Today's Papers

Putting Down the Bad China

The New York Times leads with NATO’s resumption of its bombing of Yugoslavia, including targets in Belgrade, with no apparent diminution as a result of last weekend’s mistaken hit on the Chinese Embassy. The USA Today and Washington Post leads also cover the renewed air war, but the former goes higher with a House committee’s decision to hold closed hearings on the embassy raid, and the latter emphasizes Russian peace envoy Viktor Chernomyrdin’s strident support for China’s angry demand that NATO stop bombing immediately. (The NYT has Chernomyrdin’s stance too.) The top non-local story at the Los Angeles Times is a bit of a local story after all: an interview with former POW and L.A. native Andrew Ramirez about his 32 days in Serbian custody.

The NYT lead says that despite previous Yugoslav government pronouncements, NATO sees no evidence that Slobodan Milosevic’s forces have left Kosovo. Additionally, says the paper, NATO’s policy is to attack Serb military forces, even any seen retreating from Kosovo, until Milosevic agrees to meet its demands that he remove all his troops and allow the repatriation of Kosovar Albanian refugees under the protection of an armed international peacekeeping force. The Times notes that during the allied bombing pause, the Yugoslavs dug in along their borders with Macedonia and Hungary, digging tunnels and using caves.

The Post says that despite Chernomyrdin’s expression of solidarity with China, the Clinton foreign policy team is remaining engaged with him. On the other hand, the paper says, the administration continues to fend off U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s attempts to get his organization involved in peace talks.

The LAT interview with Ramirez has plenty on his capture and captivity. According to the paper’s account, the trio was on patrol mapping the buildup of nearby Serbian forces but were in Macedonia when they came under fire from a force of about 20 Serbian soldiers. At least one round pierced their Humvee, which in the melee hit a tree and began filling up with black smoke. The radio went dead. When they surrendered, they were beaten with rifle butts and threatened with being shot. The beatings continued for the first few days, during which time the men were also kept from sleeping and fed only sporadically. Even once the violence subsided, the soldiers were each kept in solitary confinement. For a while Ramirez thought he was going crazy, once even hallucinating his rescue. These grim details show that veterans in a snit because the three POWs were awarded Purple Hearts without being shot at are–what’s the military term?–morons.

The NYT and LAT fronts feature yesterday’s appearance before a House committee by onetime Democratic Party fund-raiser, Johnny Chung, there courtesy of a deal in which he pleaded guilty to tax evasion and campaign law violations. USAT reefers the story and, surprisingly, the WP runs it inside. All Chung’s testimony has been previously reported in the papers, but the chief detail is still striking: meeting with the general in charge of China’s military intelligence, who wired $300,000 to Chung’s bank account because “We really like your president.” The most credibility-sapping bit of Chung’s testimony: He said he spent most of the $300K on himself because he felt uncomfortable about funneling the money into the presidential campaign. One oddity: The NYT waits until the eighth paragraph before mentioning that Chung visited the Clinton White House 50 times. The Times pairs the Chung story with another China-U.S. corruption tale that probably has some legs: Three years ago, federal bank examiners discovered that China’s central bank was moving millions into the U.S. The money was apparently used to bankroll China’s intelligence and/or lobbying operations in the U.S., but little definitive is known because, says the Times, the Clinton administration was slow to pursue the leads uncovered by several federal agencies.

USAT and the WP front the news that AOL has struck a deal with Hughes Electronics’ DirecTV under which DirecTV’s customers will receive interactive services such as e-mail and on-line shopping. The story is also flagged in the Wall Street Journal’s front-page news box and runs inside at the NYT. The deal is widely perceived to represent a bit of a break out for AOL against cable companies, who have been making inroads into its core business by successfully selling high-speed residential internet connections.

The WP reports that computer hackers protesting the Chinese Embassy bombing have sabotaged three U.S. government Web sites. Anti-NATO messages were inserted into Web pages at sites operated by the Energy Department, the Interior Department, and the National Park Service. The Post adds that the White House Web site was shut down Monday after attempts were made to hack into it, but that no conclusion had been reached about who was responsible. The NYT says the Web site for the U.S. Embassy in Beijing was also invaded but that the White House Web problems were simply the result of an unwieldy volume of e-mail.

Meanwhile, the hunt for the real deductions continues. The WSJ reports that a California couple claimed a “casualty loss” of nearly $400,000 because their home plummeted in value after the nearby murders of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman. A federal court agreed that the IRS was right to disallow this.