Non-combat developments relevant to the Yugoslavia war are prominent. The Los Angeles Times leads with NATO support for Russia’s attempts to broker an end to the fighting, while the New York Times, which emphasized the Russian role in its lead yesterday, stays on the story in its lead today. The two accounts make it clear that peace is not just around the corner. The LAT states that the allies will only support a Russian demarche that abides by their insistence that Serb troops pull out of Yugoslavia, and that Kosovar refugees be allowed to return under an international peacekeeping force. But the NYT quotes Russia’s foreign minister saying, “We won’t serve as a postman. We won’t deliver NATO’s ultimatums to Belgrade….That is not our mission. If there is an ultimatum from one side and then an ultimatum from the other side there is no maneuver for negotiation. There should be cooperation on both sides.” Meanwhile, a Wall Street Journal front-page feature reports that the “almost gentlemanly approach” of the war’s first month will change because of a key decision ratified behind closed doors by NATO’s leaders last Friday: to henceforth endorse raids on political as well as military targets. The Washington Post leads with the head of the International Red Cross’s visit with the three American POWs, a story also fronted by the LAT, but carried inside by the NYT. The Post says that the official is not a doctor but that a medical examination of the three might occur soon. USA Today goes with a Littleton shooting story: the questioning by authorities of a female friend of the two dead killers regarding any role she might have had in the procurement of their weapons. This was first mentioned yesterday by the WSJ.
The Littleton girl friend story also runs on the LAT and NYT fronts, and inside at the WP. USAT prints the girl’s name. The two Times do not. The Post mentions her name, but says the identification is unconfirmed. Do the papers that don’t run the 18-year-old woman’s name have some policy that covers their (in)action? All four stories report that one of the killers kept a diary that included discussion of hijacking an airliner to a large city such as New York and ordering it to crash there. They also carry the day’s biggest Littleton development: Well before the disaster, a school parent had reported one of the killers to the Sheriff’s Dept. because of hateful, violent emails the boy had sent. Although the boy was on probation, apparently no action was taken.
The LAT fronts a big policy consequence of Littleton: President Clinton’s planned unveiling today of a new weapons control bill. The story runs inside at the NYT and WP. The bill would require background checks and the forwarding of transaction records to the federal government for guns bought at gun shows and similar restrictions on access to black powder (the active ingredient in pipe bombs), as well as impose penalties for parents who knowingly or recklessly allow a child to have injurious or lethal access to a gun. The LAT states that one recent study indicates that nearly half of gun show transactions involved felons. Since convicts can’t generally own guns, all such sales are already illegal. This raises a question: Is the government already aggressively visiting these shows?
The WP, in the inaugural effort of a new regular feature covering the D.C. think tank scene, reports that the top 20 conservative think tanks collectively spent $158 million in 1996. That is, explains the Post, $20 million more than was spent in soft money by the Republican Party in the same year. The story says the conservative tanks paid out “many times more” than the largest 20 liberal ones. But why does the story fail to put up a hard number here to enable a real comparison?
The USAT top front gives plenty of space to the news that the FDA has approved the first fat-blocker diet drug, which will be arriving in pharmacies within days. The drug, to be marketed as Xenical, keeps about 30 percent of dietary fat from being absorbed into the digestive tract. It is designed for people who are technically obese, not for lose-five-pounds dieters. Still, look for the Viagra effect: lots of others will use it too. Newsplay surprise: the story is also fronted at the WP and NYT, but at the LAT, it runs on page 19.
The WP reports that yesterday the CIA held a big ceremony at Langley to rename its headquarters after George Bush. According to the story, the current top spook, George Tenet, said in his speech that Bush will be forever remembered by the CIA’s “masters of disguise” for attending an important intelligence meeting in a disguise, including red wig, thick glasses and a fake nose. Was this when Bush was meeting with Iranians to fix the 1980 election or preparation for a Babs-free weekend? The Post, seems to have gotten a little too caught up in the hosting institution’s ethos and tells readers nothing further.