Today's Papers

From Slobo to China

The Washington Post, New York Times, and Los Angeles Times lead with yesterday’s face-to-face presentation in Belgrade to Slobodan Milosevic of a Kosovo peace plan by Russian envoy Viktor Chernomyrdin and European Union envoy (and Finnish president) Martti Ahtisaari. USA Today fronts the story, but leads instead with a Little Rock, Ark., airliner crash that killed nine, America’s first commercial air fatalities in a year and a half.

The papers all carry substantially the same details of the Belgrade meeting–which will reconvene today–with the NYT focusing a bit more on the convergence of the western and Russian positions, and the WP focusing a bit more on their remaining divergence. As has long been made clear in the papers, the main sticking points have been: 1) how much troop withdrawal from Kosovo does Yugoslavia commit to before NATO stops bombing; and 2) who runs the peacekeeping force that then comes in. The coverage indicates that Russia is dragging its heels more on 2), holding out thus far for the independence of Russian peacekeeping troops from any NATO command. The U.S and NATO are strongly resisting this, although both the WP and LAT observe that this is the model currently being employed for the peacekeeping forces in Bosnia. The NYT makes the point that no matter what Russia ends up agreeing to, it remains far from clear that Milosevic will follow suit.

The NYT, which first reported on today’s White House meeting of President Clinton and all his top military advisers concerning the war, claims that the military leaders are still opposed to introducing American ground troops into the conflict. The paper points out that on Wednesday, for the first time, the Pentagon spokesman dispelled the idea that the onset of winter would force a decision on ground troops any time soon.

There’s quite a bit in the WP and NYT regarding the upcoming 10th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre. Both papers report that the Chinese government’s People’s Daily recently made an unusual reference to the bloodshed, saying the suppression of the demonstrations was “extremely timely and completely necessary.” And the Post, besides running a lead editorial decrying the lies and brute force of China’s ruling class, also reports that Chinese apartment residents are now banned from watching European satellite broadcasts or CNN. (On Thursday, the latter is scheduled to air a special on Tiananmen.) And in honor of what William Safire calls “T-Day,” he gives his column over to an interview with exiled Chinese dissident Wei Jingsheng, whose most surprising comment is easily, “[Y]ou cannot fault the Chinese government for stealing secrets.” Safire calls on Congress to suspend China’s trade privileges, which, the papers remind, Bill Clinton wants kept in place.

Everybody reports that yesterday Barnes & Noble abandoned its planned acquisition of Ingram Book Group, the country’s leading book wholesaler, after the FTC recommended blocking the transaction as stifling competition among book retailers, of both the traditional and internet variety.

The WP tells of a new TV show for the times debuting next week: “The Money Hunt,” a quiz show in which two entrepreneurs compete for venture capital.

The WP, NYT, and Wall Street Journal all report that Japan is making an important move regarding the Pill. The Post says it is now legalized, while the others just say that legalization has been made possible. The Post and Times report that Viagra was approved in Japan after just six months, but that it took oral contraceptives for women nine years. The Journal notes the move could be a windfall for pill makers, whose worldwide sales have been sluggish of late.

The NYTfronts a flyalong over Kosovo on an Air Force command and control plane by the paper’s veteran foreign correspondent Michael Gordon. Two details that stick out: 1) The crewman carry chits offering handsome rewards for their passage to safety should they be downed. 2) The plane employs maps accurate enough to warn other planes about the location of power lines, but the story doesn’t explain how this is so in light of the Chinese Embassy bombing or even the Italian ski lift disaster.

If you ever return to your bashed-in parked car to find this note under your windshield wiper–“A crowd just saw me hit your car and now they’re watching me write this, thinking that I’m leaving my name and phone number, but I’m not.”–you’ll know you’ve been hit by a journalist. How else to explain “corrections” like this one today from the WP? “A comment in yesterday’s Politics column referring to ‘airy generalizations’ from Texas Gov. George W. Bush was incorrectly attributed to a Dole spokesman.” Well, where did that characterization come from? From another personality in the story? From the reporter’s fevered imagination? Sheeeesh!