Today's Papers

Gulfstream War Syndrome

The Los Angeles Times and Washington Post lead with Yugoslavia’s announcement yesterday of a partial withdrawal of troops and police from Kosovo, and NATO’s quick dismissal of the move as not warranting any pause in its air campaign. The New York Times lead is that NATO’s bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade threatens to delay any diplomatic solution to the Kosovo crisis and to inflict long-term damage on the U.S./China relationship. USA Today fronts the U.S. non-reaction to the Yugoslav declaration of a pullout and President Clinton’s formal apology to China for the embassy strike but leads with news made particularly compelling by the weekend’s disastrous bus crash: a federal transportation watchdog agency is expected to issue a report this summer recommending requiring seat belts on all school and commercial buses. The story notes one expert’s belief that nine people killed in that crash when they were thrown from the bus might have survived if they’d been wearing seat belts. The story says that many safety regulators have long dismissed the idea of mandatory seat belts for school buses based on the belief that few children would be saved (and, the story explains, all federal safety rules changes first require a favorable cost-benefit analysis), but that recently there have been several accidents where children were killed from being thrown around inside a bus, even though they weren’t sitting in the area of impact. The story doesn’t explain how the implementation of such an inexpensive device as a seat belt could out-cost the loss of lifetime earnings and of parental consortium suffered when children die or are seriously injured in bus accidents.

The papers report NATO’s claims that not only does a partial pullout fall far short of their conditions on the cessation of hostilities–full withdrawal of Serb troops from the province, deployment of a peacekeeping force, and repatriation of all Kosovar Albanians–but that also there has been no sign of any Yugoslav draw-down.

The main point of the NYT lead is that the U.S. fears China’s call for an end to the allied bombing before it will allow the UN Security Council to take up any solutions to the Kosovo mess may block all diplomacy in the matter. For instance, the paper explains, China, a member of the Security Council, could veto the interposition in the region of any U.N. peacekeeping force. The Clinton administration is further unsettled, notes the Times, by Viktor Chernomyrdin’s sudden trip to China. The Wall Street Journal, in its Yugoslav coverage, detects growing political anxieties among members of NATO as a result of the alliances series of bombing accidents, with the Italian president and Germany’s chancellor depicted by the paper as the most dissatisfied.

Everybody covers the State Dept.’s release of its report on war crimes committed in Kosovo. There are some hard numbers alleged here: 4,000 Kosovar Albanians executed in the past year, 300 villages and towns burned. The WP quotes a Yugoslav cabinet minister’s response: NATO and the U.S. are falsifying these numbers, and have even with the help of the CIA organized a “big production” in which thousands of ethnic Albanians were paid “actors” who, posing as refugees, left, reentered and left again to float the numbers. The WSJ has this charge as well.

The LAT front serves up some details on that Chinese military document that was handed over to the CIA in 1995, the one that according to the NYT precipitated the whole China nuke spy story. According to the LAT, the document included detailed and accurate material about six different types of U.S. nuclear warheads, including the most sophisticated.

The LAT is alone in fronting yesterday’s White House conference on youth violence. At the meeting, President Clinton urged the entertainment industry to help stop the “coarsening of the culture.” (To be fair, shouldn’t it also be noticed that Mr. Clinton did his fair share of cultural coarsening over the past two years?) The paper views the comment as at least a veiled threat of government action if the Industry doesn’t do more self-policing. The LAT also notes that Hollywood’s most influential leaders passed up the event. But among the attendees was ABC chairman Bob Iger, who said, “When the finger is pointed at [the media], they say they have no influence; but they turn around and say just the opposite to advertisers.” A WP op-ed co-authored by erstwhile “vast wasteland” FCC commissioner Newton Minow, responds with a call to bring back the TV networks’ self-regulating broadcast code.

The NYT’s black budget expert Tim Weiner has fine-printed an interesting item in the emergency bills in Congress that will finance the next stage of the air war in Yugoslavia: The Air Force is asking for half a billion dollars over the next ten years to lease executive business jets to ferry four-star generals around the world.