Today's Papers

Power Trips

Man-made destruction splits today’s bill with the other kind. The WP leads with NATO’s insistence on continuing the air campaign with “a new emphasis on disrupting the routines of civilian life in Yugoslavia” even as the White House assesses the peace initiative brought to it by Russian envoy Viktor Chernomyrdin. The NYT lead stresses this new level of bombing disruption. Both stories cite high up the Sunday night raids that left 70 percent of Yugoslavia without electrical power. USAT and the LAT both go with wire service accounts of the killer tornado that hit Oklahoma and Kansas last night. USAT says the storm was rated F-5, the most powerful, was associated with hailstones 4.5 inches across, and had destroyed some 400 homes in the Oklahoma City area. The LAT says it was F-4 or F-5, and damaged or destroyed 1,000 homes, wiping out whole neighborhoods, killing upwards of thirty people. Apparently, the storm broke too late for the earliest edition of the WP, but the NYT front has it.

Both the LAT, WP and USAT say that the Clinton administration position is that bombing will continue until Slobodan Milosevic has begun withdrawing troops from Kosovo and is prepared to let Kosovar Albanian refugees return. The LAT has State Dept. spokesman James Rubin bristling at the returning Jesse Jackson’s description of the administration’s ongoing bombing efforts as the “arrogance of power.” The LAT also informs that of the POWs Jackson got released, one suffered a broken nose and another two cracked ribs.

The papers stress that the new-tech attack on the Yugoslav power supply–air-burst bombs that showered short-circuiting carbon filaments down on equipment–was powerfully affecting the civilian populace. The Post says the attack was preceded by an aerial leafleting that informed citizens that Milosevic was responsible for the inconvenience they were about to suffer. The LAT says the attack sent morale to a new low. The NYT says the attack forces the Yugoslav leadership to contemplate choosing between fuel for military operations or for generators making power and light for civilians. Also, notwithstanding Serbian complaints quoted in the LAT about how the raid affected public health, the two Times say that hospitals and other vital services in the country have back-up diesel generators. Everybody quotes the NATO spokesman’s comment that this anti-electrical weapon means that NATO now has its finger on Milosevic’s light switch. They don’t fully tease out what this means: 1) Unlike with a conventional attack on the power grid, compliant behavior can be rewarded with the quick resumption of power; 2) When the war is over, Yugoslavia’s electrical infrastructure won’t require an expensive repair to be largely paid for by the U.S.

A Yugoslav report that a bus was hit by NATO bombs on Monday resulting in numerous civilian casualties is covered at the midpoint of the WP lead, at the very bottom of the NYT lead, and not at all in the LAT lead.

The USAT front and inside stories at the other papers report that a 22-year-old Columbine High graduate has been charged with providing the Tec-9 semi-automatic pistol to the two killers who rampaged at the school last week. The man’s lawyer tells the AP, “He was horrified when it happened.” An inside story at the WP explains that long-barreled weapons, no matter how exotic, are often easier to get than handguns. For instance, the ne plus ultra in sniper rifles, a .50 caliber weapon that can pierce several inches of steel at 2,000 yards, has been traced to suspicious owners by federal authorities 28 times since 1992.

The nation’s more relaxed attitude about the Dow is reflected in the newsplay Dow 11K gets today: On the front at the NYT and the Times, but at or below the fold, and inside elsewhere. All the more astounding given that according to the WSJ, the last 1,000 points came the fastest ever–in just 24 trading days. The NYT’s “Editorial Observer” contains a nifty thumbnail fact about stock: In 1980, an ounce of gold cost $873, the same as the DJIA, but now the Dow runs 38 times the price of gold.

The WSJ predicts that a wave of absenteeism may hit the nation’s work force on Wednesday, May 19th. That’s when the new Star Wars movie premieres. Today’s Papers will unfortunately be sick that day.

The WP reports that Veterans Affairs Secretary Togo West has a federally leased brand new Fleetwood Cadillac limo. West selected the car to replace his agency’s 1996 Lincoln Town car. The Lincoln, the paper reports, cost taxpayers about 8,000 a year, while the Cadillac’s lease goes for about $11,400. The Post adds that to meet the Pentagon spending ceilings of the proposed Clinton budget, West has approved plans to lay off 1,106 of his department’s workers.