Today's Papers

The National Cop-Out

Everybody leads with the Yugoslav war. USA Today leads with Slobodan Milosevic’s announcement that he is willing to accept peace conditions set by the G-8 industrial nations (which, the paper should have explained, is the G-7 plus Russia). The Washington Post also emphasizes diplomacy, going with the upcoming first official contact between Milosevic and a representative of the allies–the president of Finland–since the bombing campaign commenced. The Los Angeles Times lead covers the NATO ground force build-up in countries bordering on Yugoslavia, a force designed primarily for eventual peacekeeping but one that, says the LAT, could be mobilized to wage a ground war against the Serbs. The New York Times lead, working mostly off President Clinton’s Memorial Day remarks, stresses Clinton’s view that the post-war reconstruction of the Kosovo region will fall mostly to European peacekeeping soldiers and to European investment capital. A good sense of the flux in the current situation comes in comparing the USAT headline–“SERBS SAY THEY ACCEPT TERMS”–to the LAT’s–“PROSPECT OF GROUND WAR STRENGTHENS IN BALKANS.”

The coverage indicates that NATO and U.S. officials are only slightly encouraged by Belgrade’s latest–because the G-8 plan is weaker than NATO’s cease-fire conditions in that the former allows some Yugoslav forces to remain in Kosovo and posits a peacekeeping force that is not NATO-based. “[I]t’s not clear that … all the terms have been accepted. We don’t have a sense of some tremendous breakthrough,” USAT quotes a White House spokesman as saying.

In the bowels of its lead, the LAT takes away a good deal of the oomph of its “prospect-of-ground war” headline, noting far down that Pentagon officials expect that NATO would need as many as 150,000 troops to mount an invasion, as opposed to the 50,000 troops it is stationing, mostly in Macedonia. What’s more, converting them to the invasion mission “would take considerable planning, of which there so far has been none.”

The papers handle each new Yugoslav claim of civilian bombing deaths with less and less alarm. The latest claim–that 16 or more noncombatants were killed Monday at a retirement home–is mentioned in the WP’s fourth paragraph, but is played at the very bottom of the USAT lead, and is absent from the NYT and LAT leads. The papers use inside stories for the raid details. It would be wrong to overplay these stories, because accidents do happen, but Today’s Papers doesn’t detect enough follow-through on how they happen.

Everybody runs stories about China’s highest-profile response yet to America’s charges of nuclear spying. China’s information minister held a news conference where he used an Internet hookup to illustrate how much detailed information about American nukes is online for the asking. The minister also saw the U.S. charges as a “slander” and “typical racial prejudice.” The tone of the presentation appears to confirm a point made in a front-page LAT piece: The Cox report will probably strengthen the hand of hard-liners inside China.

The papers also run inside stories detailing continuing cat and mouse games between hackers and federal officials trying to protect government web sites. Hard on the heels of last weekend’s attack on Senate and FBI sites, just hit were an Interior Department site and one run by a supercomputer lab. The Wall Street Journal says the FBI has recently conducted 18 searches as part of its efforts, targeting mostly teen-agers. But the Journal says also that a short-term contractor at Microsoft’s world headquarters in Redmond, Wash., had his office searched by federal agents.

A NYT piece explains that on the strength of much recent research, scientists have concluded that social class is a more powerful predictor of health than genetics, exposure to carcinogens, and habits like smoking. In one study, it was found that people who had been unemployed for one month or more under highly stressful conditions were more than three times as likely to be susceptible to a virus as others. The story also notes that the new body of evidence would explain the continuing inequality in health status between blacks and whites.

USAT runs a front-page story on law-enforcement suicide. Incredibly, says the story, about 300 police officers a year do themselves in. In most departments, many more officers kill themselves than are killed in the line of duty. And the trend is also found in federal agencies like the FBI and Customs. The story mentions one possible solution: more and easier provision of psychological counseling to officers. One bit of useful context that the story lacks: suicide numbers for other professions, especially for those also thought to be particularly stressful. For instance, do soldiers–who also have ready access to guns–off themselves at anything like the same rate? And if not, why not?