Today's Papers

Fewer POWS, More Booms

War developments lead at all the majors. USA Today, the Washington Post and Los Angeles Times lead with the three newly returned Army POWs and the U.S. vow to keep bombing Yugoslavia despite their release. The New York Times breaks the GIs out into a separate front-pager and leads instead with President Clinton’s meeting today with Viktor Chernomyrdin to discuss possible ways of resolving the Kosovo fighting. All four fronts feature pictures of the GIs– only the NYT manages a shot of them sans Jesse Jackson.

Actually, the headlines about the air campaign’s continuation undersell the reality. Secretary of Defense Cohen said Sunday, “We are going to intensify the bombing.” (Another not-quite-right headline, from Sunday’s LAT front: NATO BOMBS CIVILIAN BUS, CAUSING SCENES OF HORROR. The reader should ask, What would the headline be over a story describing an *intentional* bombing of a bus by NATO? Why, surely the one above, or the same with “intentionally” added. Therefore, the above headline is wrong for what happened and should have been replaced by something like, CIVILIAN BUS MISTAKENLY DESTROYED IN NATO BOMBING OF BRIDGE, or the same headline without “mistakenly” if the paper feels the facts are too unclear at press time. Emotions are too on edge over this war for misleading headlines.) The most immediate result of the bombing campaign’s upgrade: On Sunday, most of Belgrade was left without lights or power.

The NYT says Clinton agreed to meet with Chernomyrdin after Boris Yeltsin telephoned the White House on Sunday requesting he do so. He will also meet Monday with Jesse Jackson, who has several times since engineering the POW release called for a bombing halt. Another demarche was not so warmly received. According to several papers, Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott dismissed a letter from Slobodan Milosevic to Clinton suggesting a meeting as a “PR stunt.” The NYT makes it seem that the visit with Chernomyrdin is mere diplomatic politeness with no clear agenda. The WP lead suggests otherwise, quoting one administration official as saying, “Something’s going on.”

The Wall Street Journal says that the release of the U.S. POWs does not presage the release in turn of the two Serbian Army internees. The U.S. position, the paper reports, is that while the Americans were kidnapped from inside Macedonia while serving as peacekeepers, the Serbs “are genuine combatants.” By the way, the press accounts of the return of Jackson and the GIs note that they drove from Belgrade to Zagreb. And obviously they arrived safely. Was that a fluke or did NATO employ procedures to avoid bombing them? The papers don’t say. If the latter, the papers have also failed to explain why the allies haven’t been able to extend these procedures to all civilian ground transportation in the region.

A WP front-page story reports that when the students return to Columbine High today, there will be a mental health counselor in every classroom. Students will be urged to describe what they saw and did during the shootings at the school and to share their thoughts. If they become overwrought, they will be sent to a “safe” room staffed by a psychologist. Such trauma debriefing is now widely practiced, explains the paper, even though a recent academic review of the technique suggested no benefit.

A NYT front-page story reports that nonprofit health-oriented organizations like the America Medical Association and the Asthma and Allergy Foundation receive about half a billion dollars a year from associating their names with various commercial products in advertising campaigns. For instance, a recent series of ads for Pravachol, a cholesterol-lowering drug made by Bristol-Myers Squibb, featured the name and logo of the American Heart Association, which was paid $600,000 in the deal. The problem is that consumers often view these associations as product endorsements, which they generally are not. Sixteen state attorneys general, the paper reports, are working on a strategy to curb these misleading ad campaigns.

The “Snapshot” on USAT’s front addresses how Americans feel about the telemarketing phone calls they get at home. Most disturbing statistic: 3 percent of those polled view such calls as “always [an] opportunity, never an intrusion.”