Today's Papers

Un-Nintendoed Consequences

USA Today

leads with the expected meeting in Belgrade today between Slobodan Milosevic and the president of Finland, Martii Ahtisaari, who will be the first Western official to see Milosevic since the outbreak of war last March. Ahtisaari (accompanied by Russia’s Viktor Chernomyrdin) is there not to negotiate, says the paper, but to see what Milosevic’s position really is regarding NATO’s requirements for a cease-fire. The New York Times lead says this too and offers some evidence about Milosevic’s current mind-set with its revelation that the government of Germany received a letter from Milosevic in which he said he was ready to withdraw from Kosovo and accept a U.N. presence there but would make no commitment to do so unless NATO immediately stopped bombing. Additionally, the letter appears to fall short of accepting a NATO-based peacekeeping force. The paper reports that German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder is nonetheless encouraged, saying, “We are on the way to a political solution to the problem.” The Washington Post lead dwells on the tactical level instead, reporting that for the first time in the war, NATO aircraft provided close air support to Kosovo Liberation Army troops–despite NATO and U.S. denials of direct assistance. The paper adds that the KLA forces were nonetheless repulsed by Yugoslav troops, showing that despite NATO assertions of attrition, Milosevic’s military remains capable. The Los Angeles Times, which fronts the latest Yugoslavia diplomacy, gives equal top non-local billing to President Clinton’s announcement yesterday of a federal inquiry–informational only, with no criminal charges being sought–into the entertainment industry’s marketing of violent movies, music, and video games to children. The paper says the move “stunned and angered Hollywood.”

The proposed violence study is also fronted at USAT and the WP, but the NYT, which frequently downplays the media’s connection to violence, runs it inside. And of all the papers, only the LAT mentions that Clinton cited “300 studies over 30 years” showing a link between exposure to media violence and actual violence. Just about everybody quotes the response of Hilary Rosen, president of the Recording Industry Association of America, denying that the music industry markets violence to children. You remember all those consent forms parents had to fill out before their kids could buy “Smack My Bitch Up,” right? The Wall Street Journal senses Clinton’s partisan protection of Al Gore in his failure to mention the Internet as part of the problem.

Back to the war for a beat: The NYTreports in its lead and in a separate story inside that President Clinton is to meet tomorrow with his senior uniformed military advisers, the Joint Chiefs, to discuss possible options for using ground troops if NATO decides to invade Kosovo. The paper reports that NATO commander Wesley Clark, an advocate of readying an invasion force, was told not to attend.

The WP delivers a well-deserved wider audience to the subject of a series of recent articles in the San Jose Mercury News: how in the middle of the boomiest of boom times, the Silicon Valley chapter of United Way nearly went bust. Why? Because a new executive director spent a previously solvent organization into the ground, running overhead to 20 percent. She hired a consultant, and a $135-an-hour protocol specialist, and threw a $20,000 party that drew only 166 people. When such failures dictated staff cutbacks, the director tried to pay out $1 million in severance fees.

A study in today’s JAMA , fronted by USAT, and run inside elsewhere, concludes that androstenedione, the weight-training supplement used by Mark McGwire, does not increase muscle strength but could increase breast size, and also cause cancer and heart disease. McGwire, reached at a fitting room at Frederick’s of Hollywood (kidding), had no comment (not kidding).

Last Friday’s WSJ contained an odd foray into journalism by former Reagan secretary of the Navy, John Lehman. Lehman’s op-ed was intended to show that Bill Clinton and his “veteran-free Cabinet” were the reason that America doesn’t have the all-weather low-level tactical bombers it needs in Yugoslavia, planes like the A-6, which was retired from Navy service a few years ago. Now, forget the fatuousness of this–the president and Cabinet rarely kill airplane lines; that is much more in the hands of defense contractors and the members of Congress they shower with campaign donations. And forget the disingenuousness–when in office, Lehman enthusiastically supported the trend toward buying new fancier toys instead of incrementally improving older proven weapons like the A-6. No, what is most interesting is that nowhere in the piece does Lehman repeat a claim he made at some length in his autobiography a few years back–that as a naval reservist he flew Vietnam combat missions in the A-6. If so, you’d think he’d mention it in a piece singing the airplane’s praises. And you’d think the Journal would have at least included this datum in Lehman’s credit line. Why, Today’s Papers wonders, is Lehman unburnishing his résumé?