Today's Papers

Milosevic To Go Before We Sleep

Everybody leads with what was widely forecast in yesterday’s editions: the indictment of Slobodan Milosevic by the U.N. international war crimes tribunal at the Hague. Also indicted were the president of Serbia, the Serbian interior minister, the deputy prime minister of Yugoslavia, the Yugoslav army chief of staff and a personal aide to Milosevic. The five were charged with committing crimes against humanity arising from the deportation of more than 700,000 Kosovar Albanians and the murders of at least 340. Along with the indictment, the tribunal handed down arrest warrants and an order freezing any financial assets held by the five in any U.N. member nation or Switzerland. (The Los Angeles Times mentions Cyprus as one suspected financial haven.) The U.S., NATO, and human rights groups applauded the development. Russia deplored it. As of course, did Yugoslavia, with one of its officials describing the tribunal as a “private court” used to destroy the sovereignty of countries.

The papers note that the indictments are fraught with disturbing specifics. The LAT notes details about the slaughter by Serb police of 65 Kosovo Albanian men lined up naked along a stream bed, and both it and the New York Times pass along the nightmare of 105 men and boys from two villages shot in a house, which was then burned down.

The LAT says the indictment “seems to dash any lingering hopes of a diplomatic compromise with Milosevic.” As if to illustrate the point, the Washington Post quotes Madeleine Albright saying that there is no possibility of an immunity deal for him. The papers put the indictments in perspective by pointing out that top Serb war crimes suspects indicted for their activities during the Bosnian war are still free even though their whereabouts are well known. Indeed, the WP says the likelihood of Milosevic or any of the region’s other indictees being brought to trial is “next to nonexistent.”

Both the NYT and WP report that at a news conference, Janet Reno said that neither the FBI nor her own intelligence aides properly informed her about whether or not wiretaps should have been authorized for the phone lines used by U.S. atomic scientist Wen Ho Lee, long suspected of spying for China. The NYT says her rare public comment on an internal DOJ dispute is evidence of the tremendous pressure being put on her as a result of the blossoming scandal. Reno added that she does not plan to resign because of it.

Thomas Friedman has scandal advice for President Clinton about what to say to China-bashers on the one hand and to the Chinese on the other. He would have the president remind the former that the U.S. can be tough with the Chinese and still work towards better relations, just like it did with the Soviet Union in the waning days of the Cold War. And Clinton, he says, should remind the Chinese that it would be easy to stop issuing them visas–their students could always get their MBAs at Moscow University instead. And he should also remind them of the $60 billion trade surplus they’ve got going with the U.S., also something they can’t replicate with Russia instead. “So,” Friedman’s Clinton would say, “Let’s cut the bluster and resume a sensible relationship.”

A front-page LAT story reports that of the 26 new comedies and dramas in the fall line-ups of the four largest broadcast networks–CBS, NBC, ABC, and Fox–not one features a minority in a leading role. And there are, says the paper, few blacks, Latinos, Asian-Americans, or Native Americans in supporting roles. Fox, which rose to prominence with shows targeted for and featuring blacks, may have only one regular black character on its entire fall schedule. An advertising executive is quoted saying that “the networks seem to be oblivious to demographic changes.”

With the Microsoft trial set to resume next week, the Wall Street Journal “Washington Wire” notes that government officials hope that David Boies, lead trial lawyer in the case, isn’t too busy. After all, right now he’s also representing Garry Shandling, companies suing the vitamin makers who recently admitted price fixing, the spurned bidder for the Washington Redskins, and the state of Alaska. Meanwhile, in a story first tipped by yesterday’s WSJ , the NYT and WP report that a senior IBM executive will testify for the government against Microsoft when the case resumes, claiming that MS responded to business differences between the two companies by repeatedly raising prices it charged IBM for operating system software. The executive will also testify that MS delayed reaching a licensing agreement governing Windows 95 for so long that IBM ended up being the last computer maker in the world to get the system, which he alleges, cost IBM its position as the PC sales leader. The Times says Microsoft attributes that delay to concerns it had after an audit indicated IBM had been under-reporting its Windows sales. The WP story says the original bone of contention was IBM’s insistence on continuing to distribute rival products like OS/2.

At last some good news about nuclear weapons proliferation. According to an inside story at the NYT, U.S. inspectors visiting North Korea have discovered that the hole in the ground they have long suspected of being a site for a secret nuclear program is in fact … a hole in the ground.