Today's Papers

B-2 or not B-2?

The war with Yugoslavia continues to lead the majors. The New York Times and Los Angeles Times leads emphasize the drop in bombing and missile attacks on Sunday. Bad weather is the primary explanation. But the leads at the two Times and at the Washington Post also refer to NATO’s restraint in deference to Sunday’s marking of the Orthodox Easter, an explanation that the NYT impugns by reminding the reader that NATO had previously ignored calls for a bomb-down during the western church’s Easter.

Everybody reports that Madeleine Albright is conferring today with other NATO foreign ministers, and the WP sees the possibility of imminent “negotiated movement” regarding Kosovo. But the LAT concludes from watching the Clinton administration reps on the Sunday chat shows that any political breakthroughs are unlikely as long as Slobodan Milosevic remains in power. The USA Today lead emphasizes that the Clinton administration has “softened its rhetoric against the use of ground forces.” The WP makes the same point, but the LAT quotes the NATO commanding general as saying that NATO has a “long way to go” before ground troops might be needed. Yet if you read all the way down to the 12th paragraph of the USAT lead, you learn that according to the London Sunday Telegraph, ground troops have already been sent to Kosovo–a squadron of British soldiers was sent there to target the Serb special police. This is tantalizing, but underplayed and underexplained. When were they sent in? Are they still there? How many troops in a squadron anyway?

The papers detail the comments made by various U.S. and NATO officials attempting to shore up the claim that the Serbs are committing atrocities in Kosovo. The WP quotes the British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook as saying that about 400,000 internal refugees are wandering about the region, starving and in terror. The LAT, NYT, and the Post note that on Sunday, NATO officials made available aerial photos which they said suggested the existence of fresh mass graves in Kosovo. USAT runs one of the photos on its front. It’s fair game for the papers to have noted that NATO feels these pictures are quite similar to the mass graves discovered a few years ago in Bosnia, but they also ought to remind the reader that information coming from behind enemy lines like this has in modern times often proved suspect, by mentioning, for instance, the charges that Iraqis ripped babies from incubators when they entered Kuwait, charges that the best evidence suggests may have been wholly fabricated or at least wildly exaggerated.

Front-page stories at the LAT and NYT and a story reefered in the news index box at the Wall Street Journal cite new academic research indicating that the odds of being audited by the IRS have dropped dramatically: they are now just one in 60, compared with one in nine in 1988. The LAT and Journal pieces emphasize this drop with respect to individual taxpayers, while the NYT goes high with the additional news that the audit rate for the country’s largest companies has likewise plummeted–from two in three in 1988 to one in three last year.

The WP and NYT report in inside dispatches that India yesterday test-launched a new missile with nuclear capability. India’s defense minister said the launch marked a “great day for India.” Pakistan has said it will decide in the next few days what its response will be.

In an extended interview in Sunday’s LAT, Sen. John McCain says this about his current and past positions on U.S. military interventions: “Oh yes, I was wrong about Bosnia, and that is something I reproach myself for. In the end I came around and stood up for the president’s plans in the Senate. But early in the Bosnia crisis, I was completely wrong. Learning about the atrocity at Srebrenica had a deep effect on me.”

It’s not the most important thing in journalism by a long shot, but newspapers continue to have trouble with weapon identification. A picture in Sunday’s NYT “Week in Review” shows an airman loading bombs on a B-1 bomber over a caption that says it’s a B-2.

A WP story about awards of $1 million apiece to 10 scholars in their 30s includes the following among the differences the money has made: 1) “Before, at parties, when I’d tell people I was a physicist, it was a definite conversation-stopper,” one awardee is quoted as saying. “Women would turn away and talk to another guy.” 2) “Before the award,” says another awardee, “I spent 20 percent of my time doing grant proposals. Now I spend 15 percent doing media interviews.”