Today's Papers

Jesse at the Helm

All papers lead with Jesse Jackson’s brokering of the release of the three American soldiers captured by Yugoslavia. Jackson asked NATO to halt bombing in return, entreating Western forces to “take a break and give peace a chance.” Each story notes that the White House tried to keep Jackson at home, and none explains how he became the key figure in the negotiations. The Los Angeles Times calls Jackson a “civil rights leader,” but the New York Times emphasizes his clerical role. Jackson, the Times reports, has ended each recent session by inviting the Serbs across the table to join him in worship. The Times and the Washington Post print the same surreal photo of Jackson and Milosevic praying together, arms clasped and faces concentrated in reverence.

Only the WP helpfully prints Jackson’s resume as a diplomat-at-large. He has persuaded Hafez al-Assad to return a captured American pilot; Fidel Castro to release 22 Americans in Cuban prison on drug charges; and Saddam Hussein to relinquish 500 foreign nationals held as Iraqi “guests.”

The other Kosovo news is NATO’s grimmest bombing blunder yet. An air attack blew a civilian bus in half, killing at least 34, including 4 Kosovar children. The attack did not destroy the bridge on which the bus was traveling.

The Times continues to sniff out White House indifference to intelligence threats posed by Chinese spying. A front-pager prints details of a secret 1998 report, disseminated along the top corridors of the executive branch, that cited real and potential security breaches from China and other nations. The Dept. of Energy is “an inviting, diverse, and soft target that is easy to access and that employs many who are willing to share information,” the report states. The details of the story are new, but the thrust will be familiar to Times readers: officials knew about the security holes, but let several months slide by before searching suspected spy Wen Ho Lee’s computer, giving him a polygraph test, or tightening up DOE security.

A terrific Post front-pager profiles–and audits– Richard Mellon Scaife, billionaire, conservative activist, and the alleged center of the “vast right-wing conspiracy” against the president. Scaife has given at least $340 million to Republican-ish causes in the past 40 years, bankrolling the construction of the “conservative intellectual infrastructure” around which Reaganism and the Contract With America were built, and helping “discredit government as a vehicle for societal progress.”

A Times magazine piece predicts that equal opportunity will survive the demise of affirmative action at public universities. Only six of 74 schools in California and Texas lost minority enrollment after affirmative action bans. California’s Proposition 209 sent minorities “cascading” to the less prestigious of the state’s universities. However, universities are making an end run around the legislation by expanding admissions criteria to include the “holistic,” non-academic, non-quantified factors that are gentler to minority applicants.

The NYT investigates high school cliques. Revelations: cheerleaders are popular, high-achieving students like school better than those with poor grades, and the drama crowd is sensitive and tolerant. Today’s Papers hopes that the reporter once attended high school herself, but is less than certain. To verify this– and to expose any biases– TP suggests that all reporters assigned to these stories disclose their year of graduation and the location of their seat in the cafeteria.