds that there is a simple, though less sensational, reason why America’s economy is growing–it is more productive due to labor-saving efficiencies. The article, headlined “Productivity Gains Help Keep Economy on a Roll,” fails to provide many statistics to amplify its anecdotal explanation for growth.

OPEC is poised to cut oil output by 2 million barrels a day to boost prices, according to the NYT front. Inside, the Times reports that senior Saudi officials “spelling out for the first time in public a position that has frustrated U.S. military planners,” acknowledge that the kingdom refuses to let Saudi-based U.S. warplanes take part in overt military action against Iraq. The paper notes that this open signal of dissension might be prompted by a need to quell domestic disquiet resulting from Iraqi propaganda assaults, lambasting Saudi Arabia.

A WP piece offers fresh evidence for the rote argument that the public stature of the chief executive hinges on the health of the economy. Based on new poll evidence, the paper reports that 73 percent of Americans approve of their governors’ performance; compared to 64 percent approval of Clinton. When the Post asked the same question during the recession of 1991, only 49 percent of respondents approved of gubernatorial performance.

While most papers set their fronts before the Oscars ran out of steam, sneaking in pictures of Hollywood princess Paltrow, the LA Times went to bed late enough to comment. The paper provides a mixed review of Whoppi’s performance as host, criticizing her “gratuitously coarse language and one-liners.” The paper also took exception to Goldberg’s “cheap political jokes,” seemingly recycled from her frequent gigs at DNC fund-raisers. According to the LAT, Elia Kazan got off easy with a generally enthusiastic reception. Notable exceptions included applause abstainers Ed Harris and Nick Nolte. The paper notes that Kazan escaped the most dangerous shoal of the evening, being caught on the red carpet by Joan Rivers. Rivers’ special contributions to Hollywood’s special night included stopping Mariah Carey with the comment, “everybody said you gained weight.”