Today's Papers

Local Press Looking for Support

The Los Angeles Times and Washington Post lead with the publication today of the House committee report prepared under the direction of Rep. Christopher Cox that claims that China has over more than 20 years quite successfully obtained numerous U.S. military weapons secrets through espionage. The New York Times, which has in the past year spearheaded the story of China’s stunning access to U.S. weapons technology, perhaps understandably leads instead with the sudden word that the NYPD officer now standing trial on charges of brutalizing a Haitian immigrant will change his plea to guilty and throw himself on the mercy of the court. What is surprising though is that the Times puts the Cox report inside. USA Today also buries the Cox report (Page 10, above a Viagra ad), and goes instead with the Supreme Court’s ruling yesterday that when the police allow journalists and photographers to accompany them on raids inside private homes, they violate the privacy rights of the homeowners–a story carried inside everywhere else. Another consequential Court ruling, that public schools and colleges ignoring a student’s complaints of sexual harassment can be sued for their inaction, is fronted all around.

Apparently because the LAT got its hands on a 29-page executive summary of the Cox report before going to press Monday night, its coverage of the report’s content is more detailed than the other papers. The paper says that according to the document, China stole the secrets behind seven U.S. nuclear warheads, including every one in the current American arsenal, through spying at four U.S. government facilities. Using high-performance computers legally purchased from U.S. firms, China should be able to use this information, says the LAT, to upgrade and expand its small, antiquated nuclear force. The Wall Street Journal, in its inside story, paints an even starker picture, stating that China now has the design information “for nearly all the elements needed to launch a major nuclear attack on the U.S.” Another Cox finding: the electronic guidance technology found in a variety of frontline U.S. missiles and airplanes has also been stolen by China. Also compromised were sensitive methods for tracking submarines and experimental plans for developing a gun using electromagnetic energy instead of powder that hence could operate in outer space. Most of these details appeared in previous newspaper stories, most notably in the NYT and WSJ. The coverage suggests that the Cox report will lead to a serious reevaluation of U.S.-China relations, including of China’s most favored nation trading status, up for renewal next month.

The LAT fronts the decision by the cities of Los Angeles and San Francisco to follow the example of Miami, Chicago, and New Orleans and file lawsuits against handgun manufacturers. The story is also flagged in the WSJ front-page news box and carried inside at the NYT and USAT. The L.A. city attorney says his real objective is to make gun companies get more involved in preventing illegal gun sales, such as to minors and felons. A WSJ front-page feature observes that federal courts have almost universally rejected the NRA view of the Second Amendment as guaranteeing an individual citizen’s right to own guns in favor of the view that it guarantees gun ownership only to state militias. An example the paper cites is the 1930s Supreme Court decision that kept sawed-off shotguns illegal on the grounds that there was no evidence they were suitable militia weapons. The NRA is so well aware of this, the story notes, that it tends to ignore its much ballyhooed interpretation of the Second Amendment when it goes to court, almost always choosing other legal grounds instead.

Because the death in Kansas City, Mo., of professional wrestler Owen Hart in front of a large crowd happened late Sunday night, there was only the briefest mention of the incident in yesterday’s papers. But why is the story so scarce in today’s editions? Even the clay-footed USAT buries it in Section D. Compare this to the kind of coverage even pulled muscles get in “major” sports. After all, professional wrestling is one of the most popular forms of entertainment in the country, and Hart’s death raises real issues of safety and regulation. Could the explanation be that the papers are too divorced from the interests of “ordinary” Americans?

Apparently, all the real news in Philadelphia has already been written about, because according to the WP, a Philadelphia Inquirer reporter has circulated this item to her colleagues: “The features department is looking for a few good women to help with a story about the latest Victoria’s Secret product, the Click [Miracle] Bra that offers three intensities of cleavage. If you know anyone who would like to help by wearing the bra while being trailed by a reporter, please contact Dianna Marder asap.”