Today's Papers

Arms and Lungs and Other Body Parts

The Washington Post leads with the news that, reversing new air quality standards set by the Environmental Protection Agency in 1997, a U.S. appeals court said the agency used its power unconstitutionally when it tightened regulations on acceptable levels of smog and microscopic soot. Both Times go with the latest in Kosovo.

A third story (covered in yesterday’s Los Angeles Times) gets fronted by the East Coast papers. Despite Wednesday’s approval of a Republican amendment allowing voluntary instant background checks at gun shows, the Senate approved a new Republican plan on Friday, making background checks at gun shows mandatory. The New York Times quotes Clinton: “It won’t stop criminals from buying guns at gun shows. At the same time, it [opens] up a new pawnshop loophole that lets convicted felons get guns at a local pawnshop. That’s actually worse than current law.” The Post story notes a Republican warning that the juvenile justice bill the measures are attached to could be withdrawn if uncompleted by next week. It also includes the Senate roll call so interested readers can see how senators voted.

What caused the GOP change of heart? As the NYT points out deep into its piece, there is “very strong support for gun control, even among potential voters in Republican presidential primaries.”

The NYT coverage notes that on Thursday the Senate prohibited importing high-capacity ammunition clips and passed a Republican proposal to ban juvenile possession of semiautomatic weapons and high-capacity ammunition clips. (What other kinds of deadly weapons are the young legally allowed to possess?)

The EPA decision resulted from a lawsuit filed by the American Trucking Associations and a number of other industry groups, the NYT tells us. The Post reports the ruling called for the EPA to redraft 1997 regulations requiring lower levels of smog and soot and to “explain why its rule-making process was justified under the Constitution.”

In its first paragraph, the Post reports the high standards were intended to ease the suffering of those with asthma and lung disease; opponents thought the regulations were too expensive and lacked scientific justification. The LAT quotes White House press secretary Joe Lockhart’s disappointment “particularly given the court’s explicit recognition that there is a strong scientific and public health rationale for tougher air quality protections.” They’ve also got a senior EPA official complaining the court “ignored the past 25 years of the way public health standards have been set.” (No one mentions anything about the recent anti-tobacco legislation, a strong defeat for big business as opposed to this win.)

Of the three judges involved in the decision, the lone dissenter was appointed by Clinton while the other two were Reaganites, says the Post and the LAT. The Post also points out that this move suggests “Congress, not the executive branch, is predominantly responsible for writing the nation’s environmental laws.”

The LAT , with its time advantage, scoops the others by reporting that NATO accepted responsibility for a Korisa bombing that killed many Albanian refugees. (The East Coast papers had NATO investigating its role in the bombing.) Estimates of the dead are varied. The LAT lead says “at least 53”; in the headline of its lead, the NYT says “At Least 60.” The NYT also has the Serbian Media Center putting the number of dead at 79 and Alexander Mitic, a journalist for Agence-France Presse, counting 48 corpses at the Prizen hospital morgue as well as “three large plastic garbage bags filled with body parts and 16 more corpses still at the scene.” The report from the official Yugoslav news agency is that 100 were killed.

All three papers point out that this mess could be worse than the one last month, in which 75 Albanian refugees were killed by a NATO attack.

The Post offers, “One report said a metal bomb fragment with a fin was found at the scene.” So? Both Times better understand the significance of this detail; the fin, in the NYT’s words, was marked GBU-12 “which would indicate a NATO laser-guided bomb.” The NYT also follows up on war politics. Milosevic is urging the United Nations “to press for an immediate halt to the airstrikes.” But two Serbian mayors urged Milosevic himself to make peace.

In its “Arts” section, the NYT reports journalist Garry Wills has written a new biography on St. Augustine. Though St. Augustine is usually portrayed as sex-obsessed, Wills instead thinks he is “concerned with how sexual dysfunction reflects man’s fall from grace.” The piece quotes Wills: “Greed, violence and deception were greater concerns in [Augustine’s] sermons.” His research for the biography may help him in his next project, a book called A Necessary Evil to be released next fall, about Americans’ fear of government.