Today's Papers

Yeltsinned Against

The New York Times, Washington Post, and Los Angeles Times lead with Boris Yeltsin’s sudden dismissal of his prime minister, Yevgeny Primakov. USA Today fronts the story, but goes instead with the Senate’s first gun control vote since the Littleton massacre, the party-line defeat of a proposal to require instant background checks on weapons purchasers at gun shows. (A story also fronted by the Post and the NYT.) USAT notes that case investigators believe all four of the guns used in the Littleton shooting might have been originally purchased at gun shows.

Primakov is the third PM to be canned by Yeltsin in fourteen months. The reason Yeltsin gave for the firing in his televised statement was Primakov’s failure to turn the economy around, but both Times report it also had to do with Yeltsin’s concern about Primakov’s independence and popularity and his close ties to Communists in the government. The coverage notes that once again, under the rules of the Russian constitution the move sets up a complex power struggle between Yeltsin and the Russian parliament. If the Duma turns down Yeltsin’s PM candidate (a long-time internal security official) three times, then Yeltsin has the authority to dissolve the Duma. But he can only do this if the Duma is not pursuing the impeachment charges against him that it is considering. The charges are wide-ranging, including conspiring to destroy the Soviet Union, but the consensus is that the one with the best chance of passing is launching the civil war against Chechnya. The papers also note that the upheaval imperils the IMF’s latest bailout package and distracts Russia from its role as a peacemaker in Kosovo.

The fronts at the NYT, the LAT, the WP, and the Wall Street Journal all give plenty of space to the surprise resignation announcement yesterday by Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin. The papers say that any extended period of concern in the financial markets about lack of Treasury leadership was checked by President Clinton’s immediate statement that he would nominate Treasury’s #2, Lawrence Summers, for the top spot. The Rubin coverage is pretty hagiographic. Rubin’s departure, opines the WP, “deprives the administration of one of its most influential and respected figures,” a person “whose steely stewardship of U.S. economic policy commanded admiration on both Wall Street and Capitol Hill.” The coverage that best breaks through the back-patting is the NYT’s, which high up states that many in Asia felt that Rubin’s formula of conditioning IMF loans on high interest rates and government spending cuts led to high unemployment and more severe recessions. The NYT and LAT also explain best that inside the administration, Rubin led the budget-balancers against the social program spenders, a debate that the NYT says he “ultimately won.” But the information-averse tendencies of economic journalism are also plenty in evidence. The LAT quotes Alan Greenspan as saying, “I cannot begin to describe how much I have learned from Bob Rubin,” and doesn’t get another sentence out of the Fed chairman.

The NYT runs a Reuters dispatch reporting on a first-of-its kind internet-related government crisis. Officials of the British government were in flail mode yesterday trying to shut down a U.S.-based web site that apparently has posted names of dozens of British intelligence agents. The British government appealed to British media outlets not to publish the site’s address.

The WP and NYT report that at the eleventh hour, NBC has laundered the term “nuclear waste” out of this weekend’s made-for-TV-movie “Atomic Train.” NBC is owned by General Electric, which has holdings in the nuclear power industry.

The man who mistook his hat for a point. With all the big ideas on what to say about the Littleton high school shooting already taken, world renowned neurologist Oliver Sacks makes a contribution to the NYT op-ed page anyway. It seems that restricting young people’s access to such materials as the ingredients in pipe bombs would have a heretofore-unappreciated drawback: keeping lethal materials out of the hands of junior scientists too. Sacks longs for the day when youthful would-be scientists could, like he did when he was a child, have enough chemicals “to poison or blow up much of greater London.” Let’s see the NRA improve on nostalgie de la boom.