Today's Papers

Lucky Barak

As is typical of a Monday after a reasonably calm weekend, the papers diverge somewhat about the day’s top story. The Los Angeles Times leads with an effort headlined “DOUBTS OVER SAFETY KEEP COPTERS OUT OF COMBAT,” concerning how the Pentagon’s skittishness about losses of Apache helicopters has thus far trumped NATO commanding Gen.Wesley Clark’s desire to get them attacking Yugoslav targets. The Washington Post and New York Times go with the latest development in Israel’s elections, in which the last-minute withdrawal of several candidates is thought to leave challenger Ehud Barak with a very good chance of defeating the incumbent Benjamin Netanhyahu in the now-head-to-head voting today. Both papers say that in contrast to Netanyahu’s often pugnacious approach to relations with neighboring Arabs, Barak has staked his campaign on energizing the peace process between his country and the Palestine Authority and the Syrians. USA Today and the LAT front the story. USAT leads with word that after several flat years, health care insurance premiums are on the rise again, at the same time that employee satisfaction with health plans is falling. Rates at midsize companies are going up this year as much as 20 percent, says the paper, while a recent survey found that 22 percent of 150,000 workers questioned were unhappy with managed care plans (compared to 17 percent the previous year).

Yesterday’s NYT lead broke the story that “PENTAGON WITHHOLDS COPTERS FROM BATTLEFIELDS IN KOSOVO,” and described the Pentagon’s fears, primarily that the Apaches will be vulnerable to Serb shoulder-fired surface-to-air missiles. How curious then that today’s LAT doesn’t mention the NYT story. The only significant new wrinkle the LAT adds to the story is the paper’s contention that technically the Pentagon hasn’t turned down Gen. Clark’s request because he hasn’t formally made it yet, because, the LAT explains, he’s afraid he would be turned down. The LAT lead also reports that the U.S. had decided to release its two Serb POWs, a development that everybody else carries inside.

The LAT fronts the news that according to the latest FBI figures, crime fell 7 percent nationwide last year. Everybody else carries the story inside. This is the seventh straight year for drops in national crime stats, the most prolonged, says the LAT, since the bureau starting keeping track in 1930. The NYT says it’s the longest only since the 1950s. Explanations cited range from the booming economy, to community policing, to more prison beds and tougher sentencing. Perhaps the most stunning single stat is cited by the NYT: for the “first time in memory” (Whatsa matter, NYT, couldn’t look this up?), New York City didn’t have the most murders. That honor now goes to Chicago by a score of 694 to 633.

The WP reveals that a 25-year covert CIA operative was faulted for “a major lapse of CIA security” when he allowed about 25 CIA laptop computers to be sold to the public at auction while still containing Top Secret information on their hard drives. Was the lapse discovered by some Tom Cruise-led Impossible Mission Force? Uh, no–just the private citizen who bought some of the computers.

The Wall Street Journal reports that the Labor Dept. has reached a settlement with Sears in which the retailer will pay $325,000 to settle claims that it had violated federal child labor laws by allowing some of its 16- and 17-year-olds to operate heavy equipment. Sears, the paper informs, has 11,150 workers under 18. It would be very useful to include–and is almost irresponsible to leave out of a story like this–Sears’ after tax profit for the time-frame in question. Is this a slap on the wrist or a slash on an artery? The reader deserves to know.

An admitted fat woman, Ms. Cynthia J. Newcomer, writes the WP to complain about uncomfortable seats: “I am tired of someone’s profit motive dictating my comfort. I pay full price when I fly, go to the theater and eat in a restaurant. All of me should be accommodated.” But actually since bigness is more expensive to fully accommodate, isn’t she being unreasonable? Why shouldn’t big people (not just “fat” people) pay more for plane tickets? After all, moving them through the air takes more fuel. Why should this argument make sense for postage but be abandoned for people?