All but one of the leads concerns Yugoslavia, and they mostly cover the same ground, although what’s emphasized varies. The Los Angeles Times leads with President Clinton’s formal request to Congress on Monday for more than $6 billion to fund the campaign through to the end of the fiscal year, Sept. 30. “There are literally lives hanging in the balance,” Clinton is quoted as saying. The Washington Post chooses to emphasize the Serbs’ sudden closure of Kosovo’s southern borders, blocking for the second time since the war’s start the escape route for most of the region’s Albanians. The move has, says the paper, set off fears among NATO and aid organizations about the fates of Kosovo’s remaining 500,000 to 850,000 Albanians, many of them without shelter and low on food. The New York Times goes with the increasingly numerous and active Yugoslav military and police presence in Kosovo, including an increase in attacks by Yugoslav planes and helicopters despite four weeks of NATO bombing. The paper reports one tack NATO may take in response: to get expanded overflight and/or basing permissions from Balkan countries to allow for air attacks on Serbia from more directions. USA Today off-leads the volatile Kosovo refugee situation and leads instead with Nasdaq’s second-worse single day point drop, driven by the battering of Internet-related stocks. “This is the bursting of the Internet bubble,” one strategist proclaims. The paper says day-traders were hard hit.
The three papers leading with the war all front Bill Clinton’s phone call Monday to Boris Yeltsin to implore him once again to have Russia take part in a resolution of the Kosovo situation, by including Russian troops in an international security force. There was no firm answer from Yeltsin on this, but he did promise not to send additional ships to the region. The Wall Street Journal, in its war situation report, states that NATO commander Gen. Wesley Clark appears to have prevailed over French and Italian objections to his proposal to bomb key television and radio broadcast facilities in Belgrade. A remaining concern: casualties among Yugoslav civilians and the Western press.
Everybody reports that NATO admitted Monday for the first time that its aircraft had hit two convoys including civilian vehicles last week. The big lesson for NATO’s media handlers in all this: There will be regrettable mistakes. Don’t be in such a hurry to feed the press maw that you serve up rumors and half-truths–you’ll only have to take them back within days. Hold your comments until you can release actual facts. And then release them fully. But it’s not just NATO that can’t resist evidence tampering. According to a story inside at the NYT, the Yugoslav government’s account of U.S. military radio communications occurring during the mistaken convoy bombing includes the following: “Mother to Charlie Bravo. What kind of strange convoy is this? What civilians? Damn, this is the Serbs’ doing. Destroy the target.”
A headline over a USAT inside story on the arrival of Army paratroops in Albania yesterday seems a bit premature: ARMY MISSION QUICKLY TURNS INTO QUAGMIRE. But it turns out that the reference is literal: the soldiers find themselves in a very muddy location.
A piece inside the NYT addresses the crucial but too-long overlooked question of what pilots can see. The story states that the infrared sighting device used during last week’s tragedy from an altitude of 15,000 feet produces an image not as sharp as a television’s. Additionally, it says one pilot was trying to get a visual ID using high-powered binoculars. It’s suspicious that the story doesn’t say what the magnification of those binoculars is. The Pentagon should have said, and the reporters should have asked.
The WP’s “Style” section contains a profile of a man, Arthur Jenkins, scheduled to be executed tonight in Virginia for a 1990 double murder. Although the story clearly describes his gruesome crimes, it mostly dwells on Jenkins’ hard life and his mental illness. The story reports that Jenkins has an IQ of 65, suffers from visual and aural hallucinations, has borderline personality disorder, and was, prior to the murders, released into the world unmedicated. As with most Death Row profiles, the point of all this is to somehow suggest that Jenkins doesn’t deserve to die. The suggestion is that he didn’t fully understand what he was doing. The story’s lead though, mentions, but typically does not fully wrestle with, something rather inconvenient for all this: Jenkins is well aware that he is about to be put to death. The piece never asks, “How come he’s so clear on the actions done to him but not those done by him?”