Today's Papers

NATO’s Cave

The papers lead with various Kosovo-related decisions and positions emanating from the NATO 50th birthday bash in D.C. – where, the Washington Post reports, federal workers were given the day off to ward away gridlock in a downtown crowded with 19 world leaders and their entourages. All the papers off-lead continuing reports on the school massacre in Colorado.

The Post’s take on the summit is that the U.S. and other hardliners in NATO are softening their positions a bit to get Russia involved. A lot of it is for show: The story notes that different countries are putting different spins on the agreement, “indicating the document was drafted to allow each country to present it at home as reflective of that government’s policy.” Meanwhile, as the paper’s second lead story reports, Yugoslavia is having none of NATO, softened or not.

The New York Times, by contrast, says the “most definitive action” from the summit was the organization’s plan to embargo oil to Serbia by searching ships in the Adriatic. The leaders also ordered Commander Wesley Clark to focus more on disrupting overland oil deliveries. The paper reports that British Prime Minister Tony Blair spent two and a half hours with Bill Clinton Thursday, “trying to convince him of the necessity of being prepared to send in troops after Serbian forces had been severely weakened.”

The Los Angeles Times’ lead stresses NATO unity and the oil blockade. It also highlights a remark from Clark: “We are winning, [Milosevic] is losing, and he knows it,” he said, quotably.

But the NYT tosses cold water on such talk, fronting a discouraging analysis of the NATO war effort thus far, quoting Clark merely to flatly disagree with him – “No Nato Victory, No Serb Loss” is the headline. It may be true, but the story doesn’t marshal enough facts to warrant its strident tone or the extreme-sounding quote, prominently played, from a former Air Force chief of staff: “I don’t know what’s been done right here. The air war has been carried out without much political will or military decisiveness.”

The NYT and WP front continuing word from Littleton, Colo., that investigators think killers Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris had help. No word as yet of how many or who. The LAT has a tearful feature on one of the victims. All three papers print excerpts of a 911 call from a teacher who spoke as she kept kids under desks and watched other students get shot. The NYT and WP report a scene from the first Littleton funeral, this one for 16-year-old John Robert Tomlin Jr. “He treated me like I was the queen of the world,” his girlfriend said in the NYT. The paper also talks to one of the wounded, Mikai Hall, who spoke for the first time today, saying of Klebold: “He is not the kind of person he is being portrayed as. He was a nice guy.” Mass media theorists take note: Here’s the injured victim of a mass murderer siding with the killer against the press coverage.

The WP fronts news that not all kids online are homicidal lunatics, despite a Gallup Poll that finds 82 percent of those surveyed feeling the Internet is “at least partly to blame” for the shootings, and 34 percent feeling it deserved “a great deal” of the blame. “Those who track the activities of adolescents on the Internet insist it might have been more surprising if the Littleton killers didn’t spend time online,” the story says. Did the telephone endure such attentions as it spread in the early 1900s?

More indication that the Internet isn’t all bad is inside in the NYT, which continues its strong coverage of “mp3,” the catch-all name for a future in which consumers can download compressed CD-quality music from the World Wide Web. (“Mp3” is the name of a particularly effective and easy-to-use compression protocol.) An unknown but growing number of savvy computer users are already merrily swapping copyrighted material and playing it on new all-digital players. This bedevils the music industry, which sees the technology a much greater threat to profits than, for example, cassette tapes have been. The industry wanted to have a unified backing for a controllable, piracy-proof variant on the technology and the players in time for Christmas, but can’t agree on how to do it.